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Panel Rules Anti-Bullying Law Unconstitutional

Council on Local Mandates says law doesn't provide funding for schools to meet new rules.

A new anti-bullying law that went into effect in September, requiring schools to spend more time on training, paperwork, investigations and hearings, was found unconstitutional by a state panel on Friday because the law doesn't provide funding for schools to satisfy the new rules, officials announced.

The ruling goes into effect in 60 days. The lead sponsor of the law, which was seen as one of the toughest in the nation, said legislators will try to find a way to make it work for everyone.

The state Council on Local Mandates issued the ruling Friday after hearing a case brought by Warren County's Allamuchy school district, which argued the law was unconstitutional because it was an "unfunded mandate" that diverted resources from other areas.

School board members who supported Allamuchy's position said the challenge to the law has nothing to do with the spirit of the law, which they said is well-intentioned, but it shows the state it has to be careful about issuing new requirements at a time when budgets are strained.

Some school officials have said the law is unnecessarily complex and districts can accomplish the same mission with less paperwork.

The executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association said the association would welcome the opportunity to work with the state to design a process that has adequate state financial support and doesn't divert resources from other critical programs.

“The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights is a well-intentioned statute designed to ensure that no child is ever afraid to go to school because of harassment or intimidation,” association executive director Marie S. Bilik said.  “Unfortunately, the legislation required more work prior to enactment, including consideration of the financial and staffing burdens placed on local school districts.”

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the lead sponsor of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, said the decision is "devastating" for bullied students and that she hopes the council's decision won't dilute districts' commitment to preventing bullying. She said she applauds the districts that have been working to implement the new law.

"This rarely used, shadowy fourth branch of government voted behind closed doors to dismantle a law sponsored by two-thirds of the legislature and approved and signed into law by the governor," she said in a news release. "Rest assured we will review the council's decision thoroughly to find a way to make this law workable for everyone."

The anti-bullying law was sparked by the 2010 suicide of a Rutgers University freshman whose roommate allegedly used a webcam to video him with another man.

This post is shared across Patch sites serving Morris, Somerset and Sussex communities. Comments below may be by readers of any of those sites.

cv January 29, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I can understand your pain . It breaks our hearts that we cant help our kids all the time. That is where our frustration is.
Sir January 29, 2012 at 03:51 PM
And I stand by my original posting - if my son were to be bullied and the school system was aware and did nothing to address it, I would take matters into my own hands.
Judy L January 29, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I "took matters into my own hands" since the school & bus drivers did nothing to stop the bullying. I don't recommend it; next day my kid would suffer more from bullies. Discuss situation with the parent? No, some parents scream bloody murder at their kids & again our kid pays for it. Years of self-inflicting wounds, suicide attempts, eating disorder & hospitalization, a parent breaks just like their kid whose being bullied. So exactly what do we do? Educate ourselves so we can give our kids back their life. You take your kid into St.Clare's ER for a "psych eval." They take charge from there. Whatever it takes, you as the parent must do it for your kid. Leave the public school system & get them into Therapeutic schools. SPAN will educate you on that. St. Clare's CCIS will keep your kid from harming themselves while they are there in intensive therapy. By the way, at any given time there are 10 to 30 kids in there from Northern NJ, all victims of bullies. All suicidal. St. Mary's Residential in Passaic (6month live in facility) run by none other than DYFS will ultimately save your childs' life. As for us parents who went through this with our kids? Well, we break a bit along the way, we exhaust ourselves in dealing with this reality. But I would do it again in a heartbeat to save my child or yours.
Laura Madsen January 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Hi, This article inspired me to write this blog on Patch. Come on over. Here's the link: http://hillsborough.patch.com/blog_posts/picking-on-the-anti-bullying-laws
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