Administering New Anti-Bullying Law: The Organizational Field and School Variation During Initial Implementation

Hana Shepherd, Idit Fast

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 2011 New Jersey anti-bullying law required school personnel to make nuanced determinations about student violations, take on multiple new roles, and assume a high administrative burden. We examine how the state's middle schools responded to the law during a period when standards for implementation among schools were unclear. We observe substantial variation between schools in their implementation approach and we identify two sources of this variation. First, parents, school district administrators and lawyers, state Department of Education staff, and private companies disseminated multiple, sometimes competing interpretations of the law and of bullying, to which school personnel were differentially exposed. Second, school personnel crafted their own implementation approach out of the varied interpretations from these organization field actors. In periods when legal standards are relatively settled, field actors often encourage conformity among organizations; in this case, by contrast, they contributed to variation in implementation. We argue that examining the on-the-ground interpretation of organization field meanings during unsettled periods may be particularly useful for understanding the trajectory of laws, as early variation provides the context in which organizational practices can become legal requirements.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1264-1290
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 28 Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law
  • General Social Sciences


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