8.06.2010

Gag the bullies

Neenah, Wisconsin is under attack. The threat is, indeed, so basic, so existential, that the very Constitution needs must be violently shoved aside for our good citizens to be safe.

That danger, apparently, is bullying. Not even the old, in-school type -- no, the threat that is so great as to trump the Constitution is cyber-bullying. Now, granted, there is no indication that this grave threat has actually reared its head in out tranquil town. Sure, there have been "cases" -- nothing so definite as an actual problem, no clear cases where some clear line has been crossed, nothing that we'll actually point to as an example. But it might be a big problem, and that, clearly, should be enough:
Neenah has a policy against harassment, but a new state law requires school districts to adopt, by Aug. 15, a policy prohibiting bullying.

"This is all new ground," board member John Lehman said.

The Board of Education expressed support for the policy and will vote on it Aug. 17, two days after the deadline but within reason of state officials.

Neenah's policy goes further than a model state policy by specifically banning cyber bullying.
So this isn't even the state's fault -- this is all the city. And it's a very bad idea.

Near as I can tell, this isn't really a problem that Neenah is dealing with, but, as usual, the vogue worry for schools. Like how my Catholic school (my graduating class was 80 people) banned backpacks because someone might smuggle in a gun and shoot the place up in the wake of Columbine. Never mind that the truth is, necessarily, far more complicated than the initial news reports. This is a theoretical threat that must be headed off in the most draconian fashion.

Could we consider building better connections between the administration and parents in order to communicate when certain students are starting to bully or be bullied? Poppycock.

Could we suggest that parenting is an important part of raising a child? Nonsense.

Could we remind ourselves that a school's jurisdiction stops at, um, the school? Heresy!

Instead, we'll simply muzzle the students. We will police all their behavior. We will, of course, have to spy on the students. We will teach them that some thoughts cannot be thunk. That some words cannot be spoken. We will show them that the State is right, that they are helpless to stand up for themselves, that, ultimately, freedom of speech means nothing.

And that is wrong.