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The Absurdity Of Anti-Bullying Laws

Inspired in part by the tragic death last year of Rutgers University Freshman Tyler Clementi after what appeared at first to be a case of anti-gay bullying by his roommate (the story has gotten a little more complicated over the past year), New Jersey has enacted a far-reaching anti-bullying law for public schools:

Under a new state law in New Jersey, lunch-line bullies in the East Hanover schools can be reported to the police by their classmates this fall through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.

In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling.

And at North Hunterdon High School, students will be told that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying: if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it.

But while many parents and educators welcome the efforts to curb bullying both on campus and online, some superintendents and school board members across New Jersey say the new law, which takes effect Sept. 1, reaches much too far, and complain that they have been given no additional resources to meet its mandates.

The law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Propelled by public outcry over the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, nearly a year ago, it demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.

Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses
“I think this has gone well overboard,” Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said. “Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the people and the resources to do this?”

On the surface it seems that Bozza has a point. Schools are already tasked with doing many things that have almost nothing to do with their educational mission, adding a new “anti-bullying” regime to the mix would seem to distract teachers and administrators from their primary task, education. Moreover, as someone who experienced his fare share of bullying back in the day (being the first kid in your class to wear glasses tended to do that in the 70s apparently), I really don’t know that getting school officials more involved is going to accomplish anything. Supporters of the law say that things have changed, that bullying today is more pervasive thanks to things like Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, and we’ve certainly seen more than a few examples of how cyber-bullying can lead to tragic results.

At the same time, though, I find mysel f agreeing with former Congressman Bob Barr that these laws tend to do more harm than good:

Other states are following suit; but New Jersey’s effort may take the prize as the most ridiculous. It requires students to report any perceived incidents of “bullying,” and demands they attempt to stop such actions if they witness them. It also establishes a vast anti-bullying bureaucracy; stretching from individual classroom monitors, to the principals’ offices, the school district level, and all the way to the state-wide education department.

According to The New York Times, the new law – the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” – will allow teachers and students to anonymously report perceived incidents of improper behavior. The extensive bureaucracy that will be put in place requires that schools “designate an anti-bullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an anti-bullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site.”

Many teachers and administrators are unhappy with the new system. They complain they do not have the resources or money to comply, which could put their licenses in jeopardy. The anonymous tip provision is likely to be used as a way for children to target students they dislike.

The likelihood of false anonymous complaints of bullying strikes me as being fairly high, given the behavior of children, adolescents, and teenagers in school situations. Girl A gets into an argument with Girl B, for example, so she puts in an anonymous complaint of bullying, which the school has to investigate. How many complaints like that will there be, all of them tying down administrative and teacher time that ought to be spent actually educating?

Anthropologist Janice Harper notes the same problem, and points out that laws like the one that just went into effect in New Jersey could actually make things worse for targets of bullying:

The situation is ripe for escalating the aggression against targeted individuals — whose emotional vulnerability when targeted is easily misperceived, exploited and recast as hostile the more “investigations” ensue under this new law. Those who are charged with launching and conducting these investigations — teachers, school administrators and social workers who are already overwhelmed at work — may well resent being compelled to document and investigate such unsettling and murky conflicts. Consequently, they may focus their investigation on the most vulnerable person — the “tattletale,” the “whistleblower,” the target whose “difference” marked them for social aggression or “bullying” in the first place.

(…)

Labeling, dehumanizing, and expelling people are forms of aggression and belong on a continuum of violence that grows ever greater the more they are sanctioned by authorities. Current anti-bullying rhetoric is among the most exclusionary, dehumanizing and aggressive trends developing in American society today and one I fear does more to embolden “bullying” than to remedy it. To better equip schools, parents, and children to address bullying behaviors, we might begin by analyzing bullying as a group phenomenon, and give greater power to all participants to defuse social conflicts informally, compassionately and independently. When it comes to dealing with “bullies,” one size does not fit all.

Harper’s insight is, I think, an important one. More often than not, victims of bullying tend to be children who are, for whatever reason, already emotionally vulnerable for one reason or another, and “different” from others. It’s usually those differences — intelligence, social awkwardness, lack of athletic skill — that serve as the impetus for the bullying to begin with. These type of laws only seem to serve to enhance those differences, and place the victims of bullying at a disadvantage when the matter boils down to a “he said/he said” situation, as most do. Moreover, it’s sad but true that teachers sometimes pick up on the same differences and accept the explanations of the “popular” kids, even if there the ones that happen to be doing the bullying.

Hans Bader notes another concern about these types of laws, and the general attitude that surrounds them that is exemplified by a school in West Berlin, New Jersey that requires students to invite all their classmates to their birthday party if they invite a single one:

[The policy states] If a student is inviting his/her classmates to a party, he/she must invite all of the students in the class or all of the female students or all of the male students. When invitations are given in school, students may not arbitrarily invite or exclude classmates from parties.”

(…)

Many of these bossy rules dictating who kids can invite to their own birthday parties are based on the weird idea that inviting only popular children is a form of bullying.  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.  So if you are “embarrassed” by a “popular” person you can accuse them of bullying. Still worse is the nobully.com web site, which defines even “eye rolling” as a form of bullying, so if you roll your eyes at a jerk, they can accuse you of “bullying.”  As someone who experienced real, violent bullying as a child, I think these overbroad definitions of bullying trivialize actual bullying.

This broad over-definition of bullying strikes me as profoundly silly and somewhat dangerous. On the surface, a rule that says that you have to invite all your classmates to your birthday strikes me as a violation of a students’ First Amendment right of free association, not to mention the fact that it strikes me as extending school authority way too far beyond school grounds. If the policy merely said that party invitations cannot be given out in school that would be one thing, but saying that a child’s parents has to host the entire class if their son or daughter wants a single classmate at a birthday party is absolutely absurd. More importantly, defining “bullying” as broadly as some would like to would essentially mean that unless children are friends with everyone, then they’re engaging in “bullying.” Or, as some experts suggested about a year ago, maybe children shouldn’t have “best friends” at all.

Respect for others and tolerance of differences are things that children most definitely ought to learn, although those are lessons best taught at home rather than in the classroom. At the same time, though, children need to learn that they aren’t always going to get along with everyone, and that it’s important to stand up for yourself. Real incidents of harrassment that target emotionally vulnerable students should obviously be dealt with (although, again, that’s also a lesson that begins at home). However, these anti-bullying laws strike me as an absurd over-reaction to a few tragic cases. They aren’t going to solve the problem, and they’re more likely to be used to bring more torment to the real targets of bullying than anything else.

Once again, the Nanny State has over-reacted.

Photo via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Haha, Bob Barr?

    Really?

    You actually quoted the freak in charge of impeaching Bill Clinton for a b.j. on government overreach?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  2. @ponce:

    Barr has changed significantly over the past ten years, Ponce

    Additionally, Clinton was impeached, and eventually disbarred, for lying under oath. Just to set the record straight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. michael reynolds says:

    The birthday party rule is quite common. It’s been the rule in every private school my kids have attended. It makes perfectly good sense at the elementary and even middle school levels. There’s nothing remotely controversial about it, and since it applies to the process of inviting people while at school, it is not an overreach.

    As for bullying in general, schools sometimes do a lousy job. Lunch periods and recess breaks are particularly problematic, and worse in schools with too little staff, and worse still in genuinely poor inner city schools. Passing a law forces a school district or individual school to take the matter seriously — as they should. It forces them to put staff on the playgrounds and in the lunchrooms — as they should.

    I quibble a bit with calling the cops, but if schools can’t protect kids why shouldn’t those kids have a right to protect themselves by appealing to law enforcement? Is it better for them to bring a knife to school the next day and take care of it themselves?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  4. @michael reynolds:

    I guess I should be happy that my birthday is in the summer time so that, when I was a child, I could have the birthday party I wanted rather than the one forced upon me by school administrators worried about hurting someone’s feelings.

    Also, If you read the policy from the NJ school, it appears to say that the rule applies whether or not the invitations are made at school or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Maybe you’re lucky you weren’t the kid who was regularly excluded. I realize compassion for your fellow human beings is anathema to any good Libertarian, but what is there about this that bothers you? Why is the desire of one kid to exclude others more important than the desire of the school to avoid the cliques and schisms that lead to bullying?

    Take it out of the school context. Let’s say it’s the company picnic. But the boss is only going to invite some of his employees and exclude others. He’s going to exclude the ugly ones, the fat ones, the ones whose voice he doesn’t like, and the employees who aren’t of his race.

    Sound like a good idea? Does it sound like t fosters teamwork at the office?

    The classroom is the place of work for kids. They are there under generally miserable circumstances, trying to learn enough to pass the idiot tests that Republican big government types rammed down the throats of their school district. And while they’re doing that they’d like not to be hit, threatened or generally made to feel like sh-t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  6. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds and @Doug Mataconis: The “birthday party rule” is new to me and I’m not sure I understand it. Is it simply that, if the kids are going to hand out invites in class, they have to invite everyone? Or is it that, if they’re having a party, then they can either invite everyone in class or no one, period, regardless of whether invites are made at school?

    While I can understand the justification for either, the latter strikes me as way too broad. Beyond it arguably being none of the school’s business who gets invited to a private function, most parents want to limit the size of kid’s parties. The rule of thumb is one kid per each birthday (that is, the six-year-old gets to invite six kids, the eight-year-old gets to invite eight, and so on). Having to invite 30 is just absurd.

    Additionally, it would seem to have the perverse effect of the dorky kid having to provide cake and ice cream for the kids who are bullying him!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Michael & James,

    Here’s the full text of what the rule is:

    .If a student is inviting his/her classmates to a party, he/she must invite all of the students in the class or all of the female students or all of the male students. When invitations are given in school, students may not arbitrarily invite or exclude classmates from parties.

    Now it’s possible that whoever wrote the parent/student handbook that this comes from is just being unclear, but as I read it, the rule applies whether or not invitations are handed out in class.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Just to reassure you, since mine are older than yours, it doesn’t usually work out that way. For a start you can invite only girls or only boys. Some won’t show up, so it ends up being close to the rule-of-thumb number.

    But what’s weird is that the rule-of-thumb has it backwards in my experience. When the kids are younger more parents stay and help supervise etc… By the time they’re 9 or 10 the parents are outta there in a heartbeat and you’re running the show by yourself. And the social pressure for some Big Deal party gets worse. Take the little ones to some indoor moonwalk place and they all run around screaming under the eyes of their own parents. Later is when you have to start worrying about “coolness” factor.

    Filling me with dread even as I write this. My daughter is 12 in December, and she loves parties. Thank God my son is anti-social.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @James Joyner: Birthday party rule is in effect at our kid’s school — if you bring invitations to school to hand out, you have to invite the entire class. Few people do that, most, just put an invitation in the mail or call.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. PD Shaw says:

    IOW, you don’t have to invite the entire class if you don’t distribute invites at the shool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. John Burgess says:

    I was only moderately popular in grade- and middle-school. There were parties to which I was invited and those to which I wasn’t. Somehow, my ego survived just fine. When my son was in those grade and doing up his guest lists, he was reminded that he should consider not only the most popular kids, but the final list was in his control. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    It’s the child’s party. The child has a constitutional right of association under the First Amendment, just as his parent do. Telling him that his right is limited in the name of not hurting feelings is an insult to the child and to the Constitution.

    What surprises me on the NJ law is that Gov. Christie signed it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: My oldest will turn 3 in December and my youngest is just 9 weeks, so not quite there yet. But you make a good point on the parents staying around for the young kids’ parties.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Racehorse says:

    @michael reynolds: The testing program that started in our state in the 1990′s was started by a Democrat governor and legislature. It has caused huge problems, solved nothing, and was made even worse by NCLB, which was at least partially sponsored by Ted Kennedy and brought even more testing, impossible goals, and insane rules.
    I disagree with the party thing. Our schools do not allow invitations to be given out at school, but some children do this before or after school in the halls, on the buses, etc. The teachers can’t police this all of the time. Some kids get left out, but you can’t invite everyone. To tell someone that they can or can’t invited someone to their own party at their home or other site is really getting to be big brother. There are clubs at schools that can be exclusive – I wasn’t invited to join hardly any clubs in high school. That’s just the way life can be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. @John Burgess:

    It was a law passed in reaction to the Clementi tragedy. As is usually the case when laws are passed in response to an individual tragedy, it is deeply flawed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Tammara Mills says:

    I was a very un-popular child in school. i was bullied constantly and it was a matter of I was more musically talented yet financially inferior to the rest of the children. All of our attitudes needed a great deal of maturity. Had I been invited to a party that I knew they didn’t really want me then I would not have gone. Law or no. The old saying goes “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” Holds true here too. You can make all the restrictive laws you want but you will still know those people don’t like you and never will! Parents need to teach their children at home about all those forgotten things like respecting each other, common decency (not so common anymore), morals and ethics!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. Dan says:

    The Birthday party rule has been common since at least the early 90s when I cared for my nephews going to school in Texas. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who sent kids to public schools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  17. John Burgess says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, I’m aware that ‘named laws’ are usually bad laws. I’m still surprised that Christie thought he had to go along with it. I thought him both smarter and braver than that.

    -1 Christie — +1 Moron Legislature and feel-gooders

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. jan says:

    When my son was young he wove himself in and out of popularity. Sometimes he was considered weird by his peers, which he kind of enjoyed. And, in other stages of school, he was the cool one. But, it was always because he was ‘himself,’ and didn’t change for the comfort of others.

    In the birthday party years, there were a few times he was noticeably ostracized, which personally broke my heart as his Mom. But, what he learned from this was how it felt to be left out. So, when he had his parties, he always invited the outcasts, minority children, trouble-makers first, and then added other names, after the fact. Therefore, his parties always had a very interesting mix of kids, and they all got along, no matter the differences of cultures, economics or intelligence.

    Children are often much smarter than their parents, having a natural inclination in not attempting to micromanage or socially engineer their environments, via politically correct imposed guidelines, like many too socially conscious, proactive parents strive to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. michael reynolds says:

    @jan:
    It’s like for a minute there you were a human being.

    Then you reverted to Fox News Android.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  20. ponce says:

    It’s like for a minute there you were a human being.

    Who was Jan when she wrote this nugget:

    So, when he had his parties, he always invited the outcasts, minority children, trouble-makers first…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. jan says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Then you reverted to Fox News Android.

    Why? Because I’m not a PC loving Android. Michael, I follow my own instincts and values, which overall don’t conform to any given paradigm. Fiscally, I’m very independent-minded, when it comes to government intervention. Socially, I don’t tread on other people, and I’ve always been more comfortable in diverse orientations than ones that are overly planned and safe. That’s why my kid only suffered in private school one year, before he went public and loved it. BTW, why aren’t yours in public school?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. jan says:

    @ponce:

    I’m assuming you embolded ‘minority’ for some tacky reason.

    The reason I mentioned minority, was because in my son’s one year, highly sought-after private school experience (filled with socially progressive parents from the right side of town), they had a ‘token’ Black child serving to impress others that they practiced diversity. It was a joke, because this child was left out of so many activities, until my son befriended him and they became close buddies.

    Elite private schools are a total sham, IMO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yeah, lol! If only we adults could be as wise, honest, caring, and selfless, just like kids, we wouldn’t have the problems we have now. Lord of the Flies? Poppycock!

    That is, of course, until those very same kids decide to question the world in the way that kids eventually do. Then, suddenly, we need to impose politically correct guidelines on them, e.g., banning “bad” books or making sure they don’t start degenerate LGBT clubs. You know–only the good conservative kind of politically correct guidelines!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  24. ponce says:

    they had a ‘token’ Black child serving to impress others that they practiced diversity

    Jan,

    Perhaps you could surprise us and actually provide some proof to back up one of your fanciful tales of librul perfidy.

    Name the school your son attended so we can conform the number of black children attending it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @jan:

    That’s why my kid only suffered in private school one year, before he went public and loved it. BTW, why aren’t yours in public school?

    Um, is that the same kind of public school that conservatives in my state (WI) have cut funding to, forcing increased class sizes, layoffs, and other negative consequences to, all the while giving businesses big tax breaks? That public school? The one where parents have to have a permanent campaign and fundraisers just to raise back 10% or what the state took from them? Just so the state can cut even more next year? That one?

    Maybe that’s the reason why people who can afford it send their kids to private schools. That’s certainly the reason I had to.

    Elite private schools are a total sham, IMO.

    But, wait, haven’t our conservative friends been insisting public education was a bad thing, and that private schools and voucher schools and charter schools and for-profit schools were the way to go? Have you cleared this with Rush Limbaugh?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  26. jan says:

    @ponce:

    You’re absurd, ponce, if you think I’m going to give out any personal info to someone I don’t know.

    Frankly, I don’t care whether you believe me or not.

    It’s also an eerie notation when you collectively use ‘we”, in your post, giving it the iridescence of a “Big Brother” kind of request.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. jan says:

    @Eric the OTB Lurker:

    Funny, that’s not what is being reported on the news, as to what is happening in WI schools. Supposedly, school districts are losing less money, being able to maintain and even hire more teachers, and have smaller class sizes. One reason being health insurance is now being competitively bid out, instead of going to a union crony selling insurance for a substantially higher cost.

    And if you’re sending your children to a private school why is it justified for unions to bully Messmer school just because it is part of a successful school choice program?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @jan:

    Funny, that’s not what is being reported on the news, as to what is happening in WI schools. Supposedly, school districts are losing less money, being able to maintain and even hire more teachers, and have smaller class sizes.

    I think the operative word here is “Supposedly.” You have not cited a particular article to back up this claim. However, I can tell you with absolute certainty what happened in the public school my kids attended till this year:

    - teacher layoffs, and no true Art or Phy Ed teachers;
    - no Languages offered;
    - a librarian one day a week, so that the library is closed unless parents staff it on the other days (which we did);
    - one 4th grade class eliminated, forcing the 4th graders to be spread out over the Lower Elementary classrooms, increasing class size to 30 students or so;
    - $300,000 dollars cut from the total budget (shared with 4 other schools in the area).

    The school was already on a razor-thin budget, and any maintenance or small projects were funded by parents’ fundraising or our very own labor. We gave it everything last year to keep the school at the bare minimum, and what were we rewarded with? Severe budget cuts based on ginned-up controversy so businesses could get a tax break.

    Of course, you read somewhere that “supposedly” school districts are apparently doing better. So what do I know. I only live here (hmm… just like that guy said in the video you linked to).

    One reason being health insurance is now being competitively bid out, instead of going to a union crony selling insurance for a substantially higher cost.

    This sounds like your opinion based on nothing. Any citations to prove that schools in WI were totally bankrupt because of union thugs overcharging for insurance?

    And if you’re sending your children to a private school why is it justified for unions to bully Messmer school just because it is part of a successful school choice program?

    Well, I would guess that when you beat the hornets’ nest with a stick you’re going to get stung. Moreover, people are protesting, which means that… they’re not happy. People don’t generally sit in chairs and stay quiet when they’re unhappy. And, sure, no one condones property damage, but… glued door locks? That’s the best you can do? Unless you consider mostly peaceful protesting “harrassment,” I don’t see how that video in any serious way supports your assertion.

    Look, we’re not talking about, y’know, Messmer is just doing well and thug unions hate success. That’s not what is happening here–this is all part of the same deal that I lamented about above. Sure, you can totally save a boatload of dough by screwing people over, and that’s exactly what Scott Walker and the conservative-led Legislature did: cut funding to education (even though the unions had already agreed to cuts–just not the ones and to the extent Walker wanted) while giving businesses tax breaks. That’s not exactly shared sacrifice.

    One last thing, Jan, about those thuggish, greedy unions: when you survey the public school parking lots, how many Mercedes or Porsches do you see?

    Yeah, I thought so. You’d think those greedy, selfish teachers would be doing better with all those benefits that they are “supposedly” bankrupting our schools with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  29. ponce says:

    It’s also an eerie notation when you collectively use ‘we”, in your post, giving it the iridescence of a “Big Brother” kind of request.

    Aah Jan,

    I’m not the only one who has noticed you never back up your stories with any proof.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  30. michael reynolds says:

    @jan:

    BTW, why aren’t yours in public school?

    One is, but he just started — after being “home-schooled” for most of three years. It’s too soon — 2 weeks — for me to have an opinion based on his experience there. In any event it’s high school so I doubt birthday parties will be an issue.

    The other is dyslexic and a few other “dys” things, including having English as a second language, so we found a private school specializing in LDs.

    Was that the answer you were expecting?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  31. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Back in the dark ages and in the cultural wasteland of Seattle Washington–I’m roughly the age of Michael Reynolds–we delivered invitations to parties by hand to people when we were in elementary school, and we didn’t bring the invitations to school. First of all, not all of our friends were in the same class as we were, so bringing invitations to school was a big hassle. More importantly, our (in my neighborhood at least) blue collar, working class parents taught us that doing things that made some of our classmates feel excluded was RUDE and turned us into the types of people who we didn’t like being around. Certainly, there were exceptions to this code, but they were few and far between. How these matters became the stuff of school policy, I have no idea other than because many of the people who became teachers from my generation seem to have done so because they liked asserting their authority over those who have less power. I guess what goes around comes around.

    In the meantime, if you want a better world, become better people and raise your children to be better people. Laws will never make people good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Racehorse says:

    Many of the provisions of this law would be totally unenforceable at a college or university. This is more social – psychological engineering of society. Here are some other examples: Happy Meal ban in California, trans-fat ban in NYC, bans on Girl Scout cookie sales, government regulation of tv commercial contents to “engineer” what we eat, smoking ban in our own cars (I am not a smoker): there are many other examples of Federal, state, and city laws/codes designed to change our behavior and take away freedoms, even on our own “private” property. The day will be here soon when we are told what we can buy in a supermarket and certain foods (donuts) will be illegal to buy, and even possession will get you fined or locked up! This stuff seems to always start in California.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  33. rodney dill says:

    Interestingly enough, the Birthday Party rule would not allow someone to exclude a class bully from receiving an invite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Thank you for writing such an insightful and important post. It’s refreshing to see an attorney exploring this issue — I foresee a number of tort claims arising as a result of these laws and workplace policies springing up across the country. Promoted as “progressive” laws aimed at safeguarding civil rights, they not only have the potential for causing grave damage to children, but as anti-bullying laws and policies extend to the workplace, the label will stick to whoever has the least amount of power. Workers who “complain” of various violations may become vulnerable to claims they are “negative,” and anti-bullying policies can be used to legitimate firing them and even defeating legitimate employment claims.

    I fear that anti-bullying has become pro-mobbing wrapped in the language of civil and human rights — thereby justifying isolating a worker, spreading gossip and eliciting rumors and accusations, fomenting hostile work environments aimed at purging whoever is cast as a bully. Elsewhere I’ve written about the similarities between mobbing and genocide, and these laws are so strikingly similar to autocratic tactics, I’m surprised there isn’t more alarm. Keep at it; there’ll soon be an entire legal specialization springing up around this theme.

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