March 19, 2001
Children must not only feel safe, they must be safe
(Copy of an e-mail sent to State Representative Laura Ruderman regarding proposed state law outlawing bullying)
Thank you for always inviting and welcoming feedback, and for having an open ear to your constituents. I appreciate your attitude very much.
This letter is regarding the proposed bill to outlaw bullying and institute government oversight of schools to ensure that the schools carry out enforcement.
The safety of children in and around school is very important to me. I agree that it is a problem, does cause emotional scars in some, and permeates many, if not most, of our schools. (Not that it was unheard of in our grandparents' day!)
I believe we should not pass this bill regarding bullying, for the following reasons:
1) We already have laws that cover harassment, which bullying is. What teachers, principals, parents, law enforcement agencies and juvenile courts did in decades past, they must do again: gather up their nerve and enforce the classroom rules, school rules, and laws that already exist. I don't believe we should duplicate laws we already have.
2) You wrote that we must make sure that children "feel safe" in their schools. I don't want them to just "feel" safe. I want them to be safe.
Maybe passing another law at the state level would make them feel safe. But if that new law isn't enforced locally any better than the one already written, what good is it?
3) There have always been bullies. We have more laws now than ever before ‹ shouldn't we have fewer bullies? Therefore, it wasn't the laws that stopped them in the first place. Teachers, parents, siblings, fellow students and mentors did. Rarely did law enforcement have to intervene. But in the worst cases, when laws had to be applied, they were the ones we've had for generations. They worked then. They can work now. But only if we enforce them.
4) You wrote that "Good policies can work to reduce bullying." Absolutely, and we don't need a state law in order to create and enforce good policies.
We must hold the school district employees responsible, from top to bottom, for carrying out their job description. If they can't or won't, we must replace them with those who can and have the will to do it.
Inge Houck, Carnation