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 unanimously approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“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,” said Senator Buono (D-Middlesex). “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 bill (S-1789) 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 intended to provide the funds 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.
“Students, parents and school administrators are beginning to recognize the signs of bullying and its effects on our kids,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg (D-Bergen). “The Bullying Bill of Rights was rooted in the very sensible ideal that a school must do everything in its power to ensure every child grows up free from the emotional pain caused by bullying. I am pleased that we have been able to find a solution to keep this program running.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.