Can a Law End Bullying?
Anyone following the cyberbullying issue should read this article in the Columbia Missourian. (Thanks to Combest for the link.) The article reports on a proposed bill that would require all public school districts to write policies about online bullying.
The bill’s sponsor doesn’t see any drawbacks to it:
“I feel like this bill has the support of everybody,” Wilson said. “It’s simple, and it’s the right thing to do.”
The sponsor’s intentions are unimpeachable, but her bill still deserves to be challenged and debated. In particular, I see one potential down side to it: Passing such a bill could make people feel like the government had fixed something, when in reality little would change.
For one thing, the bill would apply only to public districts. I wouldn’t suggest expanding its reach; the state should not tell private schools which policies to adopt. But what if a student from a private school bullies a student from a public school, or vice versa? Or, what if someone’s cousin comes for a visit from out of state and bullies the neighborhood kids? How would districts’ anti-bullying policies help in those situations? Many instances of bullying wouldn’t fall under any district’s policy.
Furthermore, the bill just tells districts to write something down on a piece of paper. It’s not guaranteed that districts will enforce their policies well enough to prevent online bullying. Bullying can be difficult to detect and stop, because bullies usually harass their victims away from adults’ supervision. A district can’t track down all the emails and text messages that students send to each other, so the new policies probably wouldn’t affect communications between students as much as districts might want them to.