Bully, Brains, BureaucracyBy Charlie McCormick | January 17th, 2012 | Category: Other Stuph | Comments Off
Draft of a potential Journal article address concerns over critical flaws in NJ’s new ant-bullying law…It’s a complex subject -and I’ve been out of high school a few years now — so comments welcomed.
The fight to end bullying in schools will never be won, but it must be fought everyday. This fact is the basis for many who argue that NJ’s new Anti-Bullying Law is critically flawed.
Implemented in September of 2011, NJ’s Anti-Bullying law is the strictest in the nation. Supporters of the law held it up as a model for other states, and only a handful of critics existed prior to it passing the NJ legislature.
Now, not even six months into it’s implementation, many critics are voicing opposition to the law which they say has critical flaws.
The Ridgewood school board, amongst other local school boards, has joined in an appeal to The Council on Local Mandates to have the law expired as an unfunded mandate by the state. They argue that it is impossible to be in compliance with the law without spending money on teacher training and coordinator stipends, in addition to the added administrative work each report of bullying demands.
The appeal can be read here: http://www.state.nj.us/localmandates/pending/Allamuchy.html
While the state insists that the new law is merely amending existing law, and that no new positions or funding is necessary, it establishes a list of new processes, titles and procedures which must be enacted. The schools filing the appeal argue that it is unrealistic to impose additional processes and procedures without believing it will incur additional costs or drain other services.
Other critics of the law do not address the economic factors, but believe the law does not clearly differentiate between a one time act of meanness and a pattern of bullying. They point to one unkind, off-the-cuff comments being labeled as bullying. This results in a student having the label of “bully” applied to their record.
Additionally, at a bullying presentation to the parents of high school students from Oakland, Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes, John Halligan addressed concerns over the NJ Ant-Bullying law in that it had the potential to dilute and trivialize bullying by being overly aggressive in responding to incidents rather than patterns.
The new anti-bullying law was passed with bipartisan support and signed by Governor Christie soon after the tragic death of a Ridgewood resident who was the victim of bullying at Rutgers University. This was the most recent of many high profile cases where a pattern of bullying resulted in the suicide of a student because school officials failed to respond an in aggressive manner to end the bullying.
The appeal to the Council on Local Mandates is focused on the economic factors, but many critics of the new law question it’s effectiveness in establishing a culture where bullying is not accepted. They point to the “criminalization” of bullies who are children themselves, the unaddressed issue of teachers who utilize bullying tactics in the classroom, and the potential for the system to be abused by students ‘crying wolf’ with regards to accusations.
Previously, the FLOW regional bullying policy for the high schools followed a trend of protecting the victims of bullying according to race, creed, color or sexual orientation. It left open a huge loophole that offered no protection to someone being bullied just because they were not liked.
Bullying of a student who is outside the school’s circle of popularity is not one that can be addressed by law. The concepts of mobbing and shunning can be implemented with no overt act, but are nonetheless acts of bullying. the organized shunning of an individual, whether in school, in the workplace, or the community, is often seen as a virtue with regards to maintaining one’s one place of stature or popularity.
People are shunned in their communities, their clubs, their schools and workplace, and the end result is often the same as that achieved through overt bullying. The complexities of “shunning” is evident in some anti-bullying programs that encourage other students to shun the bully. This may have benefits that encourage more positive behavior in the bully, or might exacerbate an existing psychological defect in the bully.
The idea of the bully having a mental deficiency or that bullying is symptomatic of a dysfunctional mental state is a widely held belief among some psychologists. This is both valid and invalid, depending on the definition of “human”.
In the animal kingdom, bullying is a natural phenomenon. The alpha monkey, the alpha dog, the alpha lion, exercises dominance. Dogs can be trained to obey their master over their natural instincts, but the natural instincts continue to exist. We see bullying in all levels of society, well beyond the school walls and well into old age, so identifying it as a mental defect could be problematic for many who rely on bullying as an administrative or social tool used to maintain dominance.
But the physcial bullying exhibited by various species in the animal ‘kingdom’ pales in comparison to the bullying conducted in the society of humans. With an advanced language system and more evolved thought processes, humans can create innumerable ways to hurt and torment each other with words and actions. We have taken brute acts of cruelty or humilation and rasied them to an insidious art form; and, technology as provided us with various new avenues by which to deliver these cruelties.
Specifically to schools, the social evolution of accepting bullying as a normal part of childhood, a part of life, has progressively been replaced over centuries with a desire that humans not act like animals. Therefore, it would be acceptable to say that bullies operate in a dysfunctional mental state because society has re-defined acceptable human behavior.
This indicates that the bullying problem needs to be addressed at the psychological level. Socety needs to provide the tools and education needed for students to deal with bullies in school, in the community, in politics and in the work place; and, it also would indicate that the bully is in need of psychological intervention in order for them to identify and remedy the animalistic tendencies they need to overcome.
The bully need not be degraded into an animal if it’s noted that the brain is the last organ of the body to biologically mature, settling into it’s final form in a person’s mid-20s. The circuits for emotional and social skills, especially those involving impulse control, are the very last to mature.
Believing that the government can effectively remedy the bullying situation in American schools may be a costly and noneffective non-solution. The fight to end bullying is one that must be fought everyday, but there appears to be no point where the fight will be won.