The New Jersey state senate and assembly voted Tuesday to pass what experts call the nation’s toughest antibullying law, propelled by a sense of urgency following the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi earlier this year.
According to The Star-Ledger, the bill, which was in the works before the suicide of Clementi, expands on the state’s 2002 antibullying law, which encouraged but did not mandate that schools set up antibullying programs.
“The measure would require training for most public school employees on how to spot bullying and mandate that all districts form ‘school safety teams’ to review complaints,” reported The Star-Ledger. “Superintendents would have to report incidents of bullying to the state Board of Education, which would grade schools and districts on their efforts to combat it.
“Public colleges and universities would also be required to include a policy on bullying in its code of conduct.”
The bill passed the assembly 71-1 with five abstentions and 30-0 in the senate. The bill now makes it way to Gov. Chris Christie, who has not said whether he will sign it.
According to Garden State Equality, which advocated for the bill, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights protects all students bullied for any reason. The legislation maintains the language of New Jersey's existing antibullying law, enacted in 2002, which enumerates protection of students based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and has clear language protecting students bullied for any other reason.
Among its many far-reaching provisions, Garden State Equality reports that the bill is the first in the country to set firm deadlines for bullying incidents to be reported, investigated, and resolved. It also creates an antibullying team at each school led by a specialist, and grades every school on its antibullying efforts and requires that the school post the grade on its website.
The bill is also the first to encompass bullying at public universities, which must create antibullying rules and procedures and distribute them to every student within seven days of the beginning of the fall semester.
Clementi, who was 18 years old, committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in September after his roommate secretly filmed and webcast his private encounter with another man. The roommate, Dharun Ravi and another student, Molly Wei, face invasion of privacy charges. Both have withdrawn from Rutgers.