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Christie, Lawmakers Revising NJ Anti-Bullying Law

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New Jersey Statehouse - Trenton, NJ - File Photo

New Jersey Statehouse – Trenton, NJ – File Photo

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP)  – New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie are set to announce changes to the state’s anti-bullying law.

A state panel ruled it didn’t provide funding for school districts to implement the required changes. The revised proposal allows districts to be reimbursed for money they spend on anti-bullying training and staff.

“We know that students have the best opportunity to learn and achieve when they’re in an environment that’s safe and free from bullying and intimidation,” Christie said.  “This legislation is extraordinarily important to meet those goals. That’s why we needed to come together and fix it.”

The state’s Council on Local Mandates invalidated the law in January based on a challenge by a 427-student district in Warren County. The Allamuchy Township Board of Education district complained that the law would require costs this year of $6,000 to train educators _ with more costs in the future. Some other districts filed papers in support.

Lawmakers were given 60 days to revise the legislation or risk it being invalidated permanently.

Christie said Wednesday the bill would be fast-tracked through the Legislature.

The revised proposal makes $1 million in grants available to public schools this year. Districts can apply for the money after exhausting free training materials available online and through various nonprofits.

The law was signed shortly after the high-profile suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi in 2010.

Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, is on trial for bias intimidation and invasion of privacy charges for allegedly using a webcam to spy on Clementi’s intimate encounter with another man.

Days after the alleged spying, the 18-year-old jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Steven Goldstein, who heads the state’s largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, stood beside the governor in announcing the fix. Assemblywoman Valerie Vianieri Huttle, a Democrat from Englewood, and Sen. Diane Allen, a Republican from Burlington, who were sponsors of the legislation, also were on hand for the announcement.

“In the rough and tumble of politics, it’s nice to see the governor and our Democratic leaders put kids first,” Goldstein said. “This heroic fix that the governor and the leaders in both houses of both parties have engineered will save lives.”

New Jersey’s anti-bullying law is the toughest in the nation.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Teaneck who was a main sponsor of the law, has said she hopes school districts would continue following the law’s requirements while the changes are worked out.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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