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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 01
Gov. Christie signs 'Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights'
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Gov. Christie signs 'Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill on January 5 that advocates say gives New Jersey the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation.

Christie signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights into law, according to a press release from Garden State Equality, the state's largest Gay rights organization, which advocated for the bill. The new law is intended to eliminate loopholes in the state's first anti-bullying law, passed in 2002, which encouraged school districts to set up anti-bullying programs but did not mandate it.

The new bill of rights will require training for most public school teachers, administrators, and other employees on how to spot bullying, and mandate that all districts form a "school safety team" to review complaints. School districts would be graded by the state on their efforts to combat the problem.

According to Matt Friedman from the New Jersey Statehouse Bureau, administrators who do not investigate reported incidents of bullying would be disciplined, while students who bully could be suspended or expelled. School employees would also be required to report all incidents they learn of, whether they took place in or outside of school.

The bill sailed through the Assembly and Senate in November 2010. It passed 73-1, with five abstentions, in the Assembly. It passed the Senate 30-0.

"[Christie] signed it, and we're overjoyed," said state Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), one of the bill's prime sponsors.

State Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington), also a prime sponsor, said while the law won't end bullying, school employees will know how to better deal with it.

"While we cannot change human nature, we can change how government and school officials respond to unacceptable behavior," she said.

The bill, in the works for almost a year, gained publicity and momentum after the suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, whose roommate streamed a romantic encounter between him and another man over the internet.

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