A More Comprehensive Anti-Bullying Policy
Assistant Superintendent Michael LaSusa said the district's old policy is similar to the new state-mandated policy on bullying.
The Board of Education of the School District of the Chathams recently approved a new anti-bullying policy based on New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which Gov. Chris Christie signed into law in January. The law is seen as the toughest in the country and requires extensive reporting to administration and the Board of Education.
Assistant Superintendent Michael LaSusa spoke at Chatham schools and to the PTOs earlier this year about the new policy. "We don't see the [new policy] as deviating too far from what we've done in the past," he told Chatham Patch. "The new law and our corresponding policy are more comprehensive in nature, but I do not believe they represent a significant departure from current case law or our district's past responses."
The policy requires an anti-bullying specialist in every school to investigate any reported incidents. "Basically, any staff member who witnesses an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying must report it to the building's anti-bullying specialist on the day it occurs," LaSusa said.
Incidents of bullying through cellular communication, text messages or social networking websites such as Facebook are subject to review by school officials, even if the messages are not sent on school grounds or at school events.
"The anti-bullying specialist must then initiate a full investigation, with a report made to the principal and superintendent [within 10 days]" LaSusa said. The results will then go before the Board of Education.
Parents are entitled to information about the investigation, and have the right to request a hearing before the school board.
Students who violate the district's Policy on Harrassment, Intimidation and Bullying may be subject to a variety of disciplinary measures including "admonishment," being barred from co-curricular or extracurricular activities, detention, suspension or expulsion. The level of consequences will depend on "the pupil's history of problem behaviors and performance," according to the Pupil Discipline/Code of Conduct policy.
LaSusa serves as the district's anti-bullying coordinator. Lori Gironda and Rob Gardella, assistant principals at Chatham High School and Chatham Middle School, respectively, are the anti-bullying specialists for their respecive school. Abby Silverman is the specialist for Southern Boulevard School, and Lindsay Feldman is the specialist for both Milton Avenue School and Washington Avenue School.
LaSusa said schools will send a copy of the policy (which is available in the gallery to the right) in the first week of school, and all school websites will link to the policy. The district is also planning activities for the statewide Week of Respect, Oct. 3 to 7.
"One change that I hope is impactful is ... [a] greater awareness of harassment, intimidation, and bullying among all members of our school community," LaSusa said.
The bill gained momentum following the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi in September 2010. Clementi, a Ridgewood native, leapt to his death off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly streamed video of Clementi having intimate contact with another man over the Internet.
Chatham Patch brings you everything you need to know for the start of the school year with several stories over the course of the week to get students, and parents, ready for the year to begin.
In case you missed it:
Wednesday—The parking lot isn't the only expansion at Chatham High School.
Thursday—Chatham Middle School has a new dress code, new lockers and new classrooms.
Friday—What parents and students at Lafayette Avenue School need to know.
Saturday—Familiar faces at Southern Boulevard School.
Sunday—Milton Avenue School has a new fulltime librarian this year.
Monday—After four days without power, Washington Avenue School welcomes back students and teachers.
Tuesday—School begins today, and we'll have photos from schools throughout the district as kids start another year. We'll also look at 9/11 curriculum in the district this year.