Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

New Jersey’s anti-bullying law is already one of the toughest in the nation, and legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Pennacchio and signed by the Governor makes it even stronger, increasing penalties for parents and guardians and mandating school districts to bolster bully-prevention policies.

The new law, S-1790/A-1662, amends New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights with specific requirements on school districts to help prevent and respond to bullying incidents.

“The Legislature has aggressively moved to control bullying in our schools, but it hasn’t been enough,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Victims of bullying are prone to attack 24 hours a day by schoolmates or rivals texting from their phones or flexing social media muscles online.

“This new law requires school and county officials to address bullying before it gets out of control, and makes it clear that districts, school officials and parents have a defined responsibility to protect children from aggressions that can occur on and off school property, on the internet, or by text,” Pennacchio said.

Under the new law, school districts would be required to include in their anti-bullying policies the specific consequences for a student harassing, intimidating, or bullying a schoolmate, and require superintendents to provide the school board with data on the number of reports that met the statutory definition of bullying.

The legislation is informally known as “Mallory’s Law” in honor of Mallory Rose Grossman, a 12-year-old Rockaway student who committed suicide more than three years ago. Her parents say she suffered relentless bullying.

The new law also cracks down on parents, increasing penalties for parents or guardians who fail to comply with a court-ordered class or training on cyberbullying. Currently, parents or guardians of a minor under the age of 16 who was found delinquent of cyber-harassment by the courts face fines from $25 to $100 for failure to attend classes with their child, and the bill would raise the penalties to $100 to $500.

“Placing a higher price tag on compliance encourages parents to take some responsibility and put an end to their child’s dangerous conduct,” said Pennacchio. “A $25 fine isn’t going to do anything. A $500 fine is going to get their attention.”

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