This week I want to talk about bullies. Evidently, bullies are becoming a big problem. There’s now talk of school board rules and legislation that would prohibit bullying.
Most people who know me even casually probably know that I hate bullies. I don’t know what it is, but if I have a hot button, that’s it. And, for me anyway, bullying takes many forms.
Sally and I were out to dinner the other night with some friends and we were seated near the door so we could see most of the people waiting to be seated. There was this one group of people – maybe three families, all looked related somehow – and they had little toddlers who couldn’t sit still.
This one guy, clearly the dad of one of the toddlers, was glued to his cell phone except for the periodic bursts of rage he expressed toward his toddler. It was so uncomfortable to watch that I almost got up and intervened. Sally could see me ready to mix it up and she reminded me to not let two seconds of valor ruin my life – or that guy’s life.
Maybe I feel this way about bullies because my older sister has been handicapped from birth and was teased regularly throughout her life. I don’t know where it comes from. I just know that bullies set me off – they turn me from a reasonable person into the guy who bullies the bullies.
And so why wouldn’t I favor a new rule passed by the State Board of Education designed to stem the tide of bullying?
Last year, Representative Carol Spackman Moss introduced an anti-bullying bill that would have required local school districts to have a policy in place to deal with it. Her bill said nothing about how a school board was going to punish a child for bullying. Indeed, I don’t know how it would outside of expulsion.
The State Board of Education already has a policy in place but is now looking to expand it. The amended policy would specifically address hazing aspects of bullying – stuff like prohibiting actions such as whipping, beating, branding, bruising, electric shocking, and forcing the consumption of food, liquor or drugs on some poor kid.
Did you know that was going on in our K-12 schools? I would assume that some of that, to a certain degree, happens in college, but in our public schools?
It certainly is an important issue and I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of bullying or hazing. But I remain old school in this respect: there is only one thing a bully understands and that’s peer pressure – either in its physical form, like a good beat-down, or in its social form through ostracizing the bully.
Public concerns are good. Creating school rules are important. But a law from on high does nothing. If you really want to stop bullies, give kids that silent permission to give bullies a taste of their own medicine. Sometimes the most effective rule of law is the unspoken, unwritten kind that flows naturally from life’s experiences.
I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.