Bill Preserving Anti-Bullying Law On Legislative Fast Track

TRENTON— One day after earning Gov. Chris Christie’s support, legislation aimed at saving New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act has cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The bill (S-1789) would appropriate $1 million to the Bullying Prevention Fund to assist school districts in implementing the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” In order for a school district to apply for a grant from the Bullying Prevention Fund, they would be required to exhaust free alternatives such as training and programs available at no cost from the Department of Education, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation or any other entity.

The bill is intended to provide the funds necessary to deter a formal ruling by the Council on Local Mandates that certain parts of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” represent an unfunded mandate.

Additionally, the bill would establish a seven-member Anti-Bullying Task Force in, but not of, the Department of Education to provide guidance to school districts on available resources to assist in the implementation and review of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” The Task Force would be required to prepare a report within 180 days of the organizational meeting and annually for the following three years on the effectiveness of the Act in addressing bullying in schools.

“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), a sponsor of the bill. “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.”

“I am pleased that Chairman Sarlo and Senate President Sweeney have agreed to fast track this legislation so that ABBRA will not be nullified and districts can continue on with implementation of the law,” said state Sen. Diane Allen (R- Burlington), a sponsor of the new bill.

“School officials and parents need the tools provided by the anti-bullying law to identify and help the children who are the subjects of aggressive, predatory, or bullying behavior by their peers. Every child in New Jersey is entitled to a thorough and efficient system of education,” she said. “That system cannot be thorough or efficient unless the learning environment is one in which children no longer have to fear harassment from their peers and despair that there’s no where to turn.”

The remedy legislation now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.

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