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NJ considers law to regulate bullies...at the college level

Published On: Apr 29 2013 05:21:15 AM CDT

NJ bill wants to regulate bullying in college

Many grade schools regulate bullies, but what about colleges? There's a new push to do just that, but some critics think the idea goes too far.

The video shocked even the most hardened athletes. Now-fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice throwing balls at his players, kicking and screaming at them, and calling them homophobic slurs.

It was bullying -- not from a student, but a teacher.

"They should be just like anyone else," said Terri Cavanaugh of Phillipsburg, N.J. "They're professionals; they should act professional."

But New Jersey's anti-bullying law, which requires a trained specialist to investigate bullying complaints, does not cover colleges or their coaches. It only covers K-12 schools.

Some believe such a law would be ineffective on college campuses, full of students who are legal adults.

"No, I think it works more for the elementary children than it does for the colleges," said Tom Andrews of Phillipsburg.

There are now moves in Trenton and Washington to expand the law. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D - Warren/Hunterdon counties, is proposing a bill requiring colleges to create anti-bullying programs.

But some in the Garden State wonder whether it all goes just a little too far, and some experts agree. Psychologist Dr. Robert Gordon said bullying laws need to have enough flexibility to protect kids and teachers from being wrongly accused.

"We don't want it so specific that it doesn't give a person some degree of discretion," he said.

"If your child goes to school and says, 'Ew, that's an ugly dress,' you could be dragged into court because your child is bullying," said Lois Keim of Milford, N.J.

Instead, Gordon said laws focus on prevention -- showing teachers and other students how to spot a pattern of abuse.

"So they know the difference between normal competition and spats that kids have, as opposed to a child that enjoys being sadistic," he said.

The question is: can you legislate another Rutgers incident from happening again?