FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey students returned to class Tuesday with a new set of rights protecting them from bullies.
With the opening school bell, New Jersey’s anti-bullying bill of rights took effect, forcing districts to investigate complaints and take action.
“It is comprehensive in that it is not just about punishment or discipline,” Fort Lee Superintendent Ray Bandlow said.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports: More Protection For Students
“It’s time that students feel safe; 160,000 stay home every day because they’re afraid to go to school,” Huttle said.
Jennifer Ehrentraut has seen firsthand what years of harassment and bullying can do. Her cousin, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, took his own life after a sexual encounter with another man was streamed on the Internet by his roommate.
“It’s devastating to grow up with someone and for them to be gone for some senseless act,” Ehrentraut told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
“It’s up to each and every one of us, every day, to be nice to each other. (The anti-bullying law) is important because it could be a matter of life or death, possibly save someone’s life.”
State Sen. Barbara Buono sponsored the law and said it has given students faith that this year will be better than the last.
“It requires that a written report be done within the space of one day of the incident being reported to educator,” Sen. Buono told Sloan.
Garden State Equality has launched an anti-bullying hotline. Any student who knows or is a victim of bullying — whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — are urged to called 1-877-NJBULLY. Lawmakers sponsoring the law said that bullying doesn’t stop after 3 when kids go home. It happens through texting or social media. That’s why they’ve set up the hotline for kids to text or to call.
Ehrentraut said she’ll be one of the people taking calls to make sure kids come to school to learn, and not have to worry about protecting themselves.
“It’s a safe place to call. It’s someone they can feel comfortable talking to. They’re not going to be judged,” Ehrentraut said.
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