Everyone knows what it’s like to be bullied. It’s not fun. But the fact remains that bullies will always exist throughout our lifetime. It is how we deal with them personally that is important. However, the State now feels it’s their duty to protect the feelings of all children by criminalizing verbal abuses. Whatever happened to “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”
New Jersey schools announced they will be using police to restrict speech and combat child bullies, or anyone else a student snitches on. According to The New York Times, school children (including kindergartners) will receive training in how to properly snitch on their fellow students:
In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling.
The broad law was motivated by the suicide of a college student, Tyler Clementi. Indeed, any suicide is tragic, but the idea that the government employing children to police their peers will curb emotional turmoil is preposterous and likely to be very destructive.
The Anti-Bullying law, considered the toughest in the nation, is not voluntary. They are planning on teaching students that “if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it.” It seems to be early conditioning for the equally disturbing citizen spy program “If You See Something, Say Something” promoted by the Department of Homeland Security. What’s more, the program appears to also be following the example of the NSA cartoons used to encourage kids to spy on their parents.
It seems that the new role of the public schools is to actually prepare pupils for the “real” world that is also growing less tolerant and hostile of nonconformity. As such, “anti-bullying” appears dangerously close to becoming the buzzword for a war on independence.
The school Board requires students “to conform to reasonable standards of socially accepted behavior” on and off campus. The standards are the far-reaching six-part definition of “Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying” (PDF) that teachers and students will now be expected to comply with and enforce:
‘Harassment, intimidation, or bullying’ means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, as defined in N.J.S.A. 18A:37-14, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents that:
1. Is reasonably perceived as being motivated by either any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability; or
2. By any other distinguishing characteristic; and that
3. Takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds, as provided for in N.J.S.A. 18A:37-15.3, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other pupils; and that
4. A reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, that the act(s) will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a pupil or damaging the pupil’s property, or placing a pupil in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his/her person or damage to his/her property; or
5. Has the effect of insulting or demeaning any pupil or group of pupils; or
6. Creates a hostile educational environment for the pupil by interfering with a pupil’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the pupil.
The same policy report listed the consequences for violating the “pupil behavioral expectations and standards” as:
2. Temporary removal from the classroom;
3. Deprivation of privileges;
4. Classroom or administrative detention;
5. Referral to disciplinarian;
6. In-school suspension during the school week or the weekend;
7. After-school programs;
8. Out-of-school suspension (short-term or long-term);
9. Reports to law enforcement or other legal action;
10. Expulsion; and
11. Bans from providing services, participating in school-district-sponsored programs, or being in school buildings or on school grounds.
So, anyone ratted out for creating “a hostile educational environment for the pupil by interfering with a pupil’s education” will be ostracized from their peers, or worse, arrested for behavioral crimes. In other words, they must conform to robotic, non-offensive behavior or they’re out. Understandably, some non-violent behavior does cause pain, but surely society must know that eye-for-an-eye juvenile justice will not benefit any of the children.
We can expect the same result that’s found throughout history of citizen spy programs, where such an apparatus is used to avenge personal vendettas. The idea that children won’t abuse this statute, when history shows their adult counterparts doing just that, is unlikely.
Finally, we live in a society that openly promotes division and hate at every level and is now claiming it is the fault of an underage misguided child. I’m sure there are many parents who feel that something must be done about bullying and applaud this crackdown on “unacceptable” behavior. These parents would be better off instilling trust and confidence in their children to withstand potential insults, rather than make it the duty of the State. Being ridiculed for being different should be a badge of honor in a conformed-but-insane world.