Tag Archives: bullying

The Bully Pulpit

Many years ago, when Chicago’s Second City was the source of then-scandalous satire, I attended a performance. This was during the Cold War (I’m old), and I still recall one skit titled “Kill a Commie for Christ”–a take-off on a widespread attitude of the times.

The more things change….Well, you know the rest of that saying.

In the Great State of Michigan, the state legislature has passed what one State Senator has condemned as the “License to Bully” bill.

The fact that school kids get bullied every day in our nation’s schools and elsewhere–and that gay youngsters are by far the most frequent target–is well-known. Over the past decade, the courts have ruled that the all-too-common “boys will be boys” dismissal of such behavior by school administrators will subject their schools to liability, and many state legislators have introduced bills to clarify the schools’ obligations to provide a safe environment for all students.

In the Michigan State Senate, the GOP amended a bill that would both have prohibited bullying and provided school districts with tools to combat it. They stripped out reporting and similar requirements, and provided an exception for bullying “based upon moral convictions.”

One appalled Senator described the language as providing a “roadmap” for bullying.

This too-clever-by-half strategy was clearly aimed at allowing the continued torment of gay children, but it’s hard not to wonder how these “moral” legislators would feel about children who suddenly demonstrated a “moral conviction” that their Christian schoolmates were evil. (As one of two Jewish students in my elementary school, I know what it’s like to be surrounded by Christian children whose parents had instilled in them a “moral conviction” that I had personally killed Christ.)

It’s obviously very difficult for mean-spirited people who are in the majority to comprehend that the tables might turn when they are no longer dominant.  It is evidently impossible for such people to demonstrate empathy or compassion for anyone who doesn’t belong to their own cramped moral universe.

Boys Will Be Homophobic Boys

This session of the Indiana General Assembly considered–and defeated–an anti-bullying bill offered by State Senator Tom Wyss.  The bill was similar to measures being considered in other states, and all of them have been offered in response to several high-profile cases where teenagers have committed suicide after relentless bullying by their classmates or peers.

You’d think such a bill would pass easily. Who, after all, is in favor of bullying? But in Indiana, the proposal was opposed by the Christian Right because–wait for it–it might protect gay youngsters. Obviously, a bill to prevent young men or women from picking on other youngsters perceived to be gay would violate the rights of those who don’t like gays.

If you think I am making this up, permit me to reproduce a paragraph from a recent issue of the Indiana Family Association’s weekly email.

“AFA of Indiana opposes the act of bullying of all students, regardless of the motives of the bully or the perceived status of the victim. However, many bullying bills and programs have become a Trojan Horse for the homosexual demands groups. There is a danger here in unfairly casting students with traditional values as bullies, silencing legitimate views, or creating specially protected classes of children as opposed to focusing on actual acts of bullying. There is an outstanding web site on this issue that parents, teachers and policy makers should investigate. True Tolerance has information about the problem of bullying as well as the concerns surrounding many of the school programs and the ulterior objectives of some homosexual activists pushing this agenda.”

In other words, AFA is against bullying. However, when the target of that behavior is gay, they are concerned about the “real motives” involved. Protecting gay children from abuse is just part of the “homosexual agenda,” intended to stigmatize those who express their disapproval of homosexuality with enthusiasm.

Reminds me of a case that the Indiana ACLU handled when I was Executive Director. A twelve-year-old in a southern Indiana middle school was being routinely beaten up on the playground, and despite frequent complaints from the parents, the school administration’s response was “boys will be boys.” The principal actually told the ACLU lawyer handling the case that the victim of the abuse brought it on himself, by “acting different.”

Bullying gay kids is just the expression of the bullies’ 1st Amendment rights. And the AFA is so solicitious of  our constitutional liberties.

Downside of Democracy

Many years ago, during a discussion with a friend whose husband served in the Indiana House, she said something I’ve always remembered: “The problem with representative democracy is that it is representative.”

This session of the Indiana Legislature seems intent on proving the point.

If you’ve been following national news, you may be thinking that those we elected to the General Assembly couldn’t possibly be as crazy as, for example, the South Dakota lawmaker who sponsored a bill that would have made it legal to shoot abortion doctors (he withdrew it in the wake of the publicity), or the Arizona legislator who responded to the horrific shootings in Tucson by sponsoring a bill to allow concealed guns to be carried anywhere, or the Wisconsin Governor who is threatening to call out the National Guard if public workers protest his efforts to strip them of bargaining rights they’ve had since the 1950s.

But you’d be wrong.

Think an anti-bullying bill should be a slam-dunk? Think again. The Senate Committee killed it on a 3-5 vote. Opponents expressed an uncharacteristic concern for the First Amendment rights of schoolchildren…especially their right to express anti-gay sentiments.

Speaking of child safety, surely a bill to require all child care providers to meet health and safety requirements—staff criminal history checks, fire safety, drug testing and the like—should be a no-brainer? Wrong! Advance America’s Eric Miller brought in God’s folks to testify that the bill gave government “too much authority over Church ministries,” and the bill died without a committee vote.

Wisconsin isn’t the only state trying to strip public employees of bargaining rights—here in Indiana, a bill to abolish Indiana’s merit system has emerged from committee. And Mike Delph’s effort to have Indiana emulate Arizona by targeting people who “look like” they might be illegal immigrants is moving along nicely (never mind that Arizona’s convention bookings declined 36% in the wake of that state’s law, and never mind that immigration is an exclusively federal responsibility).

And of course, our “representative representatives” aren’t content with defeating the anti-bullying bill, and reviving the bill to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Taking their war against gay Hoosiers up a notch, there’s an upcoming committee vote on a bill to prohibit state universities from providing domestic partner benefits.

The haters and the crazies are well represented in the Indiana General Assembly. The rest of us, not so much.