Thursday, April 27, 2006

FL "House passes bill banning bullying in public schools"

That's what the headline reads, but my interpretation (which may differ from yours) is slightly different. From my local paper:
The state House on Wednesday passed a bill requiring Florida school districts to write policies prohibiting bullying in public schools, although time is running out for the Senate to join the effort.
It seems to me that the House isn't banning bullying per se, but telling schools to come up with their own plans to do so. Maybe I'm nitpicking semantics here, but there is a difference. If the House bans it, it's kind of a "one size fits all" approach, but if they direct the schools to do it, then...what? Do the schools get to define bullying, or lay out punishment guidelines, or what?

I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, bullying is horrible: it scares weaker kids, it empowers stronger and more aggressive kids, and it disrupts the educational process. No one believes bullying is acceptable. On the other hand, is this really a matter for Tallahassee to be taking up? It seems that school districts should already have procedures in place to deal with bullies. Alas...:
...only about half of Florida districts have anti-bullying policies or programs.
Maybe the school districts feared invoking the wrath of the ACLU if they implemented such measures. I can see it now:

"Your honor, the school district violated Spike's First Amendment right to free speech. Also, by prohibiting Spike from 'requesting' lunch money from his classmates, the only alternative for Spike to get lunch money is to either work (which is just WRONG) or to get it from his parents (which is equally WRONG)! Actually, lunch should be free for ALL students, but we're working on that in another case. Anyway, does the school district expect Spike to starve?"