The return to school can, unfortunately, also mean a return to bullying for countless vulnerable students across the state.

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New Jersey's Anti-bullying Bill of Rights is among the strongest such laws in the country, but it does not completely wipe away from the problem.

Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, said adults, particularly those in charge at school, are expected to be on the front lines of limiting harassment and intimidation between students.

Without that supervision and attention, Green said, bullying ensues and is essentially accepted.

"A weak or poor school climate, particularly one that doesn't pay enough attention to vulnerable kids - that's what gives rise to bullying," he said. "Bullying is almost always what we call an institutional problem."

But parents can play a part as well, at least in identifying the problem. Bruises and black eyes aren't the only signs among bully victims.

A sudden drop in academic performance, or an overly-negative attitude toward school, for example, are potential signals, according to Green.

"You see, usually, a pretty quick shift once the repeated harm starts," he said.

An analysis earlier this year from WalletHub ranked New Jersey 22nd among the states and the District of Columbia for controlling bullying. The Garden State scored poorly for the cost of truancy as a result of bullying.

The National Education Association estimated more than 160,000 children miss school each year due to fear of being bullied.

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