Civil liberties organization sues to overturn anti-bullying law

Part 93 of 93 in the series Educating America

By Mary C. Tillotson |

If a Jewish student refers to the Holocaust and says the German Nazis were evil, and a German student overhears, should the Jewish student be punished for bullying?

Because of this and other similar situations resulting from New Jersey’s anti-bullying law, the Rutherford Institute has filed a federal lawsuit trying to strike down the law.

“It’s overbroad. It affects free speech. It should be written better,” said John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. “It uses a so-called ‘reasonable observer’ — if a reasonable person thought this would be demeaning or harmful — but … this would apply to first-graders, second-graders. Are first, second, third, fourth, fifth graders reasonable people?”

Whitehead suggested teachers handle bullying situations discreetly and call parents to make sure they’re aware of how their children are behaving. The current anti-bullying laws aren’t working how they ought to, he said.

“It chills free speech. Kids are going to be afraid to say anything factually,” he said.

Also on this segment of Reform School, guest Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, discussed with Choice Media issues including the Chicago Public Schools’ budget, a safety drill gone wrong in Cleveland schools, a New Jersey appellate court approving of blended-learning charter schools, a spat over testing for choice students in Florida and teacher evaluation reform.

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at