While the prosecutor wouldn't cite bullying in Bailey's death, his parents say they are sure that is what happened. Rob O'Neill said his son told him that one boy pushed him into another boy who punched him. Days later, Bailey became sluggish and experienced mood swings, O'Neill said.
What happened to Bailey at school is similar to what occurs over and over again at schools across the country. The National Association of School Psychologists says 160,000 students skip school every day because of bullying. One in every seven students is either a bullying victim or a bully, according to the Defeat the Label organization, which promotes a bully-free society.
How schools address bullying is the key to avoiding an incident that leaves a child with a broken nose, or worse. They can get a good lesson plan from New Jersey, which has one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation.
New Jersey's law was signed in 2011 after the suicide of a Rutgers University student whose roommate had used a webcam to spy on him during a homosexual encounter in his dorm room. Under the law, all public school districts and charter schools must provide age-appropriate instruction aimed at preventing harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
Every school must assign a staff member to oversee anti-bullying programs, conduct investigations, and report incidents to the state. About a third of 35,552 cases investigated statewide during the 2011-12 school year were verified as incidents of bullying.
Before the law, anti-bullying measures were only recommended. Now, with annual data on incidents, schools can better direct their resources to address any bullying they may encounter.
New Jersey's requirements mirror some of the recommendations being made by Defeat the Label in its anti-bullying campaign. The group wants five million students worldwide to join its annual Stand4Change Day on May 3. What a fitting tribute that would be to all the children who, like Bailey, need someone to recognize what they are going through before it's too late.