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New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights bound for a vote

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

New Jersey’s new and improved “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” is headed to a vote by the full Legislature after both the Senate and Assembly education committees gave their blessings today in Trenton.

Assembly member Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen)

“Every day there is a student in an elementary school, high school or even a college who feels a sense of fear and emotional dread every time he or she steps foot into the school building or signs onto the Internet,” said Assembly member Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“For some students, it will hinder their academic performance. For others, it will mean something unspeakably worse,” she said. “This bill is about changing the culture that drives these incidents and ensuring that when they do occur, they are properly addressed.”

Ironically, New Jersey adopted one of the country’s first anti-bullying laws in 2002 but saw it weakened by stronger measures from states that followed the lead. A government report, as a result, found New Jersey’s bullying rate higher than the national average.

The New Jersey Commission on Bullying in Schools — established to study and recommend counterbalancing school harassment, intimidation and bullying — drew up a blueprint in December 2009 that led to the measures lawmakers in Trenton are considering.

Since January, legislators have met with victims and advocates, such as Garden State Equality, the Anti-Defamation League, the ARC of NJ, and the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, Vainieri Huttle said.

The result is “a broad initiative to create a standardized way to identify and investigate incidences of bullying and to train teachers, administrators and school board members in identification and prevention techniques,” she said.

Among other moves, the proposed law creates school safety teams responsible for making students feel safer. It requires self-reporting by districts and their schools directly to the Commissioner of Education, who will grade each on their progress.

And although that might raise a few eyebrows, the measure backs that requirement with penalties for education officials who fail to report or respond accordingly to incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying. As a result, parents and teachers who believe situations are being ignored or not properly dealt with can contact authorities in Trenton.

Bullying protections would extend to off-school grounds and include college and university students.

CLICK HERE FOR A COPY OF New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

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