Archived Story

New legislation won’t end bullying in schools

Published 11:00am Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Column by Joel Myhre

I really wish the new bullying bill the Legislature passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed will mean the end of bullying in schools.

It doesn’t mean I think the bullying bill is a bad thing.

Joel Myhre
Joel Myhre

As someone who was bullied in school, I can tell you that it’s no fun, and not something I wish on any child. I have come out of that period OK, but when I think of the worst years of my life, the eighth grade is in the top three.

I can recall feeling as bad about myself as possible, and my parents feeling awful that they couldn’t do anything about it.

At the time, I felt teachers could have intervened more, that they seemed content to stand on the sidelines while bigger, more belligerent kids made themselves feel better by verbally and physically abusing those smaller and more sensitive than they were.

Based on what I heard and saw from my teacher mother, teachers didn’t necessarily know what they were allowed to do when hearing about or spotting instances of bullying, and what they weren’t.

There have been many lawsuits where parents whose children were disciplined for bullying sued the school district for inappropriately punishing their child.

A state law making the process of dealing with instances of bullying uniform makes sense.

If the result is that teachers are no longer concerned about intervening in situations of bullying for fear of doing the wrong thing, then the law will be a good thing.

But if Dayton and the Legislature really think this law will stop bullying, they are really kidding themselves.

There have always been bullies. There will always be bullies. The only difference between bullies in my day and now is that today, they have more places to do their bullying.

Three decades ago, bullies were limited to the bus, hallways, locker rooms and playgrounds to do their dirty work. Now they have all of cyberspace to belittle fellow classmates.

Human nature says that if you don’t feel so great about yourself, if you pick on someone else, you will feel better.

You also will gain the respect (and fear) of fellow classmates.

It’s why we watch Dr. Phil and Judge Judy. If we are struggling in our own lives, we simply watch one of those shows and say, “Hey, my life isn’t as bad as that guy’s.”

If something comes out of this law, I would hope that district is required to contact the parents of the bully, though I’m sure most local school districts already do.

I’m sure there are parents out there who have no idea their child is a bully, and they would like to know.

Of course, there are also parents who would either go into denial about it — “There’s no way my precious child would do such a thing,” — or simply don’t care.

I’m not sure what we can do about those situations.

You can’t legislate good parenting.

 

Joel Myhre is publisher of the Fergus Falls Journal. Email him at joel.myhre@fergusfallsjournal.com.