Measures Would Enact Youth Suicide Prevention Plan, Increase Penalties for Bullying

WALL, NJ - Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini has introduced legislation which seeks to combat the growing epidemic of bullying and youth suicide.

Citing the tragic suicide of Rutgers’ University student, Tyler Clementi, Angelini has drafted several bills including a “Bullying Bill of Rights”, which amends and supplements the law on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in public schools.

“Our students have a right to attend school without being harassed or bullied,” said Angelini. “Schools are supposed to be a safe haven for our children where they can learn and grow, not fear harassment, intimidation and bullying.”

Angelini has also introduced legislation which would upgrade the crime of cyberbullying, a form of harassment, to a fourth degree crime when the victim is under the age of 18. The bill would also place restrictions on the use of the Internet by convicted cyberbullies.

“The tragic suicide of the Rutger's student is a prime example of how our young people have become desensitized by the ability to be vicious and cowardly behind technology,” said Angelini. “Cyberbullying is not a passing fad and needs to be looked at in a serious light.”

Since cyberbullying does not only affect minors, Angelini will also introduce legislation that will increase the penalties for all acts of all cyberbullying, regardless of the age of the victim. The measure would upgrade all crimes of cyberbullying to a fourth degree crime, which is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“As we have seen, cyberbullying has serious and sometimes fatal consequences,” added Angelini. “There must be severe penalties enacted in order to dissuade future instances of cyberbullying and prevent victims from taking drastic measures.”

Angelini has also drafted legislation that requires the Commissioner of the Division of Children and Families to develop and adopt a youth suicide prevention plan. The bill promotes awareness of suicide prevention resources and identifies barriers to mental health and addiction resources.