STATEWIDE -- By an overwhelming majority, New Jersey lawmakers in the General Assembly and Senate on Monday approved beefed up anti-bullying legislation that advocates call the toughest of its kind in the nation.
If signed by the governor, the legislation will give schools and alleged victims of bullying new legal tools to report harassment and new steps to prosecute those allegedly responsible.
Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) in the state Senate, and cosponsored by Valerie Huttle (D-Englewood) and Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Township) in the Assembly, both versions of the bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It passed by a vote of 30 to 0 in the Senate and 72 to 1 in the Assembly.
Among some of the key components included in the proposed law: teachers,administrators, and school board members would be required to complete anti-bullying training; harassment, intimidation, and bullying could be considered "good cause" for suspension or expulsion, even if it's a first offense; colleges and universities would be required to adopt an anti-bullying policy that would include harassment and intimidation in the code of conduct given to all students, and schools superintendents would be required to appoint an anti-bullying coordinator.
It would require school districts to form school safety teams to review complaints of alleged harassment. In addition, districts would be graded on their efforts to address bullying.
Administrators who fail to adequately investigate alleged harassment could be disciplined themselves.
The bills now await the signature of Gov. Christopher Christie.
The Gov. has not stated whether he will sign the bills into law and has said he has concerns over their constitutionality. -- E. Assata Wright