Anti-bullying drive hits students’ rights

Anti-bullying campaigns are infringing on students’ rights to free association, argues attorney Hans Bader.

For example, some schools are trying to regulate birthday invitations: All classmates — or all classmates of the same sex — must be invited so unpopular kids don’t feel left out. (My mother told me I couldn’t invite almost all the girls in my kindergarten class. It was all or half.)

Using politically-correct psychobabble about “power relationships,” some psychologists have sought to redefine bullying to include wielding “popularity,” not just violence.  For example, a recent survey by a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, Dewey Cornell, defined bullying as “the use of one’s strength or popularity to injure, threaten or embarrass another person on purpose,” and defined it to include “verbal” or “social” behavior, not just “physical” assaults and intimidation. defines “eye rolling” as a form of bullying, Bader writes. “Relational bullying” includes disrupting “another student’s peer relationships through leaving them out, gossiping, whispering and spreading rumors.” It’s hard to imagine a school on Planet Earth in which everybody is friends with everybody else and nobody gossips, whispers or spreads rumors.

A victim of  violent bullying as a child — and one rarely invited to birthday parties —  Bader thinks “these overbroad definitions of bullying trivialize actual bullying.”

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  1. While I do agree that the policies mentioned go too far, I find it interesting that he basically thinks that only the form of bullying that HE experienced as a child is the only kind of bullying that matters. Emotional/relational bullying can be just as devastating with long-reaching effects as physical bullying.

  2. dangermom says:

    And I agree with Dan. If we only count physical bullying, that would discount a lot of real bullying, especially (but not only) that experienced by girls.

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    One way not to impact “rights” would be something like “all party invitations must be delivered off of school property and buses.

    Because the “inviting everyone but one person” is a really awful form of girl-bullying, but it’s less problematic from a SCHOOL perspective if it happens off school grounds.

  4. Obi-Wandreas says:

    The continuing effort to define bullying down is doing nothing more than to produce a generation of weaklings. Yes, there are certain extreme cases of focused and concentrated emotional bullying, but those are the exception. Everyone has to deal with people who are mean to them; some, yes, are very mean. It’s hard and it’s cruel – that’s life. Suck it up and deal. Part of growing up is learning how to do just that.

    Anyone who doesn’t learn this will end up so fragile that they will be completely useless in their adult lives. These are the people who go running to their therapist the moment their boss fails to celebrate how special they are. These are the people who threaten to bring in lawyers when a teacher gives their child’s fingerprinting a B+.

    If you can’t learn to draw strength from friends, family, and within you will let the opinions of other consume you. Yes, there are real cases which need to be dealt with – but on a case-by-case basis. Any wide ranging program will only do what such programs always do – crush the innocent while failing to stop the real problems.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    You can have it one of two ways:

    Either bullying is the nasty stuff, and only the nasty stuff, or bullying isn’t really that bad after all and isn’t really the sort of terrible problem that requires drastic solutions.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Either we need to STOP BULLYING NOW!!!! or bullying gets to be defined to include eye-rolling and shunning.

  6. The less we expose kids to difficult interpersonal relationships at ages where hurt feelings are the worst-case scenarios, the more we leave them vulnerable to manipulation later on when legally they are responsible for themselves but haven’t developed the emotional or intellectual strength that is needed.

    I’m not saying adults shouldn’t intercede when abusive behavior occurs (and that’s what bullying is), but I think codifying laws to deal with it is largely a bad idea.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    The problem is that when it’s NOT codified, the adults let it go, parents can’t get help to stop it, the kid is just “a weakling who needs to suck it up” and she spends her entire 6th grade year wishing she’d just get hit by a truck and break her neck so that she wouldn’t have to go to school anymore. Hypothetically speaking.

    Because without intervention these situations do get steadily worse. Personally, I think the best solution is to remove the bullied child from the situation. But that’s not always possible, at which point parents need these rules and laws so they can FORCE the school to take action.

    Because many teachers just ignore bulltying or see it from an adult perspective rather than the trapped child’s. (who has no empirical proof that it WILL get better, no choice about whether she’s subjected to these people every day, and no outside support or tools to deal with the situation.)

    If an adult is bullied at work, he can switch jobs, or vent to his friends later. Since we do all our “socialization” through schools these days, if a whole grade turns against a child, she literally HAS NO FRIENDS TO TALK TO because any erstwhile friends quickly see that the option is to side with the bullies or be an outcast too.

  8. So when people fail, the legal system should take over. Sounds good but tread carefully on this theory…systemic solutions are very hard to define in legal parameters. For every problem you solve, you often create far more.

    I’ve been there and I know what it’s like to be bullied… I actually did spend time in a mental health day program in 8th grade because of school and personal issues. I’d have liked this legal solution then but 20+ years later I don’t think it’s so wise.

  9. The reality is that if bullying gets really bad, removing the kid from the school is the only real option.

    And most bullying isn’t really bullying, so these efforts are moronic and do indeed infringe on children’s rights as citizens.

    So yeah, for most cases, the answer is to grow a spine. The kid who legitimately wants a train to run her down needs to change schools.

  10. The kid who sincerely wants a train to run her down because of bullying doesn’t need a new school, she needs therapy and intervention in her family. Oh, and perhaps to be unhooked from the Real World / Jersey Shore tv shows that encourage drama and shallow priorities.

    I’ve seen plenty of students who were frequent targets of bullies. Some took it in stride, others spent more time in the guidance counselor’s or social worker’s office than in actual class. The one common factor among those resilient students was a strong family dynamic that insulated the student from various social pressures like bullying. They knew that ultimately they were loved and valued at home, and didn’t give a care about what Susie or Ronnie thought of them.

    I’ve occasionally had to provide advice to bullied students, and one of my key pieces is to (mentally) call the bully the same names that they are called. It usually gets the kid in a better mood quickly and seems to empower them a bit.

    The funny thing is if we were to impose traditional social standards as in the past, much of the bullying would cease. A lot of the ‘bullying’ nowadays is nothing more than impolite and rude behavior. I can’t believe how much time I have to spend at the beginning of each year teaching my students that dropping terms like retarded, stupid, faggot, etc, even if they’re joking, is obnoxious and not allowed in class.

  11. Having friends not connected to school also helps. Since all of my kids were serious full-time travel-team athletes, their closest friends were always teammates, not schoolmates. On a soccer team of 18 (max), it was unusual to have more than one or two kids from any one school and that was also true of a swim practice group of 25-28. Of course, it helped to be in a suburban area with many public and private schools.

  12. Cranberry says:

    I think Mr. Bader’s opinion of the definition of bullying may change when his daughter hits middle school, particularly if his daughter’s the target of cyberbullying.

    Now, do the officials at his local elementary school have the power to determine the size of his daughter’s birthday party? No, not even if they send out letters or draft policies to that effect. It would be kinder for the parents to mail out invitations, or to call the families, rather than distribute invitations in class.

    The only effective treatment for girl relationship bullying, in my opinion, is to change schools.

  13. superdestroyer says:

    Part of the problems with anti-bullying rules is that they were really create by militant homosexuals to be able to bully everyone else into doing what the militant homosexuals wanted.

    The militant homosexuals are vicious social engineers who want to control everyone else’s behavior and thus, are using the idea of bullying to control everyone else. Those militant homosexuals could not care less if the fat kids or the nerds are bullied. All the militant homosexuals want is to be at the top of social order in the schools.

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    Yes, I believe he did.
    However, he has a point. Any Accredited Victim Group wants to stack the deck on the behavior of others toward themselves. Whether this defining bullying down is a matter of the gay and lesbian groups’ politicking is a separate question.

    • Don’t forget the racial/ethnic and feminist groups. Look at the campus policies regarding racial/ethnic comments and rape allegations.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    I believe colleges are now to use the lower “preponderance of evidence” against men, instead of beyond a reasonable doubt.