🔵 Ocean County lawmakers draft legislation to address bullying policy in schools

🔵 State law would be amended to require all schools to report any physical assault of a student immediately to the police

🔵 Central Regional didn't report Adriana Kuch bullying incident to police, a parent did, and Senator Chris Connors created legislation to make sure that doesn't happen again

There is game-changing legislation in the works to address a flawed policy with holes in the reporting of physical bullying incidents in schools to the police department.

Adriana Kuch, 14, of Bayville

Changes coming to bullying policies in New Jersey schools

In response to the tragic passing of 14-year-old Central Regional High School Freshman Adriana Kuch this month in an area of Ocean County they represent, state Sen. Chris Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman Dianne Gove are introducing legislation that addresses what they call a serious flaw in the reporting of physical bullying incidents.

Connors said their proposal would require all schools to immediately report any and all bullying incidents that result in physical injury directly to the police.

"An assault that takes place in the school shouldn't be any different than an assault that takes place out on the street," Connors tells Townsquare Media News. "These things should be dealt with swiftly and decisively."

This legislation would amend state law to have police handle the response to a physical assault to a student on school grounds, it would no longer be dealt with solely under a school's individual policies.

Ocean County State Senator Chris Connors

Death of Central Regional High School student leads to policy change

Following the attack that occurred at Central Regional High School and the subsequent suicide of Adriana Kuch, there was a call for action by many in the community and beyond.

Connors said he spoke with Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer to learn what happened and what changes were needed to bullying policies in New Jersey schools.

"One of the things that came to light was there was an issue regarding the reporting of this incident (with Adriana Kuch) to the police at the time that it occurred," Connors said. "It seems that it did not take place and required a parent to actually report the incident to the police."

(Photo: Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media-NJ)
(Photo: Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media-NJ)

Upon learning this information, Connors, Rumpf, and Gove felt this reported action by Central Regional High School was irresponsible.

"It's our delegation's view that that's not responsible procedure," Connors said.

It led to them drafting legislation to make sure this doesn't happen ever again anywhere.

"Whenever you have an assault that results in injury, it should be reported to the police as soon as possible and they should investigate and determine whether charges should be filed," Connors said. "It should not be left up to the parent."

New legislation would take handling bullying out of schools' hands

Connors explained that after learning about how this case was handled from a reporting perspective, it was a call for change.

"What we want to do is eliminate it as a school policy," Connors said. "That might differ from school to school, but, would make it a statutory requirement."

The bullying legislation pending in New Jersey would cover physical assaults on students

As it stands right now, the legislation from the 9th District team would only cover physical assaults on students, but that could change to include any and all forms of bullying.

"It's a work in progress. Whatever we have drafted, we will run by law enforcement agencies to solicit their input regarding the matter but, it would be, at this point, physical injury that would occur," Connors said.

Central Regional High School. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
Central Regional High School. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)

What happens if New Jersey schools do not comply

If this legislation is enacted and the state law amended and if a school in New Jersey does not adhere to the letter of the law, they may likely face some type of discipline.

"If a school fails to do that, then, there would be penalties assessed for failure to follow that requirement of the statute," Connors said.

Central Regional Schools Acting Superintendent is non-committal on policy change

During a news conference on Thursday, Central Regional Schools Acting Superintendent Doug Corbett declined to explain their policy of reporting violent bullying incidents to police.

"We have an excellent relationship with [law enforcement and prosecutors]; we're going to continue to work with them and like I previously stated before, if there's any procedural changes, that will be something that we work on together," Corbett said.

(Photo: Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
(Photo: Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)

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