As Superintendent of the K-12 Clark Public School District, I wish to thank the numerous members of the New Jersey State Legislature who took valuable time from their personal and professional time to visit our school district in support of an Anti-Bullying initiative and program at Arthur L. Johnson High School.
Last month Governor Christie signed into law Assembly Bill A-3466, more popularly known as the “New Jersey Anti-Bulling Bill of Rights,” of which each of our legislative guests was a sponsor, co-sponsor or supporter. This legislation establishes New Jersey as the most progressive and proactive state in the nation in dealing with the societal issues of bullying, cyber bullying and harassment. All too often in popular culture, the bully is depicted almost in a humorous light, and as an acceptable part of a school or neighborhood. The newly enacted landmark legislation trains educators to the phenomena of bullying and harassment, and places interventions in place to assure that bullying must be monitored, reported and acted upon immediately.
This past week the Clark Public School District scheduled three separate presentations on Bullying, Cyber Bullying and Youth Depression by national presenter John Halligan. Two student assemblies were held at our high school, along with an evening parent presentation, Presenter Halligan, whose 13 year-old son, Ryan, committed suicide as a result of enduring years of bullying both at school and online by his classmates; has dedicated his life to visiting schools to share Ryan’s Story with impressionable middle and high school students. Halligan imparts a message to students that “you can turn an inkblot into a butterfly,” highlighting the powerful healing messages of forgiveness and unconditional love. John Halligan also addressed the often overlooked third part of the bullying phenomena, that being the bystanders who comprise the bully’s audience. If a bully’s friends refuse to tolerate his or her actions and encourage the bully to stop, their efforts will likely be more effective than anyone else’s attempts to change the bully’s mind. During the evening session, Halligan commented that parents need to make sure that their children are knowledgeable of the power that bystanders possess in regard to either encouraging or discouraging bullying.
We were extremely touched and honored to have a total of eleven members of the New Jersey Legislature attend the various programs throughout the day in support of our District’s Anti-Bullying message. A number of our guests addressed the assemblage, speaking poignantly on the issue of bullying and their own experiences in encountering the phenomena of bullying, personally as children and later in life as parents. In addition to our wonderful two local legislators who can always be counted on to support the Clark Public Schools, Assemblyman Jerry Green and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, we were joined by nine other esteemed members of the State Legislator. Among our guests were New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Sponsors Senator Barbara Buono and Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini; and Bill Co-sponsors Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman, Senator Raymond Lesniak, Assemblymen Patrick Diegnan Jr. and Jon Bramnick; and Assemblywomen Dr. Joan Voss, Mila Jasey, and Annette Quijano. Also lending their support through their attendance at our programs were New Jersey State Board of Education Members Edithe Fulton and Jack Fornaro, and former Governor Jim McGreevey.
Both the attendance of our guests in District and their thought-provoking and supportive comments underscored to all in attendance that we have legislators in Trenton who are engaged in making their school experience a better quality of life. At the same time it also illustrated to students, staff, parents and administration that these legislators are working hand in hand with school administrators and boards of education to assure a positive school environment where students can learn, grow and flourish, free from the negative influences of bullying, intimidation and harassment. To each of our guests I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
Kenneth J. Knops, Superintendent
Clark Public School District
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