On September 22, 2011, I gave a speech at the Board of Education monthly meeting regarding the lack of education on this Anti-Bullying Policy amongst of Jersey City teachers, staff, parents and students. Here is the speech:
Hello my name is Akisia Grigsby.
Being a product of the Jersey City Public School system, a parent to an 8th grader, part of PS11’s Parent Council as well as a landlord and business owner of Jersey City, I want to take this opportunity to express my serious concern about the Jersey CIty Board of Education Anti-Bullying Policy and unintended impact on our children. I hope that every teacher, staff member and parent in this room will take a serious look at the policy and collectively work together to ensure that the policy is implemented in a way that protects our children both from bullies and from some of the unintended dangerous impact of the policy. Currently most teachers, staff and students whom I have spoken to claim that no one has gone over the Policy step by step nor explained the consequences stated in this Policy.
I became aware of the lack of education amongst our teachers and school staff when my son was mixed up in a wrongful accusation of Anti-Bullying around February 2011. The suspension against my son was rescinded in the end, but only after I made a call to a friend of mine who was our current President’s classmate at Harvard Law, so that she could review the documents and actions taken against my son.
My attorney pointed out a series of actions made in error based on the protocols listed in the Anti-Bullying Policy. PS11 staff members should not be blamed for anything. I just think proper education of the actual protocols and consequences need to be explained and enforced. I asked friends of mine who are various teachers from various Jersey City public schools about their perspectives on this policy. And they all told me the same thing. If any child accuses another of Bullying, the teachers don’t question it. They just send the kids to the office because they are too afraid to lose their jobs.
I am not hear to blame any of the staff. In fact, it requires knowing a little bit about law to understand this policy. In a Parent Council meeting, it came to my surprise that the Student Council President, who was made the leader of PS11’s Anti-Bullying Movement, was never required nor did he understand the way the language was written in this Policy. The parents were also not aware that once a child is accused of Bullying, an electronic record is sent to the Department of Education through the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System. Why is this important? When I mentioned this to the parents, they became quite upset. This is the start of direct criminal profiling of our kids at an early age. There is no way to determine the impact on a children’s future because of the criminalization and label as a bully at an early age. This should concern every parent in this room.
Most parents do not have the financial resources or connections to obtain a lawyer. Does this mean that their children should unjustly be labeled as a bully? Had I not been able to get an attorney involved, that’s exactly what would have happened to my child. Budget cuts in education are being made at the state level. At the same time, more prisons are being built. One could make a correlation between our decreased ability to educate our kids in the Jersey City School System with the number of young people who are ending up in these prisons that are being built.
Although my son’s situation was resolved, I am here speaking on behalf of concerned parents. I am a victim of bullies when I was a child myself and believe that our kids should be protected from being bullied at school. I also believe that they should also be protected from the unintended impact of this policy and how its being implemented. Schools can and must do a better job in striking a balance between protecting our kids and criminalizing them at an early age which sets them on the path to prison.
I demand better education of the Policy line by line and consequences listed to all teachers, Parents Councils and Student Councils.
Protocols not being followed are in the following of the Anti-Bullying Policy:
File Code 5131.2 / page 3 / Section A / Steps