A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Commissioner of Education Upholds Finding of HIB for Comments Related to Physical Strength

By on December 12, 2019 in Students with 0 Comments

In a case successfully defended by Sanu Dev, Esq., the Hainesport Township Board of Education’s (“Board”) determination of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (“HIB”) was upheld by the New Jersey Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”) on June 19, 2019. In the case captioned M.S. and N.S. o/b/o J.S. v. Hainesport Township Board of Education, the parents of J.S. appealed the Board’s decision finding that J.S. violated the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (“ABBRA”) and committed an act of HIB when J.S. slammed another student’s Chromebook, pulled on his earbuds, called him “weakling,” and commented on the student’s athletic ability, using the phrase, “you suck.”

As a result of J.S.’s conduct, the Board upheld the administration’s recommendation that J.S. receive a one-day, in-school suspension and his schedule be adjusted to limit interaction with the other student. J.S.’s parents appealed the Board’s determination, which was initially heard by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Thereafter, the Commissioner reviewed the matter. The ALJ and Commissioner both agreed that the Board did not act in an arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable manner when it determined that J.S.’s conduct met the criteria for HIB: the conduct was motivated by the other student’s distinguishing characteristic of being weak and bad at sports; the conduct disrupted or interfered with the orderly operations of the school or the rights of other students; and the conduct made the other student feel embarrassed.

While J.S.’s parents argued that the situation was conflict between the students rather than HIB, this argument was rejected. The evidence did not suggest a “back and forth” of taunting between J.S. and the other student.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


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