By Alan Caruba
Have you noticed how the subject of “school bullies” or “bullying” is suddenly in the news? These things don’t happen spontaneously.
For most of my life I have earned my living in public relations and one learns a few things about the way the public is herded toward certain assumptions and actions when enough money and effort is made to influence their judgment.
In early March, in concert with the White House, the National Education Association, a union, not a benevolent “association” of teachers, released “a new survey on bullying” that found, not surprisingly, that teachers “and education support professions” were in desperate need of “additional training on when and how to intervene in bullying situations.”
If the raucous crowds of teachers and other public sector union members who gathered in Wisconsin’s state house and outside of New Jersey’s in Trenton are any indication, the NEA knows a lot about bullying and hardly needs any instruction on how to deal with it.
“Our members,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, “know that bullying is a significant problem” and, naturally, they need “more training” to deal with it. These are people who presumably passed through four years of college education in order to become teachers and, if the NEA is to be believed, they simply did not receive enough training to deal with school bullies.
This is so absurd one hardly knows how to address it. The NEA produced statistics that “82 percent of school employees report they have witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month.” This does not strike me as an epidemic of bullying.
“98 percent believe it is their job to intervene when they see bullying happening in their school.” Well, duh! What are they being paid for?
Unless I am just too old or too terribly out of touch, bullying has been going on since the days of the one-room schoolhouse. The delicate psyches of school children, whether they are the bullies or the bullied, manage to survive. At one time or another, the masses of children condemned to government schools have all had to deal with this.
Why is this bullying issue being ginned up? In an age of the Internet with its FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube ability to turn any bullying incident into a worldwide event, we are simply more aware of them. We are aware, too, that some few children whose parents were unaware or inattentive commit suicide.
Many children are the typical targets of bullies, male and female, because they are having gender identification problems, are fat, are white, are black, are not on any sports teams, are serious students getting good grades, or are simply available to be bullied. Surely every school has its cliché of bullies.
Blogger Hans Bader recently took note of the fact that the Obama administration sent a letter to school officials “that undermines both free speech and due process.” Bader noted that “a political appointee in the Education Department sent a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to the nation’s school boards claiming that many forms of homophobia and bullying violate federal laws against sexual harassment and discrimination, but those laws only ban discrimination based on sex or race—not bullying in general.”
“The letter from the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, defined ‘harassment’ so broadly,” noted Bader, “as to reach both speech protected by the First Amendment, and conduct the Supreme Court says does not legally qualify as harassment.”
Why is the White House and the Department of Education reaching all the way down into your local school is push for greater acceptance of homosexuality in particular and government intervention in general for an element of school life as old as education in America?
Is there any parent or citizen that is not aware of how poor the quality of education is in America these days? Is there anyone who has passed through grades K-thru-12 who doesn’t understand that bullying has always been a problem; that teachers and school administrators routinely intervene to deal with individual cases? That no “additional training” is required for this?
In a new book coming in May, “Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse”, author Annette Fuentes makes a case for the way too many schools treat students as potential jailbirds, requiring them to pass through metal detectors, and be subject to intrusive searchers, or suspended for alleged infractions of idiotic “zero tolerance” policies.
Following the Columbine High School tragedy, Fuentes noted that the “public’s perception of school violence and youth behavior was seriously out of whack with reality,” adding that “Failing schools breed failing students and place them at risk of falling into the juvenile justice system, especially as policing and the practices of that system increasingly make their way into the schoolhouse.”
How crazy is it when a five-year-old is arrested for bringing a butter knife to school or a teenage girl is suspended for bringing Midol for her menstrual cramps? Why are six-year-old strip-searched in a classroom when a few dollars goes missing from the teacher’s desk? These incidents are too often a part of school life for today’s students trying to learn anything in a hostile environment.