A recent article in EdWeek shared how the fight against bullying is moving into Congress. Many people would likely cheer that our Federal lawmakers are now taking on the problem of bullying (quick editorial: is it me, or do you find it ironic that CONGRESS is trying to enact laws against bullying…”do as I say?…”)
However, I don’t think this is a reason to get excited, for several reasons:
- How effective do you really think a federal law against bullying is going to be in stopping the problem? As of this writing 46 states already have laws on the books addressing this issue (for more on this see “You Can’t Bully Me, It’s Against the Law!!”)
- What is the purpose of this legislation? According to the EdWeek article this legislation is intended to “…protect students from bullying and harassment that would apply to every school and district in the country.” How, please, explain, HOW will legislation do that? By calling for schools and districts to have policies in place, establish reporting and consequences for violation. Swell. We have that. What good does it actually do? How did THAT help the 34 kids who killed themselves because of bullying last year?
- In this proposed legislation, there is a recommendation that special language be included to address bullying of LGBT students. WHY? Yes, the data shows that a high percentage of LGBT students are harassed and bullied. But, news flash: so are non-LGBT kids. Are you saying, Congress, that students that have alternative sexual preferences are somehow more “special” or deserving of protection than other children? Are you not, then, in fact, discriminating against those children who are unfortunate enough to not fall into your “special categories?”
Let me make the point: bullying is an equal opportunity epidemic. According to Minnestoa Senator Al Franken, 9 out of 10 LBGT students are harassed or bullied. Ok, that’s a high percentage, I agree. Further, one third of LGBT students report skipping school because they are afraid or don’t feel safe. Overall, in our nation, over 160,000 kids miss school each day. I’d be interested to see what the percentage of LGBT students are in that 160,000. My guess is that these students make up the minority of kids overall who are scared. Certainly there are more “mainstream” students than there are LGBT, so one could argue that we have MORE mainstream kids to protect than LGBT kids.
We have to get to the real issue here: we need to solve bullying — for all kids, not just LGBT. Bullying happens because of issues of power. The students who are bullied are picked on because they are PERCEIVED to be different. Those “differences” can be real — they can be LGBT students, for example. Maybe the student is fat, or skinny, or is poor and doesn’t wear the trendy clothes. But the differences can also be just perceptions: the “smart” kid gets picked on because he or she makes the others feel inadequate or dumb. They pick on a child of German descent, calling him a “Nazi,” or a Muslim student for being a “terrorist.”
The sad truth is that laws will NOT protect kids from bullying. They are just more “feel good” efforts that cost a lot of money and don’t change the culture. Changing the culture is what will reduce the bullying problem, but we are reluctant to embrace and act on change. CHANGE requires effort. It requires DOING. Once this Congress pats itself on the back saying “job well done” when it passes this law, who will be there to ensure that it is effective and meets its purpose? How will this “law” ensure that schools have both the funds and the incentive to put programs in place that have an effect on the culture and prevent bullying for all kids?
When the biggest complaint schools have is that “we can’t afford to do more,” how is all this time, money, and effort spent in the hallowed halls of Congress going to help THAT?
Guess this is just another case of “Your Tax Dollars at Waste.”