NJ’s Anti-Bullying Law Now Stands A Fighting Chance [AUDIO]
New Jersey drew rave reviews from child advocates across the nation when it enacted a tough anti-bullying law.
The statute faced constitutional questions because the state didn't provide funding for it and it was poised to be nullified, but yesterday Governor Chris Christie and State lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle announced a legislative fix.
The bill provides $1 million for the anti-bullying fund which schools can access through a grant process. Districts can apply for the money after exhausting free training materials. The measure also sets up a 7-member task force to take a closer look at the law and draw up guidance for school districts to follow in implementing it. Christie says the measure will be put on the fast-track and signed into law as soon as possible.
The Governor says the law will save lives. "I've spoken to parents over the years who have had children commit suicide and one of the things you here many of them say is, 'We didn't know,'" explains the Governor. "Part of what I hope we're trying to accomplish here is to give people the tools to make that differentiation so that they can get their kids some help."
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Senator Barbara Buono, both Democrats, were sponsors of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABBRA). They're praising the bipartisan solution that has been reached to help school districts fully comply with the landmark law.
"I'm extremely pleased with this solution because at the end of the day, the law has not changed, which means that our goal of protecting the countless students who are at the mercy of bullies, day in and day out remains intact," says Vainieri Huttle. "With any new law of this magnitude, there's going be some growing pains. This will help assist schools in adjusting and complying with the new requirements. I'm grateful that everyone involved in this process has shown a willingness to work together for the benefit of our students."
Buono says, "I hope this sends a strong message to students everywhere, who have been harassed, intimidated or bullied, that they are not alone and their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears."
Republican State Senator Diane Allen, also a prime sponsor of the legislation, is the sponsor of changes in light of a recent decision by the Council on Local Mandates to strike down ABBRA due to unfunded cost concerns.
"This law is vital to providing every child in our education system with a safe learning environment," explains Allen. "I heartily commend the Governor for taking a stand in favor of addressing the Council's concerns rather than allowing the law to be negated…….. With students who report being bullied in school far more likely to contemplate, attempt, or succeed in committing suicide, it is incumbent upon us as a state to invest the time and resources necessary to eradicate this problem from our education system. This law gives parents and teachers the tools necessary to avert tragedy, and it must be preserved."
In January, the state's Council on Local Mandates invalidated the law based on a challenge by a 427-student district in Warren County. Lawmakers sped the law's passage after the high-profile suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. The 18-year-old's roommate allegedly used a webcam allegedly to spy on Clementi's intimate encounter with another man.