The challenge by the State Council on local mandates to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, initially sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, has been resolved.
The bill – designed to protect New Jersey’s school children from bullying – was signed by the Governor in January 2011 and went into effect this past September. However, in January 2012, the “Local Mandates Council” declared that the law was an unfunded mandate. Given 60 days to come up with a solution, the Legislature acquired one million dollars in funding through a bi-partisan effort of Republicans and Democrats working together.
Senator Buono has announced that potential victims of bullying are now safer: “I hope this sends a strong message to students everywhere, who have been harassed, intimidated or bullied, that they are not alone and their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.”
The recent challenge to the bill was not unexpected. Guidelines for the implementation of the new law will be supervised by a seven member panel. Assemblywoman Huttle points out, "With any new law of this magnitude, there's going be some growing pains. This will help assist schools in adjusting and complying with the new requirements. I'm grateful that everyone involved in this process has shown a willingness to work together for the benefit of our students."
The Assemblywoman goes on to declare her elation over this recent solution that clears the field for the law to go into effect: “I'm extremely pleased with this solution because at the end of the day, the law has not changed, which means that our goal of protecting the countless students who are at the mercy of bullies day-in-and-day-out remains intact.”
Buono trusts that "hopefully it will be easier for schools to implement the Anti-Bullying law as a result of this agreement. More importantly, it protects all of the victims of bullying who may not have had the law on their side until now."
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), bullying has many forms and can have lasting effects on school children. The APA reports that many students do not report bullying incidents, and teachers must be aware of signs hat bullying occurs. The APA also reports that:
"70 % of middle and high school students have experienced bullying at some point;
20-40 % report having bullied or been part of bullying during the school year;
27 % report being harassed for not conforming to sexually stereotypical behavior;
5-15 % of youth are chronic victims;
7-12 % are chronic bullies."
The APA also observes that emotional bullying can be as injurious as physical abuse. Hopefully, the Buono – Huttle Bill will serve as a remedy for many school children who to easily become the prey of confrontational students.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.