Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obama Administration Promotes Panic Over “Bullying” To Incite Attacks on Students’ Rights and Well-Being

Obama administration officials call bullying an “epidemic” and a “pandemic.” But in reality, bullying and violence have steadily gone down in the nation’s schools, as studies funded by the Justice Department have shown.

As the Associated Press noted in 2010, “There’s been a sharp drop in the percentage of America’s children being bullied or beaten up by their peers, according to a new national survey by experts . . . The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year had declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008.”

The myth that bullying has risen among girls was debunked in a 2010 New York Times column, “The Myth of Mean Girls.” As it noted, “this panic is a hoax. We have examined every major index of crime on which the authorities rely. None show a recent increase in girls’ violence; in fact, every reliable measure shows that violence by girls has been plummeting for years.”

If bullying has gone down, how can it be a pandemic? By broadening the definition of bullying to include speech and vague power relationships.

The anti-bullying website defines even “eye rolling” as bullying, so if you roll your eyes at a bully, you yourself can be accused of “bullying.” Its ridiculously-broad definition has been adopted by schools like Fox Hill and Alvarado Elementary, which define “eye rolling” and “staring” as “bullying.” As a small middle-schooler, I rolled my eyes at bullies. A recent survey defined bullying to include “the use of one’s . . . popularity to . . . embarrass another person on purpose.”

A student can even be deemed guilty of “bullying” for not inviting a hostile classmate to her birthday party, since social “exclusion” is considered bullying (even though forcing children to invite unwanted guests to their birthday party can violate their right to free association). As a bullying victim noted in response to an article about such broad anti-bullying policies, “as someone who was frequently bullied as a youth, this policy would have required me to invite my own bullies to my birthday party. That sounds exceedingly miserable.”

Forty-five states “have laws requiring public schools to adopt anti-bullying policies,” but there’s no federal law against bullying, in general. That hasn’t stopped the Obama administration from trying to federalize anti-bullying policy. Its website defines “teasing” as a form of “bullying,” and “rude” or “hurtful” “text messages” as “cyberbullying.” Since “creating web sites” that “make fun of others” also is deemed “cyberbullying,” conservative websites that poke fun at the president are presumably guilty of cyberbullying under this strange definition. (Law professors like UCLA’s Eugene Volokh have criticized bills by liberal lawmakers like Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) that would ban some criticism of politicians as cyberbullying.)

School bullying can only violate existing federal law if it involves racial or sexual harassment. Moreover, harassment by students violates federal law only if it’s condoned by school officials, and is severe and pervasive. In its 1999 decision in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that schools can be sued “only where they are deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, of which they have actual knowledge, that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.” As it emphasized, “Damages are not available for simple acts of teasing and name-calling,” nor are they available for even “severe one-on-one peer harassment” if it occurs just a “single” time.

Thus, federal law does not ban most bullying.

To be actionable, harassment in school must be both severe “and” pervasive, rather than just severe “or” pervasive, unlike in the workplace. This limit on liability may have been a response to Justice Kennedy’s dissent, which noted that court rulings had cited the First Amendment to strike down campus harassment codes modeled on workplace harassment laws.

Federal civil-rights laws do not ban sexual-orientation discrimination. By contrast, most school districts do prohibit anti-gay harassment. Many states and municipalities do have gay-rights laws banning sexual-orientation harassment, and most states have hate-crimes laws that cover gays more broadly than federal law.

Despite the fact that federal law does not prohibit anti-gay harassment, the Obama administration has told the nation’s school officials that they may be liable for bullying, including anti-gay bullying. In an October 2010 letter, the Education Department told the nation’s school officials to take “steps to reduce bullying in schools,” saying that some bullying “may trigger responsibilities” under federal laws “enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.” Contrary to the Supreme Court’s Davis decision, the letter told schools that conduct “does not have to . . . involve repeated incidents” to be illegal, and need not be “severe” as long as it is “pervasive or persistent.”

The letter falsely suggested that anti-gay harassment is usually discrimination based on sex. It cited as illegal “gender-based harassment” a case in which “a gay high school student was called names.” By contrast, court rulings have often dismissed lawsuits over homophobic sexual harassment in cases like Wolfe v. Fayetteville School District, Simonton v. Runyon, Higgins v. New Balance, and Schroeder v. Hamilton School District. (Admittedly, a minority of courts, like the liberal Ninth Circuit, have managed to effectively equate most forms of sexual-orientation harassment with gender-based harassment.)

The Education Department’s letter was interpreted by some news reports as saying federal law already bans bullying in general, and anti-gay harassment. “The Department of Education states that federal education anti-discrimination laws provide protection against harassment of gay and lesbian students,” noted an approving commentary at the liberal American Constitution Society.

The Education Department also took aim at student speech outside of schools, such as “graphic and written statements” on the “Internet.” It did so even though the Supreme Court’s Davis decision based liability on the fact that the school had “custodial” power over students at school, and “the misconduct” occurred “during school hours and on school grounds.” It did so even though cases like Lam v. University of Missouri rejected lawsuits over off-campus conduct.

The anti-bullying panic has enriched high-paid consultants. After New Jersey passed an anti-bullying law, hundreds of schools “snapped up a $1,295 package put together by a consulting firm that includes a 100-page manual.”

Federalizing bullying would harm civil liberties and falsely accused people. The Education Department has already argued that the existence of a federal law banning sexual harassment overrides traditional protections in school disciplinary proceedings for students accused of harassment, protections like the clear-and-convincing evidence standard most colleges once used. It has also argued that students should not be allowed to cross-examine their accusers, and that colleges should investigate based on anonymous allegations. It took those positions in a 2011 letter that I criticized as legally-unfounded in The Washington Examiner. (I once worked as an attorney in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights). Under federal pressure, many colleges recently reduced safeguards against false allegations.

Banning all eye-rolling as “bullying” violates the First Amendment under the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Saxe v. State College Area School District, which invalidated a harassment code that banned isolated instances of hostile speech, holding that even a hostile “purpose” is not always reason enough to ban speech that is neither lewd nor disruptive.

And banning all teasing is harmful, according to psychologist Dacher Keltner, who noted in The New York Times that teasing is educational for children and teaches them “the wisdom of laughing at ourselves, and not taking the self too seriously.”

Some anti-violence activists criticize the current panic over bullying, and say it diverts attention away from more serious safety issues. “Teasing and bullying aren’t an issue in our community. Youths killing and maiming other youths is,” said Ron Moten, co-founder of the anti-youth-violence group Peaceoholics. “The new movement is not about children. It’s about politics.” Besides, Mr. Moten said, schools can’t “police everything a kid says.”

Legal mandates imposed on schools in the name of preventing bullying can have bad consequences for child development. As a school administrator noted after passage of New Jersey’s sweeping anti-bullying law, “The anti-bullying law also may not be appropriate for our youngest students, such as kindergartners who are just learning how to socialize with their peers. Previously, name-calling or shoving on the playground could be handled on the spot as a teachable moment, with the teacher reinforcing the appropriate behavior. That’s no longer the case. Now it has to be documented, reviewed and resolved by everyone from the teacher to the anti-bullying specialist, principal, superintendent and local board of education.”


Starkey: 'Britain is a white mono-culture and schools should focus on our own history'

David Starkey has provoked more controversy by claiming that most of Britain is a ‘mono-culture’ and that immigrants should assimilate.

The TV historian rejected claims by other academics that it is a diverse country, describing it as 'absolutely and unmitigatingly white' outside of London. His outburst comes three months after he blamed ‘black culture’ for the summer riots and claimed that parts of Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech had been right.

He made his latest comments during a historians conference discussing Education Secretary Michael Gove's announcement that he wanted to put ‘our island story’ at the heart of Britain's national curriculum. Dr Starkey told the meeting that the National Curriculum should involve ‘a serious focus on your own culture’.

Cambridge University historian Joya Chatterji asked him to explain what he meant, arguing that contemporary Britain was ‘rather diverse’.

But Dr Starkey cut in, telling her: ‘No it’s not. Most of Britain is a mono-culture. You think London is Britain. It isn’t.

‘Where I’ve come from in Yorkshire, where I’ve come from in Westmorland [in Cumbria], where I largely live in Kent, where I holiday much in the South West, it is absolutely and unmitigatingly white.

‘You have such a series of assumptions. It is a kind of Ken Livingstone-esque view of rainbow Britain. ‘Bits of Britain are rainbow and jolly interesting but to read out from those to everything else is profoundly misleading.’

Dr Starkey added: ‘Successful immigrants assimilate or become bi-cultural.’

Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said he did not believe Dr Starkey was racist but was saddened that he ‘feels that he must occasionally utter nonsense that may give comfort to racists.’

Lee Jasper, Chairman of the London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, tweeted: ‘Starkey the racist academic strikes again.’

Former prison chaplain the Reverend Pam Smith jokingly questioned on Twitter whether Dr Starkey ‘can’t see people who aren’t white’ given the racial diversity of many towns outside the capital.

Richard Evans, Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, criticised Mr Gove and Dr Starkey for advocating ‘myth and memory rote-learning’ to feed children ‘self-congratulatory narrow myths of history'. Dr Evans said school history teachers were right to reflect Britain’s multi-ethnic make up in lessons.

Dr Starkey had been accused of racism by more than 100 viewers of Newsnight in August when he claimed that 'whites have become black'. He added: ‘A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion.’

But Ofcom ruled that the Newsnight discussion had been balanced by other speakers who did not share the outspoken historian's views.


Australia: The million dollar man is still keeping shtum (silent)

"Greenfield" (Grunfeld) is a well-known Ashkenazi surname so it will be apparent to many that the taciturn man is Jewish. The "close relative" that he unfairly benefited is also therefore presumably Jewish.

So this appalling man is giving new life to one of the oldest slurs against Jews: nepotism. And to top it all, his evasivesness gives life to yet another common slur against Jews.

In a world where antisemitism is still boiling (ask almost any Muslim or almost any British Leftist) it is hard to believe that an intelligent man could be so irresponsible. He has damaged himself, the university, his family and his community and yet seems intent on reinforcing the damage rather than mitigating it. And the ridiculous pretense that he is resigning even though he has done nothing wrong just increases the stench.

I won't mention the street-names that would be given to Greenfield's behaviour

He should immediately tell all, apologize profusely and resign forthwith

As both I and my son are graduates of UQ, it pains me to have the university's name dragged through the mud by this foolish man. The university is not getting much for the million dollars a year it pays him

UNIVERSITY of Queensland vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield has returned to work but failed to explain his involvement in a nepotism controversy that has destroyed his career.

Prof Greenfield invited The Courier-Mail to the campus to make a statement on Monday but offered nothing new, tartly restating comments he made last week in a prepared statement. "As CEO I accept responsibility," he said, without explaining what he was accepting responsibility for.

The exercise in accountability took just 21 seconds.

I had been ushered into an executive meeting room down the hallway from his office in the Chancellery building at the university's St Lucia campus and was told beforehand how the vice-chancellor was very busy but had "squeezed someone else out so you could get in".

I was asked to sit at a table under a humorous picture by Torres Strait artist Alick Tipoti depicting a smiling crocodile, a talking cockatoo and a dingo.

Prof Greenfield suddenly entered the room but would not sit down. He spoke briskly, turned on his heel and left to be photographed by The Courier-Mail in another room. Before walking away he added: "My focus now is ensuring the transition to a new management is smooth. "The university is actually travelling very well and we don't want to lose that momentum. That's all I'll say."

Prof Greenfield looked grey and slightly haggard. But he made it clear by his tone and by his demeanour that he was determined to tough it out.

Before saying goodbye a press minder said she was happy the university was "now back to normal".

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Prof Michael Keniger agreed to stand down after an integrity investigation found a student had been admitted to a course without the proper qualifications.

Later, Prof Greenfield described the student at the centre of the affair as a close family relative. The university's operations manager, Maurie McNarn, confirmed Prof Greenfield had discussed the student's enrolment in a phone call to Prof Keniger.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, will be allowed to stay at the university as vice-chancellor until after he turns 65 in May.


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