The case in Ridgewood was brought all the way to the attention of New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf under the state's tough new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. Under the state law, school districts must make a determination about whether bullying has taken place. The offending child's family can dispute a school board's finding and the legislation sets out an appeals process that goes as high as a trial-like hearing with the state education commissioner acting as the final arbiter.
The Ridgewood boy who was accused of bullying and district officials were asked to tell their version of the story during the hearing. The boy, who is now a high school student, said he only called the girl "horse" and not "fat" or "fat ass."
The (Newark) Star-Ledger said the Ridgewood case is one of several Cerf has heard since the law went into effect in September 2011. He has sided with the school district's finding most of the time but has at least once overturned a district's determination that a student was guilty of bullying someone.
The Ridgewood student received two nights of detention as a result of the incident. The boy's father had sought to get the incident expunged from his son's official records. Cerf said the incident was not academic in nature so it would not be considered in college admissions, but that if the family moves other districts might treat the disciplinary action differently.
The Star-Ledger said more than 12,000 bullying cases were appealed statewide during the first year the law was in effect though most are resolved at the local level.
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