State Anti-Bullying Law Deemed Unfunded Mandate

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TRENTON—New Jersey’s Council on Local Mandates determined today that the state’s anti-bullying law is an unfunded mandate, and the Legislature must provide funding for its provisions if it is to remain in effect.

The Allamuchy school district, which serves approximately 400 students, brought the case before the little-known body to recoup the costs of complying with the law, which went into effect at the beginning of the school year.

The anti-bullying bill requires additional paperwork and staff training, as well as two new positions: an anti-bullying specialist and an anti-bullying coordinator.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the lead sponsor of the anti-bullying bill, vowed to continue fighting to protect students throughout New Jersey.

“For the countless students subjected to bullying day in and day out, this decision is devastating,” she said. “I applaud all of the school districts that have been working throughout the year to implement this law and I hope the council’s decision will not dilute their commitment to preventing bullying.

“This rarely used, shadowy fourth branch of government voted behind closed doors to dismantle a law sponsored by two-thirds of the legislature and approved and signed into law by the Governor. Rest assured we will review the council’s decision thoroughly to find a way to make this law workable for everyone,” said Vainieri Huttle.

“The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is a well-intentioned statute designed to ensure that no child is ever afraid to go to school because of harassment or intimidation,” said Marie S. Bilik, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.  “Unfortunately, the legislation required more work prior to enactment, including consideration of the financial and staffing burdens placed on local school districts.”

She continued, “NJSBA welcomes the opportunity to work with the state Legislature and the Department of Education to design a process that protects our children, provides adequate state financial support and accomplishes its goal effectively without diverting resources from other critical school programs.”

The council supported the intent of the law, but determined that the Legislature needed to provide funding to help school districts implement it.

The Council on Local Mandates began operations in 1996 and is independent of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the state government. Four of the nine members of the body are appointed by the governor. The Senate President, Senate Minority Leader, Assembly Speaker, Assembly Minority Leader and Chief Justice each appoint one of the remaining five members.

It has the authority to determine that a state law, rule or regulation imposes an “unfunded mandate” on school boards, counties or municipalities in violation of the New Jersey Constitution. If law, rule, or regulation is deemed to be an unfunded mandate, it ceases to be mandatory and expires.

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