New Jersey has what many consider to be one of if not the toughest anti-bullying law on the books, but it hasn’t come without a fight.

After a government council agreed with several complaining schools that the statute was an unfunded mandate, Governor Chris Christie and the legislature had to step in and pony up some cash, but that money has been spent and none has been set aside for the upcoming school year.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle has been at the forefront of the anti-bullying movement and was the prime sponsor of the bill to provide $1 million to fund the law. She points out that schools have a lot of free help at their disposal and, “After all of those free resources are exhausted then we will take another look at what is actually needed.”

The funding bill also established a seven-member Anti-Bullying Task Force in but not of the Department of Education to provide guidance to school districts on available resources to assist in the implementation of the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act,” examine the implementation of the act; draft model regulations and submit them to the Commissioner of Education for use in promulgating regulations to implement the provisions of the act; present any recommendations regarding the act deemed to be necessary and appropriate; and prepare a report within 180 days of its organizational meeting, and annually for the following three years, on the effectiveness of the act in addressing bullying in schools.

The report will be submitted to the commissioner, to the Governor, and to the Legislature, and the task force will expire upon the submission of its final report.

The task force has yet to have its first meeting, but Vainieri-Huttle says, “There will be a task force to continue to support schools and to make sure they’re in compliance. They will be meeting in the next couple of weeks.”

Prior to making any future application for a grant from the Bullying Prevention Fund, schools must first explore bullying prevention programs and approaches that are available at no cost, and make an affirmative demonstration of that exploration in their grant application.

Vainieri-Huttle says schools are getting the hang of the law already. “It’s something that they’re getting used to. We’ll see what next year brings……The curriculum that’s being developed is already in full swing from last semester.”