A father is labeled a school bus bully to fight for his child who is being harassed. Five teen suicides focus questions on bullying. A state legislator plans for more legislation on bullying while Congress has introduced its own federal anti-bullying laws.
“We talk about bullying every week now,” one local news anchor said in his on-air comments following a story about a teen who committed suicide and the news focused on it being a result of bullying.
Yes, indeed, every week — if not every day — I see multiple news stories about bullying in schools. You’d think bullying came into existence this past year and no one ever heard of it before now. So why is that news anchor talking about bullying every week now when, three to five years ago, the word may never have passed his script and lips?
Bullying is Today’s School Safety Fad
The answer: Bullying is today’s school safety fad. Yes, I said it: Fad. Few people want to say this publicly out of political correctness and fear of appearing insensitive, but it’s true.
So there: I’ve said it for the many people in education, prevention, and law enforcement who have been saying it to me at lunch meetings, workshops, and elsewhere. Saying that bullying is a fad does not mean it is not a legitimate school safety issue. And saying it is a fad does not mean it is not a serious issue.
What it does mean is this is the flavor of the year in school safety. A decade ago, following the Columbine tragedy, the fad was talking about police officers in schools, emergency response drills, and recognizing early warning signs of threatening student behavior. Today, that fad is bullying.
The media is an active participant in creating this fad. Assaults are not referred to as assaults, but instead the victims are victims of bullying. Suicides are not mental health issues, they are caused by bullying. A father who storms a bus threatening the kids who have harassed his daughter is not trespassing, threatening children, and acting inappropriately — he is referred to in the news as a bus bully.
This bullying fad, and the media coverage of it, is being fueled by special interest advocacy groups using bullying and school safety to further their social and political agendas. This bullying fad is also being fueled by legislators, both state and federal, who have jumped on the bullying bandwagon to create legislation which is typically an unfunded mandate, not helpful to the front-line school administrator in addressing bullying, and creates a false sense of hope for parents who are legitimately frustrated with safety in their kids schools. And the fad is being fueled by the U.S. Department of Education which has proposed skewed policy and funding toward bullying, climate, and incivility. I have covered these angles in-depth in blog posts over recent weeks.
Policies, Laws, and Strategies Already Exist to Address Bullying
As I have written extensively, school policies, student codes of conduct, and school climate strategies already exist to deal with bullying. Criminal and civil state and federal laws exist which can be used, as appropriate, to bring charges in harassment cases.
I have recently asked educators at every one of my workshops if there is any tool they need to address bullying which does not already exist without a new state or federal law. Not one has raised their hand. Not one.
This, Too, Shall Pass – But How Much Damage Will Be Done?
Make no mistake: The fad will change. It may not be today or tomorrow, but there will be a new fad. It is just a matter of time.
We are a roller coaster society. We have roller coaster public awareness, roller coaster public policy, and roller coaster public funding. The problem is that this roller coaster approach is not conducive to sustainable, meaningful, balanced and comprehensive school safety policy and funding.
Today we’re riding the bullying roller coaster. What will the ride be named two years from now (or before then if there is a major school safety crisis)?
Visit School Security Blog at: http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com