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Legal Issues

 

The most important legal development in NJ is the passage of the new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, signed into law by Gov. Christie in January 2011. The law was challenged several months later by two school districts before the Council on Local Mandates, claiming the law is an unfunded mandate. The issue has been addressed by the Governor and Legislature, revising the law to appropriate $1M into the law's Bullying Prevention Fund, and creating a new 7-member Task Force to guide implementation of the law. (The revision will be posted below, shortly.)

 

            The complete text of the new law is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_R1.HTM and the legislature’s official summary of the new law is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_S1.HTM.

10/4/12: Bullying-related legal cases - summaries back to Jan 2012

(from http://legalclips.nsba.org)

The National School Boards Association provides a tremendous service with its 'Legal Clips' on-line resource. The website (address above) provides expert, very well written (and therefore very clear) summaries of legal developments in all school-related areas, including bullying. The summaries are searchable by keywords (including 'bullying', and also by state). It's a great information resource, for which we're grateful. In any case, linked here are summaries of all the cases posted from today back through Jan 2012 (with lots more available at the site itself). Reading this (admittedly long) document provides a great view of what's been happening legally in regard to bullying in schools. - SG

from National School Boards Association 10-3-12

State Bullying Laws with Definitions 4-25-11

Cyberbullying Case Ruling, 7-28-11

Kowalski CyberB Case 7-11

Kowalski v Berkeley County Schools 7-11

9/2/10: New DCR case!

Division on Civil Rights takes new case to court

Reading the published (Star Ledger) details of this new case is extremely frustrating - Did (some) schools learn nothing from the LW case!? In this case, the school district is Oldbridge. Once again, apparently, a severely bullied child, with repeated incidents insufficiently addressed by a school. The child in this case is targeted based on other children's perception that he is gay, and also because he is Jewish. The school reportedly treats each occurrence of bullying as a separate incident, does something in each case but never enough to fully address the issue. And the Attorney General's office, in the form of the state's Division on Civil Rights, steps in. Here's the Star Ledger story (attached).

New DCR case

8/18/10: New table lists definitions of bullying in all state laws

Dr. Michael Greene provided us with a table in which he cites the definitions of bullying used in all state laws. A useful item for focusing on this important issue. Thanks!

Michael Greene law definitions table

2/23/09: A critique of law

As the article linked below notes, a NY anti-bullying law is still being discussed. What's interesting about this article (from press in Saratoga) is the extensive quoting from bullypolice.org (a non-profit org which devotes itself to tracking the status of anti-bullying laws nationally). Bullypolice does good work - when last checked they rated NJ's law(s) in the Bplus range and liked Delaware's and Georgia's laws more (in part because of increased accountablity and consequences as compared to NJ's - and lots of other states' - laws). This article cites Florida and Kentucky as good examples, and lists a number of criteria for what makes a good law. A helpful review.

NY law - recs

2/23/09: The tragic death of Lawrence King

One of the questions raised by the suit is the extent to which the school's level of support of the child, or proactive support for the range of gender identity and expression can be said to have played a role in his death.

King suit 2-09

1/30/09: Workplace Protections - Children Too?

It's interesting, from the point of view of a bullying-focused advocate, to see the now rapid strengthening of national (federal) protections for workers against workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. (See the NY Times Editorial, today, attached below.) In terms of bullying, we have in NJ Frank Vespa-Papaleo's (when he was Director of NJ Division on Civil Rights) groundbreaking decision in the LW case that employer obligations to protect workers from harassment also applied to the situation of children in school, reasoning which was substantially upheld both by NJ's Court of Appeals as well as the NJ Supreme Court (discliamer: I am not a lawyer, so take my descriptions of court decisions with a grain of salt). However, note that in some sense Vespa-Papaleo's courageous (given the storm he stirred up) decision was stating the obvious (which no one else before him had ever noticed, or stated!). That is, that the NJ Law Against Discrimination, on which Vespa-Papaleo relied (because it is one of the strongest in the nation) does not ever use the word "adult" to describe the workers it is protecting - in fact, the law uses only the word "person." That's the sense in which it could have been evident that the law's sense of justice (protecting vulnerable workers) should have also applied to children in 'work-like' (e.g., school) settings. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but I am noting the quickening process now taking place through the new US administration's actions (e.g., the Ledbetter law) and the US Supreme's Court's actions (see the attached Editorial). Is the need to strengthen protections for children in schools also obvious?

Times Editorial - workplace protections

 

4/10/08: Sexual assault (at school) lawsuit settled

See the article (inserted below) in today's Star Ledger about a school district having settled a case involving the sexual assault of an 11 year old girl by an 8th grade boy in a middle school. Notable in addition to the tragedy of the assault is that the family expects changes in school district behavior in addition to the money. The changes, according to the article, which takes its points from the family's lawyer, are that the district must report all violent incidents to the state (and claims this has not been done to this point), that hall pass and sign-out sheet policies must be enforced (which implies this wasn't happening enough before). The lawyer is quoted as saying that if the case had moved forward he would have shown "numerous, prior violent incidents" in the school hallways, and that: "There was only one hall monitor to supervise 384 kids." While it's not clear how many monitors are ideally needed for that number of students (the article cites 'two' as a better number), and the school's perspective is not reported, there are still important points here, which anti-bullying advocates well recognize: Supervision of school areas must be adequate, and - as the lawyer states - schools are indeed responsible for protecting children from reasonably foreseeable dangers. Sexual assault is one of those dangers, bullying incidents generally (which may include sexual assault) is similarly a foreseeable danger.

NJSL article 4-10-08 - school district settlement

(2/08): Good discussion of developments in cyberbullying law and related school actions, provided by National School Boards Association:

NSBA Legal Clips cyberB 2-08

 

1/8/08:

An important step forward in NJ's efforts to address bullying! (see below) We're extremely grateful to the legislators and organization whose hard work and inspiring commitment created this new effort. Depending on how the new Commission is constituted, much progress on bullying can come from this law. (More details to follow).

January 8, 2008

Now on the Governor’s Desk --

Among the measures approved by the Senate and Assembly:

BIAS CRIMES AND BULLYING CRIMES motivated by national origin or the victim’s gender identity, which includes transsexuals, would be considered bias crimes. The bill would also establish a state commission that would study how to make antibullying laws more effective.

Here is the summary of the section of the law which applies to the Commission:

Commission on Bullying in Schools

Board Name: Commission on Bullying in Schools
Legal Authority: P.L. 2007, c.303
Purpose: The commission shall study and make recommendations regarding: the implementation and effectiveness of school bullying laws and regulations; the adequacy of legal remedies available to students who are victims of bullying and their parents and guardians; the adequacy of legal protections available to teachers who are in compliance with school bullying policies; training of teachers, school administrators, and law enforcement personnel in responding to, investigating and reporting incidents of bullying; funding issues related to the implementation of the State school bullying laws and regulations; and the implementation of a possible collaboration between the Department of Education and the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety on a Statewide initiative against school bullying.
Special Requirements: The commission shall consist of 14 members as follows: the Commissioner of the Department of Education, or his designee; the Director of the Division on Civil Rights in the Department of Law and Public Safety, or his designee; the Governor shall appoint eight public members: one representative of the New Jersey Education Association, one representative of the New Jersey School Boards Association, one representative of the Anti-Defamation League, one representative of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and four public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools; the President of the Senate shall appoint two public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools; and the Speaker of the General Assembly shall appoint two public members with a background in, or special knowledge of, the legal, policy, educational, social or psychological aspects of bullying in schools. The members shall be appointed within 30 days of enactment. The commission shall conduct a minimum of three public hearings: one in the northern portion of the State; one in the central portion of the State; and one in the southern portion of the State. The commission shall report its findings and recommendations, along with any legislation it desires to recommend for adoption by the Legislature, to the Governor and the Legislature in accordance with section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1). The commission shall issue its final report no later than nine months after final appointment of its members. The commission shall expire upon submission of its final report to the Governor and the Legislature.

 

(12/07): New anti-bullying law in NJ! (which requires schools to post their anti-bullying policy on a website - a small matter but an omission of the existing law and one which will be helpful; and - most important - establishes a new state commission on bullying. The job of the commission is to advise the legislature on changes/improvements to existing anti-bullying law, and to spur a new statewide initiative on bullying which could provide meaningful expectations of and support for schools to address the issue effectively.

New NJ anti-bullying law

(8/07): New cyberbullying law, which essentially adds electronic bullying to the issues schools must address in their anti-bullying policies.

Cyberbullying law NJ

(3/07): There's been no time of staffing to update every page on the site, thus the delay in updating regularly. However, it's been a big year for legal issues: The BIGGEST news is the 2/07 unanimous (positive) NJ Supreme Court decision in the LW case; for details see the 'News/Events' page on this site (go to home page by clicking on the bullying circle at top left, then click at top of home page on 'New'). But also, in the past year, on 9/30/06, we conducted a training on bullying specifically for lawyers (about 50 in audience), and a follow-up project to train more, and to create a referral process for legal advocacy for bullied children and their families is currently underway.

(4/06): COALITION HANDOUT:

Legal Issues for Children with Special Needs

(2/06): Proposed new law in Connecticut - for mandatory reporting and a new ombudsman position - which may be a model for what's still needed in NJ. The law, if passed, would go into effect in CT in July 2006. Here's the law (and notice of a public hearing about it on 2/28):

Proposed new CT law on bullying

(2/06): 'lAW PROJECT' UPDATE:

Most available Coalition time/energy has gone into following up on the 12/7/05 Appellate Division decision on LW. Specifically, moving the Coalition's 'law project' forward has been the consuming focus. Working with lawyers from Coalition-involved organizations (Elizabeth Athos-Education Law Center; Jeanne Locicero-ACLU; Leisa-Anne Smith-NJ State Bar Foundation; Bear Atwood and Frank Vespa-Papaleo-NJ Division on Civil Rights, Hestor Agudosi-NJ Office of Bias Crime and Community Relations) and Jerry Tanenbaum - a private attorney, planning has advanced to establish a bullying-related training program for lawyers, to be followed by establishment of a mechanism for connecting such lawyers with families of bullied children and schools seeking legal advice (toward minimizing liability by strengthening approaches to bullying). SG attended the recent ICLE conferences on Family Law and School Law (at which Frank Vespa-Papaleo delivered a strong keynote address, focused on LW) and staffed an exhibitor's table, courtesy of ICLE. A package of materials, including Coalition handouts, a Law Journal article on the LW decision by Jerry Tanenbaum , an article comparing states' anti-bullying laws by Michael Greene and Randy Ross, and NJSBF material (courtesy of Leisa-Anne Smith) was given out. There was great interest at both conferences. Hundreds of the packages were given out to lawyers who stopped by the table, at least 50 conversations about bullying were conducted, and (most important) approximately 70 lawyers indicated a desire to be contacted about the training, which ICLE has agreed to sponsor - very much appreciated. The training will be conducted on a date in late Sept. or early Oct. A draft proposal for the training and its faculty has been favorably received, and the program will be well finalized and ready by the training date.

_________________________________________________________________

(12/05): APPELLATE DIVISION DECISION IN LW CASE:

As I understand it, this is a very positive, strongly reasoned decision which - most critically - affirms that the standards which apply to employers and adults in the workplace (NJ Law Against Discrimination) are to apply to children in schools. The implications - for NJ and nationally - are potentially very important - and helpful. See attached files for an analysis memo from NJ Division of Civil Rights Director Frank Vespa-Papaleo (whose courageous, groundbreaking decision in favor of LW was substantially validated by the Appellate decision) and the full case (47 pages, well worth reading):

NJ Division on Civil Rights memo re LW Appellate court decision

LW decision 12-7-05

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(10/05):

The LW appeal was heard before the appellate court on 10/3/05 at Rutgers Law School, with a packed house. The school district lawyer's central arguments seemed to be (1) that the district had used 'progressive discipline', responding to each incident as it occurred, with gradually escalating consequences for the bullying students, and that this was all that it could reasonably be expected to do, even if the bullying had continued, and (2) that LW was reportedly functioning well as a young adult, apparently meaning to imply that any damage from the bullying was limited. It seems very unclear what decision will be made, but the judges said we would hear very soon.

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(9/8/05): Item courtesy of Jeanne LoCicero, Staff Attorney, ACLU-NJ (material changed and added):


Oral argument in the LW appeal has been scheduled for October 3rd at 10:15 am.  It will take place before a panel of Appellate Divison judges at the Rutgers Law School in Newark (123 Washingon Street). Gita Gutierrez, the ACLU-cooperating attorney (Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione) who prepared the amicus brief, has been granted time to make a short argument to the court about the issues raised in the brief. The public is welcome to attend.
For those not aware of the case, L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, it involves a student in the Toms River schools who was subjected to anti-gay peer harassment and bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation. As he progressed through school, the harassment increased in frequency and severity. He ultimately transferred to another school district. The Director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights (Frank Vespa-Papaleo) held that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protected L.W. from the harassment, using the same standard that applies to employment discrimination. In February 2005, the ACLU-NJ and other child advocates filed an amici curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief urging the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division to extend anti-discrimination protections to school children subjected to bias-based bullying. Ms. Gutierrez' brief included a good review of the bullying-related literature and was developed with the help of a number of Coalition participating and other organizations (Association for Children of New Jersey, Education Law Center, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Northern New Jersey, the National Conference for Community and Justice-NJ, New Jersey Family Voices, Roxbury Parents for Exceptional Children, and Statewide Parents Advocacy Network of New Jersey). If the decision is upheld, it has significant implications for NJ (and - as a model - nationally), strongly 'raising the bar' in terms of what parents of bullied children can expect of schools.

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(2/05):  Notable legal developments since our last update (11/04) include:

(1) The amicus brief in the case of LW was filed this week (see below for background and a link to the brief. The brief is a persuasive (one hopes) argument in favor of the court's upholding of the courageous and just decision in favor of LW (a child who was severely bullied) by Frank Vespa-Papaleo, NJ Division of Civil Rights Director (for a link to the decision, scroll down this page). The very well done brief includes a good review of the bullying-related literature, and was developed with the help of a number of Coalition participating organizations (as described below). If the decision survives the appeal process, it has significant implications for NJ, strongly 'raising the bar' in terms of what parents of bullied children can expect of schools.

(2) Barbara Buono, the legislator who wrote and obtained passage of NJ's anti-bullying law (with the help of legislative colleagues, and GLSEN and other organizations) has now proposed legislation which would extend the focus of the existing law to 'cyberbullying'.

(3) The pace of bullying-related lawsuits by parents of bullied children throughout the nation continues to rapidly rise.

(More information will be provided at our 3/29 meeting.)


ADVOCATES FILE BRIEF TO PROTECT SCHOOL CHILDREN FROM BULLYING

For Immediate Release -- February 8, 2005

Contact: Jeanne Locicero, Staff Attorney (973) 642-2086

Newark, NJ -- In a case that highlights the damaging effects of bullying on school children, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and several other child advocacy organizations filed an amici curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief this week urging the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division to extend anti-discrimination protections to

school children subjected to bias-based bullying.

"Every day schoolchildren are subjected to harassment and bullying by classmates that can cause enduring psychological, social and physical harm," said Gitanjali Gutierrez of Gibbons Del Deo Dolan Griffinger & Vecchione, an ACLU-NJ cooperating attorney who filed the brief on behalf of the organizations. "Children deserve the same protection from harassment in their schools as adults receive in places of employment."

As described in the brief, L.W., a student in the Toms River schools, was subjected to anti-gay peer harassment and bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation. As he progressed through school, the harassment increased in frequency and severity. He ultimately transferred to another school district. The Director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights held that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protected L.W. from the harassment, using the same standard that applies to employment discrimination.

The brief calls to the Court's attention the negative impact that peer harassment and bullying have on students and the school environment, and urges for New Jersey's school children to be protected from discriminatory peer harassment.

"Children should not have to be afraid of going to school for fear of being harassed and parents should not have to worry that their children will be subjected to discrimination," said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey.

The other organizations on the brief are the Association for Children of New Jersey, Education Law Center, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Northern New Jersey, the National Conference for Community and Justice (NJ), New Jersey Family Voices, Roxbury Parents for Exceptional Children, and Statewide Parents Advocacy Network of New Jersey.

The case is L.W. v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, A-7084-03T5, on appeal from a final administrative decision of the Director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. A copy of the brief can be found when you click here from the ACLU-NJ website. 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deborah Jacobs

Executive Director

American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey

P.O. Box 750

Newark, NJ 07101

t: 973 642 2086

f: 973 642 6523

www.aclu-nj.org

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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Friend of the Court Brief for LW

To:        NJ Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention
From:   ACLU of New Jersery
RE:        Friend of the Court Brief for LW
Date:   November 9, 2004

The ACLU-NJ, a member of the Coalition's Law Project, is arranging for an amicus curiae (Friend of the Court) brief to be submitted in support of the decision by the Director of the Division of Civil Rights in LW v. Toms River Regional Schools Board of Education, the school bullying case. 

The main holding in the case is that the standard to be applied in assessing the school's liability for failing to stop student-on-student discriminatory harassment under the NJ Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is the same standard applied for LAD employment discrimination cases.  That means that the school is liable if it should have known that a situation existed which would make a reasonable student find the school environment hostile.  This is contentious because, besides being a question of first impression, it is now easier to hold a school liable under state law than under federal law, which applies the harder-to-establish standard under Title IX (requiring deliberate indifference and the harassment to be so severe and persistent as to deny the student of an educational benefit). The Director did an excellent job of explaining that the LAD simply provides a different form and degree of protection from the federal statute.  (The decision is available when you click here

 
The amicus curiae brief will be written with a students' rights bent by the law firm of Gibbons Del Deo.  The brief would be heavily fact-based focusing on the actual problem of school bullying and its effects on kids - and then explaining why the Director was correct in holding that the LAD provides our children with as much right to be free from discrimination in schools as their parents have to be free from discrimination in the workplace, pointing out the purpose behind the LAD and cases holding that it should be read broadly so as to "eradicate the cancer of discrimination."

Signing on to the brief

We are looking for appropriate organizations to sign on to the brief.  This would include students' rights legal organizations, student or parent advocacy groups, and perhaps school psychologists or educators organizations.  Please note that, depending on how the brief is ultimately written, there is a slight chance that it would be appropriate for the brief not to include certain groups that want to sign on.

To be a signatory organization, we would need a short statement that explains (1) the mission or work that your organization does generally and (2) its particular interest in the issues presented in this case. 

If your organization would like to sign on, please email here Jeanne LoCicero of the ACLU-NJ or call at  973-642-2086.  

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__________________________________________________________________

Here is the text of NJ's anti-bullying law:

Synopsis: 2002 New Jersey Laws, AB 1874, Requires each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying on school property, at a school-sponsored function or on a school bus. The policy must include a definition of bullying behavior, consequences for engaging in such behavior, a procedure for investigation of reports of such behavior, a statement prohibiting retaliation or reprisal against persons reporting bullying behavior and consequences for making a false accusation. Requires school employees, students or volunteers to report any incidents of bullying, intimidation and harassment to appropriate school officials. Grants immunity from any cause of action for damages arising from a failure to remedy the reported incident to persons reporting these incidents.

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SENATE COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE FOR SENATE, Nos. 149 and 729
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
210th LEGISLATURE
ADOPTED MAY 30, 2002


Sponsored by: Senator BARBARA BUONO, District 18 (Middlesex); Senator DIANE ALLEN District 7 (Burlington and Camden); Senator ANTHONY R. BUCCO, District 25 (Morris); Senator ROBERT W. SINGER District 30 (Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean). Co-Sponsored by: Senators Cafiero, Baer, Ciesla, Coniglio, B.Smith, Turner, Vitale, Sweeney, Codey and Palaia


SYNOPSIS - Requires school districts to adopt harassment and bullying prevention policies.


CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
Substitute as adopted by the Senate Education Committee.
(Sponsorship Updated As Of: 6/25/2002)
An Act concerning the adoption of harassment and bullying prevention policies by public school districts and supplementing chapter 37 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

1. The Legislature finds and declares that: a safe and civil environment in school is necessary for students to learn and achieve high academic standards; harassment, intimidation or bullying, like other disruptive or violent behaviors, is conduct that disrupts both a student's ability to learn and a school's ability to educate its students in a safe environment; and since students learn by example, school administrators, faculty, staff, and volunteers should be commended for demonstrating appropriate behavior, treating others with civility and respect, and refusing to tolerate harassment, intimidation or bullying.

2. As used in this act:
"Harassment, intimidation or bullying" means any gesture or written, verbal or physical act 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 handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus and that:

    a. a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his person or damage to his property; or

    b. has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.

3. a. Each school district shall adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying on school property, at a school-sponsored function or on a school bus. The school district shall attempt to adopt the policy through a process that includes representation of parents or guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators, and community representatives.

    b. A school district shall have local control over the content of the policy, except that the policy shall contain, at a minimum, the following components:

        (1) a statement prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying of a student;

        (2) a definition of harassment, intimidation or bullying no less inclusive than that set forth in section 2 of this act;

        (3) a description of the type of behavior expected from each student;

        (4) consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying;

        (5) a procedure for reporting an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying, including a provision that permits a person to report an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying anonymously; however, this shall not be construed to permit formal disciplinary action solely on the basis of an anonymous report;

        (6) a procedure for prompt investigation of reports of violations and complaints, identifying either the principal or the principal's designee as the person responsible for the investigation;

        (7) the range of ways in which a school will respond once an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying is identified;

        (8) a statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying and the consequence and appropriate remedial action for a person who engages in reprisal or retaliation;

        (9) consequences and appropriate remedial action for a person found to have falsely accused another as a means of retaliation or as a means of harassment, intimidation or bullying; and

        (10) a statement of how the policy is to be publicized, including notice that the policy applies to participation in school-sponsored functions.

    c. A school district shall adopt a policy and transmit a copy of its policy to the appropriate county superintendent of schools by September 1, 2003.

    d. To assist school districts in developing policies for the prevention of harassment, intimidation or bullying, the Commissioner of Education shall develop a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through 12. This model policy shall be issued no later than December 1, 2002.

    e. Notice of the school district's policy shall appear in any publication of the school district that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for schools within the school district, and in any student handbook.

4. a. A school employee, student or volunteer shall not engage in reprisal, retaliation or false accusation against a victim, witness or one with reliable information about an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

    b. A school employee, student or volunteer who has witnessed, or has reliable information that a student has been subject to, harassment, intimidation or bullying shall report the incident to the appropriate school official designated by the school district's policy.

    c. A school employee who promptly reports an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying, to the appropriate school official designated by the school district's policy, and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures in the district's policy, is immune from a cause of action for damages arising from any failure to remedy the reported incident.

5. a. Schools and school districts are encouraged to establish bullying prevention programs, and other initiatives involving school staff, students, administrators, volunteers, parents, law enforcement and community members.

    b. To the extent funds are appropriated for these purposes, a school district shall: (1) provide training on the school district's harassment, intimidation or bullying policies to school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students; and (2) develop a process for discussing the district's harassment, intimidation or bullying policy with students.

    c. Information regarding the school district policy against harassment, intimidation or bullying shall be incorporated into a school's employee training program.

6. This act shall not be interpreted to prevent a victim from seeking redress under any other available law either civil or criminal. This act does not create or alter any tort liability.

7. A school district that incurs additional costs due to the implementation of the provisions of this act shall apply to the Commissioner of Education for reimbursement.

8. This act shall take effect immediately.

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