The Bully Initiative

Because our schools are doing everything else so well…

Under a new state law in New Jersey, lunch-line bullies in the East Hanover schools can be reported to the police by their classmates this fall through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.

In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling.

And at North Hunterdon High School, students will be told that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying: if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it.

The impetus for this is the Anti-Bullying … wait for it … Bill of Rights, a cumbersome new law that is imposing all kinds of policies on schools who already have strained budgets. It mandates reporting, includes “cyber-bullying”, requires the creation of antibullying specialists and is lining the pockets of various interests:

This summer, thousands of school employees attended training sessions on the new law; more than 200 districts have snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual and a DVD.

That’s a cool quarter of a million for however threw that together.

The impetus for this is the death of Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after a video of him having sex with another man was circulated. But that’s more harassment and invasion of privacy than bullying. That can be prosecuted under existing law. Moreover, Clementi was a college student, not a high school student. As a general rule, laws passed after a tragedy are bad news. Laws that encourage anonymous tips to police are a recipe for an outrageous persecution of some poor kid.

This is my favorite quote:

“Kids have to learn to deal with conflict,” [Margaret Dolan] said. “What a shame if they don’t know how to effectively interact with their peers when they have a disagreement.”

But they’re not going to learn how to interact with peers and deal with conflict if a psychologist leaps out from behind the bushes every time two kids get into a conflict. Part of growing up is learning to deal with people who are assholes. This is something kids have to learn on their own. The only time authorities should step in is when there’s a real danger of physical violence. Once of things I like about Sal 9000 Beta’s day care is that the teachers don’t leap in every time two kids have a squabble, even if one kid is clearly being a jerk. The kids need to learn how to function on their own. And they do.

The real damage, I suspect, will be to education. This is just one more regulation, one more piece of bureaucratic bullshit that the poor public school teachers of New Jersey have to deal with. It’s bad enough that the state is looking over their shoulder, trying to micromanage every minute of class time and making a federal case when they try to discipline a student (or fire an incompetent colleague). Now they have to be on the alert for anything that can be remotely called bullying or be in violation of the law.

This wasn’t a difficult issue to deal with. Criminal sanctions can be used to punish those who intimidate, threaten or abuse others. But creating a huge mandate for training, snitching and counseling is just asking for disaster. It’s another iteration of the “We must do something! This is something! Let’s do it!” mentality that characterizes public policy.

This will blow up in New Jersey’s face. Just watch.

  1. Part of growing up is learning to deal with people who are assholes.

    Bingo. It is a BIG part of it.

    The real damage, I suspect, will be to education.

    I would say perhaps the biggest damage is to American business. Maybe it’s just my personal experience but I have run into this new mentality in young workers and it’s getting worse. I hate to sound like my parents and grandparents but kids aren’t like we were. Young workers have SEVERE entitlement issues and things like this add the additional problem of not being able to correct those views. They don’t want to work, don’t give two shits about integrity or doing the right thing. The second you call them on it they accuse you of “bullying” them. Demanding they do what they get paid to do is bullying now. Raising your voice is bullying. In my line of work I am responsible for the end product, it’s my ass and my livelihood on the line. Therefore, I demand the same from those assisting me as from myself. It’s almost impossible to find people who understand and respect that. Programs like this only feed the problem. There are no consequences, if you call getting called on the carpet for your screwups a consequence.

    Again this is my personal experience related to the story so it’s perhaps skewed. But this touchy feely crap is practically ingrained in the local culture. Hell, my old company even had a bullying policy, which is partly why I don’t work there anymore. If requiring excellence for the higher than average pay was bullying I guess I’m guilty. I can live with that.

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  2. Many kids are naturally mean as a defense mechanism. I think extreme cases with older kids and legitimate harrassment should be dealt with, but this is just one more example of turning us into a society of informers.

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