Bullying is Incompatible with American Character
“It is the inequality, abuse, and unfairness associated with bullying that makes it incompatible with what we conceive of as the appropriate “American character.”
~ Philip C. Rodkin, Bullying and Children’s Peer Relationships, in White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, at 33 (March 10, 2011).
Judge Weinstein, in his opinion on T.K. v. New York Public Schools, quotes Mr. Rodkin and reminds us all that we, as a nation, have a strong history of righting wrongs as they are brought to the attention of our legal system. Bullying is hardly a new phenomenon. We have laws and statutes punishing behavior that qualifies as bullying – behavior such as harassment, stalking, assault, battery, slander, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc. – but the specific word “bullying” has been pretty much absent until recently.
From the opinion:
The issue first seized the attention of the American public after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School that killed fifteen students and wounded two dozen more. Susan P. Limber, Addressing Youth Bullying Behaviors, in American Medical Association Educational Forum on Adolescent Health: Youth Bullying 5 (2002). As part of the investigation that followed the Columbine massacre, the Secret Service examined thirty-seven shooting incidents. They determined that in two-thirds of those cases, the shooter described feeling bullied, persecuted, or threatened at school.
~ Bill Dedman, Secret Service Findings Overturn Stereotypes, Chicago Sun-Times Report, Oct. 15-16, 2000, at 9.
Laws Aimed at Bullying
At present, at least 45 states have enacted laws aimed specifically at bullying, or have amended language in existing statutes to include the word. There is a judicial groundswell taking place that we, as a nation, can be proud of. The case of T.K. is a great example of a Federal Court flexing it’s muscles – it warned a city school system to address the issue of bullying on a broad basis, or risk losing federal funding. The opinion broke new ground:
This case presents the largely unresolved issue of the extent to which bullying by other students inhibits a disabled child from being educated appropriately, and what her school must do about it.
The Gravity of the Bullying Epidemic
In requiring the school system to fix the problem, the opinion cited numerous authorities and studies documenting the gravity of this epidemic of cruelty. Some conclusions:
- Being the victim of bullying is related to sliding grades, absenteeism, poor academic achievement, being lonely, exhibiting withdrawal behaviors, difficulty in acting assertively or being aggressive.
- Self-esteem drops once a child becomes a victim. They blame themselves for being victimized, and give in quickly or respond in a disorganized manner when they are teased or bullied.
- Self-views are unlikely to change for the better, unless the bullied child becomes more accepted in the group.
This case involves a special-needs child, T.K. The take-home message is clear. Disabled children are at increased risk of being bullied. They are the least able, emotionally, to survive the attacks on their worth, on their acceptability among their peers. The court calls for remedial action.
Help is on the way. In September, 2010, New York’s Dignity for Students Act was enacted; it went into effect in July of 2012. The Act laid down some clear-cut responsibilities for school administrators. “No student shall be subjected to harassment by employees or students on school property or at a school function…”
Case by case, our judicial system is rising to the challenge presented by bullying and our societal demands for action. Legislatures are churning out new statutes. It all reflects the appropriate “American Character.”
Bullying Decoded is a heart-to-heart discussion on bullying and what can be done about it. Get the book and join author Ed Kaspar in a conversation on the legal and psychological issues behind bullying.
Buy the Book
Legal Issues of Bullying
- Bullying is Incompatible with American Character
- Court Defines Bullying
- When School Systems Turn a Blind Eye to Bullying
- Seeking Damages Part 2 of 2: Four Elements to Claim IIED
- Seeking Damages Part 1 of 2: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Psychology of Bullying
- Bullying Psychology – 3 Ego States, Parent-Adult-Child (PAC)
- Interview with a Former Bully, Experiments with Power
- Don’t Gaslight Yourself
- Transactional Analysis Defined
- Encouraging a Bully in the Family