Children and pre-teens have a lot on their plate. Standardized tests, social awkwardness, issues at home and fluctuating hormone levels can create volatile situations. This volatility can easily carry over to interactions between students, sometimes with disastrous results.
So, to make things easier for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the social acceptance spectrum, there has been a movement to make the school experience a little more comfortable.
Dodgeball and tag have been consistently criticized for being exclusionary and providing a medium in which students could be tormented based on their athletic ability – or lack thereof. The New York Times reported that an increasing number of schools are seeking to restrict the amount of dodgeball played to prevent harassment from taking place.
But dodgeball and tag are just tools for violent behavior, not the cause. A bill in the Florida Legislature would more directly address the serious offenses that take place within the confines of schools.
SB 790, referred to as “Jeffrey Johnston Stand up for all Students Act,” would make bullying students at school a criminal offense.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Debbie Johnston is the primary advocate for this bill because her son, Jeffrey, committed suicide because of harassment at school. The bill represents a change in the nature of handling bullying and harassment, focusing on the bully instead of the victim.
“What we’ve done for so long is we’ve really concentrated on the victims and changing their behavior. You know – we tell them to laugh it off, ignore it. We teach them about resiliency and everything. And it really sends the message that they’ve done something wrong, something to deserve this,” Johnson told the Times.
The bill defines bullying as “teasing, social exclusion, threat, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, sexual, religious or racial harassment, public humiliation or destruction of property.” It also includes language that expands the realm of bullying to the digital world of social networking sites.
If the bill were passed, school districts would be required to prohibit bullying by adopting harassment guidelines by Dec. 1.
Many people may see this as yet another way of pampering students, preventing them from learning tough lessons about life and competition. However, the logic behind this bill is as simplistic as it can be: If the behavior mentioned above would not be tolerated in the workplace, or even on the streets between two strangers, it should not be allowed in schools.