When School Administrators Bully
Indiana's House Bill 1169, The Restoring School Discipline Act, offers a compelling civics lesson for any student, and any parents who dares presume to be better suited than the State to police their child's behavior. State-run school teachers and administrators, with the appropriate support of parents, can and should be the front line of bully prevention at school, but when administrators run to State legislators - lobby them, in fact -- to enlist help in denying students their 1st amendment rights, who exactly is bullying whom?
Co-sponsored by three House Republicans, Indiana House Bill 1169
removes the requirement that an activity, on or off school grounds, must be "unlawful" in order for a student to be suspended or expelled if: (1) the activity may reasonably be considered to be an interference with school purposes or an educational function; or (2) the student's removal is necessary to restore order or protect persons on school property.
That is to say, public school administrators would be given authority to suspend or expel a student for legal behavior - loosely defined as reasonably obstructive -- occurring outside school; anytime, anywhere. And I can think of at least one behavior that is a stark contraindication to the function of most educational institutions - conservatism.
Anyone raising a child today is all too aware that common sense has given way to zero-tolerance in many schools -- the Honor student suspended for leaving a pen knife used for farm work in her locked car; a kindergartner sent home for bringing a miniature plastic toy gun to school; a middle school student lead away in handcuffs for doodling on her desk. Good kids inadvertently swept up in bad government. Are we to believe administrators would condemn behavior off school grounds with any less vigor? Exactly whom would administrators hope to benefit with such an increased and sweeping lawless authority, other than themselves that is?
In a turn of events last week, after passing the House, Indiana HB 1169 was killed in the Senate which opted instead to form a "study commission" on best practices in school discipline. The commission may prove to be nothing more than theatre, but it's just as likely to provide another classic civics lesson - bad legislation never really dies, it just gets rewritten. An emphatic "no" would be the appropriate and cost effective response to such an egregious violation of the 1st amendment, authored by those sworn to uphold the Constitution nonetheless. Instead, as is all too often the case, the commission will rethink the bill until it's perhaps a slightly less unconstitutional version of the original. If there's any doubt legislation won't be forthcoming, here is the makeup of the study commission:
- •(1) Four (4) members of the house of representatives, not more than two (2) of whom may be members of the same political party, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives with the advice of the minority leaders of the house of representatives.
- •(2) Four (4) members of the senate, not more than two (2) of whom may be members of the same political party, appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate with the advice of the minority leader of the senate.
- •(3) The state superintendent of public instruction or the superintendent's designee.
- •(4) A member of the governing body of a school corporation, nominated by the Indiana School Board Association and appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
- •(5) A superintendent of a school corporation, nominated by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate.
- •(6) A public school principal, nominated by the Indiana Association of School Principals and appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
- •(7) A public school teacher, nominated by the Indiana State Teachers Association and appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate.
- •(8) A parent of a public school student, nominated by the department of education and appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
Maybe with some luck the commission's token parent, despite being a DOE nominee, will have at least read the Constitution.
Bullying has been around since Lucifer first showed Eve where to pick apples. No one doubts today's bully, with technology at his disposal, presents administrators with new challenges. But, frankly, whining about the incarnation of cyber-bullying, as though no other generation has faced new and evolving discipline issues, is bullish in and of itself. There is simply no more unseemly behavior than trampling liberty as you profess to do it "for the kids" -- neutering parents, ushering in increased government intervention, and allowing Leftist administrators to police, let alone define, behavior - the same Leftists who arguably enable bullies in the first place by insisting on a round of Kumbaya on behalf of the collective over actual self-defense.
Were I an administrator, I suppose I might be a bit testy too considering how much money is spent on education for such pathetic results - more than $77 billion annually at the federal level, not including the $100 billion stimulus infusion for education in 2009. Indiana's 2011 education budget was a mere $6 billion. Somewhere in all that budgeting, sits dozens of bullying and cyber-bullying prevention programs at the disposal of administrators. Frankly, no other President and friend to the bullied has done more to endorse the narrative than Mr. Obama. For all the headlines and bully summits, you'd think no child could possibly reach the other side of adolescence without a persecution complex. And wouldn't Democrats just love that.
When will the conventional parent say enough is enough? Our children can't play football at recess for fear someone might scratch an elbow and sue, or bring a peanut butter sandwich into the lunchroom for the handful of students with allergies. They can't pray, do or say anything without kowtowing to political correctness, escape lessons in social justice and revisionist history, nor avoid the ideology of the teacher's union. Thanks to Mrs. Obama our youngest no longer has access to the one milk she drinks - chocolate. Although, she has happily doubled her intake at home, which is perfectly acceptable considering her diet is inspiringly healthy, save the chocolate syrup squeeze bottle addiction. Last week, in appalling overreach, a 12-year-old Minnesota girl was interrogated by school administrators until she gave them her faceFook and email passwords after she was outed for having posted how "mean" a hall monitor was to her.
Simply put, our children have sacrificed far too much already on behalf of the bully, whatever his form - recess agitator, mean girl, government, well-intentioned legislators, or school administrator desperate to save face -- emboldening him in the process. Bullying is not to be tolerated in any form, including forsaking individual liberty to protect individual liberty. This seems a lesson most schools, and certainly legislators, would understand.