“The National Crime Prevention Council’s definition of cyber-bullying is
-“when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person”
Contention 1: Cyber bullying is a problem, but making it a criminal offense will not solve the problem
Yes, cyber bullying is a problem as the Affirmative has stated. However, making it a criminal offense will not solve the problem.
Cyber-bullying is too difficult to monitor. Internet traffic is enormous and cyber bullying can be seen from a great number of websites, especially social networking sites. It is too challenging to determine and distinguish the perpetrator from various screen names. Many perpetrators hide their identity when victimizing someone. Extreme cyber bullying laws are already in place. Extreme cyber bullying behavior can be prosecuted under current laws. Therefore, there is no need to create cyber bullying laws. Ex: According to the New York Times on November 8 “In the Tyler Clementi case, prosecutors are considering bringing hate-crime charges.”
Making cyber bullying a criminal offense is not the correct way to address the problem subpoint – cyber bullying is too hard to define/distinguish from less harmful online behavior
subpoint – it would be impractical to enforce (too costly/not enough man power/not possible to monitor)
subpoint – making it a crime will not stop it from happening, which should be the ultimate goal
subpoint – infringes on peoples freedom of speech
subpoint – victims won’t report abuse
Other, better options
subpoint – schools deal with cyber bullying
subpoint – parents deal with cyber bullying
subpoint – students deal with cyber bullying
subpoint – outside organizations deal with bullying
Cyber bullying is a relatively new problem and all four of these different groups working to combat cyber bullying will solve the problem as time goes on. Making it a formal criminal offense would be unnecessary because it is going to be solved through the status quo right now
Cyber-bullying can occur in libraries, on public computers…leads to incorrect IP address. Locating the IP address can fail.
subpoint – government could combat cyber bullying less directly/invasively and more effectively by supporting online safety initiatives and organizations which combat cyber bullying
subpoint – extreme cyber bullying behavior can be prosecuted under current laws, there is no need to create cyber bullying laws. Ex: According to the New York Times on November 8 “In the Tyler Clementi case, prosecutors are considering bringing hate-crime charges.”
There are 2 approaches you can take on the con
1. cyber bullying is a problem but making it a criminal offense will not solve it 2. cyber bullying is not a problem buuuut I’ll just focus on option number 1 assuming you guys aren’t planning on doing crazy things with this resolution. Haha, the real questions on the con are why won’t making it a criminal offense solve the problem and what can solve the problem better. Of course by providing alternatives you always run the risk of the pro team crying “counter plan!” buuut as long as you don’t lay out a specific policy then its fine to offer better alternatives.
A solid con case could be constructed as such
1. Agree cyber bullying = problem
2. Making it a criminal offense is not the way to address the problem 3. There are other, better ways to address the problem
You don’t really need to elaborate on point 1… the pro will give ample evidence on why cyber bullying is a problem. The most important point to win is 2. Even if you don’t convince the judge that you have good alternatives, if you can convince them that making cyber bullying a criminal offense will not work or that it is impractical then you should win. It might be beneficial to state this in the opening of your case after stating the resolution to define the boundaries of the round. I’ll break down points 2 and 3 into some possible subpoints. Some of these are really weak, see my pro answers to these arguments to learn about their weaknesses.
Amanda, 14, reported some girls in her eighth-grade class for stealing a pencil case filled with make-up that belonged to her. As soon as she got home, instant messages started popping up on her computer screen. She was a tattle-tale and a liar, they said. That evening, Amanda went to a basketball game with her family. But the barrage of electronic insults did not stop. Like a lot of other teenagers, Amanda has her Internet messages automatically forwarded to her cell phone, and by the end of the game she had received 50 – the limit of its capacity. “It seems like people can say a lot worse things to someone online than when they’re actually talking to them,” said Amanda. Read Amanda’s full story in the New York Times article
“Internet Gives Teenage Bullies Weapons to Wound From Afar” (Harmon 2004)
The full scope of cyber bullying is difficult to measure. However, according to a recent survey, 42% of children have been cyber bullied and 35% have been threatened online. Peer approval is very important to children. This means that cyber bullying can have a negative or even destructive emotional effect on victims, ranging from hurt feelings to intense anger. It can also result in significant depression and in the most severe cases has even resulted in suicide. Unfortunately, children rarely report occurrences to an adult.
Internet is vital to education and learning. The internet has become invaluable for this generation.
Cyber bullying is bullying. Bullying is not enforced. Nobody has been arrested for bullying.
-Prevention – seminars, classes
-Stressed with Primary Education. Secondary Education and beyond is too difficult to enforce.
-5 security guards for 2,100 students.
-1 security guard per 420 students
-We would need to employ more cyber cops
There are already too many prisoners for the government budget to be able to support. The government is already in debt and cannot afford to maintain the necessities for the millions of prisoners in the United States. This can also apply to other countries around the world. By broadening the scope of what is considered to be a criminal offense, will only, in effect, make more people to be considered criminals. With more criminals, there are more prisoners, which the federal budget cannot provide for.
-Lead to over-criminalization
Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, is an associate dean and the Carville Dickinson Benson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University. He is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”
We don’t need any new criminal laws. We have more than enough right now — 4,000 federal crimes, and many times that number of state crimes. If prosecutors can’t find anything to charge a particular cyberbully with, that bully has not committed a crime. If simply being a jerk was a criminal offense, we would need many more prisons than the hundreds we already have.
A national conversation about civility would be a more effective tribute to Tyler Clementi than creating more criminal laws. Suicide is a tragic response to bullying. It is also a rare response. Of the millions of children who suffer bullying, few take their own lives. Bullies “cause” suicides in the same way that a man “causes” the suicide of a lover he spurns. The criminal law typically does not hold people responsible for outcomes that are idiosyncratic or unpredictable.
It is possible to deeply mourn the deaths of Tyler Clementi and Phoebe Prince, and also to acknowledge that their suicides are evidence of deeper problems than bullying. In Clementi’s case, societal homophobia probably played a big role as well. A straight college kid might be outraged if his roommate broadcast his sexual activity, but for a closeted gay man, the revelation of his orientation — to the whole world — might be even more disturbing than the public display of his genitals. Clementi’s bullies cruelly exploited that social prejudice, but they did not cause it.
Every tragedy doesn’t have to result in somebody going to jail. When people are punished, it should be for the harm that they intend to do. If a bully crosses the line between freedom of speech, and invasion of privacy, or harassment, those are the crimes he should be charged with, as is happening in the cases currently in the news.
If the only tool you have is prison, then every problem looks like a crime. There are better ways to address cyberbullying, including the public education campaign now underway at Rutgers. A national conversation about the importance of civility and respect would be a more effective tribute to Tyler Clementi than trying to prosecute his bullies for manslaughter. They acted meanly, and possibly even criminally, but not homicidally.
Facebook threats at high school
By Rita Giordano
Inquirer Staff Writer
Harrison Township police and the Gloucester County prosecutor’s cyber crimes unit are investigating a spate of threatening Facebook posts received recently by Clearview Regional High School students. County Prosecutor Sean Dalton described the posts as “disturbing comments posted on Facebook that were directed at students,” according to spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld. Clearview Superintendent John Horchak III said the students reported the posts around Tuesday to school officials, who alerted police. The person posting the comments called himself David Prezet, according to students, and students were concerned Thursday because the poster indicated he was coming to the school that day. Horchak said the poster claimed he was going to enroll that day. That did not happen, nor is there a student at the Mullica Hill school by that name, the superintendent said. Still, he noted, “the grapevine is very difficult to control.” Dennis Chambers, an 11th grader, said students, including himself, began getting “friend” requests from a David Prezet about a week ago. He said the person then started posting inappropriate comments about girls and their pictures.
Some girls “called him a creep,” Chambers said, and the poster started making threats about sexual assault and other violence. Chambers said the person indicated that he was going to come from Ohio on Thursday and intimated that he would carry out some of the threats. When students arrived at school Thursday, police were present. “We were all a little antsy because we wanted to find out who the person was,” he said. Weisenfeld said Thursday that the threats proved “unfounded,” but that the investigation continues. Horchak called the threats “generic” but said the episode spoke to the challenges technology presents to young people and educators. “The recent technology advancements have caused students’ personal lives to carry over and blend into their lives at school, resulting in an entire new set of challenges for schools,” Horchak said. “We’re still on the front end of the technology curve, and there are many issues to address in this area.”
Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/education/20101022_Facebook_threats_at_high_school.html#ixzz177QudxSY Watch sports videos you won’t find anywhere else
What is a crime?
A criminal offense is broadly defined as an act which violates state or federal law. For criminal offenses committed in the United States, the prosecution must prove that the accused committed the “guilty act” (actus reus) while having a “guilty mind” (mens rea) or intention to commit the act. In the United States, people accused of criminal offenses are innocent until proven guilty and are guaranteed a number of rights. Details about the legal rights of the accused, crime victims, and prisoners can be found in the Your Rights Section.
Though the use of sexual remarks and threats are sometimes present in cyber-bullying, it is not the same as sexual harassment and does not necessarily involve sexual predators.
A “well done” should be given to Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean Dalton, for his Times article (News & Views, Nov. 21) concerning cyber-bullying.
His writing to address the importance of well-informed parents as a positive force against this dangerous behavior is aptly focused. Additionally, it should offer valuable incentive and encouragement to parents, guardians and teachers. They may be on the front lines in trying to recognize not only those whose often anti-social behavior promotes use of this technology, but those who, unfortunately, become its (and their) victims.
There are also many arguments available to negative debaters. First, the negative should argue that the conduct the affirmative seeks to criminalize is nothing more than the expression of speech that should be protected by the First Amendment. Harvey Silvergate, civil liberties attorney and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute notes that such a law would apply “only to speech not the myriad of other physical actions that typically accompany a harassment claim in, for example, the workplace…Hence, not only would enactment of this statute provoke a veritable storm of constitutional litigation, but it would, even in the absence of litigation, create a chill over a vast expanse of unpleasant but protected speech.”[iv] The negative should also point out that the same speech in a different medium would be protected. For example, it would not be a criminal matter if a student made hurtful comments about another student at the lunch table. Similarly, a law that did criminalize bullying speech that was written “would expose the ranks of newspaper reporters, for example, to criminal prosecution for causing emotional distress in fulfilling their democratic watchdog responsibilities…
An expose of corrupt political activity surely causes emotional distress to its subject. Should these same words when transmitted via electronic means cause their authors to fear the wrath of federal crime laws?”[v] Negatives can argue that the protections of fundamental freedoms should be applied to new modes of communication. Second, the negative can argue that cyberbullying laws would be virtually useless because they would be too difficult to enforce. Anonymity is one of the major draws of cyberbullying. It is difficult and sometimes even impossible to discover who is doing the bullying. Moreover, negatives can argue that even if we had the resources to unveil these online bullies our time would better be spent fighting violent crime. Third, criminalizing cyberbullying would drastically broaden the scope of what acts are criminal. According to the Heritage Foundation, “As the scope of criminal prohibition expands, so does the number of people who are, according to the law, criminals.
The increasing criminalization of economic conduct in recent years, for example, means that many entrepreneurs engaging in socially beneficial conduct may, because they overlooked a regulatory requirement or made a simple mistake, face criminal charges and even conviction.” The Heritage Foundation argues this would lead to over-criminalization, which is counterproductive. They quote Professor John Coffee: “The criminal law is obeyed not simply because there is a legal threat underlying it, but because the public perceives its norms to be legitimate and deserving of compliance. [T]he criminal law is a system for public communication of values.” If the public does not perceive this as a crime that will be prosecuted and taken seriously, there is very little likelihood they will follow the law, making it effectively meaningless.[vi] Fourth, negatives can argue that bullying does not cause the suicide the affirmative discusses. Kim Painter, a health and wellness writer for USA Today since 1987, says, “While bullying may push a despairing youth over the edge, and while gay youths may be especially vulnerable, most who kill themselves have something else in common.
They are depressed or have another mental illness.”[vii] Negatives can agree that teen suicide is a terrible problem, but argue that no external activity can cause a teen to commit suicide if they did not already suffer from a mental illness. Next, negatives can argue that cyber bullying should not be a legal issue, but instead something that schools and parents combat with education. The problems underlying bullying cannot be addressed by throwing a bunch of 15 year olds in jail for two years. They have to be combated at what Nick Abrahms and Victoria Dunn call “the grassroots level.” According to some researchers, parents and schools are the best way to teach children and teens about bullying and its harms. In the end, criminalizing bullying may draw attention to the problem, but education is necessary to help teens understand the harms caused by using the internet to bully their peers. Moreover, negatives can argue that there are adequate civil remedies available to those who are bullied. Individuals can sue for physical and mental damages in civil court and can also file an injunction to keep the bully away.
Are you the target of a Cyber Bully? A recent survey conducted by Edith Cowan University reveals that up to 10 per cent of children say they have been subjected to cyber-bullying over the Internet or on mobile phones. In the US, 50 per cent of young people were being cyber-bullied and about 30 per cent reported they cyber-bullied others. In the United Kingdom and Canada, the statistics were 25 per cent. One reason why there is such a startling rise in this phenomena is that most people still think they are anonymous and untraceable on the Internet. The same study indicates that the Cyber-bullying was often anonymous, with 50 per cent of victims not knowing who was bullying them.
The cyber stalkers think they are untouchable and most of their victims also mistakenly believe it’s impossible to locate and identify the person hiding behind an anonymous email account or Myspace page. But it’s not. Not anymore. Today there are private investigators that specialize in Internet email tracing and cyber bullying identifications. These investigators can track down , locate and identify the cyber bully. Then by documenting their investigation and their results they can create a report that can be used in court to prosecute the cyber bully that has crossed over the legal lines. You can find an investigator to help you unmask your cyber bully by Googling “reverse email trace”. Be sure the investigator you choose is considered an expert in the science. In any case you do not need to fear a cyber bully. Not when there are professionals ready to help you.
Quoted from “h ttp://ww w.mha.gov.sg/news_details.aspx?nid=MTM1NA%3D%3D-E2P6yMCpG6s%3D”
DPM and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Wong Kan Seng:
“Cyber-bullying generally refers to the phenomenon of threatening, harassing, embarrassing or isolating a person through the medium of e-mails, blogs, postings on websites, instant messages or text messages. Anyone who uses electronic media as a means of communication is susceptible to it, but victims of cyber-bullying are often youths.
We do not have specific laws against cyber-bullying but there is no immunity for acts conducted via the Internet. We can deal with cyber-bullying under our existing laws where an offence is made out. Potential offences in cyber-bullying cases would include criminal intimidation or insulting the modesty of a woman. Cyber-bullies are liable to be prosecuted if such offences are committed. Police does not track cyber-bullying cases.
If the cyber-bully is prosecuted in Court, the offender may be tried by the Juvenile Court if he or she is below the age of 16 years at the point of pleading guilty to the offence. There is no necessity to enact specific legislation to exempt such prosecutions from the usual criminal procedure and trial process as there are sufficient safeguards in our laws. For example, the Children and Young Persons Act, or CYPA, provides sufficient safeguards for both the youth offender and victim through provisions on protection of identities of young persons involved in hearings. The Evidence Act also provides for witnesses below the age of 16 years to give evidence through live video or live television links.
A key lever to addressing the phenomenon of cyber-bullying is education and awareness. Cyber-bullying is one of the topics covered in the Cyberwellness Framework developed by the Ministry of Education to enhance the schools’ cyberwellness education efforts. The framework includes a series of lessons that increases students’ understanding of cyber-bullying and its negative effects, as well as providing information on preventing and dealing with incidents of cyber-bullying. MOE has also been collaborating with various agencies like the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore to support schools in their efforts to educate both students and parents about cyberwellness. Specifically, MOE partners MHA in the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation, which encourages and creates platforms to transmit the cyberwellness message to youths.
Nevertheless, despite the best efforts, there will be cases of cyber-bullying which can go unnoticed by the schools. As cyberspace is pervasive and extends beyond the bounds of the school, parents need to be vigilant about their children’s activities, including their on-line activities. Close cooperation between parents and schools can help identify children who are victims of cyber-bullying so that appropriate steps can be taken.
We have no plans to enact specific offences related to cyber-bullying at this point in time as we think it is not necessary, but we will monitor the situation.”
Two interesting points to note:
1. Why is it only for the modesty of woman? What about man?
2. Police do not track of cyber-bullying cases, but they will arrest a cyber-bully once identified?
Is Cyber Bullying Illegal?
Analysis by Jonathan Strickland
Thu Apr 1, 2010 11:06 AM ET
You may have heard about the sad news of Phoebe Prince’s suicide. Prince was the victim of bullying and apparently decided to end her life after a particularly difficult day. Several of her schoolmates now stand charged of various crimes that could send them to jail. While cyber bullying played a part in the way some students treated Prince, it appears that the bullies relied more on old-fashioned physical and verbal bullying. Even so, the mere mention of cyber bullying brings up the debate over what, if anything, the government should do to protect citizens against being harassed online. In the United States, there’s no federal law against cyber bullying — yet. A bill introduced to the House of Representatives last year would make it against the law to “transmit in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.”
Anyone found guilty of this crime could face a fine or a prison term of up to two years. The bill has generated controversy among several civil rights groups who point out that the vague language could lead to violations of First Amendment rights. During House subcommittee hearings, several politicians and free-speech activists argued against creating a federal law that not only could infringe free speech but also create a burden for the federal government. Another view was that cyber bullying is just an extension of classic bullying and that it should be handled on the local level. The bill and a few similar proposed pieces of legislation are still in committee and may never become federal law. Several states have signed cyber bullying bills into law. States like Maryland, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and others have tried to define cyber bullying in a way that allows law enforcement officials to charge bullies with specific crimes. These laws also raise concerns with free speech advocates. So while cyber bullying isn’t illegal on the federal level in the United States, it is illegal within specific states.
Personally, I think most legislative approaches to curbing cyber bullying are a waste of time and money. Worse than that, I don’t think they actually curb cyber bullying activities. The Web makes it very easy to harass someone anonymously. Even people who would normally be victims due to their appearance, size or social status in a group can become bullies on the Internet. Anonymity and distance can inspire people to say and do things online they would never do in person. I’m fairly sure that laws against cyber bullying won’t change that. Another reason I don’t like cyber bullying legislation is that it’s reactionary rather than preventive. The laws might give officials the chance to charge bullies under a specific law, but at that point, the damage has been done.
These laws won’t prevent the next bullied teen from deciding to commit suicide or bring back the people who have already chosen to end their lives as a result of bullying. In my mind, we should be concentrating on the cause of bullying rather than how to punish bullies. What I think needs to happen is to encourage more involvement at the local level. Parents need to mentor their children. Compassion isn’t something you can legislate. Only by changing behaviors can we hope to really curb cyber bullying. Threatening kids with punishment isn’t going to be enough.
Well first of all it is my belief that the major majority of people who commit suicide were going to do it anyway, they just need to leave an excuse behind for those of us that do not fully understand. most men go through marriage being harrassed and belittled but they make it through life mostly unscathed……..same with women……..I was bullied when I was a child I cured it with a very big, very thick, history book …I’ll let you create the visual ….most of the time, if you ignore the bully(s) they will go away and attempt to bully someone else…I’m not saying that everyone who is or has been bullied should resort to brut force like I did but, we like all the animals and most plants on this planet can and will defend ourselves in some form or fashion…mother nature culls out the weak in the heard so that the strong shall survive
I feel bad for that girl, but she should not have killed herself over that. I was bullied as a child, and I know what it’s like. But I never wanted to kill myself over it. There is life after bullying!
Teen Arrested for Creating Website to Bully Other Teen
• By Kim Zetter
• October 15, 2009
• 3:07 pm
• Categories: cyberbullying
A Missouri ninth-grader has been arrested for creating a website that disparaged another teen, the most recent arrest in a series of crackdowns by Missouri authorities on so-called cyberbullying. School district authorities in Troy, Missouri, where the female student attends the Troy Buchanan Ninth Grade Center (pictured at right), alerted the sheriff last Thursday after the female target of the site told the principal about it, a sheriff’s spokesman told Threat Level. “The website had very troublesome things posted on it by an individual who obviously had a dislike for the other female in the school,” said Lt. Andy Binder, a Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. The name of the website, which has since been taken down, included the target’s name and “cunt.com,” Binder told Threat Level, and it hosted photos of the target. A couple of posts on the site, which were written anonymously, referred to the target as a “slut” and disparaged her for the male company she kept.
The author of the posts also indicated that the target “would be better off if she just died” instead of hanging out with so many boys, Binder said. “The perpetrator did wish for her death and was very unhappy with her,” Binder said. He noted that Missouri schools developed a zero-tolerance policy with regard to bullying in the wake of the Lori Drew case, in which a middle-aged mother in Missouri was involved in creating a MySpace account that was used to bully a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier. The teen committed suicide after someone using the MySpace account told Meier that the world would be better off without her. “The schools in the area are not willing to take the chance of losing another student,” Binder said. Binder said authorities determined the identity of the perpetrator after contacting other people whose names appeared on the site.
The ninth-grader then confessed to creating the page and was remanded to a juvenile detention center. The case has been turned over to juvenile court prosecutors who will determine if the teen will be charged with a crime. In the meantime, the school district has disciplined the perpetrator, though federal privacy laws bar school authorities from disclosing the nature of that discipline, according to a spokeswoman. “All I can tell you is that our policy for [punishing] any type of bullying, including cyberbullying, includes anything from lost privileges all the way up to expulsions,” said April Huddleston, a spokeswoman for Lincoln County R-III School District. She said the school got law enforcement involved because officials felt some of the statements made on the site were “alarming.” “We decided it was a case that was severe enough that we needed to get law enforcement involved and let them make an independent judgment [about the harassment],” she said.
She noted that the school is gearing up for an anti-bullying awareness week at the end of October that was planned before this incident came to light and is designed to encourage students to treat their peers with respect and be accountable for their words and actions. Oct. 27 is “Sock It to Bullying Day” at the school where students are encouraged to wear crazy socks. Missouri passed a law last year criminalizing cyber-harassment in the wake of the Megan Meier case. That harassment occurred in 2006, but local authorities were unable to charge Lori Drew with a crime because state and federal statutes at the time didn’t address cyber-harassment. In the absence of a federal law prohibiting cyberbullying, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles opted to charge Drew under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an anti-hacking statute, for violating MySpace’s terms of service in helping to create the account and participating in the harassment. MySpace is based in Los Angeles County.
Drew was charged with three felonies but was ultimately convicted on two lesser misdemeanor counts. The jury could not reach agreement on the third felony charge. The two misdemeanor convictions, however, were recently overturned by the judge in the case, who found that the CFAA was “constitutionally vague.” The judge was troubled that the convictions, if allowed to stand, would open the door for prosecutors to criminalize a violation of any website’s terms of service. Last year, Missouri legislators updated a state statute against harassment, which outlaws threats or harassing communication that causes emotional distress, by broadening it to include digital communications sent via the computer or text messaging. Under the law, perpetrators can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. The law went into effect August 2008, and by December, Missouri prosecutors had filed a flurry of charges against seven people accused of violating the statute.
* A 21-year-old woman was charged for allegedly sending harassing text messages to a 16-year-old girl and allowing others to use her cellphone to leave vulgar voicemail messages for the victim threatening her with rape, among other things. The perpetrator allegedly targeted the teen over a jealous dispute involving a boy. * Two St. Louis men were charged separately with sending harassing text messages to their ex-girlfriends. * A man protesting the development of a proposed resort was charged with sending a threatening e-mail to city hall staff. * A 28-year-old woman was accused of sending harassing text messages to her ex-husband’s girlfriend. * A 19-year-old man was charged with sending some 17 text messages to his mother’s husband. * A 17-year-old involved with a classmate in a dispute over a girl is accused of sending the classmate death threats via text messages.
Why Anti-Bullying Laws Are Doomed to Fail
The Shocking Statistics about Anti-Bullying Programs
Almost a year has passed since the publication of a scientific report of such momentous importance that it should have caused an uproar in the Western world and made headlines in all newspapers. Instead, the information has fallen on deaf ears and one must play the detective to track it down.
The fourth quarter 2004 issue of the School Psychology Review, the research journal of the National Association of School Psychologists, published the findings of Canadian Psychologist, J. David Smith, PhD, of the University of Ottawa, in a paper entitled “The Effectiveness of Whole-School Anti-Bullying Programs: A Synthesis of Evaluation Research.” He had conducted a meta analysis of all the research studies on the effectiveness of whole-school anti-bullying programs. Guess what he discovered. They don’t work!
As Dr. Smith reports, “…86% of victimization outcomes [reports by victims of program benefits] were negligible or negative and the remaining 14% of reported effects were positive (albeit small). For self-reported bullying, 100% of the reported effects were negligible or negative.”
Given the tendency of research to go in the direction researchers hope it will, the results may be even worse than what these studies indicate. And we can only imagine the terrible things we would discover if researchers actually set out to measure the harmful effects of anti-bullying programs, such as promotion of a victim-mentality, pushing “bullies” to become more anti-social, wrongful punishment, diverting precious class time from academics, turning students against each other, and creating family feuds.
When less damning results are found for a medication, it’s immediately pulled off the shelves and the manufacturer faces law-suits in the billions of dollars. In the six years since Columbine, the US has spent hundreds of millions of dollars while wasting countless hours of class time on anti-bullying programs that don’t work and even cause harm. Meanwhile, State after State, at the urging of mental health organizations and parent lobbying associations, is passing anti-bullying laws making schools responsible for stopping students from bullying each other. They will have to depend on anti-bullying programs that don’t work! Parents will become enriched by lawsuits against their schools for failing to stop their children from being bullied. But, amazingly, no one seems to care that these programs don’t work. Why?
Why Does No One Care?
Because we don’t want to. We have all experienced the misery of being a victim at one time or another, and our “inner-victim” wants revenge. How nice to finally have a scientist-blessed anti-bully movement that makes it legitimate to blame and hate others for our misery.
We adults haven’t yet figured out how to protect ourselves from the bullies in our lives, and we sure wish that someone would do it for us. So we’ve decided to give our children the security we ourselves have never known. Oh, the excitement of playing knights in shining armor protecting virtuous victims from the evil bullies in school!
A researcher discovers that the programs don’t work? They may even make matters worse? So what! We’re not about to let our beloved anti-bully crusade (and the millions of “free” dollars) be threatened by facts. Fighting bullies is the moral thing to do no matter how much destruction we leave in our wake. We love our big white horses and gleaming armor, and no one’s going to take them away!
What Aristotle Could Have Told Us
In case you are curious, would you like to know why anti-bully policies don’t work? It’s because they can’t – never have, never will. Aristotle figured that out 2400 years ago.
Aristotle, the most influential thinker in the history of the Western world, advocated for good government and for providing maximum rights to people. Yet even he knew, “The one thing that no state or government can do, no matter how good it is, is to make its citizens morally virtuous.” (Mortimer Adler, in “Aristotle for Everybody”; McMillan Publishing Company, 1978).
But this is precisely what the anti-bully movement is trying to do – guarantee our children a life surrounded by morally virtuous people. In other words – saints. Strange as this may sound, if you carefully inspect the academic definition of bullying, you’ll realize that anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria of sainthood is a “bully”:
“Bullying may involve physical action, words, gestures, or social isolation. Although bullying may involve direct, relatively open attacks against a victim, bullying frequently is indirect, or subtle in nature (spreading rumors, enlisting a friend to assault a child).” (State Laws and Policies to Address Bullying in Schools, by Susan Limber and Mark Small, School Psychology Review, 2003, Volume 32).
In other words, whenever you treat someone in a way they don’t like, you are a bully.
Who Started It?
Prof. Dan Olweus, the Norwegian psychologist who conducted research on bullying in the 1970’s, is known as the “father” of the anti-bully movement, and all the popular programs are based on his guidelines. In his book, “Bullying at School” (Blackwell Publishing, 1993) he calls it a “fundamental democratic principle” that “every individual should have the right to be spared oppression and repeated, intentional humiliation, in school as in society at large.”
By “oppression” Olweus is not talking about slavery or forced prostitution; he is talking about any action that bothers anyone else – things all of us do occasionally. Olweus apparently never studied government or philosophy, or he would have understood that this is not, and cannot be, a fundamental democratic principle. The place where no one does anything bad to anyone else is called Heaven, and you have to die to get in. Democracy, even at its best, is not Heaven on Earth.
Why can’t a government (and this includes that of a school) “make its citizens morally virtuous”, as the anti-bully policies are attempting? A little logical thinking will provide the answer.
Aristotle explains that moral behavior is a choice; it can’t be forced on people. It sure would be terrific if a government could simply decree its citizens to be saints. If this were possible, world peace would have been
achieved long ago.
But, as Aristotle knew, human beings aren’t biologically programmed to be saints. Making it a crime to do anything that someone else doesn’t like would lead to a totalitarian police state, with the government controlling every minute interaction between its citizens. Let’s say we work together and for whatever reasons you can’t stand my personality. You don’t want to include me in your lunch group, so I get you arrested for “relational aggression.” You think I rolled my eyes when you spoke at a meeting, so this time you get me arrested for “hostile gestures.” You disagree with me at a meeting, so I get you arrested again because it really upsets me when people challenge my opinions in public.
A moral society, by definition, cannot be achieved through legislation. Instead of creating Heaven on Earth, anti-bullying laws would turn society into a Living Hell.
Expecting the Absurd
Let’s look at the practical application of anti-bully policies in school. We’re students and you pick on me. I tell the teacher. S/he says to you, “Bullying will not be tolerated. You have to be nice to people. Bully Izzy again and you’ll be sent to the counselor. And if that doesn’t help, you’re going to be punished, even expelled.” That’s supposed to make you respect me and want to be nice? It will make you want to beat me up after school, or to look for an opportunity to get me in trouble with the teacher.
Or let’s say that the program has taught student bystanders to stand up for victims. A kid sees you insulting me and says, “Hey, bullying isn’t cool! You leave Izzy alone!” Are you going to say to me, “Gee whizz, I didn’t realize I wasn’t cool. Izzy, won’t you please forgive me and be my friend?”
Only a fool would expect kids to react in this way, yet this is precisely what our mental health professionals and educators are hoping, and even expecting, will happen!
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
Anti-bully programs are based on the idea that bullying is a learned behavior. Just as kids have learned to be bullies, they now need to be taught how to be saints. Who, exactly, is going to teach our kids to be saints? You and I? Who do you think they could have learned bullying from in the first place?! Can we honestly tell our kids: “Learn from us how to treat people. Have you noticed how respectful we are to our spouses, and that we never get divorced? And of course we are never mean to our children. We would never say a bad word about our parents, siblings, in-laws, colleagues and bosses – not even behind their backs! We all attend the Non-Discriminatory Church of Universal Acceptance and live in peaceful, integrated neighborhoods.”
Let’s look at what my own research has been revealing about us. About one thousand mental health professionals and educators have filled out my Bullying Survey. 47% of them answered Yes to this item: “There is at least one person in my life that gets angry with me fairly regularly.” This means that almost half of these professionals are currently bullying someone. (People don’t get angry when you are treating them the way they want to be treated, i.e., respectfully, kindly.)
To the item, “There is at least one person in my life that I get angry with fairly regularly,” 57% answered Yes. This means that more than half of mental health professionals and educators are currently feeling victimized and they don’t know how to make the bullying stop. Furthermore, the academic bullying experts define anger as an act of bullying. So by getting angry, these same 57% are simultaneously being bullies. That’s because when you get angry, you feel like a victim, but you look like a bully!
6% of respondents answered affirmatively to, “I have a child who gets hit by other kids in school at least once a day.”
21% answered Yes to, “My children hit each other at least once a day.”
This means that children of mental health professionals and educators are three-and-a-half times more likely to be hit by a sibling at home than by a kid in school. If experts at human relations do such a lousy job of protecting a couple of their own kids from each other at home, how in the world can they expect one teacher to protect thirty kids from each other in school? The answer is that they shouldn’t expect it, but they do anyway.
The Only One Who Can Solve the Bullying Problem
As Aristotle understood so well, there are things a government can do for you and things it can’t. Government can only give you things that money can buy. It can pay for teachers, but it can’t make you learn. It can pay for health care, but it can’t make you healthy. It can pay for police to protect you from crime, but it can’t guarantee that you’ll never be a victim of it.
And one thing it absolutely cannot do is provide you with a world of saints. It can, at best, punish people for not being nice to you. But then, one of the nastiest things you can do to a person is to get them punished by the authorities. So how can the government guarantee you a world of nice people when you’re allowed to be so mean?
If we are to have any chance of achieving a meaningful reduction in bullying, there is one fact we all need to recognize: There is only one person in the world who can get people to treat you well. And that person is you.