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Local Lawmakers Pledge to Restore Anti-Bullying Law

Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey of the 27th District say they will work in "bipartisan" manner to amend the law so that it can remain in effect.

Two local elected officials have announced that they will work with the Christie administration to restore the anti-bullying law that ruled that it imposes an unfunded mandate on public school districts.

In a 7-2 ruling on Friday, the Council of Local Mandates struck down the law as an unfunded mandate. The council's ruling will take affect 60 days after its formal order is released. 

Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey — both of the 27th District which covers parts of Essex and Morris counties — released a statement on Saturday evening pledging to work in a bipartisan manner with other lawmakers and the Christie administration to reinstate the 'Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.'   

Both Jasey and McKeon were prime sponsors of the measure (A-3466) which was signed into law in September 2011. The law went into effect this past September, prompting some school superintendents to complain that the law was imposing new training and reporting costs on the districts at a time of budgetary constraints. In addition, South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent of Schools Dr. in terms of standards it imposes for reporting incidents.

In a joint statement, McKeon and Jasey addressed the issue at hand — the costs of implementing the law — saying they would "review if the necessary funding could be made available from the 'Bullying Prevention Fund' established in the Department by the legislation or explore additional funding alternatives." 

However, they also said that they planned "to examine closely if the measure can be implemented by using existing resources as argued by the state Department of Education in its petition to the Council of Local Mandates."

McKeon and Jasey are both actively involved in education matters, attending a earlier this month and supporting currently in the legislature. Jasey is Vice Chair of the Assembly's Education Committee. McKeon was also the lead sponsor of an earlier law (A-1874) that requires schools to adopt polices prohibiting the harassment, intimidation, or bullying of students on school property, at a school function or on a school bus. In 2007, this legislation was updated by the New Jersey Legislature to include cyber-bullying and enacted into law (A-3803).  

In stating their commitment to amend the law, McKeon and Jasey voiced their continued support of its core tenets. They also made it clear that they disagreed with the Council's ruling:

The 'Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights' strengthens standards for the prevention, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents of bullying. It "requires" as opposed to "encourages" school districts to establish bullying prevention programs and to form a school safety team in each school to foster and maintain a positive environment. It also requires all teachers, administrators and school board members to complete anti-bullying training. The measure additionally requires the superintendent of schools in each district to appoint a district anti-bullying coordinator.  

In its January 27 ruling, the Council on Local Mandates said the new law is an unfunded mandate in that it requires school districts to provide training and personnel associated with its implementation.   The Star Ledger reported that the decision was in response to a complaint filed with the council by the Allamuchy School District in Warren County, which argued the anti-bullying law creates extra costs for districts but does not provide funding to pay for them. The Allamuchy district, which has 427 students, said the law would cost it $6,000 this year alone for training, plus more in the future. The state Department of Education has said the law is not an unfunded mandate. In a brief filed with the council, the DOE argued the measure is a revision of an earlier law and that districts can meet their requirements without additional costs.

Adam Kraemer January 29, 2012 at 01:24 PM
While the intent is admirable some things just can't be solved by legislation. Bullying is a problem in our culture and society. Give school official flexibility to work with families and solve the problem. A law from Trenton is not going to make the hundreds of thousands of school age kids act nice to each other.
middle schooler January 29, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I agree. I have to say, though I know it may sound extreme to some people, is that each bullying situation is unique, and lawmakers need to respect that. What they think is a smart idea may cause a kid to get in trouble with a punishment that doesnt fit the crime.
KARMA January 29, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Due to the high incidence rate of teen suicides, mostly of whom were bullied either in school or cyberbullying, something needed to be put in place to protect these kids who are being bullied day in and day out. If a child is in that much pain because of words or actions of another person, and they are feeling that nothing and no one will stop the bully, they unfortunately take their own lives. The bully who caused this needs to be stopped and needs to take full responsibility for their actions, whatever the punishment may be.
KLF January 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Even if legislation does not stop bullying, there has to be a reporting/enforcement system in place so that there are real consequences for the bulliers.

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