Friday, May 20, 2011

Media : Baptists 1 Gays 0 In Louisiana School Bully Fight!! (Updated)

(UPDATE- See bottom)

That might as well have been the head line from what I saw on the reporting as to this matter.
The Gambit had an article that is typical yesterday of the reporting and emphasis we have seen. See Anti-bullying bill fails in Louisiana legislature .

For the record I do not think the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops had position on this. That is understandable since they don't want public schools intervening with Catholic schools. So we Louisiana Catholics in the public school system are left to fend for ourselves.

Now is that legislator correct that the gay rights lobby is behind this. Well I suspect he is to some degree.

Though it's close cousin , the over broad concerning CYBERBULLY legislation passed last year, was supported by a broader coalition. So it does have allies elsewhere I suspect.

Do Baptists and others have a need for concern? Well maybe they do. One has to be blind not to see that a enormous amount of behavior is being called "hate" I am told constantly that being opposed to gay marriage is "homophobic" and "hateful" . There is also a tendency among these groups to try outlaw all sort of actions and words as hate speech and to impose all sort of official and unofficial sanctions. So yes that is in the background and so lets not be naive. However was that the real problem here?

The current law can be found here in full.
2) For purposes of this Subsection, the terms "harassment", "intimidation", and "bullying" shall mean any intentional gesture or written, verbal, or physical act that:

(a) A reasonable person under the circumstances should know will have the effect of harming a student or damaging his property or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to his life or person or damage to his property; and

(b) Is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.

(3) Any student, school employee, or school volunteer who in good faith reports an incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying to the appropriate school official in accordance with the procedures established by local board policy shall be immune from a right of action for damages arising from any failure to remedy the reported incident

(4) The provisions of this Subsection shall not apply to the parishes of Livingston, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa.

Now we see here that the law is imposing an affirmative duty on schools here. But we also see that there appears to be needed most of the time some pattern of abuse that is occurring. That is not one isolated action necessarily gets the anti bully hearings and disciplinary machinery rolling.

I think that is very fair and a good system. At least it provides some sanity and safeguards as we go into the complex area of children learning socialization skills. The sad fact is children can be very cruel. If one thinks that can be legislated out with a combination of harsh sanctions they are fools.

What shockingly has not been commented on the news media is the new bill would have changed that. The text of House bill 112 as it hit the House Floor yesterday can be found here. Read the whole thing and one can see the dramatic change.

Now note the "AND" is deleted and Added is :
(b) Any intimidating, threatening, or abusive gesture or written, verbal, or
physical act
by a student directed at another student occurring on school property,
on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event that a reasonable person under the
circumstances would perceive as being motivated by any actual or perceived
characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual
orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories

That is quite a significant change and you can bet it got the attention of school boards and their defense lawyers very fast. We have gone from a situation where a student is engaged in a persistent pattern of making a person's life hell to one incident triggering all sort of things. Including liability on school boards.

Also what triggers this? For instance if a child goes "Fu** you Republican you are evil "and then proceeds to give him the middle finger to boot would it start the whole anti bully process? My past interactions with having to protect the rights of kids labeled "Special needs" who get into trouble does not give me a lot of confidence in the just nature of the system.

The fact of this major change seemed to go unnoticed as papers around the State wanted to have this as a show down between the gays and Louisiana Family Forum /Baptists. However this is a critical change in the law that would have consequences. We are setting up a process and going down a road to where fear of litigation resulting from a possible violation of a legislative mandated duty sets up absurd results.

Now as noted in the article the following language was taken out on the House floor that dealt with “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories"

Now that does not mean any of those categories could not be used in a determination of this one act. However the Gambit seems to miss the bigger point as it returns to the comments of a North Louisiana legislature. That new PART B is still there. I suspect that was the huge problem.

This is the sad fact. We cannot nor should not want to try to legislate and sanction all hurtful words and actions of childhood. You really can't do it and when you try injustice is likely to occur.

I feel quite strongly about this because I have seen how ZERO TOLERANCE policies on school violence create idiotic results. I have seen how these polices have caused kids get lost in the system of "alternative schools" where they have to go when they are disciplined or "expelled".

I also have seen that the effects of this seem to fall on certain people of demographics that face challenges already. Further I have seen how teachers and principles have used these rules to get rid of "problem" students. It's a big mess. I am not even getting in the other speech and religion issues that one encounters.

I do not advocate that students or parents should not have a recourse when their child is being abused in the schools. But we must be careful about it so not to cause more harm than good. In other words we need to make sure what might be a classic "moral panic" causes well an evil.

Now some faith groups came in and supported this legislation. From last week :

..The Rev. Priscilla Maumus of the Episcopal Church said the "vows of my baptism and my ordination," both referencing "the dignity of every human being," compel her support....

Well that is all well and good. But why in the real world do I think that an average Episcopal Child , IF THEY ARE EVEN IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, that like other children say hurtful things will get benefits that children from other backgrounds will not. Heck add children of journalists from the Gambit to other papers as to that "unofficial" more protected class.

Update- A supporter of the bill is not pleased with Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport. See here post Anti-bullying bill FAILS in Louisiana legislature -- Professional bully, Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport), calls me an idiot. FUN EMAIL EXCHANGE!

By the way I should be finishing revamping the links this weekend on my blog. My Louisiana link section will be politically diverse and I am adding her. Should be a fun ads.

Regardless my many obejctions to this bill for the reasons I stated above still stand.

1 comment:

Rick67 said...

I'm normally a big fan of Chris Andrews (as pastor, preacher, congregational leader) but have disagreed with him on this plain and simple.

"My ordination vows require me"? Nonsense. There is a difference between my vows require x and my vows require *this particular legal/political way of dealing with x*. And we used to make fun of the religious right for dressing up their political ideology in God language.