By Michael Hill
How did Sayreville War Memorial High School get such a high grade — 71 out of 75 — for its anti-bullying efforts from 2011 to 2013, perhaps deserving of a gold star or two?
Because New Jersey allows school administrators to grade themselves.
“The grading system for anti-bullying programs in schools is completely self reported and only from administration. So, it’s completely unreliable and doesn’t reflect the reality of what’s happening in New Jersey schools,” said New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention founder Dr. Stuart Green.
Dr. Green is the behavioral sciences director at Overlook Medical Center in Summit and founded the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention.
Dr. Green says New Jersey has a law that requires schools to get parents’ consent to survey school kids about some topics and that robs the results of accuracy on issues like harassment, intimidation and bullying.
So, New Jersey requires administrators to compile the information.
Sayreville High administrators gave themselves the highest marks in five of the eight categories used to determine the overall grade.
“The rating system that the Department of Education has is still part of the problem more than part of the solution,” Green said.
The Department of Education did not respond to NJTV News’ request for comment.
Sayreville Superintendent Dr. Richard Labbe did not return NJTV News‘ call or respond to NJTV News‘ email for comment.
Dr. Green says New Jersey has one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation. It’s a law that calls for supervisioning cafeterias and locker rooms where bullying is likely to occur. Dr. Green says in this particular case an adult in a supervisory role should have been in the locker room.
“The primary reason hazing and bullying takes place is not because of bad kids, bad families or bad communities. It’s because the adults in charge of running organizations, schools, teams don’t do an adequate job of preventing and addressing this violence,” said Green.
This week, seven suspended players from Sayreville High’s football team went to family court and now face charges in a series of locker room sexual assaults.
Superintendent Labbe canceled the rest of the football season.
Dr. Green calls that bold, remarkable and courageous and he says the next step is putting leaders in place who “get it” — that they can prevent such hazing or bullying or sexual assaults.