While it’s likely that there will always be bullies somewhere in the world, things are looking brighter for “picked-on” school kids in New Jersey. A bill, called the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, cleared the state assembly and senate education committees yesterday, November 15.
Steven Goldstein, president of Garden State Equality, which wrote and championed the bill, testified during the Senate Education Committee hearings and spoke during a press conference on the steps of the Statehouse. Goldstein — who himself was bullied as a child growing up in New York City — said that this bill would make the world a kinder place.
Goldstein told Baristanet today that the bill now goes on to the full assembly and full senate. “We expect it to pass both houses overwhelmingly,” he said. When that happens, says Goldstein, “it will be the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the nation.”
The bill has been in the works for about a year but received nationwide attention following the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi.
Goldstein made a clear distinction between the existing Safer Schools and Anti-Bullying law, which was passed in 2002 and GSE’s proposed bill. “The current law pretty much says school districts should adopt bullying policies, but doesn’t say anything about what those policies should include and has no consequences if schools don’t adopt policies. Our bill sets clear standards,” he said. A fact sheet on the bill, provided to Baristanet by Garden State Equality explains further:
Because the 2002 law was one of the first such laws in the country, other states’ laws have since surpassed our law. Today, New Jersey’s rate of bullying, according to a U.S. government report, is actually higher than the national average.
The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is the product of a year of research and discussions with top anti-bullying experts, who report that New Jersey has one of the weaker anti-bullying laws in the country.The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights would give New Jersey the strongest, toughest anti-bullying law in the country – by far.
Under the new law, most public school teachers, administrators and other employees would receive mandatory anti-bully training and all districts would be required to have a “school safety team” to review student complaints. School districts would receive state assessments and “grades” on their anti-bullying efforts. The state would also oversee disciplinary measures related to incidents — both inside and outside of school.
Objectors include the New Jersey ACLU, which says they support the bill but believe that giving school administrators the authority to discipline students for bullying off school grounds outside of school hours may not be constitutional.