Minnesota’s new anti-bullying law for schools is long overdue.
It will require training for administration, teachers and staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of bullying behavior, which are often not easily seen. It will also require schools to come up with very specific and – hopefully – effective ways to deal with incidents of bullying.
No child who goes to school should ever be bullied, period. Most people, we’d like to think, would agree with that, but for far too long the old lame (and even cruel) responses persisted:
“Oh, well, being bullied is part of growing up. It makes for true grit in a kid.”
“We were bullied when we were in school, and we turned out just fine.”
“If kids would learn to fight back against the bully, it would stop.”
“Just ignore the bullies and they’ll stop.”
It’s a sure bet people who went to school even a couple decades ago, if not last year, have heard those lame excuses, all of which were pathetic rationales to protect the bully, not the bullied. Many of us can remember teachers or staff witnessing incidents of bullying in hallways or playgrounds and doing nothing about it, not even scolding the bullies.
It’s shameful how what we’ve learned not to tolerate in the workplace, some people tend to wink away when it comes to schools and children.
The legislature’s law emphasizes creating detailed policies and rapid responses to deal with bullying for all parties involved, and that includes incidents of bullying via texting and on social media. Detractors of the bill, naturally, have been howling about how the law is a big over-reach, an unfunded mandate, a time-destroyer. One of them, Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker) even compared the law to George Orwell’s nightmare novel about Big Brother, 1984. It’s true there’s a blurry line about how far should schools pursue investigations into out-of-school bullying via cyberspace, but if it harms students it absolutely should be pursued by parents, the schools and the law. The two Columbine killers, by the way, had extensive threats and detailed hideous plans about how to kill their fellow students – plans spelled out on their computers and their texting chat. At least two parents complained, the police investigated and then did nothing about it. They dropped the ball, and we all know what happened.
Detractors of the law say all the state’s schools have bullying policies and so there is no need for any state mandates. On the contrary, many school districts have “policies” that are a few sentences long, so vague as to be meaningless. The much-touted “local control” often means, in reality, “lack of control” over festering problems, including bullying. If the state or the federal government has to step in to fix those problems, so be it, just as they will have to step in to combat cases of voter suppression growing rampant these days.
“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” Absolutely not true. Even if bullying doesn’t lead to violence, it can still cause emotional discomfort, fear and in some cases lifelong lack of confidence in students who should feel at all times comfortable, safe and secure both in and out of schools.
That is what the Minnesota law now acknowledges, and we should, too. We should acknowledge the bullying problem by welcoming and supporting this new law.