Anti-bullying law fix to get hearing

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TRENTON — A remedy for the anti-bullying law derailed by the state Council on Local Mandates is scheduled to get its first legislative hearing on Monday.

The law, which the council in January ruled contained unfunded mandates and needed to be fixed, was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011.

Christie, in a news conference on Wednesday, announced a proposed fix for the law, a plan that quickly won bipartisan approval.

“I’m extremely pleased with this solution because at the end of the day, the law has not changed, which means that our goal of protecting the countless students who are at the mercy of bullies day in and day out remains intact,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, one of the lead sponsors of the original bill.

The anti-bullying law contains a number of initiatives that must be undertaken by local school districts to prevent bullying and educate students to the dangers of the activity.

The Council on Local Mandates, ruling on complaints brought by several local school districts, found that the law forced districts to spend money without providing a funding source. Its ruling put the bill on track to being invalidated if a funding source or another fix was not in place within 60 days.

Christie outlined a plan to distribute $1 million in grants and the formulation of a task force to mitigate the school districts’ concerns and hire personnel. The legislative fix is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee at 10 a.m. Monday.

The effort to fix the bill was praised by one of the bill’s biggest advocates, Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, a gay rights organization.

“In the rough and tumble of politics, it’s nice to see the governor and our Democratic leaders really put kids first,” Goldstein said last week.

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