August 31, 2011
Talking about bullying makes me less reasoned and mellow than usual.
Under a recent law, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, New Jersey now has the most stringent and extensive anti-bullying policies of any state. The Times has an article today about the administrative and enforcement hardships that the law will impose on New Jersey schools (Bullying Law Puts New Jersey Schools On the Spot).
I’m pretty unsympathetic to the perspective expressed by one Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators: “I think this has gone well overboard,” he says. “Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the people and the resources to do this?”
School administrators…. Don’t think you need a law to force you to keep students safe in your schools? Then you need to prove that you can do so without one. But you haven’t.
When you create and preside over an environment that invites abuse of the vulnerable, then yes, you’re actually accountable for what happens to them in that environment.
When you claim to be acting in loco parentis, in the place of students’ parents while they’re in your power, then yes, you’re responsible for protecting them from abuse.
I don’t know how representative Bozza’s opinion is of other members of the Association of School Administrators, but he sounds downright flabbergasted and resentful than when you claim to be responsible for students’ learning and living environments (and I think it’s fair to call school a living environment, when students spend a third or more of their time there), you are actually responsible for students’ learning and living environments.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim the ability to legally compel students to spend eight hours a day in your facilities, to legally be acting in place of their parents, and then abdicate actual responsibility for their well-being.
Where are you supposed to get the people and the resources to enact this? That’s not the problem of the bullying victims in your districts. Get it together.
Not up for actually protecting kids? Then you’re in the wrong job.
Does the New Jersey law go overboard in its requirements? Yeah, maybe, but then you should’ve proven that you can do your job without it. If kids are still being abused in your schools while staff turn a blind eye or claim powerlessness, you haven’t.