Following a rash of teen suicides in September, the state of New Jersey moved to adopt new legislation to counter bullying. The new law, if passed, would make New Jersey the 46th state with anti-bullying rules. But is that helping?
Since the death of her son last week, Bobby Tillman‘s mother Monique Rivarde has dedicated her life to a crusade against bullying and teen violence.
She has called for a new law requiring juvenile offenders and their parents to seek counseling and tougher punishment for second-time offenders. She has started a fund in her son’s name, the Bobby Tillman Fund, to help kids deal with their rage productively instead of using their fists.
And she has lent her name, and her time, to anti-bullying efforts, including a “youth summit” held Thursday in a Georgia church. More than 600 people were gathered at the Marvelous Light Christian Ministry, in Douglasville, as Rivarde addressed the crowd.
But Georgia already has anti-bullying laws, including provisions to allow parents to transfer their kids to another school to separate them from a bully and raise the penalties for “unlawful disruption of public schools and public school buses.” New Jersey’s new proposed law would expand the definition of bullying to include inflicting emotional harm, add additional criminal charges for bullying, and institute an annual “Week of Respect” will make this law the most comprehensive anti-bully law in the nation. New York passed it’s anti-bullying legislation in September, just three weeks before the suicides we mentioned.
Are parents and lawmakers dealing with this the wrong way? Can the laws really help prevent or stop bullying? Or are we just setting our kids up to fail by throwing words at the situation instead of teaching conflict resolution?