State Board Moves HIB Code Forward, Gets 1st Glimpse at Evaluation Changes, & Approves Changes to NJ Standards

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The New Jersey State Board of Education at their May meeting, had a second discussion on proposed changes to the rules that govern harassment, intimidation and bullying investigations.  The Board also got a first look at proposed changes to evaluation and approved changes to New Jersey’s standards  In addition, the Board honored Dr. Winkler of the Holocaust Commission, recognized Teachers as part of Teacher Appreciation Week and acknowledged May as Physical Education Month.

Proposed Changes to Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying Code

The Board had a second discussion on proposed changes to the Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16) code, within which rules related to how schools handle matters related to harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) are housed.   Yesterday’s discussion was the second step the code proposal will take toward potential final adoption later this year as the day also included an opportunity for the public weigh in on the proposal.

NJPSA Executive Director Pat Wright provided insight from her work as chair of the Anti-Bullying Taskforce.  East Brunswick Principal Dr. Michael Gaskell also provided the Board with concrete examples of how the code revision will free up time for critical staff in his building to better engage with students, particularly students in crisis.  Legal One’s David Nash additionally shared concerns school leaders have raised over the last several years as a way of showing how the code modification will truly benefit students and schools.

Overview of Changes

Among the key changes proposed are the following:

Principal Threshold Decision

The proposal would allow a principal to make a preliminary or threshold decision, in concert with the Anti-Bullying Specialist, as to whether student conduct constitutes HIB.   Specifically, the proposal allows a district’s policy to include a process by which the principal, or his/her designee, in consultation with the ABS, can make a preliminary determination as to whether a reported incident or complaint is a report of an act of HIB prior to initiating an investigation (amendment to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(1)).

Power Imbalance & Student Specifics

The code proposal also seeks to clarify the definition of what constitutes HIB in light of some confusion in the field around the catch all provision in the law which requires schools investigate and determine if an HIB incident has occurred in instances where ‘any other distinguishing characteristic’ is the basis for an issue.  To do this, the code proposal adds a statement to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2iii  that states that bullying constitutes ‘unwanted, aggressive behavior that may involve a real or perceived power imbalance.’

In addition, the proposal affirmatively notes that districts can consider a student’s disability when determining remedial action or consequence, proposing to amend N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2v and 2vi(1).

ABS Conflict of Interest

Further, the code proposal seeks to clarify that incidents committed by an adult can constitute HIB by amending N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2viii.  The proposal would additionally prohibit the investigation of a complaint concerning adult conduct by an individual who is a member of the same bargaining unit as the individual who is subject to the investigation (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.7(a)2ix(2)).

Affirming Dates

The proposal additionally outlines specific dates by which schools and parents must act related to an HIB incident:

  • adding the statutory requirement that parents or guardians receive the required written information about the HIB investigation “within five school days” after the results are reported to the board;
  • including a provision specifying that a parent or must request hearing before the district board of education (BOE) within 45 calendar days after receiving the written information about the investigation; and
  • including the statutory requirement that the BOE must hold a hearing within 10 business days of the request (Please note that the statute requires the hearing to take place within 10 calendar days, NOT school days.  NJPSA will be recommending a technical revision on that point).

Moreover, the proposal clarifies that reports and/or findings of the school safety/school climate team(s) should be included in the BOE’s required annual re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its HIB policy.  The proposal also recommends law enforcement should be included in the planning of programs or other responses to the annual review of the HIB policy and in the planning of programs, approaches, and initiatives designed to create school wide conditions to prevent HIB.  All changes to district policy must be submitted to the Executive County Superintendent.

School Climate/Safety Team

Additionally, the code proposal modifies the name of the ‘school safety team’ to ‘school climate/safety team’ to better reflect the work of the group.  The proposal further specifies who the school safety/school climate team should consist of, as well as who should chair the team (the ABS).  The proposal also adds a rule to specify that if a parent or other member of the school safety/school climate team is not authorized to access student records, the individual’s role is limited to general school climate issues.


Finally, the code proposal seeks to affirmatively include private schools for students with disabilities (PSSD) within the auspices of the law, creating a new sub-chapter.  It is important to note that although the investigatory rules are generally the same in the PSSD environment, the code modifies the investigatory appeal process to include the sending board of education where an incident occurs in such a school.

Supporting Documents

Changes to Educator Effectiveness

In addition, the Board got a first look at proposed changes to current evaluation rules housed in N.J.A.C. 6A:9C, Professional Development and N.J.A.C. 6A:10, Educator Effectiveness.  Deputy Commissioner Peter Shulman and Director of the Office of Evaluation Carl Blanchard began the presentation by explaining how the changes were forged from experiences with the field over the last several years.

Among the themes stated by Shulman were that a majority (75%) of teachers were satisfied with the new evaluation system and that the system had school leaders were focusing more on evaluation than ever before.  However, these same folks felt that the system was too cumbersome, focused too much on paperwork/compliance and was too monolithic in its approach.  In light of this the Department proposed the following thematic changes to the system:

  • Simplify requirements to allow more time to work with teachers
  • Provide extra flexibility for evaluating Highly Effective teachers
  • Align PDP, CAP, and SGO deadlines
  • Align administrator training/develop local policies for SGOs
  • Simplify and increase flexibility in principal evaluation

The following outline the specifics of the proposal across the 5 areas.

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The proposal is slated for potential adoption by Fall 2016.  Evaluation weights for the 2016-17 have not yet been set and will be announced by August 31.

Final Adoption of Revised English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards

In addition, the Board formally approved a resolution adopting changes to the current English Language Arts and Mathematics standards.  Among the changes is a rebranding the ‘Core Curriculum Content Standards,’ as the ‘New Jersey Student Learning Standards.’    In addition, the proposal includes approximately 230 items which are mostly minor in nature, and predominately focus on coherence, age appropriateness and elimination of narrowing of curriculum.

Supporting Documents

Holocaust/Genocide,  Prejudice and Bullying: Reaching ALL Learners through Universal Design for Learning

Further, the Board received an overview of new developmentally appropriate curriculum developed in concert with the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.  The Commission has long engaged in developing resources, curriculum guides and training for New Jersey educators.  This new initiative takes their work further – utilizing universal design to provide appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges to students while maintaining high achievement and expectations for all students.

The new program was developed by 10 educators who are teaching this content in New Jersey schools.  It is organized by grade and aligned to our curriculum standards.  It provides options for embedding multiple means of engagement, action/expression and representation and offers ideas for designing other lessons using UDL principles.

The new content will be released in the coming days.

Recognizing May as Physical Education Month

In addition, the Board recognized May as Physical Education month, bringing in representatives from the New Jersey Association for Physical Education Health, Recreation, and Dance (NJPEHRD) to present how physical education can pare well with math and language arts instruction in elementary, middle and high school.

Teacher Appreciation Week

The Board also recognized Teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week, sharing a brief video developed with New Jersey Teacher of the Year Chelsea Collins

State Board Calendar & Leadership

Additionally, the Board had a first glimpse at the proposed meeting calendar for the coming school year and announced who from the Board will serve on the Board nominating committee.  The nominating committee provides a recommendation to the Board on the slate of officers for the subsequent year.  Board members Peter Simon, Andrew Mulvihill and Gene Lepore agreed to serve in this capacity.  Election of the President and Vice President are expected to occur at the July meeting.  The calendar is expected to be adopted next month.

Certification of School Districts

Moreover, the Board reviewed NJQSAC information for 48 districts, as indicated in Appendix A, 22 of which met the 80 percent requirement.  The residual will need to implement a QSAC improvement plan to address deficient indicators.  Following plan implementation, the executive county superintendent will conduct another interim progress review; you will be kept informed of the district’s progress on a regular basis.

June Public Testimony

Finally, the Board announced that it will take public testimony on Educator Effectiveness and Standards and Assessment at the June Board Meeting.