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What's Wrong with the Anti-Bullying Bill?

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In the aftermath of the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi in September, New Jersey's congressional representatives are working on a national anti-bullying bill. This is understandable and ordinarily the sort of thing for which the representatives might be commended. Except for the substance of the bill, which ensures that it probably won't do much good. The trouble is that the bill appears to closely mirror the existing policies in place at Rutgers, polices that didn't help Clementi. According to an article that recently appeared in the Star-Ledger:

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate by Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In addition to requiring all colleges that receive federal aid to amend their harassment policies, the new law would provide funding to help schools start anti-bullying programs on campus.

In fact, Rutgers University had a policy in place designed to prevent harassment and bullying of students. The existing Rutgers policy essentially is Holt and Lautenberg's law. According to an article in Ridgewood Patch that appeared shortly after Clementi's death:

The [Rutgers] Student Code of Conduct bars "making or attempting to make an audio or video recording of any person(s) on University premises in bathrooms, showers, bedrooms, or other premises where there is an expectation of privacy with respect to nudity and/or sexual activity, with the knowledge and consent of all participants subject to such recordings."

And the Rutgers Policy Against Verbal Assault, Defamation, and Harassment also explains that "cyber-bullying or contact through electronic communication" totally counts. It's harassment, too.

At freshmen orientation Rutgers helped students to understand where they could go to address harassment problems. There were and are extensive disciplinary procedures and counseling services available on campus. The Rutgers anti-bullying policies have been in place for several years.

According to Lautenberg: "The tragic impact of bullying on college campuses has damaged too many young adults and it is time for our colleges to put policies on the books that would protect students from harassment."

Policies, apparently, just like those already on the books at Rutgers, the school where Clementi jumped off a bridge after being repeatedly harassed by his roommate.