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Anti-Bullying: Can the Schools Be Trusted?

One of the new initiatives of government is to act against the bullying of children.  As a general matter, I believe that concern about bullying is a force for good.  As a child, I experienced a little bit of bullying (as do virtually all children) but saw others who were treated much worse.  From my own experience and observations, I can attest to how harmful such bullying can be for a child.

One might argue that parents should be the ones who address bullying but of course parents cannot do the job entirely.  They are often not aware that the bullying is occurring and my guess is that the children who are bullied often had parents who were bullied and therefore would not really know how to address it.  Thus, additional protection would be helpful and government schools appear to be well positioned to intervene.

Unfortunately, government does a poor job of most things and bullying is likely to be one of them.  The standard litany of public choice problems ranging from poor incentives to do a good job, poor knowledge about how to do that job, and the power of special interests and ideological extremists apply in this area no less than others.  And the more jobs that government undertakes, the less likely they are to do each one of them well.

Low test schools and poor learning are just a small part of the problems with government schools.  There are, of course, the problems of teachers unions and disciplining bad teachers.  And most pertinently, there are the absurdities of policies such as zero tolerance.  Thus, no one should be surprised if the schools do a poor job of policing against bullying.

My own experience with my child illustrates some of the problems.  When my child was in 5th grade, we were called to school, as he was being sent home for the day for fighting.  My child was very nervous, since he had never been suspended before and he knew we took schooling very seriously.

When we arrived, he told us that the other child had started the altercation, hitting him.  Our child had merely defended himself.  The principal confirmed that that was her understanding as well, but the school policy against fighting required her to suspend him.  This was, of course, absurd.  It taught our child to be a coward and not to defend himself.  And it punished the innocent.  Whatever the reason for the policy, it was not the decision of an institution that could be trusted.

My child was very surprised when we did not discipline him.  In fact, we told him he did the right thing.  I like to believe he learned an important lesson that day — that his parents did not believe that everything the school said was correct.

In my next post, I will discuss a recent example of the application of an anti-bullying law.

Reader Discussion

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on April 02, 2016 at 12:03:11 pm

" In fact, we told him he did the right thing."

In fact, YOU did the right thing!

" ...that his parents did not believe that everything the school said was correct."

And this is even better!

It is important for parents to provide a counter-narrative to the prevailing Progressive *mush* expounded by these graduates of the American Educational Establishment's Teacher Certification schools. All too often, these "educators" assume the role of *in loco parentis* ALL TOO HAPPILY. This expanded vision of "loco" duties takes on a virtual primacy over the ACTUAL parents and involves a rather large helping of Progressive folly posturing as parental guidance (loco, of course, (pun intended)).

Yet, there is more to it than this simple matter of undue influence upon a young child. This system of teacher intervention in what, in the past, would have been considered the "bumps and bruises, the collisions of childhood, assumes a greater importance for the "institution" of higher learning. It becomes part and parcel of a system designed to, and structured so as to assure the continued importance / primacy of the very educational establishment itself. How else to account for some of the sheer lunacy / idiocy of prescriptive "medicine" emanating from the halls of the local schoolhouse most of which are designed / intended to position the educrats as the protectors of all civil liberties.
I can picture an old schoolmarm, in a Smokey the Bear pose saying: Only a Teacher Can Prevent Educational Fires!!!!
Unfortunately, her noticeably upturned nose does not permit her to notice the smoldering embers at her very feet.

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gabe
on April 03, 2016 at 09:11:50 am

[G]overnment does a poor job of most things and bullying is likely to be one of them.
The standard litany of public choice problems ranging from poor incentives to do a good job, poor knowledge about how to do that job, and the power of special interests and ideological extremists apply in this area no less than others. And the more jobs that government undertakes, the less likely they are to do each one of them well.

Low test schools and poor learning are just a small part of the problems with government schools. There are, of course, the problems of teachers unions and disciplining bad teachers. And most pertinently, there are the absurdities of policies such as zero tolerance. Thus, no one should be surprised if the schools do a poor job of policing against bullying.

A poor job… compared to what?

Let’s consider your own child’s circumstances. What alternatives were there?

1. The teachers ignore the fighting. The rule of the jungle prevails at school – but, thank goodness, we can’t blame this on any affirmative action by the teachers, and that’s really what matters, right?

2. Teachers (a/k/a government agents) are empowered with unbridled discretion to rule on altercations they encounter – acting under the influence of all those pressures Rappaport so lovingly enumerates above. Teachers have every incentive to capitulate to whichever pressure is strongest. If the son of the school board member is a bully, too bad; it’s always the victim who is found to be at fault. But more generally, it is the child of the most powerless parents who are the most likely to take the blame.

3. Schools adopt a “no tolerance” policy. Everybody involved in an altercation gets a time-out, regardless of the social class of the parents.

Would any of these outcomes not count as "doing a poor job"? Or do you envision some different alternative?

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nobody.really
on April 03, 2016 at 11:29:24 am

Fair enough BUT;
re: Zero tolerance.

would you say suspending a six year old boy for 8cehwing* his pop tart into a shape vaguely resembling a gun is or is not a poor job?

would you say that suspending a six year old for a little kiss to a classmate and treating him as a sexual harasser is or is not a poor job.

shall I go on with these examples?

Or perhaps, per your thesis on "powerless parents" needs a little modification: ALL parents are powerless when confronted with the "progressive zeitgeist" of the day. Thus a transformation appears to have occurred during the last 3-4 decades. where once it may have been true to say that the powerful could expect *relief* for their little darlings, teachers have become more *democratic* - everyone is subject to the new puritanism.

And it does appear that, as you say, Teachers are provided with total discretion over discipline - after all they have arrogated to themselves a rather robust form of in loco parentis.

Should they possess this?
One would think that they may want to concern themselves with the Three R's - remember them?
Apparently, it no longer being taught in Teachers colleges, it can no longer be taught in primary / secondary schools. anyway, there is the new utopia to be taught replete with anti-bullying, anti- harassment, gender reassignment, choice loving, etc options that must be offered to six year olds.

Can't it wait until they have reached puberty, at least - or after they can read and write - Oops, that probably means sometime around age 25 nowadays!

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gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.