August 29, 2014
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FIRST-PERSON: Anti-bullying bills & sexual politics
Kelly Boggs
Posted on Apr 20, 2012

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- The word bully, according to the "Concise Oxford English Dictionary," is defined as a person or persons who "intimidate or persecute (someone weaker)." Though the practice has likely been around since the beginning of mankind's existence, the advent of the Internet and proliferation of social media has given bullies new and innovative ways to torment their victims.

Situations have occurred where the bullying was so relentless and intense that victims were driven to commit suicide, a practice that is now referred to as "bullycide."

"Bully," a documentary by Lee Hirsch that calls attention to the harsh reality of bullying, is currently showing in select theaters in the United States. The film focuses on students victimized by bullies and the families of children who committed suicide in response to being bullied.

Though the motives for bullying are varied, they are irrelevant. It is a cowardly and despicable behavior that should never, ever be tolerated for any reason. That said, some lifestyle activists are taking advantage of the bully problem to push an agenda.

In Louisiana, House Bill 407 was recently debated before the House Education Committee. The legislation sought to deal with "harassment, intimidation, and bullying in public schools." The scope of the law also included "cyber-bullying."

While the bill was touted as seeking to deal with bullying in broad general terms, there are reasons that indicate the legislation was really about focusing only on gay students.

Bullying, the bill said, would be prohibited based on "race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, exceptionalities, physical disability, intellectual disability, developmental disability, mental illness or emotional health disorder, language ability, sexual orientation, physical characteristic, gender identity, gender expression, political ideas or affiliations, socioeconomic status, or association with other identified by such characteristics."

HB 407 attempted to identify the many reasons a student in a public school might be bullied, but even the bill itself admits there could be other reasons for bullying by prefacing the list with "including but not limited to ... " If the enumerated list was not exhaustive, why not use broader language that would include all bullying? Or, why not simply state that bullying will not be tolerated in any shape, form or fashion?

Testimony was given that stated the enumerated list was needed to help teachers. More than one person indicated that currently teachers are unable to recognize bullying when it is taking place.

The bill defined bullying clearly enough, calling it "any fear-inducing, threatening, or abusive gesture or written, verbal or physical act including audio-visual forms of expression."

The actual intent of the bill came to light when Rep. Jeff Thompson (R), from Bossier City, La., moved to amend the bill and remove the list enumerating the motives for bullying. His amendment also stipulated four hours of training be required of teachers in order to help them indentify bullying behavior.

"Bullying is an act, not a motive," Thompson said. "I don't care why you are bullying, it should stop."

When Thompson's amendment passed the committee by a vote of 10 to 5, Democratic Rep. Pat Smith chose to defer her legislation. "Rather than you degrade a bill that was meant for the safety of children, which is what you've just done," Smith told the committee, "I am pulling the bill."

Even though Thompson's amendment made the bill more comprehensive, in essence saying that bullying in any shape, form of fashion will not be tolerated and stipulated that training would be required of teachers, Smith pulled the bill. Why? Because the enumerated list that contained the language of sexual politics was stripped.

Bullying is wrong. No child should be bullied for any reason. Teachers should stop it when they encounter it. If a teacher does not, or worse yet if a teacher participates in bullying, he or she should be fired. However, using bullying bills to push the agenda of sexual politics in public schools is just as wrong.

HB 407, as amended by the Louisiana's House Education Committee would have been a tool that could have been used to help address the issue of bullying in public schools. However, because the legislation was stripped of the language of sexual politics, the bill's author pulled it.

Bullying is a tragic reality in our society. However, it is made even more tragic when lifestyle activists seek to use it as cover to push their agenda of sexual politics.
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Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message www.baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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