School Bullying: Do New Guidelines Do Enough?

A new pamphlet by the National School Boards Association spells out guidelines school officials should use to combat bullying, an issue many St. Louis-area schools have dealt with.

New guidelines from the National School Boards Association, released this week, spell out ways school officials should address the issue of bullying in their classrooms, while protecting the First Amendment rights of students.

The guidelines (PDF) start with the free speech issue: "The fact that some speech deeply upsets, offends or angers some citizens is not a justification for banning or limiting the speech....In general, a listener is free to avoid hateful speech, to turn away, and, of course, to respond and to challenge it. But listeners may not insist that government silence the speech."

(Please see the PDF file attached to this article for more details.)

An article in Education Week notes that "the new guidelines were produced by the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project/First Amendment Center...and they say that schools must not censor students’ speech purely out of the fear of potential bullying."

The article characterizes the guidelines by noting:

“students should be able to attend school without being—or even reasonably feeling—threatened by others. School officials should be mindful that abusive peer conduct may deny students full access to an education, even when it is not on a basis prohibited by law.”

But in general, unless a student exercising his or her right to free speech or expression is creating a substantial disruption of the school environment, it should not be squelched.

Schools in the St. Louis and St. Charles County areas that have dealt with the issue include expressed fears about attending school. led an awareness campaign on the issue.

Local lawmakers have in the Missouri Legislature. The with Shakespeare Festival Saint Louis to provide students performance assemblies and workshops on bullying. Students at Selvidge Middle School in Ballwin to dramatize the issue for classmates.

Do schools do enough to address the issue? Is there a reasonable line between free speech and bullying? Were you bullied in school and how did you handle it?

UrsulaSmith May 24, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I think that part of the problem is listing protected groups, more and more specially noticed protected groups, rather than simply saying that NO ONE should be picked on or bullied for ANY reason. Lawyers have tied the hands of the administration, while at the same time it seems that the education of administrators has made them less and less courageous. :-( When I was a kid, we KNEW that our teachers and principals would be right in the middle of anyone being picked on. AND, once identified, the bully would be in even BIGGER trouble from their parents! Yes, we had a few kids with rather worthless parents, but the school then took over the supervision of that kid--things like not allowing that kid to use the restroom when other kids were in there/ not allowing that bullying child to be alone anywhere, any time. I agree with Jeff L., the schools almost always know who the bullies are and zero-tolerance usually only hurts the nice kid defending themselves. [One neighborhood bully was taken care of ONLY after my mother DRAGGED him and carried him, kicking and screaming, back to his house. She then threatened to spank him herself if he EVER messed with my little brother again. Unfortunately, nowadays a parent doing the same thing would get that parent arrested for assault or worse. sigh...........
Kevin Lane May 24, 2012 at 06:25 PM
A bully in a school-yard doesn't know or care which laws you make. There are already rules against bullying. The real issue is that we have too man seperatists. All these people do is label everyone: white/black, poor/rich, straight/gay, young/old, male/female, blue/red, urban/rural, _______-American..... to the point that it's all these kids see. Kids pick on those who were different. It's this segregation & PC that cause it. Bullying isn't new, and it doesn't have a 'new' solution. We used to be allowed to kick their ___. If you couldn't, you found other kids who are being bullied & teamed up with them to do it. These days they want to handcuff you for defending yourself. Which means bullying isn't the problem, these new laws are. Those same folks have convinced kids that words, or name-calling is bullying. (A tactic that's useless against someone who is proud of who they are & where they came from) We need to drop political correctness, grow a spine (sticks & stones), and not be affected by words. Kids are taught that others are in charge of their feelings. We need to go back & teaching them that THEY are in charge of their feelings, not someone else. When you give away control of your own feelings, they are guaranteed to be hurt. Also, learn some wit, if you are always able to turn words around on that bully, they will stop. Plus, stop believing everything someone posts online. "Court of public opinion" doesn't require facts, it's mob mentality, and it's out of hand.
Heidi L. May 24, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Rachel's Challenge is a great program to start at the middle and high schools, it encourages the kids to identify bullying and challenges them to take a pledge against bullying. Check it out.
Devon Seddon May 25, 2012 at 05:08 AM
Do we really believe kids can't identify bullying? Kids know who bullies & who doesn't. Most bullies, maybe even after being caught bullying, have said they won't do it anymore. That's a pledge, right? Is there anything in there about how to defend themselves from a bully that may have been absent that day, or new to the school? I'm sure these programs are built with the best of intentions, but this just sounds like a political-correctness class to me. It likely won't go anywhere near the only, yet unfortunate, way to end bullying. Ignore it until it gets physical, then you have to get physical better. One way or another. Run faster, hit harder, out-number, etc. But I'm guessing, they assemble the kids, ask them what they think bullying is, and an adult tells them which times it's OK to place your self-worth in someone else's hands, and gives them a list of things that are OK to get upset about. They all sign a piece of paper and "poof" bullying is gone. It just seems a little self-indulgent on the adults part. In this assembly, does a kid speak-up when his bully is sitting right there? Or is he intimidated? Will a bully be able to figure-out which kids may be more sensitive or susceptible to bullying than the others? Kids he sees may be easier to bully, based on how they talk about it in these programs? Just my opinion but, if "identifying" and signing a "pact" with a minor (who is also a bully) are all ya got, it might be time to head back to the ol' drawing board.
JuliannaSmith May 30, 2012 at 08:29 PM
It is really vital that we must have an awareness when it comes to bullying because it can help our children know that it has no good effect if they would be a bully and the other way around. I became more concerned to my child for I don't want him to experience being bullied and it leads me to registered him to SafeKidZone. It has a mobile security application that enables my son to summon help from trusted people and with access to the nearest 911 during emergency situation. This is how I protect my child check out: http://safekidzone.com/


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