The Wayne Township Board of Education took the first steps Thursday night to complying with New Jersey regulations requiring a comprehensive anti-bullying program in place.
New Jersey requires school officials, teachers and volunteers to receive bully and harassment training as well as have a school safety team and coordinator in place before Sept. 1, Board member and education committee chair Jane Hutchinson said at Thursday's Board of Education meeting. The board passed an ordinance that gives them the green light to begin the process.
“There is a lot of red tape and a lot of layers that we have to go through, but ultimately this is good for the children,” said Hutchinson. She said that passing regulation is the first step in a positive direction.
She said the policy is quite comprehensive and covers everything from the in-school harassments to “Facebook and all forms of bullying in all shapes and sizes in between.”
“Every person understands bullying,” she said. “Everyone has been through it at some time or another and we want the parents and students to know that the board of education takes this very seriously.”
She said the basic intention is that every student has the right to learn in a safe and healthy environment, minus the distractions and concerns of looking over a shoulder for some anticipated harm.
“I believe what inspired this current focus on bullying policy is what happened to Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi,” said Hutchinson.
In late 2010, a Rutgers University student and former resident of Ridgewood who engaged in a physical relationship with a male as it was streamed live over the internet by Clementi’s roommate. In the following days, Clementi committed suicide when he leaped to his death from the George Washington Bridge.
Hutchinson said that officials and educational administrators have had to take a proactive approach against bullying not only in the wake of Clementi’s death, but due to incidents of gun violence that has left students and teachers dead in many tragic shootings which climaxed with the Columbine High School deaths in 1999.
Hutchinson said that it is important to reach out to the victims of bullies and harassers to prevent unprocessed anger and feelings of insecurity that could lead to personality issues.
“About eight years ago, we put counselors in place in the school system and we are glad we could do that,” said Hutchinson. “The goal is for us to respond appropriately to give our students the best learning environment possible.”