“Congress Must Pass Law to Prevent Teenage Bullying in School” – Say WHAT??
Yes, this truly is the subtitle of a new posting by the Center for American Progress this month. The post, entitled “More than a Bully Pulpit” is insisting that Congress get on with passing laws addressing bullying in schools.
Conceptually it sounds ok — we all know that bullying is running rampant in so many of our schools. But I have some problems both with what’s being proposed, and what it’s actually supposed to accomplish.
First, if you read the post, American Progress is implying that the issues of bullying and protection for students, is largely a LGBT one. The post begins by citing new research that indicates students that are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or trans-gender students that suffer bullying experience “long-term effects extending well into young adulthood.” I agree, that is very likely true. However, this can be said of ANY child, not just an LGBT student.
Second, the two pieces of legislation that are being proposed can’t really be called “prevention” methods, at all. One, the “Student Non-Discrimination Act,” talks about prohibiting “public schools from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and require schools to respond to harassing behavior.” Uh, let me see…aren’t schools already required, by virtually every STATE in the country, to act on bullying in schools? How are the schools expected to respond? By suspending students for 2-3 days of “home time” as so many do now? How will this “prevent” bullying?
The next one, the “Safe Schools Improvement Act,” is described as requiring “schools receiving federal funds to adopt policies that specifically prohibit bullying and harassment based on a range of student characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity.” I’m pretty danged sure that again, most schools have policies that “prohibit bullying.” I can’t think of a single one that actually allows it by policy. But here, my question is: “how are we going to determine the range of student characteristics for which bullying is prohibited?” Clearly gender identity is protected, but does that mean you may not be bullied for being LGBT, but if you are hetero, it’s ok? Perhaps you can’t bully the overweight child, but if you are thin, you happen to be fair game?
No, I’m not trying to nitpick; I’m just trying to point out that once again, we are trying to apply bandaids to surface “bleeders,” when the severed artery goes untreated.
Bullying is not an LGBT issue, folks. As I’ve said before, it is an “equal opportunity epidemic.” And it’s one that you cannot, will not, legislate out of existence. Getting the “feds” in on it will not automatically make it more effective.
Are students with “gender issues” bullied? Of course they are. No argument there. But, so are straight kids. Kids with acne; kids with weight issues — heck, I was bullied as a child because I was passionate about horses, for crying out loud. “Different” is in the eye of the beholder and the reality is that kids pick on other kids because of power and self-esteem issues, not just because they are “anti-gay” or “anti-anything.” So, to try to legislate that underlying problem away is folly.
Yes, consequences need to be there for aberrant behavior. BUT, you have to address the behavior first. Bullying is a behavior and character issue; work on those and you’ll see you have to apply the stick a lot less often, and it won’t require the “big minds” to spend time and energy on a problem that cannot be solved at their level. It’s just another activity that makes us “feel good” that someone is doing something about the problem.