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Court Rules Bullying of Vegetarians Unacceptable

Parents of a sixth grader given detention for bullying a vegetarian classmate have cost a school district $8,000 in legal fees, following multiple appeals.

The New Jersey Commissioner of Education’s office recently ruled that harassment and intimidation of students on the basis of their vegetarianism is a form of bullying. The decision comes down in response to an October 2014 incident in which a New Jersey sixth grader was disciplined after telling a vegetarian classmate that “it’s not good to not eat meat,” that “he should eat meat because he’d be smarter and have bigger brains,” and “vegetarians are idiots.” The parents of the child—who received five lunchtime detentions—made a number of appeals to the Board of Education and the state’s Commissioner of Education during 2015 before Administrative Law Judge John S. Kennedy ruled in March that vegetarianism is a “distinguishing characteristic” and bullying based on this characteristic violates the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. The school district reportedly spent nearly $8,000 in legal fees on the case—the parents of the disciplined child plan not to petition for more appeals.

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