Strengthened anti-bullying legislation signed into law

TRENTON – Anti-bullying legislation struck down in January as an unfunded mandate by the Council on Local Mandates has been again signed into law.

The legislation, A2709, sponsored by Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., is supposed  to help school districts fully comply with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.

“This bipartisan solution will help school districts implement the new law, without changing the context of the law, 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 Vainieri Huttle in a release.

“We acknowledged from day one that this law was comprehensive in nature, which is what made it one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation. Any additional help we can provide schools to implement this will hopefully mean more lives bettered because of it.”

Although it was signed into law in January of 2011, it was struck down in January of this year. 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.

Under this new bill, the state will provide $1 million in funding, to be awarded as grants through the State Department of Education, to help districts provide training on harassment, intimidation, and bullying prevention and on the effective creation of positive school climates, and to help fund related personnel expenses.

Prior to making an application for a grant, a district must explore bullying prevention programs and approaches that are available at no cost, and make an affirmative demonstration of that exploration in their grant application.

Additionally, the law calls for the creation of a seven-member task force to provide guidance to school districts.

Strengthened anti-bullying legislation signed into law