NJ Anti-Bullying Law Sparks Confusion

Advocates want guidelines.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Students returned to school with a new law now protecting them from bullies. (Published Tuesday, Sep 6, 2011)

    Supporters of an anti-bullying law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last January say the administration is dragging its feet on writing guidelines for school districts to follow.

    Passed within months of the suicide death of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, the new law requires all of New Jersey's approximately 600 school districts to aggressively deal with bullying in their schools, and to report incidents immediately to police and the state Department of Education.

    But on the first day of school for most districts, supporters were asking where the guidelines are.

    "The Department of Education receives a grade of 'F' in terms of implementing the law," said Steven Goldstein, executive director of Garden State Equality.

    Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the law, also took the administration to task, claiming that 160,000 schoolchildren stay home every day across the nation because of bullying at school.

    "If this governor continues to drag feet, our government will have made our children empty promises," Huttle said.

    A spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Allison Kobus, said the administration issued model guidelines last April that should work for school districts.

    Fort Lee Superintendent Raymond Bandlow disagreed.

    He said there are still too many gray areas, citing for example, whether a student can be disciplined while his or her parent is appealing the penalty.

    Goldstein, of Garden State Equality, later issued a statement that called the DOE claim "spin."

    "Talk to school administrators and teachers across the state, and you'll hear them clamoring for guidelines today," Goldstein said in his statement.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY