Posted by: Catherine Lugg | November 28, 2010

What will Governor Christie do?

Last week, the NJ legislature sent the updated Anti-bullying law to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for his signature. And there the bill has sat. Now, the bill has run head-long into the Thanksgiving holiday. But I suspect the good Governor is really loathe to sign a bill that will be construed by other national conservative figures as a proverbial Trojan horse carrying a secret “gay agenda.”

While Christie continues to wait, his State AG, Paula Dow, has started to crack down on recalcitrant school districts who allow pervasive violent homophobia to thrive. The day after the NJ Assembly passed the new anti-bullying bill, Ms. Dow announced that,

“The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights has found that there is probable cause that the Emerson Board of Education violated the state’s anti-discrimination law for not dealing with the harassment, which focused on the student’s sexual orientation.”

It’s a particularly egregious case, where the male student J.C. was continually harassed, beaten and threatened from 2002 until 2007. According to Dow:

“Our investigation suggests that this young man was the target of consistent harassment for a period of years and that despite the existence of a written ‘zero tolerance’ policy regarding such conduct, his fellow students routinely subjected him to the kind of torment no one should have to endure,” Dow said. ….

“One of the things that makes this particularly troubling for me as attorney general, and as a mother, is repeated complaints raised by the parents [17 in all–Lugg] to the school officials about the conduct being ongoing,” Dow said. “It’s certainly incumbent on the school districts to be proactive.”

The AG’s office began the investigation of the Emerson school district back in 2007, under a different AG and governor (Corzine). One of the most disturbing aspects was that the student J.C. was menaced by another student M.F., who allegedly told him that he was going to bring a gun to school. When the local police went to investigate:

a search of M.F.’s home resulted in the seizure of guns and knives belonging to M.F. and his father.

According to the state, M.F. was placed in a psychiatric facility for evaluation and was detained for weapons possession. He was released and allowed to return to school. In September 2006, J.C.’s father advised Taffaro [the superintendent] that he was concerned for J.C.’s safety because — despite assurances that M.F. would not be allowed near J.C. — M.F. was scheduled to be in three classes with J.C. (emphasis added).

So, as Gov. Christie’s own NJ Attorney General points out, the new anti-bullying law will require districts, particularly recalcitrant districts like Emerson, to provide training for ALL teachers on bullying. Administrators who fail to act on reports of bullying will be subject to discipline. Furthermore, all aspiring teachers and administrations must receive training on bullying, starting in 2012-13. Finally, all school board members will receive also training regarding bullying.

The bill is relatively short, a mere 3 1/2 pages. And while it encourages non-public schools to comply with the bill, they are not required to. Finally, it has the religious homophobe’s protection clause, stating:

…the bill, in the case of a faith-based nonpublic school, may not be interpreted to prohibit or abridge the legitimate statement, expression, or free exercise of the beliefs or tenets of that faith by the religious organization operating the school or by the school’s faculty, staff, or student body…

So, given the overwhelming support for the bill (it only received 1 “no” vote in either house), and the explicit protections for religious homophobia in private schools, there are no compelling reasons for Governor Christie NOT to sign it. And given the evidence presented by his own Attorney General, there are very good reasons to sign it–for the public good.

But will he??

Stay tuned…..

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Responses

  1. […] It’s been a month since the NJ legislature sent a stiffened anti-bullying bill to Governor Christie’s desk for his signature. […]

  2. […] been highly critical of Christie for letting the bill languish on his desk. While there was zero chance of him vetoing the bill (he’s mean as hell, but not stupid), I fully believed that the bill would become law without his […]


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