On Monday, the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate voted overwhelmingly (102-1) to approve the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights," legislation regarded by advocates as the nation's toughest of its kind. The bill now sits on the desk of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who has not said whether he will sign it.
If signed into law by Gov. Christie, New Jersey's "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" (A3466) would require all public schools to have anti-bullying programs. The programs would be designed by teams formed to shape policies and review how bullying is handled. The bill would also require that language addressing bullying be included in college codes of conduct.
Proponents of the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" (A3466) are urging Gov. Christie to approve the bill swiftly. After Christie signs the bill into law, their hope is that the legislation will soon become a model for other states. Though New Jersey and 44 other states already have anti-bullying laws, legal experts say those laws largely follow a common model that lacks sufficient statewide standards to counter bullying in the real world.
The "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" aims to correct that problem with a sweeping overhaul of a state law that's been on the books since 2002. In that law, many of the measures included in the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" are suggested, but not required. In the years since 2002, it's become increasingly more clear that the current law doesn't do enough to stop bullying.
Though the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" had been in the works for about a year, it only recently gained media attention following the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi in September.
The bill is largely the result of efforts made by Garden State Equality. The organization worked tirelessly with many leading anti-bullying and child welfare experts to come up with what they call "a dramatically bolder approach."
Matthew Zimmer, a 16-year-old student in Ridgewood, New Jersey, is openly gay and testified before a legislative committee in support of the bill by sharing his own experience with bullying based on his sexual orientation. He was present at the statehouse on Monday to see the bill pass.
"It means so much to me," he said afterward. "I endured bullying by students as well as administrative bullying by the school. It is looking up."
"My vote today was for any child who has gone home in tears because he or she was bullied," said state Sen. Diane Allen, a Republican from Edgewater Park, "and every parent who didn't know what to do or who to contact."
GLAAD congratulates Garden State Equality on all of their efforts to get the bill this far. We look forward to the day when Gov. Christie takes pen to paper, making the "Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" the law of the land in New Jersey.