Two New Jersey congressman reintroduced a bill last week that seeks to combat harassment and cyberbullying on college campuses by mandating that colleges have specific and inclusive anti-harassment policies. The bill, called the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, is named in honor of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi who took his own life in September last year following harassment from his peers.
The legislation, reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), would require all colleges and universities that receive federal student aid to have in place a policy to prohibit the harassment of students based on their perceived or actual race, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex or gender identity.
Students would have to be made explicitly aware of this policy and would also be given guidelines on what action to take should they find themselves victims of such harassment. The legislation would also provide for specific counseling and support programs for those who are victims of harassment.
Furthermore, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act would require colleges to formally recognize cyberbullying as harassment, and therein use all applicable anti-harassment policies against it. The legislation also provides funding for universities to establish or expand programs that help to prevent bullying.
From Rep. Halt’s press release:
“Universities should not only be institutions of learning, but places of compassion and respect as well,” Holt said. “The purpose of our legislation, named in memory of Tyler Clementi, is to support colleges as they put in place and strengthen anti-harassment and anti-bullying programs. We can’t legislate tolerance, but we can work to make campuses a more positive and safe atmosphere.”
“The tragic impact of bullying has the attention of the entire nation, from forums at the White House to conversations around dinner tables, and we must all take steps to prevent harassment,” said Lautenberg, who is participating in an anti-bullying summit at the White House today. “This legislation would ensure that all college students have the opportunity to learn in a safe and civil environment. While there is no way to completely eliminate the cruelty that some students choose to inflict on their peers, there should be a clear code of conduct at all universities to prohibit harassment.”
The legislation is named in honor of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year-old freshman at Rutgers University who took his life in September 2010 after his roommate and another student harassed him and violated his privacy over the Internet.
The bill is supported by Garden State Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Women’s Law Center, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Anti-Defamation League, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Trevor Project, Security on Campus, Inc., National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.
This comes as the White House just last week opened its doors for a conference on bullying prevention. The Obama administration also launched the stopbullying.gov website.
The website provides information on how to deal with bullying for teens, young adults, parents, educators and also provides a page on community actions too. Also, there are dedicated pages dealing with cyberbullying and anti-LGBT.
The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill to tackle anti-LGBT bullying and institutionalized homophobia in public schools, was also recently reintroduced in Congress. Read more about the legislation here.