New Jersey seeks to redefine bullying in public schools in light of deadly tragedy

Students walking in school hallway - File Photo

TRENTON, NJ – In the light of the senseless death of Berkeley Township student Adriana Kuch, a victim of brutal bullying by other students, lawmakers in Trenton are seeking to change the legal definition of bullying in New Jersey.

Under the bill sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner, “Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents , that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic,] that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds as provided, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or     creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.”

The bill, S3715, amends the definition of “harassment, intimidation, or bullying” in the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act to encompass acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying against all students, not just students in protected classes. 

   The bill removes the requirement that a school district ensure that its training on harassment, intimidation, or bullying include instruction on preventing bullying on the basis of protected categories since these categories are eliminated by the bill.      

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