U.S. Education Department’s Bullying Summit: Facts, Fad, or Just Bull?

Posted by on August 11, 2010

Is the U.S. Department of Education’s “Bullying Summit” on-target, political spin, or both? 

The “first ever” bullying summit starts today (Wednesday).  Those in attendance will know the answer to that question by the end of the day tomorrow.  My gut feeling is the answer is a little bit of each: Fact, Fad, and Just Bull.

  • Fact:  Bullying is a legitimate school safety issue.  It is a concern.  It needs to be addressed as a part of a comprehensive approach to school safety.
  • Fad: You have to look fairly hard and long to find more than a handful of people who will speak out against anti-bullying legislation.  To do so as a legislator is to potentially be perceived as anti-anti-bullying, and how could anyone be against anti-bullying?  The end result: State and federal legislators, education associations, many educators, and many in the media have jumped on the “bullying bandwagon.”   But as the old saying goes, “What is popular is not always right.  What is right is not always popular.”
  • Just Bull:  The Department’s press release says the event is bringing together government and non-governmental partners to reduce and end bullying. Couldn’t they do this in an auditorium at the Education Department or another federal partner’s agency without having to presumably spend thousands of dollars to meet at the Washington Hilton Hotel — especially after eliminating the Safe and Drug Free School formula grant that sent millions of dollars for school safety to our nation’s schools effective July 1st of 2010.

Plus, any more, behind every valid issue appears to be someone with a political agenda waiting to exploit an opportunity to advance their cause.  Bullying is no different.   Gay rights advocacy groups, in particular, have used bullying as a frame to advance their interests in “enumeration” of LGBT language in state and federal anti-bullying laws.

The Department’s press release says the goal of the summit is to “reduce and end bullying.”  Whether or not the federal government can reduce bullying remains to be seen.  Given the track record of the feds to reduce anything (except school safety funding, which they seem to have no problem in reducing over recent years), I won’t hold my breath.

I still find it so ironic that legislators, federal government agencies, and others in elected capacities feel obligated to pass laws to rid the world of bullying.  Did they forget they participate in, and work every day in, the biggest forum of bullying to ever exist:  Politics!  

It seems a bit hypocritical to me that Congress and state legislators would want to pass mandates (often unfunded) requiring schools to have antibullying policies and programs when many of them fail to model the behavior they want to mandate of school kids.  Perhaps the Department’s bullying summit should have been held at the Congressional offices on Capitol Hill so maybe some of the good feelings and anti-bullying messages might rub off on Congress?

The intentions of some in the Department are likely very good.  But we know where the path of good intentions takes us…

Ken Trump

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