Anti-Bullying Laws Punish the Taxpayer

You and I pay for counterproductive anti-bullying laws.

Posted Dec 07, 2011

Author's Transparency Declaration: I declare that I do have a financial interest in a company that offers products and services that may be related to the content of my writings.

Author's Policies Regarding Comments: 1. I rarely respond to comments because I simply don't have the time. If I don't respond to your comment, please don't take it personally. 2. Psychology Today has a strict policy about nasty comments. I believe in free speech and rarely censor comments, no matter how nasty. Every nasty comment by adults––especially by ardent anti-bullying advocates––illustrates how irrational it is to expect kids to stop engaging in bullying.

If you are like most people in the modern world, you have been in favor of strong anti-bullying laws. Everyone seems to be in love with these laws and want to see them made as tough as possible. Our psychological organizations have been informing us that we need to use evidence-based interventions. Laws are supremely momentous interventions that have tremendous repercussions and are not easly undone. Yet without any scientific evidence or even logical basis to support the belief that laws can actually solve the problem of bullying, these same organizations have been actively campaigning for tough anti-bullying laws.

I have been warning for years that anti-bullying laws will never put a stop to bullying, ultimately cause more harm than good, and have the potential of bankrupting our schools. Actually, it's not the schools that will go broke. It's the rest of us who end up paying the bills. And it's an outrage. How dare our professional representatives take it upon themselves to fight for counterproductive laws that are going to waste our money! Is that why we pay dues to our professional associations?

When a school loses a bullying lawsuit, it can cost us millions of dollars. But even when it doesn't, it can still cost us hundreds of thousands. News just came out of Columbus, Indiana that a federal lawsuit was dismissed and a settlement reached with a girl who complained that a boy bullied her by spreading sexually explicit rumors during one year of high school. The school district determined that the school properly followed anti-bullying policies, and the defendant vehemently denied any wrongdoing. But to prevent further waste of money conducting court hearings, the school district caved in. Their insurance agreed to pay one hundred thousand dollars to the girl, and the boy's insurance, fifty-thousand. But the insurance (which means the rest of us) is paying, so why should the school district care. Do you think that if the school staff and the boy's parents had to pay from their own pockets, they would have ever agreed to a settlement? But people have little difficulty spending Other People's Money.

You wanted anti-bullying laws? I hope you are happy. Now we have less money for holiday gifts. Except for the lucky girl, that is. And the lawyers on both sides.

In five minutes or less, I could have taught the girl how to make the rumors stop. In fact, with no expenditure, every remotely normal kid in the country could learn how to stop rumors in their tracks by reading the chapter on rumors in my free online manual. But no, we want the government to protect our children from rumors, so we pass laws that not only fail to solve the problem but escalate it.

The parents of the girl claim that the school "did nothing" about the bullying. You will see the very same claim made by every parent that files a school bullying lawsuit. This claim is based on the unfair and completely unfounded accusation by the founder of the bullying psychology, Prof. Dan Olweus, that bullying goes on in schools because they do nothing to make it stop. But because his words are considered gospel truth, everyone believes this nonsense. The schools, of course, deny that they "did nothing." And they are right. They did intervene to make the bullying stop. As did virtually all the other schools that are defendants in bullying lawsuits. Because when they intervene to stop the bullying, the reverse almost always happens-hostilities escalate. Anti-bullying laws are what political scientists call "unenforceable laws." Like Prohibition, the harder we try to comply with them, the worse the problem becomes.

And the reason is obvious. You don't need a PhD in psychology to understand it. If I get the authorities involved against you because I don't like the way you are treating me, are you going to admit your wrongdoing and accept punishment? Of course not. You will defend yourself and try to prove that I am to blame. You will hate me and want revenge because I got the authorities against you. You will turn all of your friends against me, too, and try your hardest to make me look like scum on Facebook. The more time that goes by till the investigation process is over, the further I will sink into depression. In fact, both of us, and our families as well, will become miserable. And if we go to court and get lawyers involved, the hatred and misery go up exponentially.

So if you want to maximize the suffering of school staff, students and their parents while wasting our precious money, continue lobbying for tougher anti-bullying laws. When the schools have no money left for education, don't say I didn't warn you!