NJ congressman says more must be done to stop bullying
A New Jersey Congressman is pressing ahead with a plan to clamp down on bullying, in the Garden State and across the nation.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer, NJ-5, has introduced a five-point Anti-Bullying Action Plan that calls for improving data and incident reporting, expanding communication between schools and parents and doing more to fight cyber-bullying.
He said the first element of the plan involves creating a New Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force that will be chaired by Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who took his own life in September of 2010 after his roommate used a webcam to watch Clementi kissing another man, then posted about it online.
Gottheimer said the Task Force will include a cross-section of community stakeholders, including parents, teachers, students, administrators, child advocates, and experts that will study “where the best practices are, what else needs to be done, what holes need to be filled, both nationally and of course in the state.”
The plan also calls for sharing best practices by the establishment of a national-level Anti-Bullying Roundtable, which would be by a bipartisan Danny’s Law, named after Daniel Fitzpatrick, a 13-year-old from Brooklyn who committed suicide in 2016 because of the bullying he was facing in middle school.
The third point of the plan calls for schools across the country to take proactive steps to put anti-bullying policies in place, and make sure they’re publicized to students, parents and faculty members, and to make sure bullying data is included in school assessment reporting.
A bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act would require states, districts and schools, as a condition of receiving federal funding, to ensure their codes of conduct specifically prohibit bullying and harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion.
Another element of the plan addresses bullying and harassment on college campuses. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require colleges and universities receiving federal student aid to enact policies that prohibit the harassment of students by other students, faculty, and staff based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, as well as explicitly prohibiting cyberbullying.
The fifth element of the plan calls on social media companies to redouble their efforts to protect children from cyberbullying on their platforms.
“We’ve got so much advancement and development of machine learning, there are ways I believe that we can work together to better identify online bullies and aggressors, but we need social media platforms, which many are doing a lot, to do even more and to stay up to date and do more to combat harassment online," Gottheimer said.
Gottheimer said he thinks social media companies “could pick up on the bullying practices and words and language, and flag it, I’m hoping, and we could get ahead of it and stop it.”
He said cyberbullying is "not a Democrat or Republican issue" but "simply a mom and dad issue, and I just think we’ve got to do more.”