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Panel Rules Anti-Bullying Law Unconstitutional

Claims state forced school districts to enforce law without providing funds

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 didn'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 the 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."

On Saturday evening, Assemblyman John McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey — both of the 27th District — issued a joint statement pledging their commitment to work "collectively and in a bipartisan manner" with other lawmakers and the Christie Administration to reinstate the law. McKeon and Jasey were both prime sponsors of the measure.

Jim January 31, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Bullying issue aside, your thinking regarding funding this terrifies me. Is this really how you think budget issues should be addressed? It's scary to think people in this world think like you do when it comes to this...
LDSF January 31, 2012 at 04:40 PM
The terrifying thing is really back to "where people take advantage of other people for their own personal advancement. Generally driven by MONEY." This also ties to budget issues....& tax issues....there are double sided to the truth. Bullying can't help to deal with the these issues.
Jim January 31, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Completely different arguments that you are trying to spin into one. I was citing workplace bullying where people seek personal advancement at the expense of another. In the comment which I believe you intended to reply to (Hit reply to the initial comment in a series, and it will add your comment closer to that which you want to reply to, rather than "leave a comment" and having your comments disappear down here =]) I was referring to the tax&spend mentality of people today. There is a major difference between personal greed and responsible spending by government. The best analogy I can give you is that sometimes you need to work with what you have. If your budget only allows $20K for a car, you should probably stop shopping for $35K cars, because your budget is fixed at 20K. In our case here, the school board has a fixed budget to work with, and it would appear they can not fund the program. This is the real world, and if you don't like how they are budgeting (I know I certainly don't, at least in Cranford) then perhaps you should go raise hell at their meetings until they fund the program you wanted to see funded, rather than complaining on Patch and asking for tax hikes.
LDSF January 31, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Leave a comment is to comment. The comment does not limit to response comments. People remain to believe what is good for children's education. There is exactly the point as said about personal greed and responsible government spending. It is how to best use resources on the right thing for education. Bullying and social aggression comes with the mentality of self-interest. Dealing with it to learn about social skills is not to tell people to go raise "hell" at "their" meetings.
LDSF January 31, 2012 at 05:22 PM
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