The southern California city of Carson aims to become one of the first municipalities in the country to make bullying a crime. According to KABC-TV, the Carson city council voted 5-0 to move forward with an ordinance to make physical and cyber bullying a crime. It would cover children from the age of 5 to 25. Under the law, bullying would be considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and a requirement to attend counseling. Carson Mayor Jim Dear, who supports the law said, “We’re not talking about putting a 5-year-old in jail, we’re talking about intervening in both the bully’s life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim’s life.” While I’m not sure there is merit in his statement that they’re helping the bully who is hurting, Carson is attempting to do something that only an individual can ultimately resolve.
When I was young there was a game called saluggi. It involved taking something from someone and passing it back and forth in an attempt to keep it from the person who owned whatever it is that was taken. The object could be a pencil, a bag of chips or a ball. Not relevant. Saluggi is actually more annoying than anything else and generally the game ended when the “victim” gave up and walked away, essentially ending the fun for the participants. It was a mean-spirited game but was it bullying? How do we define bullying and will over-protecting our children allow them to compete in an ever competitive world?
Taking medications for the average cold is not as effective as simply allowing the immune system to fight off the germs or virus. That’s what allows us to stay healthy. The same applies to life. If we don’t allow our children to defend themselves, to establish themselves, we will create a society of weak, unstable and unhappy children. More unhappy than when they figure out how to stand up for themselves because they won’t be able to cope with any adversity at all. Life is difficult and sometimes unfair, you can’t legislate that away.
Let me be clear, no one has to put up with physical abuse or violence but do we suspend or arrest a child for being mean to another child? Who makes up the bullying police and who decides when simply being mean-spirited crosses the line to bullying? This is as scary as not dealing with the issue at all. More laws and punishment for questionable behavior is not the way to fix this problem. If parents and educators did their jobs properly, there would be no need for this type of legislation.