Belleville Board of Education officials unveiled a new policy to deal with harassment, intimidation and bullying at the most recent public meeting. Patricia Melia, acting school board attorney, led a PowerPoint presentation about the new guidelines for the three problems, abbreviated as HIB.
The guidelines define HIB as “any gesture, written, verbal or physical act, and gestures” that involve a negative event. The event can involve race, color, religion, national origin, and may involve a sensory disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression of any of those categories, Melia said. The guidelines also include a victim’s fear of harm to their person or property, she said.
The policy also covers cyber-bullying, which can involve anything from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any social media site, along with email, and can be done on a cellphone, standard phone, or computer device, according to Melia. The district must have an anti-bullying specialist to identify and address HIB events, along with anti-bullying coordinator, according to the policy. They will look at things like the age of the students involved and the maturity level, Melia said.
A School Safety Team will be formed to handle reports, education programs, and to address patterns, while strengthening the climate of the district. The team will also handle any training requested, and identify any patterns, Melia said.
An HIB investigation would begin within one day of the incident, and a report sent to the Superintendent of Schools in two days, Melia said. The superintendent would then report the incident at the next school board meeting, and the entire investigation would take a maximum of 10 days, she said.
The report would include descriptions and a list of allegations, Melia said. The report would list all individuals interviewed and contain an analysis and a conclusion, she said.
Parents are not allowed to view reports because of privacy and legal reasons, according to Melia, while the incident itself needs to be reported to parents within five days. The board will hold a hearing within 10 days, and the board can either accept or reject the decision made by the superintendent, she said.
The policy also permits investigation of incidents outside the school, if they are found to be “disruptive to the education process,” Melia said. All board members are required to take HIB training, and then advanced training.
Resident Vinny Frantantoni said during the public session that reporting incidents was “turning students into criminals” and that two students bumping into each other could become and incident. In 2011, the state Legislature passed, and Gov. Chris Christies signed into law the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which calls for investigations of incidents and the compiling of data on HIB.
There will be an investigation, and a report