NEW YORK - GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, lauds today's passage of the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act that strengthens one of the 10 state anti-bullying laws that protects students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
The bill passed 30-0 in the Senate and 71-1 in the Assembly.
"GLSEN commends New Jersey legislators for requiring schools to do more to address bullying in schools," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "Bullying, and in particular anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying, is a public health crisis in our country that is affecting countless young people's ability to get an education. What already was one of the strongest laws in the country is now even stronger. We urge Governor Chris Christie to sign the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights into law."
The comprehensive anti-bullying law strengthens the existing law by:
Requiring training for educators on bullying prevention.
Requiring school districts to have anti-bullying programs.
Providing the Department of Education with the tools they need to help districts combat bullying.
Clarifying investigation procedures and mandating investigation by school staff.
Requiring educators to report all bullying they learn about, on or off school grounds.
Requiring enhanced reporting to the public about how schools and districts are handling bullying and harassment.
GLSEN's Central New Jersey Chapter, which has worked to make New Jersey schools safer for all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression for nearly a decade, praised the law.
"We are thankful for the overwhelming bipartisan support for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which is yet another reminder of how much work still needs to be done in New Jersey to address bullying," said Carol Watchler, Co-Chair of GLSEN Central New Jersey. "This law sends an important message that safe schools and respect for all should be a hallmark of New Jersey schools. We look forward to working with schools and school districts to help implement the law effectively."
The nine other states with anti-bullying laws that enumerate characteristics of students most often targeted and specifically mention sexual orientation and gender identity/expression are California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
GLSEN also supports the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require all schools in the country that receive federal funding to implement such a policy.
Anti-LGBT bullying is one of the most pervasive forms of bullying. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) said they'd been harassed in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and two-thirds (63.7%) because of their gender expression, according to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey. Nearly 1 in 3 LGBT students (30%) said they'd missed a day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.