New Jersey has some of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation, but a new report finds the Garden State ranks only 22nd in the country when it comes to controlling the behavior.

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A study by WalletHub analyzed 42 different states and the District of Columbia, looking at several variables, such as:

  • the rate of middle school students who reported missing school because they were afraid of being bullied;
  • the number of reported bully incidents on school property and in cyberspace;
  • the percentage of high school students involved in a physical altercation at school, and;
  • the percentage of students seeking psychological help because of bullying fears.

Ron Coughlin, president of the New Jersey Violence Prevention Institute, believes it's important to have strict anti-bullying laws and policies, but said "the problem is, we're trying to change a behavior by providing a punishment once it has occurred. What that does is it tends to make that behavior more sneaky."

Coughlin said the state must get to the root of the problem and examine what is driving the bullying behavior.

"We need to stop it before it starts by teaching compassion, and by teaching someone how not to have the anger that's behind bullying," he said.

There is always a "hurt" or pain inside the bully, according to Coughlin, which makes that bully want to lash out and attack someone else.

"Once the bully is taught how to heal the pain, once they're taught things about compassion and how to heal, that is what can really put an end to bullying," Coughlin said.

He said children need to be taught how to deal with emotions beginning in kindergarten, and then by high school, they can talk about core values and compassion.

"We can do this in the Garden State," Coughlin said. "New Jersey is very progressive. We want to find ways to solve this. I think our motivation is good, we just have to look at other methods that can really solve the problem rather than just putting a Band-Aid on top of it ."

The WalletHub report ranked Massachusetts as the best state for controlling bullying, while Arkansas was listed as the worst. Feb. 9 is "Stop Bullying Day" in the United States.