New Jersey HIB FAQ's

Navigating the Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) policies in New Jersey can be a daunting task for parents. Although the anti-bullying laws are designed to protect students, the intricate legal nuances and confusing policies often leave students' families feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about their rights. If your student faces a HIB accusation at their school, criminal charges may not be far off. The Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense and Student Discipline Defense Team can help your family demystify the HIB legal process by offering clarity and strategic guidance on a collaborative and effective relationship with your school district.  

For answers on more HIB policies and regulations, contact our Criminal Defense and Student Discipline Defense Team by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.  

What Does HIB Stand for in New Jersey? 

In New Jersey, HIB stands for "Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying." The acronym is derived from the state's 2002 Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, one of the country's first and most comprehensive anti-bullying laws. The law requires New Jersey Districts to adopt strict policies to prevent and address instances of HIB.  

Is a District Required to Explain HIB Policies to Parents Before it Launches an Investigation?  

Yes! Parents and students should not first learn about HIB policies during an investigation. According to New Jersey, School Districts are required to have strategies in effect for publicizing HIB policies. These publications must also state that HIB laws apply to off-campus school-sponsored activities. Districts must also make their HIB policies easily accessible to families by posting a link on the front page of their District's website. In addition to publicizing the policy for families, each New Jersey school district must develop and implement a plan for discussing the law with students.  

What Types of Incidents Are Considered HIB in New Jersey? 

New Jersey law describes (HIB) as any action—whether it's a gesture, something written, spoken, physical, or even sent through electronic means (social media, text, etc.) —that's seen as being driven by dislike or prejudice towards the personal traits of another student. These traits can include race, color, religion, ancestry, where someone comes from, gender, etc. HIB also covers students with special needs, including those with mental, physical, or sensory disabilities. For a behavior to be considered HIB, it needs to significantly disrupt the smooth running of the school or infringe on the rights of other students to the point where it belittles or demeans any student or group of students. 

Does it Have to Occur on School Grounds to Be Classified as HIB?  

No. To be classified as HIB, the event has to occur on school premises, during a school-sponsored event, at a school-related place such as a school bus or football game, or off-campus in certain circumstances. Electronic HIB, such as social media comments, videos, or text messages, can also be considered school-related if the following are all true: 

  1. Under the circumstances, A reasonable student should know that the actions will physically or emotionally harm the student or damage the student's property.  
  2. A reasonable student should know, under the circumstances, that the actions would place a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or property OR have the effect of insulting or demeaning the student or groups of students, OR interfering with the student's education or is severe or pervasive enough that it causes physical or emotional harm to a student. 

What are Some Examples of Online Behavior That Can be Classified as HIB?  

HIB can occur within a variety of online circumstances. Some examples of HIB online can be: 

  • Social Media Cyberbullying: 
    • Targeting another student on social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc., by posting harmful, false, or malicious posts about their ancestry or national origin which leads to distress that results in a hostile environment for the other student both online and in schools. 
  • Exclusionary Online Groups: 
    • Creating a private online group or chat that excludes another student because of their characteristic(s) and contains posts that mock or demean the other student, impacting the student's well-being and experience at school.  
  • Creating Fake Social Media Accounts or Images: 
    • Creating a fake social media account that pretends to be another student and shares derogatory or exclusionary content that results in a hostile online and school environment.  
  • Sending Threatening Texts or Emails: 
    • Sending emails, online messages, or text messages that threaten or belittle another student due to their characteristics, causing the student to feel unsafe online and at school. 

What is the Difference Between a District's Code of Conduct Conflict and HIB? 

Conflict is a normal part of growing up, and schools often witness a broad spectrum of conflicts, from simple disagreements to severe arguments or physical fights. Each  New Jersey school district has policies that address code of conduct violations such as hitting or disruptive behavior. However, simple conflicts fueled by competition or friend groups can become HIB violations when name-calling or threats can be mistaken for HIB.  

A critical difference between conflict and HIB is that while conflict usually involves "mutual engagement" in the form of multiple students arguing, HIB is typically one-sided and takes place when one party targets another party. Some arguments may manifest as conflicts and result in HIB or vice versa. HIB investigators may consider factors like students' ages, the severity of the incident, the duration, and the impact on the students involved to determine whether it should be treated as a Code of Conduct Violation or disciplinary action.  

What Steps Are Involved in a HIB Investigation?  

As outlined in N.J.S.A. 18A:37-15, all school districts must follow the same ten steps when receiving, processing, and investigating a HIB incident.   

  1. The Verbal Report: HIB investigations are launched when school staff, contractors, volunteers, parents, or students who personally witnessed the event or have credible evidence that it took place report HIB incidents to the school principal.  
  2. Parent Notification: After receiving information about the incident, the principal must promptly inform the parents of all students involved. The principal may also suggest counseling or any other appropriate intervention methods.  
  3. The Investigation: The school's full investigation into the incident must be conducted within a maximum time frame of 10 school days from the date of the written report (discussed below). Throughout the investigation, a principal can work with other school staff members and, if necessary, implement disciplinary consequences through the school's Code of Conduct.  
  4. The Written Report: Within 48 hours of receiving notice, school employees, contractors, or volunteers who witnessed the incident must submit a written report to the principal. If parents see the incident, they do not need to submit a report. 
  5. The Investigation Report:  At the end of the investigation, the school's Anti-Bullying specialist (a staff member trained in proper response techniques, usually the school psychologist or counselor) to the Chief School Administrator ("CSA")  within two school days. The ABS can amend the report to include new or updated information that arises after this timeframe.  
  6. CSA Actions/Response: Based on the information in the investigation report, the CSA can take additional actions as needed. Further actions can range from offering intervention services like counseling to implementing more training programs for staff and schools to reduce HIB incidents on campus.  
  7. Report to the Board of Education: At the close of the investigation, the CSA must also present the investigation findings and any actions that were determined appropriate at the Board of Education's next meeting. 
  8. Information to parents: The school district has five days to inform parents about the results of the investigation, including what evidence of HIB was discovered and if any disciplinary actions or services were provided. Privacy laws prevent parents from accessing the complete investigation reports of other students. If parents want more information than what was provided to them in their notice, they have the right to request a hearing before the Board of Education to make this request.  
  9. Optional Hearing or Appeal: If parents are unsatisfied with the Board of Education's investigation results or actions, they have ten days to request an appeal. 
  10. Board of Education Decision: The Board of Education must draft a written decision on the CSA's report that either supports, rejects, or modifies its findings. 

Why Aren't Parents Provided With a Copy of the Investigation Report? 

Although parents are notified about the findings, New Jersey Law doesn't mandate that they be supplied with a copy of the investigation report. Depending on the circumstances, both the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") protect student confidentiality. Due to these federal as well as other applicable state laws, the type of information that parents are provided with may be limited to: 

  • The type of investigation conducted.  
  • Whether evidence of HIB was found.  
  • Whether discipline services were imposed. 

Does a School Need My Permission to Interview My Child? 

No. At this time, New Jersey's laws do not specify rules about parent consent, leaving it up to school districts to set and follow their investigation protocols. Without these mandates, school districts conduct interviews according to their policies, allowing students to be interviewed without parental consent.  

The Consequences of HIB: Can My Student Be Expelled? Top of Form 

It depends. If your student is the subject of a HIB investigation, you may quickly worry that they will be suspended, expelled, or even face criminal charges. Although each HIB investigation will vary, the ABR outlines appropriate responses to a student's first, second, or subsequent HIB violations, which escalate as follows: 

  • 1st Offense: The principal decides on corrective actions such as counseling, behavioral intervention services, and disciplinary measures. 
  • 2nd Offense: Corrective actions such as counseling, behavioral intervention services, and possibly more severe disciplinary measures are decided by the principal. 
  • 3rd Offense: Corrective actions such as counseling, behavioral intervention services, and possibly disciplinary measures are decided by the principal. At this point, however, the principal must also create an individual student intervention plan that the superintendent must review and approve. At their discretion, the superintendent may also require parents and students to complete an anti-bullying class or training program. 

I've Heard That Students Can Be Criminally Charged for HIB violations. Is This True? 

Yes. In addition to educational consequences, students can face criminal charges and juvenile delinquency proceedings depending on the severity of the incident. Following amendments to New Jersey's HIB laws, school districts must now refer HIB matters to local law enforcement officials with the discretion to pursue criminal charges.   

If law enforcement elects to get involved, they may determine that the school's investigation should be temporarily placed on hold.  

How Can I Challenge the Results of a HIB Decision? 

Parents can challenge a HIB verdict by filing an appeal with the Board of Education within 60 days from the date they were first informed of the incident. Appeal sessions lean on the informal side and are conducted in private sessions to protect the privacy of all students involved. Parents opting to pursue an appeal are expected to present their case to the Board, explaining why they believe the initial decision by the Administration should be revised or overturned by the guidelines specified in the HIB legislation. 

Does HIB Apply to Private Schools? 

Most private schools, like faith-based schools or college preparatory schools, do not accept federal or state funding and, therefore, are not bound by the exact requirements, including HIB law and policies. However, some Nonpublic Schools ("NPS") for students with disabilities may accept funding and, therefore, be required to implement federal and state education laws. However, it's important to note that IDEA laws may circumvent some HIB policies because schools must consider whether disciplinary conduct manifested a student's disability before pursuing disciplinary results.  

New Jersey HIB Defense Attorneys  

If your student faces HIB accusations, don't want to educate yourself on their rights. Our practical and collaborative Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has many years of experience navigating New Jersey educational and juvenile delinquency effectively. Reach a member of our Team by calling 888-535-3686or by using our online contact form.  

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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