An older boy bullies a smaller, younger boy in the schoolyard.
A New Jersey law makes it clear exactly how school bullies should be disciplined. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Pimkie/Flickr)

This week, New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law went into effect, reports the Huffington Post. While some see the hard-line stance against slander and intimidation as a potential model for the rest of the nation, others see yet another program that New Jersey and many states like it cannot afford, both monetarily and in terms of administrative time burden.

Anti-bullying law ups the ante

Gov. Chris Christie signed New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” into law in January, and it went into effect this week. The 22-page law, which was inspired by the bullying-related death of New Jersey Ridgewood High School alumnus Tyler Clementi, redesigns New Jersey’s 2002 anti-bullying law by adding additional policies administrators can use to fight bullying in schools.

Anti-bullying specialist job created

Detailed procedures for how students and school officials must report, investigate and resolve cases of school bullying are provided. In addition, each school must appoint an anti-bullying specialist, who reports to the school district’s anti-bullying coordinator. At regular intervals, schools and districts must generate status reports for New Jersey’s Department of Education.

Legal experts claim that the new anti-bullying law is the toughest piece of anti-bullying legislation in the country. The following from the text of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights illustrates the importance of the legislation:

“By strengthening standards for preventing, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents of bullying this act will help to reduce the risk of suicide among students and avert not only the needless loss of a young life, but also the tragedy that such loss represents to the student’s family and the community at large,” the law reads.

The bullying that’s too expensive to stop

While many parents and school officials support any effective means of bullying prevention, critics of the anti-bullying law are crying insolvency. So far, more than 200 schools across New Jersey have spent more than $259,000 for employee training materials in order to achieve compliance. Many say New Jersey schools can’t afford it, and the state so far has not subsidized the audio-visual materials.

Perhaps even more than the financial commitment, the bureaucratic requirement is what sets critics on edge. Extensive training, reporting, investigative and disciplinary requirements are spelled out in the legislation. If employees deviate at all from procedure, they’re threatened with disciplinary action by superiors.

Compliance would be simpler if the new rules weren’t quite so labyrinthine, argues Moorestown schools Superintendent John Bach.

“It’s messy. It has a lot of layers. When you have that kind of seismic change, it usually takes a little while to figure out how it works. … It’s not going to be the work of a day,” Bach said. “Like many things, the state requires us to take action, but does not provide us more money.”

Anti-bullying laws in New Jersey

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Sources

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/new-jerseys-anti-bullying_n_946625.html

New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/AL10/122_.PDF

NJ.com: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/nj_gov_christie_approves_tough.html

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