David Cortman

Maybe it is just me, but I am getting a bit tired of reading about the left’s aggressive push on the whole bullying issue. I am no bullying expert, nor am I a child psychologist, but I have been bullied before (after all, I am vertically challenged and wore braces growing up). Haven’t most of us been bullied at one point or another? Maybe many of us still are. And isn’t that part of learning how to cope with adversity and challenges in this cold, cruel world that we live in?

So why all of a sudden this outrage for something that has been happening since the beginning of time? A loaded question, I know. Let me offer a concession, identify a problem or two, then a general assessment.

First, a concession (with a caveat): bullying is no good. People shouldn’t bully. It is a serious issue, but one that should not be hijacked for political gain or to push an agenda.

Second, let me point out a problem or two with trying to prohibit bullying. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but how is bullying to be defined? I am not just talking about a general description or definition, but rather one that permits a fair and even-handed application. (More difficult is an application that is even possible with young children especially.)

Here is what I mean. How do you draft and then enforce a bullying policy, say, in an elementary school? Would it look like this?

1. Students must be nice to each other.

2. Students may not say mean things to each other.

3. Students should tell their teacher if someone says something to them that hurts their feelings.

Mind you, I am not trying to make light of bullying but rather to point out the difficulties in identifying it. You see, when “bullying” crosses the line into physically threatening or hitting someone, you don’t need a bullying policy to prohibit that. But bullying policies usually have the added (and often unconstitutional) component of prohibiting “mean or hateful or offensive” speech. And if each child was punished every time they said something hurtful, the biggest class would be in the principal’s office. So when do you enforce it, and when do you chalk it up to children being children? And what about each time an adult said something hurtful or offensive? Where should we be sent?

David Cortman

David Cortman serves as senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund at its Atlanta Regional Service Center in Georgia, where he heads litigation efforts to defend and reclaim the First Amendment rights of public school students across the nation. Cortman joined ADF in 2005, and is admitted to the bar in Georgia, Florida, and the District of Columbia. He has practiced law since 1996 and graduated magna cum laude from the Regent University School of Law, where he earned his J.D.