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NJ legislative panels OK tougher anti-bullying law

November 15, 2010 3:16:51 PM PST
New Jersey Senate and Assembly panels have approved anti-bullying legislation that proponents say will help stem school violence and prevent teen suicides.

Trenton was awash in purple signs today, carried by people supporting the effort to toughen New Jersey's anti-bullying laws.

Victims and their families told lawmakers something must be done to stop the taunting and cyber-bullying that recently led to a rash of teen suicides, including Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Michelle Weinberg says the taunting caused her son Larry to take his life 11 years ago.

"He walked out of school one morning, drove home, took off the belt he was wearing and used it to hang himself," Weinberg said.

16-year-old John Otto of Haddonfield was also driven to the edge by teasing at school.

"I took a kitchen knife and held it to my wrists and I almost killed myself," Otto said.

The bill approved Monday requires school districts to establish anti-bullying programs. It also requires public school teachers and staff to receive training in suicide prevention and dealing with bullying.

"Accountability, prevention and training and awareness that hopefully, we change the culture," Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri said.

John Denelsbeck was born and raised in Moorestown. He says a tougher law might have saved him from the anxiety and depression he suffers as an adult after being bullied from 6th grade all the way through college for being gay.

"You're playing sports with people and they're calling you names and also body checking you and throwing you to the ground," Denelsbeck said.

The measure now moves for votes by the full Assembly and Senate.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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