There are many common misconceptions about HIB investigations. This FAQ has been written to support West Long Branch families in navigating this kind of situation and understanding the terminology, processes, and outcomes of HIB investigations. We are here for you. Please reach out to our Anti-Bullying Specialist or Anti-Bullying Coordinator for more information or with any questions.
Anti-Bullying Specialist: Mrs. Melissa Murphy - email@example.com
Anti-Bullying Coordinator: Mrs. Allyson Winter - firstname.lastname@example.org
What is HIB, or bullying, and why does it seem like the term is defined differently vs. when I was in school?
In 2011, the legislature of the state of NJ created an official definition for harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) and introduced a series of laws and procedures that schools must follow.
In order for an event to be considered an incident of HIB, there are specific criteria that ALL must be met. Those criteria are:
- The event can be any gesture, written, verbal, or physical act, or electronic communication, whether it is a single incident or a series of incidents.
- The event must be seen by a reasonable person as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic. This might include race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identify an expression, disability, or any other distinguishing characteristic. A distinguishing characteristic might be something like status as the “new kid” in town, weight, physical appearance, speech, etc.
- The event takes place on school property, at any school sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds (if it substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operations of the school).
- One of the following criteria must also be met:
- The event has the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; OR
- The event has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; OR
- Creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with the student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.
Why didn’t administrators or counselors tell me anything about the incident when they made the initial call?
Minor investigations have always taken place in schools. In the past, such investigations were typically completed, or at least partially completed, before parent phone calls were made, to determine precisely what occurred. Under the HIB legislation, however, parent contact is required to be made before the investigation has been completed. This prevents the relay of specific, accurate information to parents until the process has been completed.
How long will it take to complete the HIB investigation?
School districts have a very specific timeline to follow when investigating incidents that might be harassment, intimidation or bullying. After receiving a report from the building principal, the anti-bullying specialist has ten school days in which to conduct the investigation.
Are parents present during a student interview?
No. Anti-bullying specialists and principals conduct student interviews regarding a multitude of activities and incidents going on in school buildings every day. A HIB investigation, although it has a more formal title than the routine investigations and conversations that take place each day, is conducted in the same fashion. Parents are not involved in these interviews, but are updated on the content of these conversations as the investigation is concluded.
What happens once an investigation is completed?
Once the investigation is completed and submitted to the building principal, it is then submitted to the Superintendent for review. The Superintendent is required to review cases anonymously with the Board of Education no later than the date of the next Board meeting following the investigation. Once that is done, a final decision can be processed and formal parent notification is completed.
What should I do if my child is accused of harassment, intimidation, or bullying?
Don’t panic. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is not a criminal statute, and all students are treated with respect, kindness, and care by administrators, teachers, and the anti-bullying specialist throughout the process. The school will be focused on conflict resolution, coping skills, and learning to be respectful and accepting of differences among peers.
Students, especially young students, may pick up on a parent’s anxiety over the situation. We encourage you to support your child and reassure them that you and all staff members involved are present to help them and to make sure that all students feel safe and secure when attending school.
Will my child be labeled a “bully” as a result of an investigation?
At no point in time is any child ever labeled a “bully.” The purpose of the HIB investigation is to determine if a student violated the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.
What happens if a student is found to have violated the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights?
If it is determined that an HIB incident has occurred, consequences and/or intervention strategies are highly variable and individualized. These might include, but are not limited to, parent conferences, loss of privileges, school detention, counseling, classroom lessons, etc. All consequences, if they are implemented, are developmentally appropriate and take into consideration the whole child. In accordance with Mallory's Law, the results of a confirmed HIB incident must now be placed in a student's file.
What information will I receive at the conclusion of the investigation?
Building principals will notify parents of the outcome of the investigation, and whether consequences or remedial measures were implemented.
Can I read the full investigation report, including all statements, or have more information regarding the others involved (findings, specific consequences, or specific remedial actions taken)?
No. This can be a very frustrating element of the process for families and individuals on all sides, but all student confidentiality is highly protected and kept confidential. An investigation report contains statements from several different students, and therefore cannot and will not be shared with anyone, including the Board of Education. For the same reason, an investigation report cannot be considered part of a child’s student record, and therefore will not be placed in any students’ files or records. Likewise, to protect the confidentiality of all students, no more information can or will be shared aside from the information specified in the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.
Specifically, the law allows parents to be informed of the outcome of the investigation as it pertains to their children. You may be told the nature of the investigation, whether the district found evidence of HIB, and whether discipline was imposed or services provided to address the incident of HIB.
Discipline, consequences, and remediation activities regarding children other than your own cannot and will not be shared, just as your child’s information will never be shared with anyone but you.
What kind of information is shared publicly about HIB investigations?
Twice per year, the school district must report to the Board of Education, at a public hearing, information about any acts of violence, vandalism or HIB which occurred during the prior six months. The following information, and nothing more, is shared:
- The number of reports of HIB
- The status of all HIB investigations
- The nature of the HIB based on the protected categories
- The names of investigators
- The type and nature of any discipline imposed on any student engaged in HIB (this is a general tally, not specific to any individual student)
- Any other measures imposed, training conducted, or programs implemented to reduce HIB