Countless tax dollars have been spent on government anti-bullying programs, and 49 states have anti-bullying laws. After New Jersey passed its broad anti-bullying law, hundreds of schools “snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual.” But recently, a University of Texas researcher found that anti-bullying programs increase bullying, and “actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully” classmates:
A lot of schools spend countless hours trying to stop bullying. But . . . University of Texas at Arlington criminologist Seokjin Jeong analyzed data collected from 7,000 students from all 50 states. He thought the results would be predictable and would show that anti-bullying programs curb bullying. Instead — he found the opposite.
Jeong said it was “a very disappointing and a very surprising thing. Our anti-bullying programs, either intervention or prevention does not work.”
The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be more likely to become a victim of bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.
The results were stunning for Jeong. “Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact — some positive impact.” The student videos used in many campaigns show examples of bullying and how to intervene. But Jeong says they may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting.
Jeong said students with ill intentions “…are able to learn, there are new techniques [and gain] new skills.” He says students might see examples in videos and then want to try it. According to Jeong, some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind.
Broad anti-bullying rules can be harmful to child development. As a school administrator noted after passage of New Jersey’s bureaucratically rigid anti-bullying law, “The anti-bullying law also may not be appropriate for our youngest students, such as kindergartners who are just learning how to socialize with their peers. Previously, name-calling or shoving on the playground could be handled on the spot as a teachable moment, with the teacher reinforcing the appropriate behavior. That’s no longer the case. Now it has to be documented, reviewed and resolved by everyone from the teacher to the anti-bullying specialist, principal, superintendent and local board of education.”
Broad definitions of bullying, such as defining all teasing as bullying, can harm children. Equating “teasing” with bullying, and calling for it to end (as some Obama administration websites do, and as Education Secretary Arne Duncan once did in a speech) is a bad idea, according to psychologist Dacher Keltner, who noted in The New York Times that teasing is educational for children and teaches them “the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously.”
The term “bullying” is increasingly being used as an excuse for censorship of speech protected by the First Amendment, such as anti-abortion advocacy, publicly revealing the names of students who vandalized a pro-life exhibit, student newspaper editorials criticizing gay marriage, and criticism of shoddy academic research on subjects such as the history of firearms.
Self-styled crusaders against “workplace bullying” want to impose broad definitions of bullying at the expense of free speech and use existing overly broad school bullying rules as models for sweeping laws against workplace bullying that would hold employers and co-workers liable for compensatory and punitive damages for speech and expressive conduct deemed to be bullying — something that disturbs business groups. Activists claim bullying is an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, bullying and violence have steadily gone down in the nation’s schools, especially before the current “anti-bullying” crusade.
When New Jersey passed its incredibly complicated and burdensome school bullying law, which contains 18 pages of “required components,” that gave a huge boost to a burgeoning “anti-bullying” industry that seeks to define bullying as broadly as possible (to include behavior like a kid always associating with the same group of friends, or rolling your eyes in response to a classmate) in order to create demand for its services.