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SIMMONS: Anti-bully legislation misguided
Nearly every state in the union has — and the District of Columbia is considering — anti-bullying laws that allow school employees to determine whether a student is a bully.
Be careful: If we continue overindulging the anti-bullying movement, our children will be thrown to the wolves in the criminal-justice system.
The problem with the movement is that it calls for transferring to the government our parental authority to raise morally conscious children.
As the Greek wise man Aristotle said, "No government, no matter how good it is, can make its citizens morally virtuous."
That is why the legislation under consideration in the District, which could be voted on next month, is overkill.
Indeed, I hardly intend to offend, but a youth calling another youth or adult a derogatory name or racial slur can easily be misconstrued if the D.C. bill becomes law.
Ditto for name-calling such as "cripple" and "dummy" and using such phrases as "you talk like a white person" and "that's so gay."
What's next? Terms like "old woman," "druggie," "skinny" and "fatso"? How about descriptions like "the short, black woman with the dreadlocks."
There was a time (not so long ago) when parents would teach their children that "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you." And we were taught at home that "it's not the names you are called, but the name you answer to."
Unfortunately, the harder we seek to relinquish parental responsibility, the smoother the road to perdition.
An unfortunate truth is that our schools are having a difficult enough time trying to teach the three R's. Yet, whenever an attack or youth suicide involving a gay teen hits the headlines or makes the rounds of social media, as occurred recently in a Ohio high school, the push for anti-bullying rules, regulations and laws kicks into high gear.
However tragic the incidents are, the D.C. measure, titled the Bullying and Intimidation Prevention Act, yanks the rug from parents by redefining harassment, intimidation and bullying as "any gesture or written, verbal or physical act, including electronic communication, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic."
Accordingly, that means calling a girl a girl, a Jew a Jew or a transvestite a transvestite could become unlawful because those terms could be "reasonably perceived" as "distinguishing characteristics" and therefore an act to bully, harass or intimidate another individual.
Adults, like kids, use "distinguishing characteristics" all the time.
"The fat, white guy with the bald head."
Besides, why transfer our own guiding hands over to the government in exchange for things like the V-chip, which blocks kids from viewing violent TV content, but fail to turn ourselves into V-chips when they use a computer or cellphone? The shrill of the anti-bullying movement could ultimately undermine our authority and credibility as parents to develop crucial ground rules for our children.
If we're not careful, if we continue to overindulge this wayward movement, we're going to end up in an awful place, such as having police issue Miranda warnings to kids as soon as they cross the threshold to the principal's office.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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