TRENTON, N.J. – Sixteen-year-old Matthew Zimmer told lawmakers at a hearing Monday on toughening the state's anti-bullying law that he withdrew from his public high school to escape being tormented because he's gay.
The Bergen County teen said his teachers and the principal took part in the bullying and failed to discipline his tormenters.
The hearing by Senate and Assembly committees followed the recent suicide of an 18-year-old Rutgers student whose roommate was accused of broadcasting his tryst with another man online.
Lawmakers are deciding whether to revamp the 2002 anti-bullying law, which urged schools to create anti-bullying programs. Sponsors don't believe it goes far enough.
The new bill requires public school teachers and staff to receive training in suicide prevention and dealing with bullying. It also requires school districts to establish anti-bullying programs and sets deadlines for teachers and administrators to deal with complaints.
The measure has bipartisan support in the Legislature.
Critics have raised questions over whether the bill violates the U.S. Constitution by restricting free speech. They also say requirements for schools to keep records of bullying incidents would cost money that districts don't have.