On September 1st, New Jersey began a new law that is called the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. As has been discussed on this website several times, laws were on the way because of the media attention that has been shined on the bullying issue in the last few years. While it is good to see strong laws enacted to try to help curb the bullying problem, it is still and issue that should be addressed at a school, home, community level first. With this law in effect, children as young as kindergarten could be looking at legal ramifications for bullying.
The law requires all New Jersey schools to enact strict anti-bullying programs and a grading system will be publicly available to report on how schools are doing. Special jobs have been created for schools to man these programs as well. While this all sounds good, many school administrators are unhappy with the feeling that they have to police the community and supply resources to the issue with little current support systems in place by New Jersey.
The law also puts the schools in a legal spotlight with the possibility of having to deal with lawsuits from the community directly. This is putting a bigger burden on the schools. While some feel the pressure within the system, others are more positive about it. In an article in the New York Times, a few professionals has more positive feelings about enacting a strict law.
“The whole push is to incorporate the antibullying process into the culture,” Lucila Hernandez, a school psychologist, said. “We’re empowering children to use the term ‘bullying’ and to speak up for themselves and for others.”
Certainly any additional programs, particularly those with funding are a good thing. But the fear in creating strict laws is that laws are typically “black & white” and can be abused. The debate on this new law was featured on a segment of Fox News:
What do you think? Is the new law a good thing or is it opening the door for lawsuits against schools and school personnel? Should we be more active in policing ourselves in the community or do we need more laws to make bullying more of a crime?