While Uncle Sam is busy busting legitimate American companies like Gibson Guitars for allegedly using the wrong kind of wood, and local police are obsessed with closing down childrens’ lemonade stands, state governments are feverishly overreacting to schoolyard “bullying.”
In a misguided effort to identify and punish school bullies, state governments from New Jersey to Georgia are enforcing so-called “anti-bullying” laws that actually do more harm than good. These nanny-state laws teach kids to snitch on each other and to interject themselves into situations that may wind up getting themselves injured. The broad reach of these laws extend far beyond the jurisdiction of the schools.
Last year, for example, the Georgia legislature enacted a law to combat bullying in school systems across the state. The GOP-backed measure, led by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-Atlanta), extends to students’ use of e-mail and other social media sites like Facebook.
Other states are following suit; but New Jersey’s effort may take the prize as the most ridiculous. It requires students to report any perceived incidents of “bullying,” and demands they attempt to stop such actions if they witness them. It also establishes a vast anti-bullying bureaucracy; stretching from individual classroom monitors, to the principals’ offices, the school district level, and all the way to the state-wide education department.
According to The New York Times, the new law – the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” – will allow teachers and students to anonymously report perceived incidents of improper behavior. The extensive bureaucracy that will be put in place requires that schools “designate an anti-bullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an anti-bullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site.”
Many teachers and administrators are unhappy with the new system. They complain they do not have the resources or money to comply, which could put their licenses in jeopardy. The anonymous tip provision is likely to be used as a way for children to target students they dislike.
Often these laws are passed as knee-jerk reactions to particular incidents that clearly transcend the line between bullying and criminal acts of violence (which, of course, are punishable under existing statutes). Much like “hate crimes” laws long-favored by liberals, New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights was passed as a reactionary measure nearly a year after a gay college student tragically committed suicide; the result of being humiliated after his roommate secretly streamed a video of a private moment with another young man.
While kids may be unfair and cruel to one another — a natural rite of passage — and there no doubt are and always will be serious instances of abuse, bullying actually has been on the decline in recent years. A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, for example, found that the number of children who reported being bullied fell from 22 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2008.
Parents and teachers obviously should teach children to respect others, and truly harmful behavior must be pubished; but overreaching laws such as these now in effect in New Jersey and Georgia, are as likely to do more to endanger kids than protect them.
The Nanny State run amuck . . . again.
By Bob Barr — The Barr Code