Anti-bullying law passed in New Jersey goes too far

Now students in New Jersey can report their classmates by submitting anonymous tips to police officers and other anti-bullying officials.

New Jersey’s elected representatives recently passed what is considered the nation’s toughest law against bullying. Spurred by the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi a little more than a year ago, the bill contains 18 pages of “required components.” Known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, this new piece of legislation has a broad reach and many requirements with no additional funding to support its mandates.

There’s no doubt about it — too many bullies get away with emotionally and physically abusing their peers. Clementi’s suicide strongly cries for intervention. Obviously, state legislators are trying to help, but too much help can simply enable the students and allow them to neglect responsibility in intra- and interpersonal development.

Reminiscent of the last episode of the TV series hit Seinfeld — in which Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer are arrested for not helping a man who was being robbed and thus violating the “Good Samaritan” law — students will be taught that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. Students and teachers alike will discover that the taught curricula will include being able to determine the difference between tattling and simply telling, and that if they see bullying, it is their responsibility to report it.

Schools will have to appoint an anti-bullying specialist; school districts will have to incorporate an anti-bully coordinator. The New Jersey State Education Department will even post a rating of each public school on its website and may revoke teachers’ licenses who fail to meet these newly imposed and far-reaching standards.

Really?  Why should schools, which are seemingly always strapped to a strict and unkind budget, be forced to teach what ought to be taught at home? A class that offers such information which students can choose as an elective would be a more proper approach.

Similarly, teachers already are very much liable for their students while in class and at school. Making every large and small bullying issue a teacher’s or guidance counselor’s responsibility will put an unwelcome task on the heavy shoulders of overworked and overstressed faculty and staff. Not only that, but such liability opens the door to unwanted and unnecessary costly and time-consuming lawsuits and litigation.

International exams administered by the Program for International Student Assessment to groups of 15-year-olds from 65 different countries measured students’ capabilities in math, science and reading, and showed that American students consistently test below their Asian and other international counterparts.

With this in mind, too many extracurricular requirements are being mandated in public schools. Isn’t it high time that subjects like math, science and reading are revitalized and revamped? In a world filled with endless resources, multifaceted issues like bullying might be appropriate subject material for classes. While bullying remains an issue of concern, other matters must be addressed first. If a student has a bullying problem, let a guidance counselor contact the student’s family and talk with the parents. Allow the parents to be educated. Educated parents can then, in turn, teach their children right from wrong. If parents aren’t up to the challenge, let the student take a bullying course as an elective.