Anti-bullying policy creates more paperwork for schools

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‘It’s just an entirely different ball game,’ Kopakowski says

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – An anti-bullying policy adopted last year doesn’t seem to make much of a difference for students at Middle Township High School.

Even before the policy had been implemented, Superintendent Michael J. Kopakowski said, the district took bullying incidents very seriously.

But the policy, enacted for this school year, has made a major difference for school employees.

The anti-bullying policy has created mounds of paperwork for school district workers, Kopakowski said. Harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents must now be reported to the state.

That’s the kind of pressure other districts are facing as well.

He could not immediately determine whether there has been a decrease or increase in bullying under the policy. Until now, that is something that had never been tracked, Kopakowski said.

“But we’re following the law,” he said.

Last year, school board vice president Dennis Roberts called the policy overreaching. But the board had been required by the state to adopt it.

“It’s just an entirely different ball game,” Kopakowski said of the law.

Students have been acquainted with the policy, with programs being initiated at the school. One of them dealt with respect, Kopakowski said.

Students and others are asked to report complaints of harassment, intimidation or bullying to the building principal.

But several other people have been added to the mix. The district’s anti-bullying coordinator, along with the superintendent, reports incidents to the state Department of Education. The four anti-bullying specialists head investigations into harassment, intimidation or bullying, according to the policy.

Under the district’s policy, students who bully others could face temporary removal from the classroom; in-school suspension; out-of-school suspension; reports to law enforcement or other legal action; or expulsion, among other punishments.

Among recommendations for students could be a peer support group; parent conferences; and assignment of leadership responsibilities.

If a parent or guardian wants to appeal how a situation had been handled, he or she may appear in front of the school board.

The hearing would take place in a closed-door session because of confidential matters. The school anti-bullying specialist would be among those who would be able to speak.

A hearing has yet to happen at the Middle Township School District, Kopakowski said.

At a school board meeting, Board of Education members would provide a written decision “to affirm, reject, or modify the Superintendent’s decision,” the policy reads. From there, the board’s decision may be appealed to the commissioner of education. Also, a complaint could be filed with the Division of Civil Rights, according to the policy.

Middle Township School District has close to 2,700 students.

A copy of the district’s policy is at www.middletwp.k12.nj.us.


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