Bullying has always been a problem in schools for those who are different. Every year or so there are stories of bullies gone too far or victims who violently and indiscriminately fight back. One of the most dramatic in recent memory was the Columbine massacre where two very disturbed young men shot and killed a dozen of their classmates.
Events such as Columbine or the recent bully body slam video bring bullying back into our collective consciousness. Inevitably, some well meaning person will try to stop it and, just as inevitably, it will lead to an overreaction that is dangerous to students and the community.
In the days after the Littleton, Colorado massacre on April 20, 1999, the country went on a panicked hunt for the oddballs in high school, a profoundly ignorant and unthinking response to a tragedy that left geeks, nerds, non-conformists and the alienated in an even worse situation than they were before. Stories emerged from all over the country about these witch-hunts, which amounted to little more than Geek Profiling. These voiceless kids-invisible in media and on TV talk shows and powerless in their own schools-have been e-mailing me with stories of what has happened to them in the past few days. What follows are some of those stories in their own words, with my gratitude and admiration for the courage it took in sending them. The big story out of Littleton isn’t about violence on the Internet; it isn’t about video games turning our kids into killers. It’s about the fact that for some of the best, brightest and most interesting school kids, high school is a nightmare of exclusion, cruelty, loneliness, warped values and rage. In short, high school is the Hellmouth.
Representative Jackie Speier is proposing another overreaction. Rep. Speier is proposing that every case of bullying in school become a Federal offense. That’s right, if someone is accused of bullying, it must go to the Feds as part of a “zero tolerance” environment. Unfortunately, zero tolerance equals zero thought more often than not. Combined with the heavy hand of the Federal government, that’s a dangerous combination.
Should bullying be stopped? Absolutely, though it is impossible to stop completely. But the decision of how to deal with lies with the people who work with those kids every day, not with a faceless Federal bureaucrat.
(Originally posted at PerlStalker’s Ramblings.)