BULLYING PREVENTION &
THE LAW

State and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Each jurisdiction, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories (state), addresses bullying differently.  Some have established laws, policies, and regulations. Others have developed model policies schools and local educational agencies (districts) can use as they develop their own local laws, policies and regulations. Most state laws, policies, and regulations require districts and schools to implement a bullying policy and procedures to investigate and respond to bullying when it occurs. A handful of states also require bullying prevention programs, inclusion of bullying prevention in health education standards, and/or teacher professional development. These state laws generally do not prescribe specific consequences for kids who engage in bullying behavior, and very few classify bullying as a criminal offense. Further, states may address bullying, cyberbullying, and related behaviors in a single law or across multiple laws. In some cases, bullying appears in the criminal code of a state that may apply to juveniles.

In December 2010, the U.S. Department of Education developed a framework of common components found in state laws, policies, and regulations focused on bullying at the time. The framework was used to describe how schools were taking action to prevent and respond to bullying incidents. The common components found in state laws, policies, and regulations – which have evolved over time – include definitions of bullying, defining characteristics that are commonly targeted for bullying behaviors, and detailed requirements for school district policies. 

THE LAW IN NEW JERSEY

How are bullying and cyberbullying defined in New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations?

New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations include the following definitions of harassment, intimidation and bullying:

“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, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that:

    (a) 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;

    (b) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

    (c) 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.

N.J. Stat. § 18A:37-14 (2011)

Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations cover cyberbullying that occurs off-campus?

Yes. New Jersey anti-bullying laws cover off-campus conduct that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that:

    (a) 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;

    (b) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

    (c) 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.

What are the policy requirements for schools to prevent and respond to bullying behavior?

New Jersey school districts are required to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, bullying or cyber-bullying. District policies must contain key policy and procedural elements, including, but not limited to:

  • Statements prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying;

  • Definitions of harassment, intimidation, or bullying;

  • Descriptions of the type of behaviors expected from each student;

  • Consequences and appropriate remedial actions for any persons who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying;

  • Procedures for reporting and investigation;

  • Statements prohibiting reprisal or retaliation;

  • Statements regarding how the policy will be publicized within the district; and

  • Designation of an anti-bullying coordinator.

New Jersey anti-bullying laws encourage districts to annually conduct, with the input from the school anti-bullying specialists, a re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its policy, making any necessary revisions and additions.

Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations include protections for specific groups?


Yes. New Jersey anti-bullying laws prohibit harassment, intimidation, or bullying 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. New Jersey anti-bullying laws also direct the Department of Education to develop and distribute to school districts guidelines concerning the needs of transgender students, including procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment.

New Jersey schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics. Find out when bullying may be a civil rights violation.

Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations encourage or require districts to implement bullying prevention programs or strategies?


Yes. New Jersey school districts are encouraged to annually establish, implement, document, and assess bullying prevention programs or approaches, and other initiatives involving school staff, students, administrators, volunteers, parents, law enforcement and community members. School districts may form school safety teams in each school within the district to develop, foster, and maintain a positive school climate. School districts are also encouraged to observe a “Week of Respect” to provide age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation, or bullying. New Jersey school districts may incorporate instruction on responsible use of social media into the technology education curriculum for students in grades 6 through 8.

New Jersey anti-bullying laws direct the Department of Education to make available an online a tutorial on best practices in the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying.


Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations encourage or require districts to train teachers and other school staff on how to respond to bullying incidents?


Yes. New Jersey school districts are required to provide training to teachers and other school staff regarding the policy and appropriate procedures relative to policy implementation.

Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations encourage or require districts to provide safeguards or mental health supports for students involved with bullying?

Yes. New Jersey school district policies must include an appropriate combination of services that are available within the district such as counseling, support services, intervention services and other programs. School districts may apply to the Department of Education for grants from the “Bullying Prevention Fund” to support the provision of out-of-district programs and services.


Do New Jersey anti-bullying laws and regulations involve parents in efforts to address bullying behavior?

Yes. New Jersey school districts are encouraged to develop policies in consultation with parents and other community members, school employees, school volunteers, students, and school administrators.

For More Information

Visit the New Jersey Department of Education “Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying” webpage and/or view the New Jersey state model policy on bullying and harassment.


The key component framework used in the analysis of state laws is based on the review of legislation presented in the “Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies – December 2011” (U.S. Department of Education).

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