TRENTON – New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie announced bi-partisan legislation to preserve the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights law.
In late January, the state Council on Local Mandates found that the law contained unfunded mandates after several school districts filed complaints. The Legislature was given 60 days to remedy the law or risk it being invalidated.
“We know that students have the best opportunity to learn and achieve when they’re in an environment that’s safe and free from bullying and intimidation,” Christie said at an afternoon press conference. “This legislation is extraordinarily important to meet those goals.”
Under the proposed fix, the state will provide $1 million in funding to be awarded as grants through the New Jersey’s Department of Education to help districts with programming, approaches and personnel issues. A seven-member taskforce will also be created to draw up guidance for school districts to follow in implementing the law.
“The task force is an extremely important part of this legislation because it, in addition to the funding, will help ease any administrative burdens that districts may face in implementing ABBRA,” said state Sen. Diane Allen (R- Burlington). “With students who report being bullied in school far more likely to contemplate, attempt, or succeed in committing suicide, it is incumbent upon us as a state to invest the time and resources necessary to eradicate this problem from our education system. This law gives parents and teachers the tools necessary to avert tragedy, and it must be preserved.”
“I’m extremely pleased with this solution because at the end of the day, the law has not changed, which means that our goal of protecting the countless students who are at the mercy of bullies day in and day out remains intact,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “With any new law of this magnitude, there’s going be some growing pains. This will help assist schools in adjusting and complying with the new requirements. I’m grateful that everyone involved in this process has shown a willingness to work together for the benefit of our students.”
“Hopefully it will be easier for schools to implement the Anti-Bullying law as a result of this agreement. More importantly, it protects all of the victims of bullying who may not have had the law on their side until now,” said state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex). “I hope this sends a strong message to students everywhere, who have been harassed, intimidated or bullied, that they are not alone and their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.”
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