You’ll be seeing more and more articles by hand-wringers and worriers who claim that stop-bullying programs might become too hyper-vigilant, that “normal” behaviors will now be labeled bullying and that kids will be encouraged to rat each other out. Of course, such over-reactions might be possible, but these anxiety-ridden defenders of the way things are, look only at one side of the equation.
The worriers usually give three types of arguments:
- As detailed in his article in the Wall Street Journal, “Stop Panicking About Bullies,” Nick Gillespie’s kid is okay so he thinks the rest of you wimpy parents with wimpy kids are the problem. Get strong and your kids will stop bullies.
- Our country was made strong by individualists, not by big government so let’s not create a bureaucratic monster to solve a kid problem. Statistics show that childhood is safer than ever but today’s worrying parents need something to worry about and want big government to protect their interests.
- We’ll go too far and create a Nazi-style socialistic state in which normal kids are labeled bullies and punished too harshly, while all kids are encouraged to become the thought-police; just like in communist or military dictatorships.
These same objections were made to programs designed to protect women from being battered by spouses or raped by dates. They’re also the same arguments made to justify not having programs to stop bullying at work.
These objections to laws and programs that stop bullies, and requirements that principals, district administrators, teachers and staff stop bullying are based on viewing a tiny possibility as if it’s the whole situation and all that matters.
Yes, these fears might be realized in a very few situations. Some normal dislikes or arguments between kids might get blown up hysterically into cases of bullying. Power hungry kids might use accusations of bullying to further their own ends.
But that’s going to be a very small percent of the daily experience of kids at school. And the responsible adults are supposed to have the intelligence and determination to minimize these injustices.
In the minds of nit-picking perfectionists, laws have to be perfect. To them, one bad possibility far outweighs the benefits from a thousand situations in which bullying might be stopped. I think that’s a ridiculous way of thinking.
So let’s expand the picture more and look at daily school life now, without stop bullying programs or principals willing to be strong and courageous.
Approximately 50% of kids admit to having been bullied at school and to not being protected by supposedly responsible adults. Many more report that they’ve witnessed bullying and when they’ve reported it, they got in trouble. Are we going to continue tolerating a huge amount of relentless bullying because we’re worried that we might go too far in protecting kids?
How many suicides will it take before we think the risks of not having programs that protect kids far outweigh the risks of over-reacting with programs that are too strong or too misguided?
Let’s expand our vision to similar situations of abuse and brutality to children. How many Jerry Sandusky’s or child-molesting priests does it take before we demand laws to protect kids, and courageous, right action from respectable adults?
I’d rather swing the pendulum far to the side of protecting the targets and victims of bullying, and live with the very minor consequences of the potential for some misuse of the programs.