D-27 Assembly Lawmakers Sign-on to Legislation Unveiled Monday at State House News Conference

(TRENTON) Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblwoman Mila M. Jasey signed-on as prime sponsors of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights that would empower authorities with the ability to fight the harassment and intimidation of students by strengthening standards for the prevention, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents of bullying.

Jasey and McKeon participated in a State House news conference at which the bipartisan measure was unveiled Monday by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle. Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver and Senate President Steve Sweeney also attended to express their support. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Senator Diane Allen are among the republican prime sponsors of the measure.

“The widespread and acute nature of the physical and emotional abuse of our children and youth in schools is shocking, with the repercussions ranging from psychological trauma to suicide,” McKeon (D-Essex) said. “By requiring educators and administrators to complete anti-bulling training and report and respond to incidents of intimidation and harassment in a timely manner, this measure would empower us to fight this menace.”

More than 30 percent or 5.7 million children in the U.S. are involved in bullying as victims, perpetrators, or both. According to recent studies, 15 to 25 percent are bullied, and 15 to 20 percent bully others. An earlier study showed that every seven minutes, a child is bullied. In New Jersey, the percentage of students bullied is one point higher than the national median.

“School and college years are among the most formative in the life of a child or a youth. They are meant to be invested in the pursuit of knowledge, the development of talent and the building of character,” Jasey (D-Essex) said. “The threat of being bullied or engaging in this destructive practice, causes a serious disruption to education. This measure would help us provide a safe and secure environment for our students in our institutions of learning.”

The measure (A-3466) strengthens previous legislation enacted in 2002, which the Legislature updated in 2007, to include cyber- bullying.  In 2008, it was further revised to require each school district to post its anti-bullying policy on its website and distribute it annually to parents or guardians of students enrolled in the district.

The new anti-bullying law, which has been in the works for awhile now, was unveiled following the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi last month. Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22nd after his roommate web cammed and tweeted his interaction in their dorm room with another man.

Students who are obese, gay, or have disabilities are up to 63 percent more likely to be bulled than other children. Over the past few years, even though school violence has declined by 4 percent, bullying behavior has increased by 5 percent.

“Students terrorized by emotional or physical abuse, tend to suffer from sickness, failing grades and psychological impairment. Bullying leaves its victims with deep emotional and physical scars. Many tend to become withdrawn and experience isolation. This measure would protect our children and youth from abuse and suffering and help ensure their well-being,” Jasey said.

“Allowing bullying in our educational institutions condones violence and may result in attitudional changes that violence is an acceptable pattern of behaviour. This measure sends out a strong message that violence in any form – emotional, verbal or physical, is not acceptable,” McKeon said.

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights includes the following:

 – Requires all teachers, administrators and school board members to complete anti-bullying training;

 – Includes harassment, intimidation, and bullying as reasons for the first time that would constitute “good cause” for suspension or expulsion;

 – Requires public colleges and universities to adopt an anti-bullying policy to include harassment and intimidation and include it in the code of conduct given to all students;

 – Provides that the superintendent of schools in each school district must appoint a district anti-bullying coordinator and sets forth the responsibilities of that individual;

 – “Requires” school districts to establish bullying prevention programs or approaches compared to current law under which school districts are only “encouraged” to establish such programs;

 – Provides that a school district’s policy on harassment, intimidation, and bullying must include appropriate responses to such actions that occur off school grounds;

 – Amends the definition of “harassment, intimidation or bullying” to specify that the “harm” that a student may experience could be either physical or emotional, to add two additional criteria to the definition – the creation of a hostile environment at school and the infringement on the rights of the student at school;

 – Adds a conviction of “bias intimidation” to the list of crimes for which a person may be disqualified for employment in a school;

 – Provides that each school district must form a school safety team in each school in the district to foster and maintain a positive school climate within the schools;

 – Provides that by the 2011-2012 school year all candidates for school administrator or teacher certification will be required to complete a program on harassment, intimidation, or bullying prevention, and that training in this area will be a part of the professional development requirements for these individuals;

 – Includes training regarding harassment, intimidation and bullying in schools as a part of the training program provided to all school board members;

 – Creates the “Bullying Prevention Fund” in the Department of Education to be used to fund grants to school districts to provide training on harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention and on effective means to create a positive school climate;

 – Designates the week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year as a “Week of Respect” and requires districts to observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation or bullying;

 – Provides a detailed procedure that must be included in each district’s policy concerning the investigation of incidents of harassment, intimidation, or bullying;

 – Provides that a school administrator who fails to initiate or conduct an investigation of an incident, or who should have known of an incident and fails to take action, is subject to discipline;

  – Provides that a school employee or contracted service provider must file a written report with the school principal within two days of observing or being made aware of an act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying;

 – Provides that the principal in each public school must appoint the currently employed school guidance counselor, school psychologist or another similarly trained individual as the school anti-bullying specialist.  If there is no individual that meets these criteria employed in the school, the principal must appoint another currently employed individual in the school to the position of school anti-bullying specialist.  The bill also sets forth the responsibilities of school anti-bullying specialists;

 – Provides that the superintendent of schools must report to the board of education twice a year, rather than annually, at a public hearing all acts of violence, vandalism and harassment, intimidation, or bullying which occurred during the previous period. The report shall be used to grade schools and districts in their efforts to identify harassment, intimidation or bullying, pursuant to a program for which the commissioner will provide guidelines; and

 – Includes in the School Report Card data identifying the number and nature of all reports of harassment, intimidation or bullying.



Gita Bajaj