Editorial: No bullyingThe Minnesota House could vote soon on anti-bullying legislation.
By: R-E Editorial Board, The Republican Eagle
The Minnesota House could vote soon on anti-bullying legislation. The admirable goal is to end all student harassment, bullying, intimidation hazing and violence.
Unfortunately, the debate on this education bill — and, predictably, the media's attention — has concentrated on sexual orientation. That's because the bill is incredibly specific and the specifics include protecting gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students.
Lost in the emotional debate are two concerns that deserve acknowledgement:
• local school boards should maintain control of curriculum, and
• state law cannot impinge on our freedoms of speech and expression.
The bill directs the state education commissioner to write a model anti-bullying policy and make it available to all districts. That policy "may encourage violence prevention and character development education programs."
The wording is fine, as long as "may" doesn't become "shall." State Capitol bullies have no business cramming a curriculum down school districts’ throats. In nicer words, writing policies and lesson plans belongs at the local level.
This has worked well in Red Wing. Our students are blessed to attend a district that has “concrete expectations” for behavior. The policy doesn't specify sexual orientation. It doesn't have to, because bullying -— regardless of the motivation — isn't tolerated. That inclusive policy promotes an environment of respect.
Perhaps the state bill is too specific.
Regardless, the state bill doesn’t and can’t answer this question (but lawmakers can try in their debate): Where does freedom of speech end and freedom from bullying begin?
Some might view one person’s refusal to stop advocating a certain position as harassment. Another might insist such a stance is protected speech.
Put another way, Thoeodore Roosevelt’s use of his bully pulpit, i.e., the presidential office, to promote an agenda did not make what he said bullying.
It boils down to perspective and definition.
With all that said, we contend that no student should face harassment, bullying, intimidation hazing and violence in school. A hostile environment — including one intolerant of divergent opinions and beliefs -— is counterproductive to a healthful learning environment.