New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights —which have been recognized as the "toughest legislation against bullying in the nation"— went into effect this month causing many to wonder whether or not it will successfully protect students who were previously being bullied or who may be bullied when they are older.
NPR host Scott Simon spoke with Emily Bazelon of Slate Magazine —who is currently working on a book about bullying— about these anti-bullying laws, if they're effective, and what the future holds for anti-bullying legislation.
New Jersey's bill of rights "allows for students to report bullies to a crime stopper hotline, it includes extensive training for students to recognize bullying and it encourages them to report it if they see bullying taking place."
The state has moved from simply telling local school districts that they must have policies in place restricting bullying to training students to recognize different forms of bullying, and they've also added a "bullying score" for each school that will be made available to the public.
There is some controversy regarding the sources of funding for these programs, but many schools are seeing the devastating effects bullying can have on its students and thankfully are trying to do something, anything to put a stop to it.
But will these new methods work? Most of the time, it seems that what "qualifies" as bullying would be fairly cut and dry to the casual observer, but there are certainly more subtle ways that someone can be bullied. In short, is bullying occasionally in the eye of the beholder? And if so, how specific are the new laws prohibiting it?
While I think that modifying the policies that many schools currently have —my high school spoke of "tolerance", but I frequently watched many of my close friends get beaten up and run over by cars because the bullies believed them to be queer and the school officials did little to stop this— kids who bully other kids will often find a way around them.
In a perfect world, students at these schools would see someone being bullied, report it, and that situation would be dealt with —or, you know, bullying wouldn't exist at all. But in recent years, students are being bullied on the internet or outside the watchful eyes of school personnel, leaving me to wonder if it will ever be possible to graduate from high school without having been the victim of bullying at some point in time.
Hopefully, one day it will be.