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G.C. o/b/o C.C. v. Montgomery Township Board of Education

Clarification on Whether Vegetarians Are Protected Under Anti-Bullying Act
April 22, 2016

On April 22, 2016, the Commissioner of Education affirmed a decision of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who ruled in favor of a board of education in the latest case that is helping to clarify the proper meaning and interpretation of the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.  In G.C. o/b/o C.C. v. Montgomery Township Board of Education, EDU 12103-2015; Agency Ref. No. 149-6/15, an initial decision was issued by the an ALJ concerning whether vegetarians are protected, under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, from acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying (“HIB”) related to their dietary choices. The conduct in the case involved the student aggressor making insulting and derogatory comments to the victim on the basis of his choice to be a vegetarian.  The case centered on whether vegetarianism constituted a “distinguishing characteristic” for purposes of meeting the Act’s definition of HIB.  The Board maintained that there is no such requirement in the law, and the “distinguishing characteristic” motivating the conduct, within the meaning of the statutory definition of HIB, can be a personal choice of the victim, in this case the victim’s vegetarianism. The ALJ agreed with the Board’s position, finding vegetarianism to be a distinguishing characteristic for purposes of the Anti-Bullying Act.  The Commissioner agreed as well, affirming the grant of summary decision in favor of the Board.

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