Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fighting Bullies

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fighting Bullies

Article excerpt

THERE'S NO question that New Jersey's anti-bullying law has been highly effective since it was enacted five years ago. Now comes a perhaps greater challenge: to make the law better, make it easier for school administrators to implement, and make it clearer for all parties -- educators, parents and students -- to understand.

As Staff Writer Hannan Adely reported, a state anti-bullying task force has recommended changes to the state code that would give principals discretion in handling cases. It also said there should be an investigation whenever a case involves a power imbalance, such as when one student is perceived to be weaker or less popular.

The state is slated to discuss the task force's findings today at a Board of Education meeting, and officials should weigh these suggestions and others in attempting to make the current law better and perhaps clearer.

We applauded the Legislature when it passed landmark legislation after the death of Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, a Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate secretly filmed Clementi's romantic encounter with another man and streamed it online.

Even Clementi's own brother, James Clementi, suggested in an interview with The Record that it is time to make the existing law better. Clementi said the law should be refined because it harms some students by exposing that they were victims and could even inadvertently "out" them to peers and families.

"It's not about getting rid of this law," said Clementi, who along with his family created a foundation that educates the public about bullying. "I think this law is very valuable ... I think it's about fine-tuning the law and getting feedback from educators and improving the law and making it the most effective it can be."

The law's initial effectiveness is plain to see. …

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