Legislating Against Bullying
What gets measured gets done.
It’s an old adage that many school administrators and teachers have found to be true. If you know it’s going to be on the state tests, you make sure it’s in your curriculum. Of course, the flip side to this idea is so-called “teaching to the test,” which is only a bad idea if that’s all that you do.
Anyway, a number of states have enacted or are preparing to enact legislation against bullying, including cyber bullying, in schools. Part of me – a big part – says, school people can’t take a hard stand against bullying without legislation? Come on, people!
But another part of me – the practical part – knows that in fact, schools are notorious for turning a blind eye towards even egregious bullying. The old advice school people still give the targets of bullying – “just ignore it” – doesn’t work and never has. In some schools the only way to get people’s attention is for a parent to bring forward a lawsuit against the school after genuine injury or even death.
First attempts in some states to legislate against cyber bullying (branding teens as pedophiles for sexting, for example) were at best, misguided. And clearly, simply prohibiting bullying by law doesn’t mean the end of it. However, making schools accountable for establishing procedures against bullying, training teachers and staff, teaching students about it, and adopting firm disciplinary procedures, is a step in the right direction. Schools should be required to keep records of reports of bullying along with the actions taken on the part of school personnel. What gets measured gets done, and legislation will help schools take a strong stand against bullying.