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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anti-bullying law puts taxpayers at risk

We all remember Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide last year, which propelled the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act through the Legislature.  Just about everyone agrees that addressing student bullying is a positive step toward deterring the conditions which contributed to this young man’s untimely death.   But as schools across New Jersey prepare to reopen next month, the unintended consequences of this law may end up may end up exposing school districts to costly liability that taxpayers will be forced to bear. 

According to a recent report in NJ Spotlight, online and out-of-school liability emerged as an area of concern for school personnel during required training sessions held over the summer.  Where to draw the line between parental and school responsibility has been a subject of debate for many years.  With the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, however, this responsibility and liabilities associated with it have been placed solely on school districts and the taxpayers which fund them.  Trial lawyers in New Jersey have essentially been given a blank check to sue school districts on behalf of bullied children, no matter how ambiguous the term “bullying” may be. 

School districts have an obligation to enforce New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and to be responsive to student bullying.  But civil liability ultimately belongs on the backs of bullies, not taxpayers. 

It’s something school districts will have to come to grips with this school year when the law goes into effect.  Check out my letter-to-the-editor about it in the Courier News

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