Why do we need federal laws to make bullying a crime?  And why do we need to require schools to have anti-bullying policies?

The saga of Billy Wolfe should be enough to convince you.  Over a year ago, Billy was being bullied relentlessly by two bigger guys from his high school in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  He was beaten up in a bathroom at school and on the school bus and in shop class and in Spanish class.  The bullies put up a Facebook page harassing him.  A brother of one of the bullies even recorded on his cell phone camera, the bully getting out of a car, walking up to an unsuspecting Billy, who was waiting at a bus stop, punching him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead and then showing the video around the school.

The authorities did nothing while the violence and brutality went on for three years.  Billy’s parents tried to get the bully’s parents and the school authorities to stop it but the assistant principal, Byron Lynn Zeigler, did nothing to stop it.  Oh, he said it was Billy’s fault.  He blamed the victim.  The school bus incident was recorded, but the Ziegler immediately suspended Billy.  Days later watched the recording and showed Billy’s parents that their son was innocent.

Billy’s parents finally went to court.  After almost a year, the court has ruled on whether to keep considering the motions on behalf of Billy.

Why do Billy and his parents need laws?   And why do we need to require schools to have anti-bullying policies?

According to the story by Scott F. Davis in the Northwest Arkansas Times, although the court kept intact many of the charges, it ruled that the plaintiffs (Billy and his parents) failed to show that the school had an official policy that lead to the alleged problems surrounding bullying.

Let’s put that in simple English.  Assistant principal Ziegler argued that since the school didn’t have an official policy supporting bullying, it wasn’t the school’s fault that bullying occurred on school premises and they can’t be held liable for the bullying.  Also, since the school didn’t have official anti-bullying policies, he didn’t have to stop the bullying; even that part of the bullying that occurred on school grounds.

Because there are no laws specifically about bullying and beating kids up, Billy’s parents had to try to use laws that are on the books against sexual harassment.

Now do you understand the need for laws that would require administrators to take proactive measures to prevent bullying on school grounds?  Also the need to have laws that would require administrators to stop bullying that’s brought to their attention.

The kids at school all knew what was going on.  They knew that the legitimate authorities had turned their backs and given the bullies a free hand.  When the responsible authorities allow bullies to control the turf, they allow violence and scapegoating, harassment and brutality.

Billy may have tried to fight back, but that doesn’t make him the problem.  That just makes him one child against large kids.  And with the size disparity that often happens in middle school and high school, he can’t win without adult help.  When his parents went to the schools, way back at the beginning when it was only threats, the district wouldn’t act.

I’m sensitive to principals that don’t protect the victims because I’m from Denver.  Remember Columbine High School.

Of course, the bullies’ parents are to blame for allowing their sons to act that way.  But when schools tolerate bullying, the real problems are the administrators (principals and assistants) and teachers.

Have those ignorant, cowardly principals in Fayetteville not learned anything.  There are many schools in the country which don’t tolerate bullying because the principals won’t tolerate it and, therefore, their teachers and staff won’t either.  And they’re bound by the same statutes and the same laws of conscience as in Fayetteville.

Whatever the court decides on the basis of law; shame on those adults.  They have shamed themselves and their community.  They are definitely not models who should be allowed to teach or administer for children.

Resource cited: http://nwanews.com/nwat/News/74359/

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://BulliesBeGone.com ) and blog (http://BulliesBeGoneBlog.com ).

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