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Superintendent Says Anti-Bullying Law Overreaches

While he embraces the intent of the law, Dr. Brian Osborne, Superintendent of Schools for South Orange-Maplewood, says that the district is "grappling" with the new anti-bullying policies.

The new that went into effect in school districts across New Jersey this fall "overreaches" according to Dr. Brian Osborne, Superintendent of the South Orange-Maplewood School District, at the Board of Education meeting on Oct. 17.

In response to a complaint by a district parent, Osborne said that the district is grappling with the impact of the law — although he and district staff certainly support its intent. "We definitely need to protect all our kids and be vigilant about bullying," Osborne later told Patch.

During the public comment portion of the Board of Education meeting, the parent of a district elementary school student told the superintendent and board members about her child's experience with the new law.

According to the parent, her daughter was pulled out of a physical education class on Sept. 19 by two social workers. Her child was interviewed by the workers without the prior knowledge of the parents based upon "one child's word." The parent said that the workers "found no evidence of bullying" but that the episode was upsetting to her daughter who did not have a history of disciplinary problems.

The parent told the Board of Education, "This policy can be used by bullies against others." She added, "There is a need [for the law] but taking it out of the teacher's hands and elevating it to the state level" was not the answer. The parent said she still did not know what her daughter had been accused of and had been told she would not know until the Board of Education had reviewed the complaint report.

Superintendent Osborne thanked the parent. "Your statement is excellent," said Osborne. "Unfortunately, you and your daughter are not alone, and the district is not alone in grappling with this issue."

Osborne added, "The law overreaches in detailing out the reporting and giving time frames. The adults in our district were following the law but the law overreaches."

District In-House Counsel Jessica G. de Koninck explained that "what works at the high school level is not good for the elementary level." She added, "This needs to be addressed on the legislative level."

Board member Mark Gleason urged the parent to share her experience with State Assembly leaders.

Sam October 27, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Dear Ms.Mann... What does this mean? "You can disagree without being disagreeable???" Did you mean we can agree to disagree--cuz your statement makes less sense than Ozzy's whining in your article. And as far as what I would say sitting across the table from Osborne or any school administrator--it would not differ from what I wrote and yes in its tone or content...and YES...I have sat across the table from similar NJ school administrators while they lied to cover their *sses about bullying I witnessed and reported on in their schools. You want civility Ms. Mann yet the topic is about kids being bullied and admin who have long overlooked it on THEIR watch. Read the link to the NJ Bullying Commission another poster provided and then Ms. Mann "maybe" you will have a better understanding why there came a need for some kind of watchdog (law) to police school administrators who have long policed themselves and in doing so...kept lying about the job they were NOT doing to minimize bullying in their schools. Where is the civility in that???
Sam October 27, 2011 at 09:36 PM
There would be no need for any such law or bill of rights IF school administrators had been doing or did their jobs to begin with. Osborne or any adminstrator repeatedly whining while failing to acknowledge why such a strict law was enacted --is showing a total lack of education on the law and about bullying in general. Last thing they should be doing is crying to the Press and the Press should do their jobs in pointing out the previous failures of admin instead of giving them headlines to continue to circumvent their culpability "again" when it comes to bullying in their schools on their watch. Any NJ school administrator lacking the inability to recognize why this strict law was pushed through per the research founded by the NJ Commission on Bullying- is an administrator incapable of accountability for their actions (lack-of). If my kids were under his charge I would make sure he is following the law instead of whining and looking for ways to weasel away from HIS responsibility in protecting students. With very little if any wiggle room the NJ Commission on Bullying in their extensive research...made it abundantly clear... "administrators had been failing in their duties to address bullying in their schools"-- Something both Osborne and Ms. Mann completely "overlooked" while crying about the "over-reaching" law!
Mary Mann October 27, 2011 at 09:58 PM
Appreciate all your comments, Sam. Rest assured, I am monitoring the implementation of the policies in our school district and have had several stories about schools' actions to meet requirements. I also have children in the district, so this is a concern on multiple levels for me. Finally, I do find it ironic that someone so pro-anti-bullying (now there's a strange turn of phrase) is so anti-civility. Civility and anti-bullying would seem to go hand in hand. And it is my understanding that we are working to teach our children to respect each other's differences — including differences of opinion. That includes not resorting to name-calling when we disagree.
Sam October 27, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Zuzu, you seem in favor of the law, why do you think teachers need more training about "what to look out for and how to handle it?" I know kindergarteners who know what bullying is when they see it yet we have to "train teachers" about what it is and what to do about it? Gimma a break! Stop insulting teachers--we know what it is and have known what to do about it but for decades but...when we would bring it to the attention of our administrators...it was at THAT point the bullying ball kept getting dropped - where teachers learned quickly...don't dare bring such negative poor image issues to where it could possibly taint the "tough guy/girl" image of the Big Shot Supt ...make the admin look bad to their taxpaying public & every teacher knew (knows) they will quickly find themselves singled out by same admin. This law tells teachers exactly what they have always known they should have done -"report bullying to their admin"-- at least they can NOW protect themselves (to some degree) against reprisals from admin. Enough already with "teachers need more training to help them recognize bullying" it ain't rocket science folks! How come just about every Anti-Bully program, policy, action plan etc...all stress to kids that they are expected "as kids" to stand-up when they see bullying to help victims yet our teachers "need more professional training to know what it is and how to deal with it?" Any educator or not care to explain that?
Sam October 27, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Ms. Mann -let me know when you take off your rose colored glasses. Am sure being a reporter YOUR kids will be protected. The rest are in the hands of a whiner trying to devalue the A-B law and throw wrenches into why HE won't be able to protect their children. As to your name calling...trust me I refrained from much more deserving labels and am not surprised such little sarcastic name calling was met with such offense. What is ironic is a reporter claiming to be on top of the bullying topic who failed to make the connection the supt is complaining about a law that was encated BECAUSE administrators like him FAILED at doing their jobs to begin with. Forget your over-reaching headline...you overlooked or more likely never knew to begin with, why the law was needed. If having that brought to your attention lacks civility then so be it....makes up for the total lack of common sense reporting at your end.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 02:09 PM
How is this for real reporting... Part 1: This is a link that has been available to the public and certainly available to a reporter: https://homeroom2.state.nj.us/DOE_EVVRS/Incidents.do As noted it is from NJ DOE website where it is noted per latest reports (2008-09) on bullying; (which falls under acts of violence per NJ DOE) this shows the Supt; whose job it is to report yearly totals to DOE - that report for the South Orange-Maplewood district comprised of approx 6100 students in 9 schools shows a total of ONLY 59 such incidents. 59 incidents out of over 6,000 students at 9 schools over 180 school days....really? 59 divided by 9 schools = 6.5 reported incidents of bullying over an "entire school year" at EACH school. Anyone with a brain that accepts out of 180 days of school at any one of these schools there were less than 7 incidents of bullying ALL YEAR is a fool. Not even 1 incident of bullying per month at every school--Really? It gets better (or worse) 6 of the 9 schools had "ZERO" reported incidents of bullying. 6 out of 9 schools essentially were a utopia where every single child got along splendidly (must be where Ms. Mann's kids attend school.) One of 2 MS had 34 reported incidents while other had "ONLY 3" - simply unbelievable! Anyone could walk into any MS cafeteria in America & see 3 incidents of bullying in 1 lunch or gym period yet this Supt reported only "3" at his MS in 180 days? The HS had remaining 22 incidents. Cont'd...
Mary Mann October 28, 2011 at 02:21 PM
Sam, I posted this report on Patch last week.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Part 2: BTW, this Supt in this ridiculous UNDER reporting (so much for OVERreaching huh Ms. Mann?) is not an exception. Unfortunately, his IS & has been the norm for NJ schools. All of this begs the question if these statewide reported incidents over the last decade were so accurate, so trusting why did NJ enact an anti-bully law in 2002 to begin with? Why since 2002 was there a need to revamp that law & enact current strictest A-B law in the Nation? Why is there a national frenzy & drive to stop bullying in schools when according to NJ supt state mandated reports—bullying does NOT really exist!!! In fact in 6 of the 9 S. Orange-Maplewood schools it NEVER happened? ANSWER (ok I’ll make it an opinion based on NJDOE facts)… Because NJ Supt / administrators given the power to police themselves in reporting bullying on THEIR watch…have been lying to cowardly protect themselves (not your kids) & to cover their *** by grossly under-reporting bullying. Now, with help from Press Reporters, they make themselves feel like victims with “feel sorry for me” headlines & excuses why they “can’t do their 6 figure salary jobs to protect taxpayer's kids.” OK taxpayers / nayesayers, either deal with reality of facts or keep pretending your schools are utopia run by brave administrators who care about your kids more than their images...yet aren't smart enough to figure out why NJ NEEDED to enact toughest A-B laws in the Nation!
Mary Mann October 28, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Also I don't know why you are singling me out. I never voiced an opinion about bullying in the district. I merely asked for a civil discussion and gave assurances that I would be diligent in reporting on this topic.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 02:26 PM
And did you question the numbers and point out the ridiculousness of the LOW reported incidents of bullying? Did you conclude in that article (I never read) why NJ now has the toughest A-B law in the nation? If you did then why did you just give this supt and his district a "feel sorry for me" headline?
Nick Muson October 28, 2011 at 02:33 PM
He's singling you out because he's a bully, Mary, and the irony is clearly lost on him. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Sam should just stuff it already. Any sympathy I had for his child's plight is LONG GONE.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 03:03 PM
You said..."I also have children in the district, so this is a concern on multiple levels for me." Well I don't have kids in these schools and don't even live in NJ. As a reporter you must know admin knows you are a reporter-therefore your kids pretty much are guaranteed bullies won't get away with messing with them. Hard to argue that point. And for that ...you are lucky and I am glad for your kids (sincerely). Now knowing you have that upper-hand .... ...if you want to really help the rest of the kids...don't dance around the issue and tippy-toe around administrators who it has all been proven...FAILED a whole bunch of other NJ kids....they don't deserve kid gloves or "woe is me" headlines whining about how much more difficult their 6 figure salaries will be to earn because NOW someone else is policing their accountability (lack-of). Go after these cowards...make them accountable for your kids and EVERY kid's safety...just stop giving them free passes (what your overreaching headline did) to shirk their responsibilities. If you (others) perceive this as me bullying you to help protect kids more...I can live with that...just stop coddling the cowards!
Sam October 28, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Uh Nick...I have no kids in schools anywhere. I'm doing exactly what every anti-bully policy and methodology is based on and DEMANDS our kids do...I'm "stepping up" and putting the REAL problem with school bullying in its place--not what the article did in coddling the problem where you sound like you are an administrator! Tough in words but no actions! No go back to hiding behind your desk!
STurner October 28, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Okay, Sam. If you had any credibility left, it is totally gone now. You "don't have kids in these schools and don't even live in New Jersey?" Then please stop bullying our Patch editor, our teachers and our administrators. You clearly have an axe to grind but please take it somewhere else.
Nick Muson October 28, 2011 at 03:21 PM
No Sam, you're reading WAY too much into what I'm saying. All I am saying is that you are a self-righteous bully. I'm not even paying attention to the rants, and I assure you I am not alone.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Zuzu, there is credibility in the information I provided care less what you think of mine, how about arguing against the facts provided (can you do that?). I have kids just not in NJ schools. I also have more background in dealing with NJ school administrators than those of you like Nick ...who go through life admitting to ignoring the facts and refusing to see the 800 pound gorilla in the midst of school bullying problems (the admin). He also bullies back but was clueless to that...but I can take it so keep it coming. So when you teach or pay your way away from teaching it yourself; to have your school bring in $$$ anti-bully assembly programs that DEMAND your kids stand-up to adrress bullying ...I doubt you resort to calling those that stand-up to stop it "bullies" as well...it will be your choice to ignore that as any different than me standing -up and putting the real problem (admin) in its place. I'm standing up to adults incapable of recognizing why NJ has to have the toughest A-B law in the nation and a reporter who gave a big part of the problem, his space to make excuses why he STILL won't be part of the solution and the biggest part of the problem. Has nothing to do with my kids or my cred...keep ignoring it and see where it gets you with YOUR kids! I keep forgetting... I am trying to share the imperfections of a district administrator where 6 out of the 9 schools he runs ...have ZERO bullying....my bad!
Mary Mann October 28, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Sam, I reported what transpired at the BOE meeting and what is available through data and surveys. I leave it to the readers to draw their own conclusions. I keep my ear to the ground and follow up on stories where I get tips and feedback. In the two and a half years since have been reporting on this district, I have not been contacted by any parents or teachers about instances where the school district was turning a blind eye to bullying. However, if I do hear about such instances, I will follow up. Sam, if you have information about bullying in our school district that has gone unreported, please forward it! Thanks so much.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Mary Mann, I don't question your attendance at BOE meetings nor your involvement in the district. I do question you not asking the BIG questions that should have been answered as I stated previously and worth repeating: Given the obvious low reports of bullying you clarified you researched and in accordance with what I provided ...how come you never asked: about the ridiculousness of the LOW reported incidents of bullying? There is a reason no one is coming to you or even forward with bullying--the reprisals from admin I addressed ARE REAL. In your reporting what other reasons, other than admin have long FAILED and under reported bullying; have you come up with as to why their is a need in NJ schools for the strictest A-B law in the nation??? Did you ask the Supt or BOE what reasons they have for it? All I have commented on is how you give the real reason for the law, a headline and press allowing them to further shirk the reasons NJ has this law to begin with. If your job is to simply report than you are meeting your goal if it is to inform and god forbid make schools safer for kids--then you missed your mark. I have taken a stronger "fact based" stance for kids in your district in these posts than anyone who lives there. Therein lies the rest of the problem...nobody cares which does not bode well for the students. Shoot this messenger but for the sake of the kids....you do a disservice to silence the message. Moving on!
Mary Mann October 28, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Sam, The superintendent and district leadership would seem to agree with you to an extent — if you read the article and if you read Maplewood Patch on a regular basis. The super. does say that he agrees with the intent of the law and wants to make certain that all children are protected. The school district has also gone to great lengths, as required, to implement the new law — training teachers and implementing programs (see recent Patch stories introducing the law, and on programs at Maplewood Middle School and Tuscan School). It would seem that the new law will help rectify issues of reporting and probably capture a greater number of incidents of bullying in SOMSD schools. But, again, if you have information specific to incidents in our school district and you have evidence that Osborne has suppressed reporting of bullying, please present it. (I can't knock on every door in town and demand that people tell me their children were bullied and unprotected; but, again, I am always on the lookout for information.) Otherwise, it seems that you are casting aspersions on Osborne based on statewide data. And, yes, we do publish articles and Op-Eds here that could be seen as unflattering to the district; in fact, one could argue that this story was unflattering to the superintendent. But it is what it is, and the reader takes away from it what he or she will.
Mary Mann October 28, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Sam, Also, I don't know if you really know much about Maplewood and South Orange. We are far from perfect communities but we are racially and economically diverse. We also have a good amount of households with same sex parents. Bullying most certainly exists, but most would say that our towns are more accepting of differences than others; check out this Op-Ed: http://patch.com/A-mSly. Thanks again, Sam, for your comments.
Catherine October 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM
First of all, it's Barringer High School. It is one of the worst high schools in Newark. Second, while I agree this incident in Newark was not necessarily bullying, they are not violent monsters and criminals. You are perpetuating a belief that young people in Newark who act out violently for a host of reasons are monsters. Young people who live in Newark do not act out violently because they are violent monsters. On a separate note, kids needs to learn to joke with each other in a healthy way. Kids should be free to go to school and learn in a safe environment without fear of being taunted. And yes, it starts in elementary school. Perhaps the law goes too far, but perhaps also, it has been necessary because the bullies (on all levels) have gotten away with it for so long.
Lauren Bright Pacheco October 28, 2011 at 10:46 PM
Catherine, did you watch the video? These kids robbed another kid and beat and KICKED him to the point where he needed to be hospitalized. How are the kids in the video NOT violent monsters and criminals? Truth is that some act out violently because they are violent monsters and their behavior cannot be simply excused or justified because of where they live.
Sam October 28, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Well according to 6 out of 9 schools having ZERO reports of bullying for an entire school year...I would say the evidence suggests..."you have perfect schools" where everybody gets along and NO bullying exists. If you have another way of describing or defining how 6 out of 9 schools NEVER had a single reported incidence of bullying over 10 months...I'm all ears? Your supt agrees with the intent and need for the law while overlooking (with help from you and rest of community it seems) the very reason the law is needed. I don't call that convincing he "gets it"...I call that avoiding the obvious. You got your locals saying I got axes to grind which has me wondering why they don't have axes to grind in regards to their own children? Something this obvious would have me real concerned. Finally, the same NJ commission on bullying made sure this A-B law covered the issue on reprisals from admin against those that report bullying. There is your reason you claim no one has ever come forward and complained about bullying it is also is in line with why you have 6 perfect schools with NO bullying! This is your issue ...I sent my message...ignore it or learn from it. Done!
Nick Muson October 28, 2011 at 11:20 PM
"Moving on!" Sam, would you please take your own advice and move on? We get it. No one cares but you. No one knows what's really going on but you. We're ignorant fools. We'll get what we deserve. Does that cover it or did I miss something?
Catherine October 28, 2011 at 11:26 PM
I have worked in Newark for over a decade, and most of that time I spent in child welfare. I have seen horrors for the likes that no video has ever captured. And based on my experiences, I have to respectfully disagree.
Benjamin Myers October 29, 2011 at 03:14 AM
6 of 9 schools are elementary schools. You're going to see less incidents of bullying or possibly none. The two middle schools and the high school, sure. Problem with this law is that everything under the sun is now going to be considered bullying. In the past, a disagreement on the playground between third graders was quickly squandered by a teacher or lunch aides with a modicum of common sense. Soon, you're going to see a lot more reports. Yes, the schools aren't perfect, and no one wants to see kids hurt or tormented, but this will be similar to the sexting nonsense, and it will be extremely counterproductive with all the paperwork and "investigation" needed for every incident. Look, we all know kids can be awkward, fickle, and scared. You can't expect the school or state to handle everything. Be a good parent and educate your kids in parallel with the schools. Make sure they know they can trust you and help them develop some self confidence to stand up to "bullying." No one is going to be there to coddle your kids after high school when the real world walks all over them. There is no simple answer here, everyone should do their part.
Vinnie Frantantoni October 30, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Mary, I hope you learned a lesson. Don't respond to a nut cake like Sam. Sam needs some bullying to calm him down. Move to New Jersey, Sam. Most New Jersey residents can handle a character like you without going to the authorities.
Jonah October 31, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Mary Mann, you are a class act.
Sam October 31, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Great comebacks! One guy is so ignorant he actually believes bullying does not exist in elementary schools--did you go to school as a kid? As if POOF kids just turn into bullies from angels in MS (lol). And "Vinnie" I lived and taught in NJ 22 years. If the kids were as bad *ssed as you sound and say they are then why does NJ NEED the toughest Anti-Bully laws to protect them? Sounds like I touched a nerve about your sleepy little pretendsville town ...you have a supt who says..."he embraces the intent of the law"...but he is incapable of stating why the need for the law exists to begin with....and nobody (including the reporter) dared to ask or make it known why..so I told it like it is...and the little minded town folks got their panties all twisted and attempted to silence the messenger...guess what...my message got out loud and clear based on others keeping me in the loop so everytime you keep responding I will KEEP coming back to tell you all about the 800 pound gorilla you folks refuse to see to help YOUR kids ......attack me all you want- i don't live there ...just keep giving a free pass to a supt hiding behind his bully free schools (roflmao) pretending your kids are safe as can be on his watch.
DianaID November 01, 2011 at 12:17 PM
Ten years ago, my son, who was then about 10, was a student at Jefferson School. Twice a week, he walked to a friend's house, had a snack and then was carpooled by the friend's mother to Hebrew School with her son. My son was being bullyed by kids on the walk over. I brought it to the attention of the school. Not only did they intervene, but they stated quickly that since he was walking home from school, this came under their purview. They handled it without hesitation. I know they spoke to at least one of the parents who called me to briefly discuss the matter. The bullying stopped. My points are the school was responsive, there were guidelines that they referred to and no one denied that this was happening or it could happen. Did this go into some "count" as to how many bullying events there were? I have no idea. But the school district didn't pretend it wasn't happening, didn't deny the issue and intervened appropriately.

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