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Disagree with a HIB Determination? Don’t Wait to Appeal!
The New Jersey Board of Education made some changes to the HIB law (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying – see below for HIB Act details) on July 1, closing some loop holes and clarifying some unanswered questions.
However, one of the most important and timely changes to the law involves a parent’s ability to appeal a HIB determination. You now have 60 days from the date that you receive notice of the determination before your window of opportunity to appeal to the board of education slams shut.
“Before July 1, 2018, there was no set deadline for appeals. If you received a HIB determination you didn’t agree with, whether your child was the target or the bully, you could appeal the decision at any time,” explained Mariann Crincoli, special needs attorney at Sussan Greenwald & Wesler.
Now parents have 60 calendar days from the date they receive written notice of the HIB determination within which to file an appeal to their local board of education. The purpose of the appeal would be to convince the board of education why it should reverse or modify the decision of the antibullying specialist/superintendent.
“This means if you are not satisfied with the outcome of a HIB investigation, you need to move on it right away,” Crincoli said. “A parent can’t come to my office 90 days after the determination and try to appeal. They won’t be able to. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, don’t wait.”
She advised that parents in this situation must immediately alert the district they want to appeal the decision and then seek legal counsel right away to figure out whether they have a valid basis for appeal
“I feel like the people who are charged with implementing the HIB Law don’t always understand the nuances of the law and they are making mistakes in its application,” Crincoli said. “How can we trust the process if the people who are making the ultimate decisions don’t understand the law?”
Think They Got It Wrong? Make Sure You Understand the HIB Law
We all know what bullying is, but HIB goes by the letter of the law and not every negative interaction between students or between school staff and students qualifies as a HIB. It may be another infraction under the school’s code of conduct but regardless, action must be taken. Under the NJ Anti-Bullying Act, all of the following criteria must be met for tbullying to be found:
According to the Act:
- “Any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or series of incidents, that:
“Is reasonably perceived as being motivated by an 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 AND that:
“Takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds, AND that
“Substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students, AND that
“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; OR
“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 a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing a physical or emotional harm to the student.”
If you believe your child has been bullied or wrongfully found to be a bully, you may want to exercise your right to appeal.
Mariann Crincoli, Esq. is an attorney at Sussan Greenwald & Wesler who lectures regularly about bullying at school. For more information about your family’s legal rights, please contact Sussan Greenwald & Wesler at (609) 409-3500. Visit www.special-ed-law.com for more about our firm and our team of experienced attorneys.