New Jersey Legislators Get a Chance to Fix the First Amendment Problems With Their Anti-Bullying Law

Last week New Jersey's Council on Local Mandates ruled that the state's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, enacted last summer in response to the 2010 suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, illegally requires new expenditures by local governments without providing funding for them. The council, which was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 1995 to address the problem of unfunded mandates, focused on provisions requiring schools to establish bullying prevention programs, hire anti-bullying specialists and coordinators, create school safety teams, and provide counseling and other services "once an incident of harassment, intimidation or bullying is identified." But now that the law will have to be revised, says the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the legislature should fix its First Amendment defects as well. "This 'anti-bullying' law, as it is currently written, makes opening one's mouth on a college campus in the state of New Jersey a serious risk," says FIRE President Greg Lukianoff . "FIRE knows all too well that even well-intentioned rules that provide vague proscriptions on speech that challenges or offends are a true disaster for free speech, candor, and robust intellectual inquiry."

The law, which requires colleges to ban "harassment, intimidation and bullying," defines harassment to include "a single incident" that "substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the institution or the rights of other students" and "has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students" or "will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student." That definition of student-on-student harassment, FIRE notes, is substantially broader than the one the Supreme Court has said is consistent with the First Amendment in the context of Title IX lawsuits: conduct "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims' educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution's resources and opportunities." New Jersey's law also seems inconsistent with two rulings by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (where New Jersey is located). In 2008 the 3rd Circuit struck down Temple University's regulations aimed at "generalized sexist remarks and behavior," saying the policy "provides no shelter for core protected speech." In 2010 the appeals court rejected the University of the Virgin Islands' ban on conduct that causes "emotional distress," noting that "every time a student speaks, she risks causing another student emotional distress." FIRE argues that "New Jersey has in effect sanctioned the 'heckler's veto,'" since anyone who claims to be insulted, demeaned, or emotionally harmed by another student's speech can make a fuss about it, thereby generating the disruption that triggers punishment.

Last year in ReasonMichael Tracey and Harvey Silverglate noted the hazards posed by legislation introduced in response to Tyler Clementi's death.

[Thanks to Victor McDonald for the tip.]

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  • sarcasmic||

    Does that mean no cops allowed on NJ school grounds?

  • Zeb||

    I bet they didn't think of that. Or maybe professional bullies are excepted.

  • sarcasmic||

    Or maybe professional bullies are excepted.

    Yeah. Police are exempt from most laws.

  • ||

    jesus christ, do people have no patience?

    I'm sure Obama will appropriate some funds for anti-bullying as soon as he gets his No Dropouts legislation passed.

  • wareagle||

    and right after that, he'll draft a bill that bans acne, too.

  • Typical Liberal||

    Why does FIRE support bullying?

  • ||

    Because bullies and nazis both still deserve the right to speak their minds.

    Bad people benefit from freedom too.

  • ||

    Because christfags!

  • Rich||

    The law ... defines harassment to include "a single incident" that ... "has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students" or "will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student."

    "[H]as the effect" and "[W]ill have the effect". How could the drafters of this legislation fail to include "had the effect"?

    /sarc

  • ||

    New Jersaians live in the perpetual now, and pause only to contemplate the future, never the past.

  • ||

    Duh, anyone could tell that after watching Jersey Shore*. Your "insights" are as facile as you are. You ignorant slut.

    *none of those people are from Jersey, they're mostly from Staten Island

  • ||

    Staten Island: New East Old New Jersey.

  • ||

    Staten Island is New Naploli, you dolt.

  • ||

    So it's a pizza? It is greasy, so you may be right.

  • ||

    No, it's a-spicy meat-a-ball. Moron.

  • ||

    As long as it's deep. That's all I demand.

  • ||

    You like it balls deep?

  • ||

    As long as they're greasy.

  • ||

    You like it balls deep?

    Ballsdeepdish Pizza.

    let's see chicago try and tout THAT as the best pizza ever.

  • ||

    What does the judge have to do with it?

  • ||

    He is deep, greasy, and doughy. He will do nicely.

  • o3||

    "...defines harassment to include "a single incident" that "substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the institution or the rights of other students" and "has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students" or "will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student."
    _

    so farting is out too?

  • Rich||

    +CH4

  • ||

    "a single incident" that "substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the institution

    Sounds like an effective law to use on trolls.

  • ||

    scared much?

  • ||

    I don't disrupt the orderly operation of this institution. I am the order.

  • Gojira||

    Now say that with a slurred Sly Stallone accent.

  • ||

    I was, I am, I shall.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ..."every time a student speaks, she risks causing another student emotional distress."

    And nine times out of ten, "she" would be the correct pronoun there.

  • Zeb||

    I'm just happy not to see "they" used as a singular neutral pronoun.

  • ||

    Ahhh... the good ol' days of middle school English.

  • Zeb||

    "They" is fucking plural. If English were meant to have a neutral, personal pronoun, it would have one.

  • ||

    "He" always worked for me.

    And on the second-person plural front, "y'all" gets the job done just fine.

  • Gus||

    No. Plural would be "all y'all".

  • Nipplemancer||

    No. Plural would be "all y'all".
    No no no no - "alls y'alls"

  • T||

    Whatever word follows "all y'all" is rarely complimentary in my experience. Just sayin'.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "Y'all" is plural. "All y'all" is either a superlative plural -- "Are all y'all going to the movie?" -- denoting an unexpectedly large number of individuals or a cumulative plural referencing multiple y'alls, such as multiple families or other distinct groups.

  • Jumbie||

    Once upon a time, English had a plural second person (you) and a singular second person (thou)

    Then because that was somewhat cumbersome, people just started using 'you' for singular and plural.

    Zeb uses 'you' as a singular and a plural pronoun because that change occurred before he was born and didn't cause him any psychological adjustment issues.

    English evolving to use 'they' as a singular pronoun, while no less legitimate than the previous switch to the use of 'you' as a singular pronoun, causes Zeb anxiety because he is an old fuddy duddy, so we must boycott this move to increase the utility of our language and stick with the cumbersome workarounds for genderless singular pronouns.

    I trust that in Zeb's case, they're happy with that.

  • ||

    If you're interested in Tyler Clementi's case, don't miss New Yorker's long and thorough article .

  • Gus||

    I read about it and you know what? It's one dumb fucker that offs themself. Seriously.

  • Ted S.||

    As always, the State is the biggest bully of them all.

  • sarcasmic||

    Q: Why are people in NYC always in a bad mood?

    A: Because the light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

  • Mayor Bloomberg||

    Q: Why are people in NYC always in a bad mood?

    A: Me.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I am insulted by those who are talking about the anti-bullying law.

  • ||

    Clearly the time has come to ban hurt feelings.

  • ||

    Your comment is very othering.

  • ||

    When havin' a sad is outlawed, only outlaws will haz sadz and then where will you be, Sug? That's right: crying all alone like usual, but now also breaking the law. Think about that next time.

  • ||

    A turrets feelings dont never get hurt cause a turrets feelings are metal.
    alajeff 1 month ago

    Damn fucking right, Youtube commenter dude.

  • ||

    my brain was itching trying to place it...paraphrased lyric from "Damn it feels good to be a gangsta."

  • ||

    ok, after a re-listening, there's no lyric anything like that in the song.

    but, damn, that quote totally fits the rhythm and general structure of the song.

  • Zeb||

    All of this anti-bullying stuff is just crazy. Why is a new law needed here? Bullying is either assault, in which case the bully should be charged with assault, or it is verbal, in which case the bully should be ignored.

    What the fuck ever happened to "sticks and stones..."? I think teaching that and not punishing kids for fighting back against bullies would solve most of the problem.

  • ||

    not punishing kids for fighting back

    Individuals are not allowed to protect themselves, that's The State's job.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm sorry ma'am, we'd really like to not kick your son out of school but we have a zero tolerance policy.

    Disclosure: I once got suspended from my Catholic elementary for a week because I punched a kid who jumped me in the locker room. The other kid didn't get in trouble at all (until he was expelled a couple of months later for threatening a girl).

  • ||

    See, that's why rule no.1 of any self-defense scenario is: Don't leave any witnesses alive.

  • wareagle||

    sadly, common sense died long ago. The instigator often seems to get preferential treatment rather than the other way around. My boys had a standing rule: I don't expect you to throw the first punch, but you better throw the second. You deal with whoever is screwing with you; I'll handle the principal.

    The best weapon against any bully has always been defense. You don't have to win the fight; you just have to be willing to engage in it. Most bullies are pussies anyway. They seek the path of least resistance.

  • ||

    ""My boys had a standing rule: I don't expect you to throw the first punch, but you better throw the second. You deal with whoever is screwing with you; I'll handle the principal.""

    As much as I agree with that, it's bad advice today. You can't prevent the school from suspending your kid nor the resource saftey officer from arresting your kid.

    America hasn't been home of the brave for a while.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    My parents were so outraged I switched to public school rather than serve the suspension (giving up the couple thousand dollars of tuition and my family's 35 year relationship with the school).

  • Coeus||

    The instigator often seems to get preferential treatment rather than the other way around.

    So fucking true. But it's not like you're missing anything when you get suspended.

  • ||

    ""But it's not like you're missing anything when you get suspended.""

    Well maybe not true in the near future.

    http://investmentwatchblog.com.....-students/

  • Coeus||

    I'm honestly suprised it took them this long. It's such an obvious and effective method of enforcing conformity.

  • ||

    I don't expect you to throw the first punch, but you better throw the second.

    The advice I got from my came-up-on-the-mean-streets Marine-Corps father was a little different.

    He pointed out that whoever landed the first punch generally won, and that your hands are full of little breaky bones.

    His advice: No fight ever lasts beyond the first knee to the balls. Make sure its your knee, and his balls.

  • Bobby Hill||

    That's my purse! I don't know you!

  • Cassell Doctrine||

    Yeah, but now you're a lawyer - your profession has generally created more liability on the first punch thrower.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I spent a week in detention in high school for defending myself against a guy who wanted to be the guy who beat up the big kid. This despite a teacher's hearing me say "I don't want to fight you" and seeing the guy throw a compass at me then charge me when I ducked it.

    My question to the principal, "How long was I supposed to let him hit me before someone got him off me?" never got answered.

    And this was a loooong time ago. One of many, many reasons why my kids won't ever go to a public school.

    On the upside, I got to laugh at the guy for a week while his face turned all shades of purple, yellow, and green and then I banged his sister a few days later. She apparently didn't like him much, either.

  • Coeus||

    My question to the principal, "How long was I supposed to let him hit me before someone got him off me?" never got answered.

    My goal after every fight write-up was to make it so that the principal couldn't look me in the eyes. Fucking pussy.

  • ||

    Any law that makes dead baby jokes and dumb blonde jokes a crime is offensive to me. Who should I sue?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I don't see the big deal. I mean, it's not like simply presenting a differing opinion would be enough to trigger a claim of bullying.

  • ||

    Bully!

  • Teddy Roosevelt||

    Bully!

  • Sandi||

    I took a shit in New Jersey once.

  • o3||

    who's shit did u take?

  • Pudgeboy||

    What? No mention of micro-bullying? This law is clearly a joke, then.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Just give this law a swirlie and stuff it into its own locker.

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