In February, ND State Senator and teacher Oley Larsen argued against the state’s pending anti-bullying legislation. His argument was well-researched and backed by expert Izzy Kalman, author and creator of the website Bullies2Buddies.com. You can read Izzy’s defense of Larsen, published March 9 in Psychology Today.
However, his argument was not well-received by fellow state legislators nor by state constituents. The majority leader, a fellow Republican, cut Larsen off before he was finished making his statement; I guess he thought Larsen needed to be saved from himself. The reaction from constituents, can best be judged by the many comments and YouTube videos which have sprung up to mock – dare one say bully – Mr. Larsen.
In This Zero-Tolerance Age, It’s Worth Considering Mr. Larsen’s View
Zero-tolerance towards bullies is the current mantra, in schools and in state legislatures. The cyber implications of bullying have scared the adults. The White House launched its own anti-bullying summit yesterday. In response to the Tyler Clementi suicide in Sept, New Jersey passed a zero-tolerance anti-bullying law last fall. Many states have such laws under consideration now.
But, I wonder: does anyone involved in all of this really know what the effective methods for reducing bullying behaviors among young people are?
However inelegant and perhaps inarticulate you may believe Mr. Larsen to have been last month, he raised some valid points:
- Bully behavior is normal – not new to the Internet
- Kids need to be taught how to overcome obstacles in life – like bullying – without relying on adult rescuers
- Calling attention to bullying behavior can actually intensify that behavior
- Punitive laws won’t solve anything
Unfortunately, what most people seem to focus on from Mr. Larsen’s speech, is that he “blamed the victims” whom were compared to ”emotional marshmallows.”
Expert Anne Collier Seems to Agree: We Need to Find “Ways to Support, Not Blame”
In her blog post this week, Anne Collier reacts to the recent Dateline NBC show “My Kid Would Never Bully.” She cites experts like Joan Tabachnick, who states that “if we want the bully to change, we need to be sure to find ways to show the bully a better [path] through the difficulties of adolescence.”
In short, these experts appear to echo Mr. Larsen’s sentiment: don’t just blame the bully. Instead, teach better behavior – to both the bully and the victim.
Kid-Empowerment Always Feels Right
Any approach which gives more power to kids to solve their own problems, simply seems smarter and more effective. Rather than relying on laws and law-enforcement, a wise parent will educate their child on how to behave – in real-life and on social media. Meantime, we can hope that our adults and legislators learn to model better behavior by respectfully listening to valid view points as they debate new legislation.
- Mr. Larsen’s speech
- An example YouTube response
- Izzy Kalman’s defense of Mr. Larsen
- Anne Collier’s blog post on “The No-Blame Approach” to defusing bullying
- Colorado’s Anti-Bullying Bill Up For Hearing This Week (huffingtonpost.com)
- Should Workplace Bullying Be Illegal? (psychologytoday.com)