Our year was marked in January by the NJ Legislature’s failure to do the right thing on marriage equality, and as our year turned cold again, 2010 was marked by the loss of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after two people he knew appeared to betray him. (A federal higher-education anti-harrassment bill, introduced by Frank Lautenberg in the Senate and Rush Holt in the House, is named for Tyler Clementi).
But today was a sweet victory in NJ, something to be Thankful for as we sit down and think about our gratitudes later this week, for the kids – all kinds of kids – who may now benefit from our renewed commitment to respect them, particularly at the places where they go to learn. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights passed both houses of the legislature today. It requires anti-bullying programs in public schools and codes of conduct in our colleges and universities.
We owe special thanks to: Prime Sponsors in the Assembly Valerie Vainieri Huttle & Mary Pat Angelini and in the Senate Barbara Buono, Diane Allen & Loretta Weinberg. Sponsors include Steve Sweeney, Senate President, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver & Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.
All that’s needed now is a signature from Gov. Chris Christie. Here’s some early response, after the jump. Please add your own if the spirit moves you.
Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality
As someone brutally bullied in my own youth, I can’t even begin to describe how the passage of this bill is a moment of deeply poignant, personal healing for me and thousands of others who have been bullied,” said Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality. “The best revenge is to make the world a kinder place. This legislation will make our state a kinder, safer place for students for generations to come.
Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (sponsor)
It is time we recognize that bullies are no longer just the tough kids on the playground roughing up classmates for lunch money, but are social cliques using the Internet and cell phones to harass and taunt their victims with verbal and physical threats anywhere and at any time. We have seen too many young people take their own lives because of the emotional pain and deep sense of despair that no one could protect them and that their life was no longer worth living. The sooner we can change the culture of youth to reject all forms of bullying, the better. We can no longer afford to look the other way when playful teasing becomes something much more sinister and threatening. Today we sent a powerful message to every child in New Jersey: You should never be afraid to go to school.
Senator Diane Allen (sponsor)
In a perfect world, government would not have to legislate what most of us know as the golden rule: ‘treat others as you wish to be treated yourself’. However, cruelty inflicted upon young people by their peers carries too high a cost to ignore. Every public school in New Jersey should be a place where all children feel safe and are able to learn and grow. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act accomplishes this by holding teachers and administrators accountable for addressing predatory or aggressive behavior among students. The law will empower parents with information as to a school’s progress addressing bullying issues, and inform parents and guardians who to contact if they have questions. Lawmakers cannot change human nature, but in passing this legislation we have ensured that those who bully others will face consequences.