Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Criminalizing Kindergartners In The Name Of Bullying Prevention

Here is one more example in the long and frustrating history of bad ways to deal with bullying:

A town in southern California is trying to pass a new ordinance that would slap children as young as five with criminal penalties for bullying.  Parents would also be held partially responsible, and the punishment would escalate with each repeated offense.

There are many problems with such a law, one being that it defines bullying in terms of the feelings of the other person, thus criminalizing someone not for their own actions, but for the feelings of someone else.  Another problem is that true bullying is often difficult to define, with many players in overlapping roles that are often difficult to untangle.  But more importantly, such laws create collateral damage that harms children without doing anything to address the root of the problem.

It's ironic that in their attempt to stop children from using a power advantage to intimidate or control another person (bullying), their solution is to pass a law giving officials more power to use as a means of intimidation to control the behavior of children. (State sponsored bullying.)

Twenty percent of kids are regular bullies, and many kids play the part of both bully and victim.  Furthermore, nearly every child will engage in the behavior at some time.  That's a lot of kids we'll be damaging if we aim to "help" the problem through seek and destroy missions that rely on punishment rather than compassion.

Bullying has many causes that run deep in the psychology of our culture.  (See our information on causes of bullying)  Passing new laws is a feel good way of sweeping the problem under the rug and ignoring the true issues. (See bullying laws and legislation)  One thing is for certain: bullying will never be solved by relying on the same power-over mentality that creates it in the first place.

Read bullying information and resources, an online educational book for parents and teachers.

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