With shows like Jersey Shore and not-so-scenic roads like the Turnpike, New Jersey gets a lot of slack and has earned the nickname “armpit” of America. But Jersey is a state of great things: mouth-watering pizza, Frank Sinatra, doughy bagels, The Boss, and Tom Cruise (from the Top-Gun-era. Seriously, where would you be without that loving feeling?). And yesterday the state became even greater when Governor Chris Christie signed the most extensive, detailed anti-bullying law yet.
The law, which will be effective at the beginning of next school year, is a welcome step in the fight against bullying with the tragic suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi still fresh in our minds. In discussing the law, State Senator Barbara Buono, one of the bill’s sponsors, noted: “The idea is just to make the climate of school one of tolerance and respect.”
And has a crackdown on bullying ever been more necessary? According to a 2009 study cited in the New Jersey bill, “32% of students aged 12 through 18 were bullied in the previous school year.” In other words, nearly one-third of students in junior high and high school are victims of bullying.
This isn’t the first time New Jersey has addressed bullying – it enacted a bullying statute back in 2002. But this new legislation ups the ante. Some highlights include: anti-bullying and suicide training for staff and administrators, procedures for reporting acts of bullying to the principal (including a verbal report on the same day of the incident and a written report within two days) and to the parents of any involved students, investigation procedures (the results of which must be conveyed to the superintendent and board of education), bullying reporting requirements, a yearly report by the Commissioner of Education (which must be made available to the public), appointment of an anti-bullying specialist in each school, and an annual review of schools’ bullying prevention programs.
I believe New Jersey’s anti-bullying law is a movement in the right direction in protecting our youth. Sure, we can’t throw kids out of school every time they squabble or insult each other. New Jersey's law has limits - harassment, intimidation and bullying are defined as “any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic . . . .”
School-yard tiffs will still happen, and feelings will get hurt. These are unfortunate parts of growing up. But New Jersey’s measures are impressive and an important step in teaching kids and teenagers about equality and acceptance.
New York Times Source
New Jersey Anti-bullying Law
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