Anti-bullying bill receives final legislative approval
NEW JERSEY – New Jersey’s anti-bullying law is already one of the toughest in the nation, and legislation that’s headed to the governor’s desk would make it even stronger, increasing penalties for parents and guardians and mandating school districts to bolster bully-prevention policies.
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio and Senator Patrick Diegnan, S-1790, received final legislative approval by the General Assembly Monday. The measure passed the Senate last December.
The bill amends New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights with specific requirements on school districts to help prevent and respond to bullying incidents.
“The Legislature has aggressively moved to control bullying in our schools, but it hasn’t been enough,” Pennacchio (R-26) said. “Today, victims of bullying are prone to attack 24 hours a day by schoolmates or rivals texting from their phones or flexing social media muscles online.
“This bill requires school and county officials to address bullying before it gets out of control, and makes it clear that districts, school officials and parents have a defined responsibility to protect children from aggressions that can occur on and off school property, on the internet, or by text,” Pennacchio said.
Under the bill, school districts would be required to include in their anti-bullying policies the specific consequences for a student harassing, intimidating or bullying a schoolmate, and require superintendents to provide the school board with data on the number of reports that met the statutory definition of bullying.
The legislation is informally known as “Mallory’s Law” in honor of Mallory Rose Grossman, a 12-year-old Rockaway student who committed suicide more than three years ago. Her parents claim she suffered relentless bullying.
“This legislation seeks to address the unimaginable circumstances which led to the death of Mallory Rose Grossman, who took her own life in 2017 – at the age of 12 – after suffering bullying at school and on social media,” Diegnan (D-18) said. “Cyber harassment has become another weapon used by bullies to destroy those innocent victims who they relentlessly target. A parent or guardian who willfully disregards or enables the cyber-attacks of a minor adjudicated of cyber-harassment must be held accountable. I am heartened by the support of The NJ State PBA, Garden State Coalition of Schools, NJ Association of School Administrators, and NJ School Boards Association.”
The bill also cracks down on parents, increasing penalties for parents or guardians who fail to comply with a court-ordered class or training on cyberbullying. Currently, parents or guardians of a minor under the age of 16 who was found delinquent of cyber-harassment by the courts face fines from $25 to $100 for failure to attend classes with their child, and the bill would raise the penalties to $100 to $500.
“Placing a higher price tag on compliance encourages parents to take some responsibility and put an end to their child’s dangerous conduct,” Pennacchio said. “A $25 fine isn’t going to do anything. A $500 fine is going to get their attention.”
A similar bill cleared the Senate unanimously during the 2018-2019 legislative session.