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Thank you, Chairwoman Jasey, Chairman Cryan and members of the Joint Committee on the  Public Schools. My name is David Nash, and I am the Director of Legal Education and National  Outreach for the Foundation for Educational Administration, which is the sister organization and  professional development arm of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. In my  role, I oversee LEGAL ONE, which provides professional development for school leaders,  educators, parents, and other key stakeholders on critical and emerging school law issues.  

Since the passage of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in 2011, we have provided more training  related to the issue of bullying prevention than any other topic. In fact, we have conducted  more than 400 training sessions on this topic alone, including in-person and virtual workshops  and webinars, with more than 10,000 participants representing a majority of New Jersey school  districts. In addition, more than 15,000 individuals, including current and aspiring school  leaders and educators, have completed one or more of our self-paced courses addressing this  topic. 


During these trainings, we have had the opportunity to work closely with those on the front  lines in the effort to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students. Over  time, certain consistent themes have emerged during these trainings that I believe can be  helpful to you as you consider ways to strengthen New Jersey’s safety net for all students and  reduce the prevalence of harassment, intimidation and bullying in our schools.  

These themes include: 

  • A unifying commitment from all stakeholders, including parents, students, school  leaders, counselors, educators, and school board members, to keep our children safe; Frustration among some parents and students that New Jersey’s very specific legal  definition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying does not always coincide with the common understanding of the word “bullying,” which requires specific elements such as  a motivating characteristic, substantial disruption, and a showing of specific harm; • A misguided sense that if behavior does not meet New Jersey’s HIB definition, that it is  not being taken seriously by school officials, when in fact school officials take other  issues such as code of conduct violations and student conflict just as seriously; • A misperception among some that schools are not doing anything to address HIB  incidents when in fact school officials are constantly investigating and responding to  confirmed HIB allegations, but are unable to share the specifics of those responses due  to state and federal confidentiality laws;
  • A misunderstanding about the many complex factors that impact student mental health  and wellbeing, and may lead to suicidal ideation, that go well beyond a direct cause and  effect linked to bullying: 
  • A lack of understanding of the respective roles of law enforcement and school officials in  bullying matters that may spill over into potential criminal behaviors. 
  • A concern among school leaders and educators about the “hidden costs” that are  imposed given the significant time and resources that go into HIB investigations, and the  inability of staff involved in those investigations to address other critical responsibilities,  a concern which is further exacerbated by the staffing shortages facing our schools; and 
  • The lack of effective pre-service education for aspiring school leaders and educators on a  wide range of topics, including bullying prevention, conducting effective student  investigations, threat assessment, and addressing student mental health needs. 


In addition, as you just heard from Principal Aaron Eyler, recent trends have created even  greater challenges for school leaders and other stakeholders working to keep our students safe.  These include: 

  • A significant increase in mental health needs for students, which is a national  phenomenon and is borne out in the latest data from the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, coupled with a lack of access to critical and ongoing mental health services for  students and families beyond what can be provided in our schools; 
  • An erosion of social s skills for students related in large part to the impact of the COVID  pandemic; 
  • An ever-increasing sophistication among our students about how to use social media  and electronic communications in increasingly harmful ways, and to shield or disguise  their identity in the process, and 
  • A toxic national conversation on issues such as race, gender identity, and immigration status that has sent confusing signals to students that often undermine the work of  schools to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and set a positive, mutually  respectful school environment.



With the signing of a revised bullying law in January of 2022, important new provisions were put  into place that are now in their first year of implementation. These changes include: 

  • New prevention and accountability tools for our courts, our schools and parents of  victims to use in response to incidents of cyberbullying that meet New Jersey’s  definition of the crime of cyber-harassment; 
  • Standardized statewide reporting forms that will make reporting suspected HIB  incidents more uniform across the state; 
  • Heightened scrutiny and due process rights surrounding decisions to make preliminary  determinations related to alleged HIB incidents; 
  • New requirements related to tracking HIB incidents in student records and  implementing Student Intervention Plans for students who commit three or more  incidents of HIB; and 
  • The creation of a new School Climate Coordinator position at the state level to provide  ongoing resources and support for parents and school officials related to bullying  prevention and school climate. 


While there is no simple fix to overcome these challenges, there are important steps that can be  taken by policymakers, such as: 

  • Ensuring effective implementation of New Jersey’s 4S initiative, so that we are removing  the significant obstacles that are faced in trying to connect students and families with  both emergent and ongoing mental health supports; 
  • Implementing key recommendations and exploring further incentives and supports to  help ease the shortages that school districts are facing in critical personnel areas; Insisting that institutions of higher education do more to prepare aspiring school leaders  and educators on key issues such as bullying prevention, conducting investigations, and  supporting student mental health; 
  • Exploring legislative means to hold social media companies accountable for working with  school officials to remove harmful content, including efforts to urge Congress to act at  the federal level; 
  • Providing funding to support the ongoing professional learning needs of school districts  to equip staff to address all of the challenges we have discussed; and 
  • Monitoring the impact of recent revisions to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights and  considering the recommendations from the Anti-Bullying Task Force that has recently  been appointed and will complete its work later this year 

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this critical issue and for your ongoing efforts to  ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.