A piece of legislation called "The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights" went into effect this Tuesday in New Jersey, njtoday.com reports. The measure, which was signed into law this January, was put together after extensive input by anti-bullying experts as well as victims and parents. At a ceremony celebrating the start the new school year, one of the bill's original sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, called it "[T]he strictest and most comprehensive law in the nation."
Although a recent U.S. Government report found that New Jersey has a higher-than-average rate of bullying incidents, the state has consistently been on the forefront of the fight against it, passing one of the first anti-bullying laws in the country in 2002. The new law is an expansion of this effort to tackle bullying using Internet technologies like cell phones, Twitter and Facebook.
The New Jersey law takes effect just as a new study conducted in Virginia schools found that bullying has a significant negative impact on student achievement. The Washington Post reports that University of Virginia researchers found that students at schools with the highest rate of reported bullying incidents had 3 to 6 percent lower passing rate on Virginia's standardized tests:
"Bullying had a schoolwide impact, and we were able to show it reduced the level of academic engagement and involvement in student activities among students as whole," said co-author Dewey Cornell, a professor at the University of Virginia who studies school safety.
The findings were based on a 2007 survey of 7,300 ninth-graders and 3,000 teachers. Anna Lacey, the paper's co-author and a graduate student at University of Virginia, said that when the test results were controlled for schools size, income, race and ethnicity, the impact of bullying on scores was found to be as high as that of student's income level. Additional research also showed that schools where bullying was more prevalent also had higher student drop-out rates. Cornell wasn't surprised by the findings:
"The likely explanation is that students are less engaged in school, and perhaps more are distracted. Teachers are probably burdened with more discipline problems, and there is just less goodwill and motivation in a school where students experience a lot of bullying and teasing."