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New Jersey lawmakers pass tough new anti-bullying measure

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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New Jersey lawmakers on Monday approved an “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,” legislation that advocates say will be one of the nation’s toughest laws to fight bullying in institutions of learning.

The bill would require training for most public school employees on how to spot bullying and mandate that all districts form “school safety teams” to review complaints, reports the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Superintendents would have to report incidents of bullying to the state Board of Education, which would grade schools and districts on their efforts to combat it.

The measure fills gaps in the state’s first anti-bullying law, passed in 2002, that encouraged school districts to set up anti-bullying programs but did not mandate it.

“Some districts have done an impressive job in answering that call. Others have not,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Public colleges and universities would also be required to include a policy on bullying in its code of conduct.

The “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” applies to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, strengthens New Jersey’s cyberbullying law, applies to bullying off school grounds that carries into schools. It is the first anti-bullying law in the U.S. to set firm statewide deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved.

The bill has been in the works for some time but gained attention after the high-profile suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death after his roommate allegedly streamed a romantic encounter between him and another man online.

The incident helped persuade lawmakers to act with “lightning speed,” sponsors said Monday after the bill easily cleared both houses of the state Legislature.

The bill passed 30-0 in the Senate and 71-1 in the Assembly (Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll was the only no vote).

The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Christie — the Republican governor has not said whether he would sign the bill, but he spoke out against bullying after Clementi’s death.

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