You may have missed this juicy little tidbit due to the incessant news coverage on what the Tsarnaev brothers’ aunt’s cousin’s wife’s step-daughter’s librarian’s nephew has to say, but the legislature here in Minnesota has been quietly introducing a bill that has people here realizing just how silly the word ‘tidbit’ really is. The bill is about banning bullying in school and while I am not a fan of bullies mainly because I don’t have any rotating blades, a cursory perusal proves that this bill is almost as silly as the word ‘tidbit,’ but not quite.
Back in my day bullying was a simple form of economic exchange: I would hand over my lunch money and in return, said individual would refrain from lifting my whities over my head. These were trying times to be sure. Every school had and has a couple of bullies that everybody steers clear of lest they be pushed to the ground or pointed out for wearing high-waters or called a sissybooboopants.
Everybody in my grade school knew exactly who the bullies were, and we avoided them like a bad simile. The two kids were named Big Brett Barrino and—get this—Courtney Flowers. Shockingly, both were from broken homes and had no fathers around. Brett had been held back a few times. He was twice the size of my male teachers and had a tattoo. And I’m pretty sure he was dating the kindergarten teacher. Courtney wasn’t real big but picked on us littler kids in order to compensate for his botanically effeminate name. (And if there is an off-chance that either of you guys are reading this, I hope you’ll let me buy you lunch sometime—just like the old days.)
Perhaps the greatest single event of my grade-school years was when Brett and Courtney got into a fight with…(dramatic reality show pause)…each other! It was a dream match-up! Like Tyson v. Ali. Or the ‘60s Celtics v. the ‘90s Bulls. Or Nicole Eggert v. Jennifer Runyon. I’m not exaggerating when I say the entire playground circled around to watch, eager to see at last who would be crowned the toughest tough and who was about lose major intimidation points. I’d swear I saw some teachers in the crowd.
I know there are extreme cases out there that get some slow news day press, but in most instances bullying is just kids being kids imitating what they see on Hannity. And while admittedly not fun as a victim, I can’t help but think that being called names and being bullied as a child is a healthy character builder in that it prepares you to handle such attacks as an adult when you have to do things like vote against the President’s gun-control bill or read a book by Richard Dawkins.*
The Minnesota bill defines bullying as the use of words, images or actions that interfere with an individual’s ability “to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment” to include conduct that has a “detrimental effect” on a student’s “emotional health.” Sorry kids. No more dating. Or friends for that matter. Having a falling out might have a “detrimental effect” on your “emotional health.”
…Or conduct that “creates or exacerbates a real or perceived imbalance of power between students.” No more gym class or recess either. Wouldn’t want some sort of dangerously discriminatory game or competition to spring up where a physically dominant person might win over another. Winners are such exacerbators.
…Or conduct that violates a student’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” No reason to allow someone to tell Susie that Brad thinks her sister is hot and that Emily doesn’t really like Tom after what happened when he went to the mall with Steph but still fawns over him just because he is Captain of the Chess Club. I’m sure this is exactly the type of thing the founders of Minnesota had in mind for the state legislature to supervise.
…Or conduct that “does not rise to the level of harassment” but “relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined.”
Pardon my italics, but relates to? This provision will absolutely make my kids shout with glee because it will shut down all schools forever. Why have them? They will no longer be able to teach or grade anything because that would be conduct that “relates to” division via academic status. Placing students in a particular grade is out because it discriminates based on age. There will be no more dances because kids might choose a partner based on sexual orientation—not to mention those with disabilities who can’t dance at all. There probably shouldn’t be any rules either, because that implies a certain morality which in turn “relates to” religion. And certainly no bathrooms. Wouldn’t want anyone to perceive they are being forced to express their gender through urination.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’m willing to sacrifice the possibility of my kids being called a sissybooboopants in order to keep free speech. On the other hand, seeing a bill like this introduced is somewhat comforting. It’s good to know that things here in Minnesota are going so well that our legislators have nothing more pressing to worry about—except maybe their reelection.
*If you’re not familiar with Richard Dawkins, he is an atheist who likes to bully religious people simply because they believe in God. He calls them “delusional” because they don’t think that life on this planet was seeded by aliens, as he does.
In case you missed it, a related post and frankly a better one is Bully For You!