NJ’s New Anti-Bullying Law Passes Senate and Assembly [POLL/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 both the State Senate and the General Assembly passed legislation that is being called a legislative fix. Earlier this month, Governor Chris Christie stood with two of the bill's sponsors to announce his support.
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.
"This bipartisan solution will help school districts implement the new law, without changing the context of the law, 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 Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the prime sponsor of the measure. "We acknowledged from day one that this law was comprehensive in nature, which is what made it one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation. Any additional help we can provide schools to implement this will hopefully mean more lives bettered because of it."
Christie 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."
Assemblyman Pat Diegnan co-sponsors the bill. He says, "I'm pleased that everyone was able to come together to reach a practical solution that puts the safety and well-being of our students first. Every student should be entitled to go to school and learn in an environment free of harassment, intimidation and bullying. Helping schools implement this new law will help us better achieve that goal."
Vainieri Huttle and Senator Barbara Buono, both Democrats, were sponsors of the original Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act (ABBRA). They're praising the bipartisan solution that was 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.