Cracking Down on Bullying in Our Schools (Dec. '10 Constituent Newsletter)

By Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt

Bullies and bullying are, to most, a familiar topic. Growing up, many of us have heard stories of our friends or people we know being bullied or maybe even been bullied ourselves. Whatever the case may be, bullying is not just “kids being kids” or a comedic portrayal of a child getting his lunch money stolen on a sitcom. Bullying has become much more serious—with the potential for tragic and deadly consequences for our children.

Recent news articles from across the country have recounted time and time again truly heartbreaking stories about teenagers harming themselves or others, or even taking their own lives because of the bullying they face. In New Jersey, the tragic story of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi—who leapt off the George Washington Bridge to his death after having an intimate moment unknowingly filmed and broadcast over the Internet by others—has given this issue painfully local resonance.

The Assembly has heard hours of testimony from bullying victims describing the cruel abuse they have endured at the hands of bullies. Too-often, incidents of serious bullying in our schools go undetected or unaddressed. It is clear that the state’s current laws on bullying have not worked, and that is why I am a primary sponsor of A-3466, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.

This legislation will provide schools, teachers, and administrators with the training and accountability that they need to address serious bullying. It is a comprehensive and detailed reform of our laws which will give our children the protection they deserve. While it may be impossible to ever completely eliminate bullying, I believe this bill will ensure school officials are trained to recognize when innocent teasing becomes much more dangerous and threatening and will put in place proper mechanism to crack down on bullying when it occurs.

This legislation has truly brought Democrats and Republicans from across the state together to deliver a powerful message: no child should be afraid to go to school because of bullying. Each and every child deserves a healthy environment in which to learn, not an environment where they feel isolated, helpless or where they consider harming themselves or others because of bullying. As a legislator, but more importantly as a mother of children who have attended public schools in New Jersey, I believe very strongly in these principles.

Additional anti-bullying legislation I sponsored was approved by the Assembly Education Committee on December 9, 2010. This bill takes an innovative approach to addressing bullying by creating a pilot program that would survey students and help identify bullies in a given school. Students identified as bullies in this confidential survey process would then be given needed guidance and counseling—improving the school climate and reducing bullying incidents.

On November 22, 2010, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights passed the General Assembly 73-1 and the Senate 30-0. This landmark bipartisan legislation to protect our kids now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting action. I urge Governor Christie to sign this bill without delay. As the tragedies of recent days have shown, New Jersey’s students can’t afford to wait.

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