Thursday, September 1, 2011
New Jersey Passes Toughest Anti-Bullying Legislation in US – But how does it Prevent Bullying?
In response to Rutgers Freshman Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide after webcam images were taken and posted of him on the internet, the New Jersey legislature passed the toughest anti-bullying legislation in the nation. Those requirements, which impact all public schools in New Jersey, go into effect today and there is plenty of debate about their practicality and effectiveness. While no one, including me, in any way is minimizing the devastating effects of the bullying on Tyler or any other child or youth, they are questioning the effectiveness of the requirements of this law and whether they would have prevented the incident that led to Tyler’s suicide. Additionally, others in the education field are questioning the feasibility of asking schools to implement such drastic measures on already burdened schools.
The law requires every school to have an anti-bullying specialist and a safety team. It requires teachers or other school personnel to complete reports on any and all incidents within 24 hours and investigations to be started immediately and completed within 10 days. The problem is, who defines what they considering bullying and where is social media or cyberbullying, often now called digital abuse, in this effort? There are a growing number of children who are bullied via online and other digital technologies and the law doesn’t include those types of incidents at all.
My biggest concern with this legislation, while I applaud New Jersey for taking a stand, being active and doing something, is once again it is reactive rather than proactive. It does not require an education component to prevent bullying. There is no program being implemented to stop bullying in the first place, so kids still have to suffer from the bullying before anyone is going to intervene! The damage will already be done! The consequences unknown – FOR NOW.
In Florida, Speak Up Be Safe™ (SUBS) is attempting just the opposite. SUBS is a prevention education program that addresses safety and all forms of child abuse, bullying and digital abuse – including internet and cell phone dangers. The program includes tools for parents, school personnel and the community in an attempt to empower and motivate all adults to protect children. Offered throughout the state to all 1st through 5th grade students by the year 2015 by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, Inc., the program is in the process of expanding state-wide as a collaborative effort with the Office of the Governor of the State of Florida, the State Department of Education, the State Department of Health, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Ounce of Prevention and other sponsors and partners. Finally a proactive approach – I love it!
To find out more about SUBS and MBF or to help us bring SUBS to your area sooner and prevent bullying at your school – visit www.MoniqueBurrFoundation.org/SUBS.