The Trouble with the Anti-Bullying Bill

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In the aftermath of the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi in September, New Jersey’s congressional representatives are working on a national anti-bullying bill. Oddly, however, the bill closely mirrors the existing policies in place at Rutgers University, polices that didn’t help Clementi. According to an article by Kelly Heyboer in the Star-Ledger:

Colleges and universities across the nation would be required to have anti-harassment policies and recognize cyber-bullying as a threat to students under federal legislation introduced today in memory of a Rutgers University student who committed suicide.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate by Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In addition to requiring all colleges that receive federal aid to amend their harassment policies, the new law would provide funding to help schools start anti-bullying programs on campus.

In fact, Rutgers University had a policy in place designed to prevent harassment and bullying of students. According to an article by Caitlin Mahon in Ridgewood Patch:

The [Rutgers] Student Code of Conduct bars “making or attempting to make an audio or video recording of any person(s) on University premises in bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, or other premises where there is an expectation of privacy with respect to nudity and/or sexual activity, with the knowledge and consent of all participants subject to such recordings.”

And the Rutgers Policy Against Verbal Assault, Defamation, and Harassment Policy states that the University prohibits any form of harassment, which “may also include cyber-bullying or contact through electronic communication.”

Rutgers students were also instructed as to where they could go to address harassment problems on campus, there were extensive disciplinary procedures and counseling services available on campus. The Rutgers anti-bullying policies have been in place for several years.

According to Lautenberg: “The tragic impact of bullying on college campuses has damaged too many young adults and it is time for our colleges to put policies on the books that would protect students from harassment.”

Policies, apparently, just like those already on the books at Rutgers, the school where Clementi jumped off a bridge after being continually harassed by a roommate. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer