Pennacchio calls for enacting important anti-bullying legislation

Sen. Joe Pennacchio is calling for the enactment of “Mallory’s Law” to toughen NJ’s anti-bullying laws. Pictured: the Senate honors Mallory’s Army on Dec. 18, 2017 for its fight against bullying

MORRIS COUNTY — After a recent television news investigation into school bullying found the danger may be more prevalent than state statistics show, Senator Joe Pennacchio urged the General Assembly to pass his Mallory’s Law legislation bolstering New Jersey’s anti-bullying statutes.

The News 12 New Jersey report indicates school districts may be significantly under-reporting bullying cases. One district reported nine incidents to the state in three years, while school board minutes showed 27 in the same period.

“We need to stop this nonsense and prevent the under-reporting of bullying that is going on, and my bill will help do that,” said Pennacchio, whose bipartisan bill (S3433) passed the Senate in June with unanimous support, although the Assembly version has not moved. “We’re going to force schools to keep better records.”

The bill requires written reports be filed on numbered forms developed by the Department of Education, and requires school districts to provide parents with an online form for reporting harassment, intimidation or bullying. After a report is filed, principals must submit the form to the school superintendent, the executive county superintendent, and the parents of students involved.

According to the News 12 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find each year one in five students are bullied at school. New Jersey’s numbers are just one in 200, and 174 school districts, with 88,000 students, reported no bullying at all.

“This investigation makes a strong case for enacting Mallory’s Law as soon as possible,” said Pennacchio. “It’s obvious we can’t trust self-reporting by the school districts. We must be more concerned about the welfare of our children than the reputations of our schools.

“For the sake of our children, I urge the Assembly to pass this bill, and the governor to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

The legislation – named for Mallory Grossman, a 12-year-old bullying victim from Rockaway who committed suicide in 2017 – strengthens the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, signed into law in 2010 and considered one of the toughest anti-bullying laws in the nation. Under the bill, each school district’s anti-bullying policy must include specific penalties for bullying, and ensures school officials take preventative actions before tragedy strikes.

“We must do more to protect kids now that texting and social media make bullying possible 24/7. By requiring school and county officials to address bullying situations before an incident escalates, Mallory’s Law can help prevent the loss of more young lives,” Pennacchio said, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14.