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The Senate votes 30 to 0 and the Assembly 72 to 1 to approve the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights," which experts say eliminates the vagueness and loopholes that weaken the anti-bullying laws of the 45 states that have them.  The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

 The bill is the product of more than a year of intense research by Garden State Equality, which worked with many leading anti-bullying and child welfare experts to come up with a dramatically bolder approach.

Bullied students are up to nine times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-bullied students, according to a 2008 Yale Medical School report.  32 percent of students 12 through 18 are bullied each year, according to a 2009 CDC report.  The percentage of students bullied in New Jersey is one percent higher than the national average, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.  


Monday, November 22, 2010

Contact:  Steven Goldstein, cell (917) 449-8918

Giving new hope to bullied students across New Jersey – and providing a template for potential laws in other states – both houses of the New Jersey legislature today passed the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights," the most sweeping anti-bullying legislation in America.  Though New Jersey and 44 other states already have anti-bullying laws, experts say those laws largely follow a common model that lacks sufficient statewide standards to counter bullying in the real world.  The "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" corrects that problem with a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey's current anti-bullying law, enacted in 2002.

            Though the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi on September 22 accelerated New Jersey's attention to the bullying epidemic, Garden State Equality spent more than a year working on the bill, partnering with the Anti-Defamation League, the New Jersey Coalition on Bullying Awareness and Prevention and other anti-bullying experts.  The painstaking research and discussions actually anticipated that something could go wrong in New Jersey given the weakness of the current law. 

            "As someone brutally bullied in my own youth, I can't even begin to describe how the passage of this bill is a moment of deeply poignant, personal healing for me and thousands of others who have been bullied," said Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality.  "The best revenge is to make the world a kinder place.  This legislation will make our state a kinder, safer place for students for generations to come."

            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, and has a section that applies to the state's public universities.  

            The bill's overwhelming bipartisan support has been reflected in its sponsorship.  The bill's prime sponsors are Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth), and Senators Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), Diane Allen (R-Burlington) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).  The sponsors include Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Union), Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris).

           As far-reaching as the bill is, it understands New Jersey's financial constraints by avoiding unfunded mandates and by smartly using existing resources, such as for training and personnel.  That has been key in the bill's getting overwhelming bipartisan support.  In fact, the legislature's nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services issued a fiscal note to the bill on Friday that said, "this analysis cannot assume any particular State cost.”

            The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights protects all students bullied for any reason.  The legislation maintains the language of New Jersey's existing anti-bullying law, enacted in 2002, which enumerates protection of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and has clear language protecting students bullied for any other reason.  The law will continue to apply to students bullied for any reason.


            A summary of all the bill's provisions is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_S1.HTM and the complete text of the bill is at www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_I2.HTM.  The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is so comprehensive, we highlight just a few of the provisions here:

            The legislation is the first in America to set firm statewide deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved.  Teachers and other school personnel will have to report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as a bullying incident.  An investigation of the bullying must begin within one school day.  A school will have to complete its investigation of bullying within 10 school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation.

            The legislation is the first in America to create a anti-bullying team at each school led by a designated anti-bullying specialist.  Also serving on a school's anti-bullying team will be the principal, a teacher and a parent, and others appointed by the principal.

            The legislation is the first in America to grade every school on how well it is countering bullying – and requires that every school post its grade on the home page of its website.  Every school will also be required to post on the home page of its website the contact information for the school's anti-bullying specialist.

            The legislation is the first in America to involve a cross-section of experts from academia and the not-for-profit sector in promulgating anti-bullying training of school personnel, ensuring that such training is state-of-the-art and kept updated.

            The legislation is the first in America to encompass bullying at public universities, which must create anti-bullying rules and procedures, and distribute them to every university student within seven days of the start of the fall semester.

            The legislation requires a school to notify the parents of all students involved in an incident, including the parents of the bully and the bullied student, and shall offer counseling and intervention services.

            The legislation incorporates instruction appropriate to each grade to counter bullying, and creates an annual school-wide Week of Respect during which each school will provide anti-bullying programming.

            The legislation strengthens suicide prevention training for teachers, to include information on reducing the occurrence of suicide among bullied students.

With more than 82,000 members, Garden State Equality is New Jersey's largest civil rights organization.  Since Garden State Equality's founding in 2004, New Jersey has enacted 211 laws at the state, county and local levels - a national record.  Garden State Equality is the only statewide advocacy organization in American history to be the subject of an Academy Award-winning® film.  Click here to unsubscribe