Monday, March 24, 2014

Bullying policies and legislation

All of us have experienced "bullying" or manipulation by threats.  None of us like being bullied, because it is with threats that we are pushed into doing something we do not want to do.  These threats can be for physical harm, social intimidation, blackmail, or ridicule.

Since we all have experienced the negative feelings associated with it, we all want to jump on the bandwagon when someone proposes outlawing it - as if there was a policy or law that when passed would just do away with it or, for those who want revenge, punish the perpetrator.  Few people will admit to having tried to manipulate someone else by a threat, though we have all done it.  We only see ourselves as the victims of "bad" people, who need to be manipulated, by threats of punishment or intimidation, into not bullying!

Do you see where this is going?!  Now most people will, at this point, say, "Well, you have to bully the bully to stop him/her from bullying."  The trouble is, it doesn't really work, though it can hide it.  What it usually does is make someone, who is intent on manipulating someone else, more sophisticated in their bullying.  In fact many if not most bullying laws and policies end up being used by bullies to further bully their victims!

Here is one example from the Expect Respect Program.  (Most problems with policies like this come when they are adopted as a "program," a nice little package that policymakers can just drop into place and say their work is done.)

Expect Respect has two major concepts, or golden rules:
Rule 1: If someone is feeling disrespected, they have the right to ask the person to stop what they are doing.
Rule 2: If someone asks you to stop, you have to stop what you were doing - even if you don’t think you were doing anything wrong.

It sounds great!  If they bully you, and you tell them to stop, they HAVE to stop...or you'll tell someone.  Do we really think that someone intent on bullying is just going to stop, because we say that?  The trouble comes where it says "- even if you don't think you were doing anything wrong."  This can then be used by a bully. (I hate using that term to describe one of God's children, because we have all done it.  It makes it seem as though someone was a demon in human form that can never change.)

The training that the school is then required to do (one MORE thing to do - as if they weren't already dealing with it), provides a response that can then be used by the "bully" to stop someone from doing right when the "bully" doesn't like it.  For example, one student tries to stop another from butting into a line.  The student in the wrong can then say, "Stop, you're bullying me!  Now you have to stop bothering me, or I will get you in trouble."  While we might say, "Go ahead and you'll be the one in trouble!"  But a little kid doesn't always think of that, and many times will be intimidated by the threat so they let the bully butt into line.

Many other examples can be given of a timid person in the right being bullied into allowing bad behavior by someone using the "program" designed to stop it.  This has been done over and over with anti-discrimination programs and legislation at the adult level.  Innocent people get discriminated against by the very legislation that was supposed to eliminate it.

Bullying is not stopped by "programs."  It is a process that people have to go through to learn respect for other people.  Policies, legislation, and programs can't do that.  You can't "make" a person be good.  They have to be taught correct principles by precept and example and then choose the better way, which they will usually do when taught by someone who has learned that principle themselves.  You can enforce punishments for specific harm, but bullying and discrimination laws give tools, rather than shackles, to the perpetrators.

Unfortunately we live in a world where we all are still trying to master the principle of love for neighbor.  Sometimes teachers and parents themselves both slip into bullying, and other times they become the victims.  It takes judgment at the personal level.  Just as "Zero Tolerance" policies and laws frequently punish people far beyond what is right and become very inflexible, bullying policies end up doing the same.

My suggestion is this: DON'T pass anti-bullying policies and legislation.  They don't solve the problem.  Local teachers and parents are doing their best to stop it already!  Those seeking to "look like" they are solving the problem from their elevated position like to propose these measures.  But they only make things more difficult for victims and those who seek to really solve the problem - teachers in the trenches and parents.

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