(CNSNews.com) – Although “bullying” encompasses a wide range of misbehavior, including teasing and gossiping, it’s all worthy of an anonymous tip to Crimestoppers, one New Jersey school district has decided.
In response to New Jersey’s tough anti-bullying law, passed after the 2010 suicide of a Rutgers University student, the East Hanover public school system has joined forces with Crimestoppers so students can send strictly anonymous tips directly to the sheriff’s department.
“This gives children, who may be too embarrassed to discuss a bullying incident with an adult at school, the opportunity to contact CrimeStoppers online, with a text message or a phone call,” East Hanover K-8 School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca was quoted as saying on the U.S. Education Department’s website.
The Education Department blog noted that Ricca did his doctoral thesis on bullying and has witnessed it firsthand as a teacher and an administrator. He was recently appointed to head Gov. Chris Christie’s Anti-Bullying Task Force — “and won’t be satisfied until bullying is eradicated in schools.”
On its website, the East Hanover Township School District includes a link to the Crimestoppers program run by the Morris County Sheriff’s Department “so students are now able to provide anonymous tips on bullying without fear of consequence.”
The partnership with the local Crimestoppers is said to be the first of its kind in the state.
“It’s important to understand that even if you’re not the victim, but you know of harassment, intimidation or bullying occurring, you still can report it,” Crimestoppers says.
“Don’t be a by-stander and let others be harmed by bullying. According to the new state law, if you are bullied or know of any bullying you should inform a teacher or your principal. However, if you are concerned about your personal safety, you can also text or submit your information right here on this website anonymously. No one will know you reported the incident and help will be on the way.”
In Morris County, Crimestoppers’ standard online form — which asks for detailed information on the “suspect” — now includes a special checkbox to determine if the “crime” involves a school or a student.
Crimestoppers says it will inform school administrators about any reports it receives, without knowing who reported the alleged crime. “If a criminal act has occurred, such as physical violence, Crimestoppers will forward your tip to the proper law enforcement agency for investigation and possible criminal charges. You are not in this alone – your local school district and Crimestoppers are here to help.”
The Crimestoppers website states that “(b)ullying is wrong and should not be tolerated.” It urges students, “Destroy a coward’s power and protect your friends and classmates. You could help someone who might not be able to help themselves.”
The Crimestoppers website stresses anonymity and privacy, noting only once — in a disclaimer at the bottom of the reporting form — that making a false report to law enforcement is a serious offense and may be punishable by law. The disclaimer also says, “Children must be 13 years or older or have parents’ permission to use this service.”
The East Hanover Schools website links to its own online form that students can use to report bullying to the school district, but that form asks for the student’s name. “Reports may be filed anonymously,” the school website says, “however, no disciplinary consequences will be taken against an alleged aggressor solely on the basis of an anonymous report.”
The school form categorizes bullying as physical (pushing, shoving, hitting, threats, vandalism, theft, etc.); emotional (name calling, insults, teasing, harassing phone calls/texts/I-Ms, etc.); social (gossiping, teasing about appearance, exclusion, public humiliation, etc.); cyber (texting/messaging threats, defamatory web posts, derogatory emails, etc.); and “other” (fill in the blank.)
The U.S. Education Department describes New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” as one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country.
Among other things, the law designates the week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year as a “Week of Respect” and requires school districts to observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation or bullying.