New Jersey is said to have one of the strictest anti-bullying laws in the country. In 2011, the State of New Jersey enacted N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13.1, also known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The purpose of the law is to strengthen standards for New Jersey schools to protect and prevent harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools.

New Jersey law defines harassment, intimidation, and bullying as:

“any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds…that substantially interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students that:

a.) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have 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;

b.) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

c.) creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.”

Needless to say, this is a wide encompassing definition. Issues of harassment, intimidation, and bullying effect students in nearly all of our schools. When New Jersey passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, the legislature cited a study of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that 33% of students age 12 to 18 are bullied in New Jersey schools.

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act requires schools to have reporting and investigatory systems in place so that any claim of bullying can be properly evaluated. If schools fail to act reasonably, they can be found in violation of laws such as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. This makes the school accountable for it’s actions and gives motivation to ensure that the law is upheld.

Matthew R. Tavares focuses his practice in Litigation, Employment Law, Workers Compensation and Municipal Court matters. He is a trained mediator and has successfully mediated small claims and special civil part matters.

Mr. Tavares received his Juris Doctor from Western New England University School of Law in 2013, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History and Criminal Justice in 2010 from the University of Delaware. Matt is a member of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Matthew was sworn in as a member of the New York State Bar in February 2016. You may contact Matt at (908) 751-1551, or


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