Robert Knight

When I was a kid, I got bullied fairly frequently because I was short. So my parents enrolled me in a Judo class. After a few unexpected flips in the hallways, the bullies left me alone. Confronting bullies helps build character. There are times, of course, when Judo won’t work and the best strategy is to avoid the jerks or sic a teacher or principal on them. Almost everybody has a story. But now, bullying has become a federal issue.

Rep. Jackie Speier is on a crusade to use the U.S. government to stamp out bullying in America. The northern California Democrat wants to deny federal funds to schools that won’t keep a tally of bullying incidents against special needs children. In other words, the federal government is going to whip local schools into line using its vast fiscal powers. It’s a politically correct form of bullying. To oppose this abuse of power implies you actually want these poor kids harassed.

I’m not sure where the Constitution legitimates such a sweeping directive, but it’s probably in one of the penumbras emanating from the Preamble’s General Welfare clause. Once you create giant Washington bureaucracies, you can use the clause to justify almost anything from forcing poison light bulbs down our throats to dictating schoolyard behavior.

Every so often, this power is put to good purpose, as when Sen. Jesse Helms used a similar threat to prevent schools from kicking out the Boy Scouts. But he was defending the Scouts’ constitutional rights, not creating a vehicle for social engineering. The real solution is to get rid of the oxymoronic Department of Education, not to empower this Jimmy Carter creation in hopes of advancing conservative ideals. It creates too many bullies.

Rep. Speier’s new school-bullying idea mirrors President Obama’s recent interest in the subject. On March 10, he held an “anti-bullying” conference at the White House. Besides “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings, invitees included anti-Christian homosexual activist Dan Savage, who attained some fame in 2000 for claiming to have licked the doorknobs of pro-family Republican candidate Gary Bauer’s office in hopes of giving Mr. Bauer the flu. Now that’s the kind of participant we should have at every anti-bullying conference, if only as a role model.

As Illinois Family Institute writer Laurie Higgins relates, “Savage said the conference was ‘of tremendous symbolic importance,’ but also complained that ‘What was never addressed is when the parents are the bullies.’” Coming next: federal mandates for “parent education?”

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.