Last week’s column described a major victory for individual freedom – the Supreme Court ruling that parents are responsible for supervising their children and protecting them from hideous computer games. Now, elected officials are taking another age-old situation out of the hands of parents, teachers, and principals by creating a statewide government program that reeks of Big Brother. The current “crisis” is bullying in schools and, unfortunately, some of the best hopes on the Republican side have fallen victim to this craze.
I think it’s fair to say that virtually nobody endorses bullying of students, but the real question is whether the situation has become so pervasive that we need to establish completely new mechanisms to confront the issue. A quick Internet search affirms that there are already national organizations that educate people on how to stop bullying.
But for some people, this just isn’t good enough, and now state legislatures are stepping in. We’ve all seen how the process works: A few incidents happen; urged on by an aggrieved constituent, a legislator creates an interest in the issue and proposes a law. Hearings are held in which proponents dig up similarly-suffering souls. Because there’s no opposition, no one at the hearing argues against the bill, which then sails through the legislature. The Governor then signs it, never questioning the growth of government or the intervention and assumption of individual rights.
The most recent state to jump on this bandwagon is New Jersey, even though they had already passed relevant legislation in 2002. But that wasn’t enough for the anti-bullying lobby, which proposed a new, “comprehensive” law. The bill was properly stalled until a freshman at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his roommate posted photos of a homosexual encounter on the Internet. How a college freshman who kills himself equates to a law controlling behavior of K-12 students was never explained. Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein, one of the principal backers of the bill, said this: "The Tyler Clementi tragedy was certainly uppermost in legislators' minds in acting as quickly and boldly as they did. New Jersey would have passed some law, but it wouldn’t have happened as quickly and it would have been nowhere as strong as the law that just passed."