TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would allow school districts to continue to implement anti-bullying prevention and training programs at no cost to the district was approved today in both the State Senate and the General Assembly, receiving final legislative approval.
“The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is landmark legislation that works to ensure every child in New Jersey is afforded a learning environment free from harassment, violence, and predatory behavior,” said Senator Buono (D-Middlesex). “With these changes to the law, school districts should be able to implement protections to ensure that no child is afraid to attend school. As a mother, I stand proud that we have found a working solution to this major public health problem.”
The bill (S-1789/A-2709) would appropriate $1 million to the Bullying Prevention Fund to assist school districts in implementing the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” In order for a school district to apply for a grant from the Bullying Prevention Fund, they would be required to exhaust free alternatives such as training and programs available at no cost from the Department of Education, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation or any other entity.
The bill is necessary to deter a formal ruling by the Council on Local Mandates that certain parts of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” represent an unfunded mandate.
Additionally, the bill would establish a seven-member Anti-Bullying Task Force in, but not of, the Department of Education to provide guidance to school districts on available resources to assist in the implementation and review of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” The Task Force would be required to prepare a report within 180 days of the organizational meeting and annually for the following three years on the effectiveness of the Act in addressing bullying in schools.
“Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere and it can have serious effects on a child’s emotional and physical well-being. Since the implementation of New Jersey’s toughest-in-the-nation anti-bullying legislation, parents, teacher and school administrators are beginning to understand both the signs and the implications of bullying on our kids and in our schools,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg, D-Bergen. “As with any legislation, unintended consequences or concerns can arise. I am pleased that we are able address the concerns and find a solution to continue a program that is protecting our kids.”
The bill passed in the Senate with a vote of 35-0 and in the Assembly with a vote of 72-2-3. The bill now heads to the Governor for his signature.