The cure for bullying

New Jersey has launched a new law aimed at combating school bullying. The measure includes classes to teach “the difference between telling and tattling” and an expanded ability to report bullies, among other things. Though well intended, the law is not being reviewed favorably by all:

But while many parents and educators welcome the efforts to curb bullying both on campus and online, some superintendents and school board members across New Jersey say the new law, which takes effect Sept. 1, reaches much too far, and complain that they have been given no additional resources to meet its mandates.

The law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Propelled by public outcry over the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, nearly a year ago, it demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of “required components”), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.

Each school must designate an antibullying specialist to investigate complaints; each district must, in turn, have an antibullying coordinator; and the State Education Department will evaluate every effort, posting grades on its Web site. Superintendents said that educators who failed to comply could lose their licenses.

“I think this has gone well overboard,” Richard G. Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said. “Now we have to police the community 24 hours a day. Where are the people and the resources to do this?”

While the intent of such measures is commendable, they are most often fruitless. The inherent difficulty in eradicating bullying in public schools lies in the very foundation of public schooling – education for all. While the core purpose of public schooling is to provide education to all students within the geographical jurisdiction of a school district, that of a private enterprise is to provide the best educational and environment to its students. Consequently, private schools have an actual economic incentive to curb bullying and many do this through a zero-tolerance policy.

Clint Townsend wrote about this libertarian phenomenon appearing in Glee:

The bullying that Kurt Hummel receives from a closeted bully, Dave Karofsky, leads Kurt and his father to take action. Once the administration received a death threat on Kurt, they failed to take any serious action to subdue the hostile environment that Kurt was exposed to on a daily basis. As a result, Kurt’s father and step-mother decided to place Kurt in a private school. As one would expect, Kurt’s encounters with bullying decreased dramatically since private schools have a market incentive to provide a suitable learning environment.

Adherence to the modern philosophy of public education removes this incentive and replaces it with a “make everyone happy” mentality. This breeds perpetually fruitless attempts at fixing a problem that often cannot be fixed in a timely manner all while raising education costs.

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