Elements that the New Jersey law shares with some other states include a specific ban on cyberbullying; a requirement to address bullying that happens on buses and off campus, if it affects the school climate; antibullying education at all grade levels; and provisions for counseling and other interventions for both bullies and victims.
Because it includes both counseling and cyberbullying, the New Jersey law is one of 14 around the country rated A++ by Bully Police USA, a group that works to prevent bullying and "bullycide."
Brenda High, founder of the group, says that the term bullycide – suicide prompted by bullying – began in Britain, but that she and other parents have popularized it in the US. Her son took his life because of bullying in 1998.
Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, is concerned that the law goes too far. "We support establishing a school culture that provides safety and demands and teaches respect among students," he told Education Week, but "what we can't say is that schools' efforts will control the behavior of everybody outside the school."
Some aspects of implementing the law are time-consuming, and, perhaps for the youngest children, the strict investigation requirements aren't the best fit, says Jessica de Koninck, antibullying coordinator for the South Orange/Maplewood School District. But "overall it's going well," she says.
"It empowers parents and students," she adds. Already, she knows of a parent who reported a child was being repeatedly bullied, and that parent "might not have felt comfortable coming forward if not for the publicity around this new law."
During the state-mandated Week of Respect earlier this month, Ms. de Koninck's district held a variety of events, including a talk by a former local student who had been bullied and went on to become an Olympian, and a visit by the author of a popular children's book that addresses meanness versus respect.
The state law's potency will depend on how each district implements it, says Barbara Coloroso, an antibullying educator and author in Littleton, Colo. "It doesn't take a lot of money or time, but a lot of caring about every kid in that school, [showing them] that they feel safe and they matter.... When kids know there are swift and effective consequences, [bullying] doesn't spread as much."