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Zero clues on how to stop bullies

Today's Boston Globe has a fairly thoughtful editorial (for the Globe) on the problem our society has with bullies. Touching on the Virginia Tech massacre and other incidents, it decries the problem we have as a society with bullying, and discusses ways to properly deal with it.

But this is the Globe, remember. That means that they have to include a certain amount of cluelessness, of cognitive dissonance, of refusing to acknowledge the role some of their own deeply-cherished principles play in exacerbating the problem.

In this case, one of the biggest enablers of bullying is one of the left's grand ideas on improving education: "zero tolerance" for fighting.

It's a typical liberal plan: a grand notion, all ideals and filled with warm fuzzies, but utterly doomed on implementation. But that's OK, because it was done with the best of intentions, and that makes it all better.

Most schools have established what they call a "zero tolerance" policy for fights. That means that when students are caught fighting, all the kids involved are punished equally. It's the equivalent of "no-fault divorce;" there isn't even a cursory investigation as to what started it, the aggressor is never identified, the defender never exonerated. The message intended to be sent is that fighting is never an acceptable solution.

That's not the message that's received, however. The affect is to empower the aggressors and threaten the victims. All the bully has to do is threaten the other student. At that point, the victim has two choices: comply with the bully and submit to the threat, or fight back -- and risk the official sanction for breaking the "no fighting" rule.

The Globe wants us to send mixed signals to kids: stand up for yourself, confront the thugs, don't give in to bullying -- but under no circumstances actually defend yourself, or you'll get suspended or expelled.

I don't have any children, but even to this layman this seems like the worst possible approach.

Comments (14)

Parents can do a lot, thoug... (Below threshold)

Parents can do a lot, though. The second time the daughter of a friend got detention for being late to class because a football player blocked her locker (why did they even give *her* detention if she explained that someone was physically preventing her from getting her books?) and the school did absolutely nothing her *father* gave her the go-head to move the football player.

Yes, she got expelled. Yes, the football player *moved*. Considering she took him down with his friends watching, I'm sure it's a lesson he never forgot... even if she was the one who got in trouble.

Not all girls are 5'10" and have taken Krav Maga instruction... but it's like concealed carry... it's good for the bad guys to have to wonder. ;-)

And it helps a whole lot to have support from your parents.

Unfortunately, most schools... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, most schools have a tolerance for fights regardless of what they say. The bigger the school, the more tolerance. They tolerate fights if the "preffered" group at that particular school is the one starting and winning the fights. My experience has been they will lean over backwards to exonerate the bullies and blame the victims. The zero tolerance only kicks in if the "victim" gets the upper hand and whips up on the aggressor, particulary if the defeated agressor is from a prefferred group. Guess it is because of being overstaffed with social workers instead of educators. This is part of the reason why my child hasn't attended traditional public school in 4 years. That and the lack of education.

Nothing helps reform bullies as much as being taken down by the target of their aggression.

I don't agree with this thi... (Below threshold)
MO Tim:

I don't agree with this thinking at all. It is removing the will to defend one's self from attackers. I have told my kids to defend themselves in any manner needed and I would handle any type of punishment that may be imposed upon them. Our school has the same rule.

Jay is exactly right. Most ... (Below threshold)

Jay is exactly right. Most bullys are empowered by lack of resistance. I well remember a bully picking on the nerd every morning upon arrival at school until the kid slammed him in the side of the head with his Flintstones LUNCHBOX.

But "bullying" of the kind that applies in Cho's case is different. The different kid who's "not right" faces a more subtle type of alienation -- shunning, combined with the evident "people making fun" behind one's back. This type is much more difficult to control, because it arises out of the human nature of people to have radar for "weird people."

If the leftists was even ev... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

If the leftists was even ever so slightly pragmatic about anything they wouldn't be leftists. Socialism and pragmatism are mutually exclusive.

The best way to stop a bull... (Below threshold)

The best way to stop a bully is a well placed set of knuckles applied to the nose inn a rapid manner.

This is a huge issue. When ... (Below threshold)

This is a huge issue. When I was a little girl in third grade, a good friend of mine, who was a very portly kid, was pushed down and made fun of every day after school by a group of bullies. I was a little girl, but my daddy had taught me street fighting. He was 5'1" and was beaten up mercilessly until he learned to fight dirty. I was told to save it for a rainy day.

Well, one day I was present during the beating and I took them all out - I think there were four of them - then I took off like a shot and ran the mile home. My mother was shocked and dismayed when the school called complaining. My father was beaming.

The portly kid never left my side after that. The bullies avoided me at all costs. Those Mary Jane's can pack a punch when properly placed.

My kids are homeschooled - have been for almost five years. My eldest made it through the public school system, but the tide was starting to turn badly to this "no tolerance for bullying" BS - and it is BS. When a neighbor's little girl was hurt by a huge kid on the bus, the school system did nothing after repeated pleading from the parents. I have heard this story repeated over and over with friends who have kids in the public school system.

It's important to note that I am a teacher for Adult Education - and a large portion of our population of drop outs were bullied in school and simply couldn't learn in that environment.

I'm a Christian - yes, we need to turn the other cheek. But let's face it - once in a while, some good old fashioned Old Testament fire and brimstone is needed - especially when your child is bullied and beaten.

I'm climbing down off the soapbox now!!

Here, here!... (Below threshold)

Here, here!

Most schools have establ... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

Most schools have established what they call a "zero tolerance" policy for fights.

You mean, like "zero tolerance" for firearms on Virgina Tech's campus...I see how well that worked out.

I follow my fathers advice ... (Below threshold)

I follow my fathers advice to this day. Ignore the ignorant as long as possible. When a fight can't be avoided, always get in the first punch which usually ends the fight if it lands in the right place. I say faint a left and kick his gonaids so hard he has two lumps under his jaw bones. Worked for me and I always had backup with the principal. They know who the trouble makers are and only need a parent to tell them 'what is what' in no uncertain terms.

Candy, I've heard it called... (Below threshold)

Candy, I've heard it called - the laying on of hands.


The problem is the public s... (Below threshold)

The problem is the public school system - virtually everywhere in the country - has no ability to deal rationally with some of these discipline issues.

Fighting is a good example. Old fashioned schoolyard bullying and youthful conflicts are often best left to resolve themselves, but in today's world there is all too often a more serious level of violence involved. The schools, though, are on the defensive from parents who can't be bothered to train their kids properly but who are first in line to complain when their delinquent is punished and his victim is not. If the aggressor is a minority, he also gets almost automatic support and outrage from his "community," usually without a thought to his guilt or innocence.

The reaction has been to treat ALL fighting equally, including aggressors and victims. It's as stupid as the "zero tolerance" rule for weapons under which elementary school kids have been suspended or expelled for having a plastic butter knife in their lunch to spread mayo, or the kid expelled for using his hand in the shape of a gun and going "Bang!"

It's "Zero Intelligence," IMO. But what do we expect from a huge organization which is incapable of even accomplishing its basic mission to educate? Of course they screw up the ancillary policies, too.

I think there's another ele... (Below threshold)
Dan S:

I think there's another element to zero tolerance that should also be considered. If you're gonna be expelled because you were pushed to the point of being forced to fight, you may as well go nuclear on the sucker. There's no degree of culpability or punishment, just a black and white absolute. There's no incentive to use appropriate force and nothing more.

I was the archetypical skinny, glasses, nerd in high school. I was taught to avoid fights, but if I had to fight, not to pull punches as the smaller guy is at a disadvantage physically, but can be at advantage psychologically. Both times the bully grabbed my glasses and wanted to play the keepaway game and would not return them after polite requests. Both times they said "uncle" when their eyes bugged out and their faces turned purple.

They never touched me again and nothing came to the attention of authorities. I didn't hurt them seriously, but they knew I could have killed them, and was quite possibly willing to. :)

But we were in an environment where it would have been adjudicated fairly, so the incentive was to keep it reasonable. If I'd rendered them unconscious, I would have been in serious trouble. If the fight had been reported and they had hurt me to ANY degree, they would have been in serious trouble since they outweighed me considerably.

With the zero-tolerance system we both would have been expelled.

But the rest of the story... both of the two were expelled anyway before the end of the year. Bullies rarely learn. They did get caught picking on even SMALLER guys. So, justice was served, the problems were removed from the system, not the "victims" (I don't count myself a victim here...)

I never had -- not so much ... (Below threshold)

I never had -- not so much as a suggestion of -- an experience with being bullied in my gradeschool, junior high nor high school years. I also never had any sort of advice or lectures from a parent during that time about what bullying even was, so I grew up without any knowledge that anything like that ever even occured among a normal, good society.

Many years later, while in my third college experience, also then an adult who was by that time a generation older than those I was in school with, I DID experience terrible bullying (all from other females) and I never knew how to respond to it. I tried routinely and consistently to "just walk away" and to "be nice" at all costs after first trying to ignore...nothing ever worked.

I wish I'd had some helps available to me at that time but what I experienced was that all the minority females who were responsible for the severe bullying I experienced all got the benefit of the doubt and social assistance (abundantly) from the school/administration. I actually had to explain several times why the experiences had occured and I never -- honestly -- even knew why they had other than someone didn't like me.

If I'd known then what I know now -- that I was the recipient of bullying in that particular college experience -- I'd have acted differently. Unfortunately, with today's public schools (the university of issue here was/is a public university), they don't help students and they do participate in real harassment about any student who "dares" to complain about a problem of bullying, any problem, any concerns in that regard.

Seems lawsuits are the only available recourse in most these type situations, sadly.

But as to the social environment, I still wonder what exactly happened to that kind and considerate and well behaved social environment I grew up in for most of my life, where nothing of this sort ever seemed to happen...and my innocence of the problem, that it would or could ever occur: gone, "gone with the wind."

On another note here, I think it's wrong to use the killer, Cho from West Virginia, as any example as a product of or responsible for bullying. Clearly, persons such as he were extremely disturbed and their actions are not the product or result of bullying, but of extreme mental disorder. Same with the Columbine two. In fact, my perspective is that these sort of persons ARE the bullies, not the victims (certainly not so).

I disagree today that we/anyone experiencing the problem of bullying should "just ignore them" because that doesn't actually work. Anyone who has ever experienced extreme brutality and cruelty from other human beings understands this: you can't hide from it and pretending it doesn't exist won't make it "just go away." I do believe the best defense is a strong offense, at least, today.






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