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Thinking of the children

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The New Year has jumped off to an auspicious start, with some of the nation’s thorniest problems affecting young people seeing astounding new solutions:

•   Bullies have been banned in New Jersey
•   San Francisco political leaders have created the conditions for kids to finally get the carrots and broccoli they’ve been craving, and
•   The tragedy of bicycle violence, fed by a lack of any system of government regulation, may also be coming to an end.

A new New Jersey law is certain to end forever the act of bullying. The legislation, which establishes an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, was signed by Governor Chris Christie this month after passing by a 78-1 vote in the state’s Assembly and a unanimous vote in the Senate, completely routing pro-bullying interests.

A news release by one supporting group enthuses that “The era of vagueness and loopholes in anti-bullying laws is over, and hope for our children has begun.”

The statute mandates that all New Jersey teachers, administrators and school board members — whether they are currently bullies or not — undergo anti-bullying training. It also requires each school district to have a bullying coordinator and every individual school to employ an anti-bullying specialist, who will lead an anti-bullying team comprised of the principal, a teacher and a parent.

This helpful junta is also required to meet twice a year to examine the situation in their school. Unfortunately, the 8,575-word bill doesn’t stipulate where they will meet, what time or what refreshments will be served. So, clearly, legislators and community activists have more work ahead hammering out the critical details.

To fill all these new job openings, the number of college students majoring in Anti-Bullying Arts is expected to rise considerably.

This Bill of Rights also imposes strict timelines for reporting and adjudicating instances of bullying, and furthermore, wisely demands that there be a resolution of the situation. Why didn’t anyone think of that before? After all, we should absolutely resolve to resolve these cases.

Under the law, there will be year-round anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade level and an annual Week of Respect with anti-bullying lectures . . . and, in due course, games and rides. Even students at public universities must receive a copy of their school’s anti-bullying policies within seven days of the start of the fall semester.

Obviously, even with this new, incredibly aggressive anti-bullying system, not every act of intimidation or violence will be prevented. But certainly the days of bullies bullying their bullied victims without also tying up the entire educational bureaucracy are over.

The only downside to this innovative approach is that math, English and history had to be dropped entirely. There just isn’t the time, manpower and other resources to do it all.

Of course, bullying isn’t the only serious dilemma being addressed by New Jersey legislators. Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex) is drafting a bill, A-3657, to regulate today’s wild-west world of bicycles.

She suggests each bike should have a license plate and that riders would be required to register their bicycle each year and pay a $10 fee. Anyone caught up in a road-block or SWAT sweep of their neighborhood and found in possession of an unregistered weapon — er, bike — would face a fine of $100.

For now, bicycle criminals would not face prison time.

The legislation is in response to several incidents where kids riding bicycles allegedly knocked down elderly citizens. Because the speeding two-wheeled vehicles lacked flashy, large-lettered license plates, the perpetrators could not be identified and brought to justice.

While most of the victims of unregulated bicycle violence have thus far been elderly, it stands to reason that bicycle bullies will also prey disproportionately on the young, minorities and the poor.

Still, when it comes to protecting citizens, bullies and bicycles are not the only problems. Happy Meals — the sole cause of childhood obesity — come to mind as well.

Nor is Jersey the only place for solutions. There is the City by the Bay. In November of last year, San Francisco enacted a ban on restaurants offering their customers toys with their meals, if the meals fail to meet certain nutritional requirements.

“If there is no toy, kids wouldn’t eat the meal,” says San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, a stalwart advocate of the new law. Strange, when I was a kid I loved Mickey D’s for its hamburgers, fries and milk shakes, even though we were denied free toys in those dark days.

The ordinance won’t take effect until next December, but already Frisco kids appear to be surviving into adulthood.

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