Although a New Jersey anti-bullying law was found to be an unfunded mandate by a state council—and in violation of that state’s constitution—the law is still in effect and the New Jersey legislature has about two months to figure out how to revamp it to the council’s satisfaction.
The far-reaching law passed last year requires every school to have an anti-bullying specialist and to report incidents to the state.
One small school district filed a complaint with the Council on Local Mandates, a New Jersey entity that can find state mandates to be unfunded, and if so, those requirements expire.
Until the council’s Jan. 27 decision is published, which is expected to happen up to 60 days from that date, the state can work on a funding source for the law, said state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat and one of the bill’s primary sponsors.
The bill passed by wide margins with bipartisan support and has the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Christie. (“N.J. Schools Brace for Anti-Bullying Rules’ Impact,” Sept. 14, 2011.)
Ms. Huttle said the bill doesn’t actually require schools to spend more money. A school counselor could serve as the required specialist, for example.
Formally called the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the New Jersey law took effect at the start of the current school year. The Allamuchy school board argued in an August complaint that the law could cost the 400-student district thousands of dollars, including paying stipends to staff members who are named as anti-bullying specialists and paying for new anti-bullying programs. At least five other districts passed resolutions supporting Allamuchy.
Other school districts have put the law into practice without complaint, Ms. Huttle said. Still, she said she is pursuing possible private funding for the initiative, as well as the redirecting of other public funds.
She said, if necessary, the legislature will revisit the law, but she hopes it would be a quick process that wouldn’t undo the law’s core requirements.
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Anti-Bullying Law Unfunded Mandate, N.J. Council Rules