Is the School Bullying Problem Overstated?

In the Wall Street Journal, Nick Gillespie of Reason.com and Reason.tv argues that far from being in the midst of a national bullying crisis, childhood in the US is actually safer than it has ever been before. He claims that the raised profile of bullying incidents is the result of increasingly overprotective parents and a media with nothing else left about which they can stir up a moral panic.

As for the rising wave of laws and regulations designed to combat meanness among students, they are likely to lump together minor slights with major offenses. The antibullying movement is already conflating serious cases of gay-bashing and vicious harassment with things like…a kid named Cheese having a tough time in grade school.

This is in response the recent screening of ‘Bully’ and the Cartoon Network special ‘Stop Bullying: Speak Up’. High profile stories such as the recent arrest of a bully after his alleged victim posted her story on reddit have perhaps led to an inflated opinion about the extent and seriousness of most bullying incidents. In addition the phenomenon is fed by a culture increasingly unwilling to put up with any incidence of physical or emotional abuse, and happy to try to legislate to prohibit any such behavior.

Helicopter parents are increasingly involved in their children’s lives and will step-in to tackle any negative things happening to their offspring, rather than letting their children get on with it themselves as happened more often in the past. All of these factors add up to bullying getting a high profile and seeming like more of a problem than it used to be, at a time when physical brutality and meanness in the playground is arguably at its lowest ever watermark.

The article notes that there are many serious cases of bullying occurring still and these shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, as they can lead to the loss of a child’s life. It merely seeks to temper growing hysteria with a little reason.

Mr. Cheese, now a sophomore in high school with hopes of becoming a lawyer, provides a model in dealing with the sort of jerks who will always, unfortunately, be a presence in our schools. At the end of “Stop Bullying,” he tells younger kids, “Just talk to somebody and I promise to you, it’s going to get better.”