The N.J. Senate on Thursday voted 30-0 and the Assembly 72-1 in favor of sweeping legislation that will make New Jersey’s anti-bullying laws the strictest in the nation.
The “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” now heads to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.
A press release by N.J.-based LGBT group Garden State Equality explains highlights of the bill in great detail and reads as follows:
“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.
For more info, contact Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein at (917) 449-8918.