New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Marks Six-Month Anniversary
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New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which went into effect last September, strengthened earlier laws on the State’s books by requiring all public schools to develop comprehensive policies against bullying. Previously schools were only encouraged to do this. (2) This law was passed largely in response to the Tyler Clementi suicide. Clementi was a freshman at Rutgers University; Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge after learning that his college roommate, Dharun Ravi, streamed video of Clementi’s tryst involving another man and invited others to watch. Last month, Ravi was convicted of multiple charges against him including bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness tampering. He faces up to ten years in prison and possible deportation when sentenced on May 21. (3)
Clementi is not the only one whose suicide has been linked to bullying and harassment, unfortunately. And while State lawmakers know they cannot end bullying, they hope the stricter laws will lessen the incidents.
The aforementioned movie follows several victims from their schools to their homes, showing the effect bullying has on their lives. It also shows how families, peers and school officials struggle to cope with this problem. (4) New Jersey’s anti-bullying law hopes to change that here by requiring schools to appoint safety teams, train staff and students about what constitutes bullying, and investigate every reported allegation within a very tight timeframe, even those incidents that take place off-campus. (5)
Initially there was some concern that such a stringent law would spur too many lawsuits, but the potential for lawsuits has existed since New Jersey adopted its first anti-bullying laws in 2002. While it may be too early for statistics to tell us how effective the new law is in stemming bullying and preventing teenage suicides, it does give victims of bullying hope in knowing that the schools, as well as the State and law officials are on their side. (5)
If you or someone you know needs help with a bullying incident, particularly in Hunterdon County, contact the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm for assistance.