Most states have legislation against bullying to protect kids in schools. In that last few months, perhaps in response to current events, legislators in several states have introduced bills that strengthen or bolster these laws.* While not everyone agrees we need legislation to prevent bullying, everyone does agree that bullying is bad and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Scratch that. Everyone does NOT agree that bullying is bad.
Some groups want to preserve children’s right to bully other children, so long as the child being bullied is gay. I *beep* you not.
“The [Michigan] law…offers a loophole to those who want to bully gay students or anyone else they don’t like. All they need to do, according to the newly passed legislation, is claim that their bullying was based on “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”” — Brad Hirschfield at The Washington Post
While this loophole was ultimately struck down by Michiganers (Michiganites? Michiganese?), a similar provision remains intact in Tennessee. So how do we know this nonsense is about tolerance for gay-bashing? Because it’s brought to you by the folks at über conservative Focus on the Family and their associates. Indeed, an attempt to update anti-bullying legislation in Arizona ended with the death of the bill because one of their local lobbyists ran it over. If passed, the law would have required “school-district governing boards to adopt policies and procedures to prohibit students from harassing, intimidating and bullying other students.”
“Cathi Herrod, chief of a lobbying group associated with Focus on the Family, decided that the bill was really part of an effort to ‘force cultural acceptance and affirmation of homosexual lifestyles’.” — Katherine Stewart at AlterNet
More than that, Cathi Herrod claimed bullying legislation had been hijacked by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) as a means to gain access to schools and school children. Hey, I’m always open to a good conspiracy theory, but what the *record scratch*?! Ms. Herrod is not alone in her objections to legislation against bullying.** The Extreme Right (and righteous) argument appears to be twofold.
Argument 1: LGBT groups are using anti-bullying legislation to gain access to school children because they would be providing anti-bullying training in schools.
Why Argument 1 is Lame: I’m sure those groups could and would help with trainings, as many of them already have established anti-bullying materials and education programs. But they wouldn’t be the only people providing training. If you know anythin’ ‘bout gov’ment, you know there’s a process for hiring contractors, or for approving memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with schools and districts, or for accessing school or district data, etc. You can’t just go into a school and access kids carte blanche. So the idea that LGBT groups see anti-bullying legislation as direct access to students is nonsense. In addition, kids are bullied for all kinds of reasons, so trainings about bullying wouldn’t just be about LGBT and would likely involve other groups with established materials and education programs.
Argument 2: LGBT groups are using anti-bullying legislation to promote acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality and alternate sexuality.
Why Argument 2 is…wait, argument 2 is correct. LGBT groups absolutely want to promote acceptance and tolerance and understanding of non-heterosexuality. That is the primary means to combat bullying of LGBT kids. But LGBT groups are not alone in wanting this to happen. Promoting acceptance and tolerance and understanding of any difference is the primary means to prevent bullying.***
And as Pagans, we fall into that any difference category. So what happens with this legislation is pretty important for us, too. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if it was okay for my (future) kids to be bullied at school because the harassment was based on “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” by the bully. I just can’t imagine that someone could bully my kid because I am (or s/he is) Pagan without consequence. I just immediately see red.
Next Friday (April 20th) is a Day of Silence to protest bullying of LGBT kids. The Princesses hope the Realm will join us in this protest to show solidarity for our LGBT kindred and to show condemnation of saddling anti-bullying legislation with religious righteousness. In my post next week, I’ll write more about the Day of Silence and ask for your personal stories about bullying. I hope you will be willing to share!
* For example, Arizona’s bill would have improved reporting measures and reporting requirements. Other states have proposals that would give schools more authority to respond to different kinds of bullying — like cyberbullying, which doesn’t actually happen (most of the time) on school grounds.
** Senator Al Franken (MN-D) is also catching flack for introducing a federal anti-bullying bill that would specifically protect LGBT kids. Critics say Franken is bullying non-supporters of this bill and attempting to “homosexualize” children (and thus cause more suicide because being LGBT → suicide, according to Franken’s critics). Wow. I need a drink.
*** Single Dad Laughing wrote a wonderful piece last year on acceptance and love which went viral. In a far more eloquent way than I, he basically said, “Stop being a little bitch about it and let go of your hate.” A poignant message. A worthy task. But not easily accomplished.
+ Featured image, “The Bully of the Neighborhood,” by John George Brown (1831-1913).