The intent of the ABR is to encourage reporting of HIB incidents, so that these incidents can be responded to and resolved effectively, and the law has had the intended effect in many cases.  However, there is a hidden unintended consequence that might result for some students unless schools are sensitive to this unintended consequence, and develop reporting procedures to protect students who report incidents, particularly certain types of bias-based incidents.

For some students, the current requirements of the law have made it more difficult for them to seek help when they are bullied or know someone who is bullied; the impact is particularly profound on some students who are targets of anti-LGBT bullying, because they fear that the reporting and investigation process will “out” them to peers, school personnel, and their parents, and that their situation both in school and at home will be worsened rather than improved as a result.  Whereas before the ABR, these students could seek private support from a trusted adult in school, under the ABR many choose not to seek support at all because they fear that the adult will be required to report the incidents officially, leading to an investigation involving multiple people, notification of their parents, and the sharing, recording, reporting of information about their known or suspected sexual orientation.

Additional details:

This issue is addressed in the "Contrary to the Spirit" series of papers. "Contrary to the Spirit" is a series of paper examining various specific concerns about ABR implementation. The "Unintended Consequence for LGBT Students" is Concern #2 in this series. Download the latest version of "Contrary to the Spirit, Concern #2: Unintended Consequences for LGBT Students," which includes suggestions for schools on minimizing the potential adverse consequences of HIB reporting requirements for students who are targets of anti-LGBT bullying, here.

Massachusetts, which has a law similar to New Jersey's that requires reporting of bullying incidents, has recognized this problem and developed guidance for schools with regard to the notification of parents when a students has been involved in an anti-LGBT bullying incident. Click here to download the Massachusetts guidance on this point.