Reporting Christine Sloan
TRENTON, N.J. (AP/WCBS 880/CBS 2/1010 WINS) — New Jersey lawmakers signed off Monday on what could be the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation, and it passes exactly two months after Rutgers student Tyler Clementi committed suicide.
There were hugs and tears in the New Jersey State Senate as the tough anti-bullying bill was approved, reports CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
For the Otto family, it is personal after their son endured years of bullying because he is gay.
“We were very fortunate, because our son did come home and told me,” Kim Otto said. “He told me, and I was able to get him immediate help.”
While the bill isn’t named after Clementi, he was on the minds of many, including Matt Zimmer, who went to Ridgewood High School with him.
“I just started crying as soon as he passed away,” Zimmer said. “It was crazy that there’s not just bullying in school, there’s also cyber-bullying, and it’s everywhere.”
Zimmer said he was taunted for years for being gay himself, and that his school administration turned its back on him.
“I had a teacher ask me if I’d come out in front of my class,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer, now a freshman in college, has been going to school online.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainier Huttle sponsored the bill. She said the legislation, if signed into law, would create awareness programs in all of New Jersey’s public schools. It would also force counselors to send reports of complaints about bullying to superintendents and school boards.
“It sets a policy of safety teams throughout the schools,” she said. “After all, 160,000 kids are afraid to go to school today.”
While the sponsor of the bill said Governor Chris Christie will sign the bill into law, no one at his office would confirm that with CBS 2 on Monday.
The bill would also require school districts to train teacher to spot bullying incidents that may not be reported.