Anti-bullying laws don't work
New Jersey began the school year proudly proclaiming the enactment of the toughest anti-bullying law of any state in the nation, making schools legally responsible for the behavior of their students toward one another.
The U.S. Department of Education previously declared the failure of the nation's anti-bullying efforts, labeled bullying an epidemic and called for exploration of new approaches to solving the bullying problem.
Nevertheless, like New Jersey, whenever a state discovers its anti-bullying laws are failing, it doesn't re-evaluate its existing measures but merely toughens them. We need to consider whether intensifying a failing war is finally going to succeed in making our children safe from bullies.
In the previous century, the wisdom of the disastrous war against alcohol was questioned and Prohibition was finally repealed. For decades, people have questioned the wisdom of the disastrous war against drugs. Yet after years of disastrous warfare against bullies, is the only possible conclusion that we need to escalate the war?
Shouldn't logical people consider the possibility that the escalating problem of bullying might be related to the escalating war against bullying?
Aristotle, one of the greatest logical thinkers in history, said, "The one thing no state or government can do, no matter how good it is, is to make its citizens morally virtuous." Have anti-bully laws refuted his logic• Is it now possible for government to create by force of law an environment in which everyone is always nice to each other?
If it can, why hasn't it begun with the home, where the most frequent and serious bullying of all goes on, with 50 percent of couples divorcing each other and siblings fighting daily in almost every family?
And why hasn't government gotten rid of bullying within government?
The huge body of research on whole-school anti-bullying programs, the very approach that New Jersey is mandating, reveals that they rarely reduce bullying and often lead to an intensification of the problem.
Researchers have found that victims of bullying tend to have parents that overprotect them. Can we reduce the number of bullying victims by overprotecting students in school?
If schools should be sued for failing to stop students from bullying each other, shouldn't parents be sued for failing to stop their children from bullying each other at home?
Can we promote students' self-confidence and self-reliance by teaching them that they are not capable of dealing with bullying by themselves but need to rely on everyone else to solve their problems for them?
If I report you to the authorities, you will despise me. Can schools make children get along better by encouraging them to tell on each other to the school authorities?
Parenting experts tell us that when we pay attention to negative behavior, we get more negative behavior. Can schools decrease bullying when they are mandated by law to pay attention to every act and complaint of bullying?
Unless we are willing to ask these questions, New Jersey and other states will be doomed to continue funding an intensifying anti-bully crusade while fighting a proportionately intensifying bullying problem. And it will be precluded from discovering an easy, inexpensive and effective solution.
Izzy Kalman is a school psychologist and director of Bullies2Buddies, a program that reduces bullying by teaching kids how to handle it on their own.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ fourth-round pick Grant relies on smarts to get job done
- Highmark to pay disputed claims filed by rival UPMC
- Rossi: Not too early to go with Kang
- NFL finds Patriots employees probably deflated balls
- Ligonier Township mourns K-9 officer killed in wrong-way crash
- Butler County man accused of selling deadly drugs
- Oil train derailment prompts evacuation in North Dakota town
- Birth adds to Fayette County man’s collection of miniature horses
- Pa. Gov. Wolf’s general counsel tied to $358M bond project winner
- Nominees announced for Pittsburgh CLO Kelly awards
- Missing Indiana Township girl home safe