Joseph Ricca, New
Jersey Superintendent & CrimeStoppers Collaborate to Fight Bullying
August 7, 2012
By Jacquelyn Pitta
Pitta works in ED’s Office of
Communications and Outreach in the New York City regional office.
The 2010 suicide of a Rutgers University student brought the issue of
bullying to the forefront of the American conversation. For some states,
it served as an opportunity to re-examine their existing anti-bullying
laws. In response to the incident, New Jersey passed “The Anti-Bullying
Bill of Rights.” It is one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the
country and provides considerable resources in combating bullying in
Following the law’s passage, East Hanover K-8 School District
Superintendent Dr. Joseph Ricca took a natural interest in the law.
Ricca had done his doctoral thesis on bullying and had witnessed
firsthand the negative effects of bullying in schools as a teacher, vice
principal and principal. He understands that the first step in
addressing bullying is to identify and reduce harassment, intimidation
and bullying within the school environment.
But he also understands that any successful anti-bullying efforts
leverage the support of the whole community. In response to the New
Jersey law, he formed a partnership with the Morris County Sheriff’s
CrimeStoppers program so students are now able to provide anonymous tips
on bullying without fear of consequence. The collaboration, which
requires no additional funding, is the first of its kind in the state.
“This gives children, who may be too embarrassed to discuss a bullying
incident with an adult at school, the opportunity to contact
CrimeStoppers online, with a text message, or a phone call,” said Ricca.
Thanks to the implementation of the law, the district now has a robust
HIB education program that has created a healthy school climate and
Students weighed in on the issue at a recent roundtable discussion
within the district. Elementary students were the most receptive to the
law and said they began to see results shortly after the new rules were
introduced. “We already notice a big change,” commented one third
middle school student echoed enthusiasm for the law. “This is a great
thing. No one speaks up because they are scared of getting a bad name.
Now being anonymous, bad things that happen in school will no longer be
kept a secret.”
The opinion from one high school student underscored the challenge of
eliminating bullying in schools altogether. “It is still new and we are
hoping this causes change, but bullying is bullying and to some extent
will always be present in schools,” said a sophomore.
Ricca, who was recently appointed to head Governor Chris Christie’s
Anti-Bullying Task Force, has become a tireless advocate on the issue
and won’t be satisfied until bullying is eradicated in schools. Ricca
looks forward to the upcoming school year where he has planned events to
engage the community beginning with the “2nd Annual Community Night of
Respect” in October.