Bullying: Crisis or panic?

Don’t panic about bullying, writes Nick Gillespie in the Wall Street Journal.

I have no interest in defending the bullies who dominate sandboxes, extort lunch money and use Twitter to taunt their classmates. But there is no growing crisis. Childhood and adolescence in America have never been less brutal. Even as the country’s overprotective parents whip themselves up into a moral panic about kid-on-kid cruelty, the numbers don’t point to any explosion of abuse. As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses.

“Despite the rare and tragic cases that rightly command our attention and outrage,” things are getting better for children, Gillespie writes. In particular, school victimization rates are way down, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 1995, 12 percent of students said they feared “attack or harm at school” That declined to 4 percent in 2009.

Twenty-eight percent of children said they were bullied in 2005, according to NCES. That rose to 32 percent in 2007, then returned to 28 percent in 2009. That’s not a raging epidemic, writes Gillespie, though “new anti-bullying laws and media campaigns might lead to more reports” in the future.

Bully, a documentary showing victimized children and ineffectual adults, opened yesterday. It’s a powerful, disturbing movie, writes LA Times reviewer Kenneth Turan.

In one scene, a school administrator tells a victim that he’s just as guilty as the bully because he was insincere when he accepted the bully’s insincere apology.

 

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