The following is from HRC Staff Counsel Aaron Welo:
Following the news of suicides of teenagers across the country and the all too common theme of anti-LGBT bullying, the state of New Jersey took a major step forward today by enacting the nation’s toughest anti-bullying law. The tragic death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi accelerated the coalition that passed this legislation, which was originally introduced in 2009. While nothing can make up for the loss of these young lives, New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights provides a blueprint for action across the country to address bullying and harassment and bolster the mental well-being of LGBT young people. The new law was signed by Governor Chris Christie after passing the Legislature with only one dissenting vote.
While New Jersey previously had an anti-bullying law on the books, like the anti-bullying laws in states across the nation, it lacked the necessary specificity and requirements to combat anti-LGBT harassment. In addition to mandating specific procedures that must be taken by school officials when bullying occurs, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights also expands coverage to public universities across the state. Most current anti-bullying laws are based on models that give broad discretion to local school districts, rather than requiring that specific, meaningful action to identify and resolve cases of bullying. The new law also requires that every school district have an anti-bullying coordinator in every district, an anti-bullying specialist in every school and grades each school on how effectively it combats bullying. The new law also extends to extracurricular activities, buses, and cyber-bullying.
HRC commends Garden State Equality, allies in the state legislature, and Governor Christie for their leadership on this issue. States across the nation should follow New Jersey’s lead and enact similarly strong laws that protect all of our children. This is an issue that transcends partisan bounds and reaches our core promise to our children of having access to a good education in a safe environment.
The complete text of the new law is available at: www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A3500/3466_R1.HTM.