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Advocates Scramble After Council Rules NJ Anti-Bullying Law Unconstitutional

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Anti-bullying advocate Corey Bernstein (credit: CBS 2)

Anti-bullying advocate Corey Bernstein (credit: CBS 2)

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MILBURN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A state council ruling in New Jersey is sending shockwaves through a community of anti-bullying advocates who worked to pass historic anti-bullying legislation in the state.

High school student Corey Bernstein, 17, says he was a victim of bullying in both elementary and middle school, to the point where he wanted to take his own life.

“Was called gay and made fun of and bullied before I was even ready to admit to myself that I was gay,” he told CBS 2’s Ann Mercogliano. “Led to a depression where I contemplated suicide.”

Bernstein now is an anti-bullying advocate who pushed for the anti-bullying law in New Jersey.

On Friday in the Garden State, the Council on Local Madates ruled the law unconstitutional because it requires schools to spend money without providing funding.

Bernstein calls this a roadblock in something he fought hard for.

“It’s not the end of the world. This legislation is going to be fixed and it is saving countless lives across New Jersey,” he said.

The law requires schools to investigate incidents of bullying. It was in the works for years, but gained considerable momentum after the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi.

Opposition to the new law was expressed in a complaint by Allamuchy Township in Warren County, which claimed the law forced them to reassign school faculty as anti-bullying experts, and that they would then have to pay those staffers for the extra work.

That expense would cost around $8,000 a year.

Jordana Horn Gordon, a mother from Short Hills, says she understands the bind.

“We want to have a standard out there, but I think when it comes to the application of a standard, it becomes a little more difficult,” she said.

Stuart Green of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention worked on writing the legislation and says they’ll keep working if necessary.

“Schools are capable of doing this within the roles and responsibilities that they have now,” he said.

Although advocates say they’ll continue to work, the ruling is expected to go into effect in 60 days. The state can revamp the law or provide funding to comply with the decision.

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