Speaking of bullying… »« #OCTOPI!

Michigan’s failure

Republicans. Christians. Why do I despise them both? We have a beautifully illustrative example coming out of Michigan.

Concerned about school bullying, and motivated by the suicide of a student, Matt Epling, who was driven to the act by prolonged bullying, the Michigan legislature tried to put together “Matt’s Safe School Law”. It has passed, but there’s nothing to be cheerful about. The Republicans and Christians turned it into a bullying protection act.

First, the Republicans gutted it.

This year, Republicans only agreed to consider an anti-bullying measure that did not require school districts to report bullying incidents, did not include any provisions for enforcement or teacher training, and did not hold administrators accountable if they fail to act.

So the bill does nothing. It’s the Republican equivalent of saying, “tut, tut.”

Then the Christian element got to work and added a critical clause.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment.

We all know what that’s about. It’s all about giving the church kids permission to torment the gay kids. That clause is nothing but bigotry in disguise.

Well guess what, Michigan? We atheists have a sincerely held religious belief about religion: that it’s an evil dogma that needs to be howled down at its every occurrence. When the godless kids of Michigan see someone, anyone bullying the gays out of their sincerely held religious bigotry, I hope they band together and frogmarch the offender right in to the principal’s office. They whiny little bastard will get off by pleading Jesus, but do it often enough and a message will start to sink in.

Comments

  1. says

    The godless kids will stand alone in most places. Somehow I don’t see the godless kid (accompanied by the gay kid) frogmarching scores of homophobic bullies into the principal’s office. Republicans think some dozens more kids stringing themselves up in the attic is a fair price to pay as long as the moral majority gets to express their sincerely held beliefs.

  2. Peptron says

    It’s not bad if you believe you are right. Doesn’t that excuse about 100% of criminal behavior?

    -I may be a rapist, but she had it coming.
    -Oh yeah… that’s right… release him! Detain her instead!

  3. says

    Not that I am condone bullying, but can’t this reeeally bite them in the ass?

    If I, a bully, kicked some No True Christian (TM) Ass(R), couldn’t I get off by hiding behind Jesus?

  4. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    I love that loophole. I’ve always had a “a sincerely held moral conviction” that bullying is wrong. So do many others.

    Does that make it open season on bullies?

  5. Neal says

    Remember, bullying isn’t something that “kids do.” Kids are bullies because adults are bullies. This is a prime example of the behavior kids imitate.

  6. thecynic says

    As a gay kid from Michigan who was bullied growing up, I find this appalling!

    While it is true that there are some very tolerant liberal corners of the state (Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Lansing–and I count myself as very fortunate to have grown up in one of them), gay teens in most of the more rural parts of the state still find themselves ostracized.

    I have heard horror stories from friends of mine who lived through it–that our elected representatives would go out of their way to not address the issue has frightening implications for everybody, gay or straight. The Republicans’ deliberate attempt to do nothing WILL cost lives. Any ideology that deems it acceptable to arbitrarily appraise the relative value of a human life is inherently dangerous to all human life.

  7. Anteprepro says

    Well, it’s as we always expected: Religion and Republicanism are bully supporting ideologies. It’s just rare that they are so open about it.

  8. Hazuki says

    In my experience, adults never do anything to help bullied children even if they’re not members of some hated minority. If I ever have a child (adoption?) in school, I will give her express permission to go 31 flavors of medieval batshit on anyone who touches her first, and I will deal with the administrators. Think of it as a pre-emptive vote of no confidence, based on personal and eyewitness experience.

    Two wrongs might not make a right, but brother, they make some mighty satisfying crunching sounds.

  9. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    I always knew Michigan was a crazy state, but this is a new level of crazy. It’s also brazen. PZ, it’s not even an attempt to disguise the bigotry. Anyone who reads for comprehension can see exactly what that clause says. It’s disgusting.

  10. NitricAcid says

    Absolutely repulsive. If I was anywhere near Michigan, I’d be tempted to start firebombing some government offices, and claiming that I’m doing it out of a deeply-held religious conviction.

  11. Gregory Greenwood says

    On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment.

    And yet we are supposed to believe that it is the christians who are subject to persecution in society?

    This seems a pretty clear example of a bunch of fundies looking at cases of homosexual kids being driven to suicide by bullying, and calmly deciding that all those corpses and more are a small price to pay to protect the religious privilege of christian hatred-mongers.

    These cretinous god-botherers really don’t see homosexuals as human at all. I dislike the term and its religious and tribalistic connotations, but this really has to be the closest you can get to true evil. I would say that I wonder how these Republicans and bible-bashers live with themselves, but then I remember – they aren’t troubled by their conscience, because they don’t have one.

  12. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    I linked to this story yesterday in the undead thread. I also linked to this clip of Minority Leader Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D) condemning this bill as a blue print for bullying. Because if you cannot tell a fag, dyke or tranny that they will burn in hell, you are trampling all over their religious freedom.

    But we have to be nice to these people or they will not respect us.

  13. Midnight Rambler says

    It’s all about giving the church kids permission to torment the gay kids.

    Not only that; it specifically allows teachers, administrators, and principals to participate in bullying as well, as long as it’s part of their “moral convictions”.

  14. Cartomancer says

    Surely this sort of thing is directly contradicted by that constitution document the Republicans are so fond of?

    Life, liberty and the pursuit of happines… no religious tests… no establishment of religion… that sort of thing? Is there not a mechanism in the US to get this anulled by the courts, like they did in California with that nasty proposition eight thing?

  15. Rich Orman says

    “We atheists have a sincerely held religious belief about religion: that it’s an evil dogma that needs to be howled down at its every occurrence.”

    PZ, since when were you appointed to speak on behalf of all atheists? And I think that very few atheists believe that religion should be “howled down at its every occurrence.” I am pretty sure that most atheists believe that people should be allowed to practice their religion without atheists howling them down and disrupting their ability to practice their religion. What, are you suggesting going into church services and screaming at the top of your lungs? Picketing all religious services and observances? Approaching anyone wearing a cross, hijab, yarmulke, or turban and giving them a piece of your mind as to how stupid their belief system is?

    You really seem to have gone of the deep end lately.

  16. Mr. Fire says

    So the bill does nothing. It’s the Republican equivalent of saying, “tut, tut.”

    I’m thinking of that scene at the beginning of The Breakfast Club. Where the pig-headed jock dad of the Emilio Estevez jock character chides him for getting into trouble for bullying with (and I paraphrase): “Ya got caught, sport. Don’t get caught.”

  17. Acronym Jim says

    These short-sighted fools don’t even realize how damaging the religion exemption can be to the people they’re trying to protect exempt (the implication being they are fellow Christians). There are many flavors of Christianity and quite a few are at odds with each other. If the big dumb violent kid happens to be Catholic and picks on a little kid while claiming the victim’s southern baptist beliefs conflict with his own, he could off Scott free. Alternatively, a protestant bully can claim being outraged by the existence of “idol worshiping papists.”

    The idiots are potentially making life extremely ugly for their own kids to ensure that “Teh Gheys” don’t get too uppity.

  18. julian says

    Another reason why I feel no shame in saying I will not vote for a Republican. Fuck them. Self-centered unfeeling cowards to the last of them.

    Not only that; it specifically allows teachers, administrators, and principals to participate in bullying as well, as long as it’s part of their “moral convictions”. – Midnight Rambler

    Probably the worst part of it. Now bullied students literally have no where they can turn to in school for protection from these sociopaths.

  19. says

    As a Michigander I can hardly wait for the first case where someone, in a fit of self-righteous atheist indignation, kicks the living shit out of some proselytizing Christian and makes the case that they were morally outraged and felt their beliefs were threatened.

    This state is turning into the armpit of the midwest.

  20. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    I know, there is supposed to be a three statement suggestion. But fuck that.

    FUCK YOU, Rich Orman!

    Yes, fuck you.

    Did you bother to read the story. Did you stop to think about the fact that there is now a legal license to bully children? The children who turn to teachers and other school officials might be turned away because the bullies are justified by their adding Jesus to their taunts?

    You are truly being a reactionary.

    So, again, I end with this, Rich Orman.

    Fuck you!

  21. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    PZ, since when were you appointed to speak on behalf of all atheists?

    And I think that very few atheists believe…

    I am pretty sure that most atheists believe…

    Good thing he’s got you to tell him what atheists really believe.

  22. Mr. Fire says

    I am pretty sure that most atheists believe that people should be allowed to practice their religion without atheists howling them down and disrupting their ability to practice their religion.

    WHOOSH-SPLAT

    Um, that was the sound of satirical rhetoric flying over your head, then circling back around and deciding to take a dump on it.

  23. dartigen says

    Oh yes, they’ll do nothing.
    But if it was one of *their* kids who hung themselves or jumped in front of a train, they’d be screaming for bullies to be put in prison.

    It’s all just hot air until your kid’s the victim…

  24. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    I am pretty sure that most atheists believe that people should be allowed to practice their religion without atheists howling them down and disrupting their ability to practice their religion.

    Rich Orman, please tell me. Do you fucking support people’s ability to practice their religion when that involves the bullying of children?

    Come on! Speak up, asshole!

  25. N. Nescio says

    Wonder what’ll happen if a Dearborn area school has an incident where some Muslim students exercise their “sincerely held religious belief” by righteously kicking the shit out of a few of the more proselytistic Christian kids?

  26. says

    Question of the day. Will the Republican party ever hit rock bottom? It doesn’t seem like there is a bottom when it comes to them.

  27. What a Maroon says

    This is really no surprise. Xians have depended on bullying to spread their religion and keep the flock in check for over 20 centuries. They even have a technical term for it: evangelizing.

  28. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    N. Nescio, one must always keep in mind, when one talks about religious freedom in the US, it is only for christians.

    Just ask David Barton.

  29. you_monster says

    I am pretty sure that most atheists believe that people should be allowed to practice their religion without atheists howling them down and disrupting their ability to practice their religion

    Where the practice of religion is oppressive and treads on peoples’ rights, of course it should be howled down.

    What, are you suggesting going into church services and screaming at the top of your lungs? Picketing all religious services and observances? Approaching anyone wearing a cross, hijab, yarmulke, or turban and giving them a piece of your mind as to how stupid their belief system is?

    Hmm, lets see, did PZ suggest any of those things (in this post or any other)? Nope, clearly not. When people keep their idiotic beliefs to themselves, there are no problems. When people decide to intrude on others with their irrational, harmful beliefs, it should be loudly confronted.

  30. Anteprepro says

    Rich Orman: Ever occur to you that PZ’s statement in question was an intentional exaggeration, meant to show how you could hoist the religious by their own petard using the “bullying is okay if you feel strongly about it” loophole? Maybe you should consider the possibility next time before giving us all a sermon.

  31. Julien Rousseau says

    It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment.

    Harssment is illegal, right? So they are making a exception to make something illegal legal as long as it is done out of “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”.

    From the same kind of stupid reasoning the 9/11 terrorists were not doing something bad as they did their terrorist attacks out of “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”.

    The only difference is one of degree, not of substance.

  32. you_monster says

    You really seem to have gone of the deep end lately.

    Standing up against legislation which makes religious-based bigotry and bullying legal is “going off the deep end”?

  33. Janine Is Still An Asshole, OM, says

    Rich Orman, why won’t you come back and defend the religious based bullying of children?

  34. says

    I’m very tired of religious wingnuts frogmarching the rest of the country into their theocratic bullshit.

    The more fearful they are about losing their privilege, the harder they fight back and the more laws they toss around to back their idiocy. It’s like dealing with armed 4-year-olds, except without the option of sending them to their rooms for a timeout.

    What it boils down to is this: we need to have intelligent and ethical people run for public office. We certainly don’t have many people like that in there now.

  35. W. H. Heydt says

    Re; #19 (Cartomancer) Would that it were true that Prop. 8 had actually been overturned.

    The State Supreme upheld it on grounds that it passed.

    The Federal trial court overturned it basically on equal protection grounds.

    The Federal appeal is still pending–partly for the State Supreme Court to give an opinion on whether or not the appellants have standing under *California* law, with the decision probably coming in a month or so from now.

    If the CSC rules in favor of standing, then the Federal appeals court gets to decide if they believe that and which way to go on the appeal. Whichever sides loses will appeal to the US Supreme Court–which may or may not accept the case. I’m inclined to bet “not” as the supremes can read opinion poll trends as well as anybody and it’s clear which way the trend is going….but it’s not there yet.

    If the Federal appeals court rules against standing and tosses the case, I have (from a lawyer I know) data that the County Registrar in Imperial County is ready to go with a new appeal, and as an affected official would have standing, so the we’d go through the whole circus again.

    Settled? Not for 2 or 3 more years, most likely.

    –W. H. Heydt

    Old Used Programmer

  36. truthspeaker says

    Anteprepro says:
    4 November 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Rich Orman: Ever occur to you that PZ’s statement in question was an intentional exaggeration, meant to show how you could hoist the religious by their own petard using the “bullying is okay if you feel strongly about it” loophole? Maybe you should consider the possibility next time before giving us all a sermon.

    Especially when the “possibility” is obvious from the context, as it was in PZ’s post.

  37. Alt+3 says

    >Matt’s Safe School Law

    Well, it’s nice to see that not only did this kid feel he needed to kill himself because of these peoples attitudes, they also got the chance to shit all over his memory with this piece of legislation.

    It’d probably be less offensive if they were to literally dance on his grave.

  38. Anj says

    Kids are not bullies because adults are bullies.

    Adults are bullies because they were successful bullies as kids. Winning strategies are persistent.

    Kids are bullies because:

    The social costs do not outweigh the social benefits.

    It’s simple social economics.
    (I will now be horribly stereotypical.)
    If the Queen Bee decides to make some girl’s school experience one of near total shunning and exclusion with a side of verbal harassment, she can count on most of her Inner Circle to either join in or silently acquiesce. In fact, the Queen Bee can make harassing the Goat an requirement for new entrants to the Inner Circle.

    Social benefits: Status! Power!
    Social costs: Some students no one cares about dissing you.
    Net benefit.

    The Jock, or The Jocks.
    Males aren’t into the more subtle (yet just as nasty) purely social bullying that females often practice. They tend towards physicality. Usually it’s nothing obvious – a glancing collision that leaves a pile of books or lunch on the floor. Of course, this wouldn’t be bullying without the mocking and cruel laughter. Then there are the obvious attacks, kept out of sight of teachers. Or the attacks made where a teacher might see something but The Jock always has a smile and an excuse, so the victim suffers not just injury and humiliation but watches the adult who he thought would help stand there and do nothing.

    As with the Queen Bee and Inner Circle, The Jock(s) have their own status and their own droogs. If anyone does accuse the Jock of misbehavior, he’ll be sure to have half a dozen droogs ready to swear that he was innocent or at worst, misunderstood. You’d think physical assault would be easier to report – but it’s not.

    Social Benefit: Status, Social Bonding
    Social Costs: a low risk of being caught or having a droog go too far thus endangering the entire group.
    Net benefit.

    Now if a school has an aggressive anti-bullying policy and actively looks for any sign of bullying, especially among the highest risk population…then you can raise the social cost to the point where people would rather not risk the penalty. While this rarely discourages the ringleaders, it can peel off a substantial number of the followers. The leaders rarely get their hands dirty, so decreasing the number of gullible minions can greatly decrease the incidence of bullying.

    (Some signs of bullying: students arriving at school disheveled, dirty, wet or with fresh bruises or abrasions. Ditto for arriving home in such states. Homework that is completely missing, ditto for assignments, projects and so forth. A group courting an unpopular kid – usually a set up. A student late to class without any explanation. Plus the usual signs and symptoms of someone who has been traumatized.)

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    As commenter NathanDST noted on JT’s post about this:

    The bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law.” The language JT’s talking about was only recently inserted, and caused Senator Whitmer, who had been a co-sponsor of the bill, to vote no. The father of Matt Epling, whom the bill’s named after, is now ashamed to have the bill named for his son, who committed suicide in part because of anti-gay bullying.

    http://www.detnews.com/article/20111102/SCHOOLS/111020427/Dad-%E2%80%98ashamed%E2%80%99-of-anti-bullying-bill-named-after-son-as-it-passes-Senate

    (He includes another link, which I’m omitting in hopes of sliding under the spam filter…)

  40. A. R says

    I am so glad I’m out of the Michigan Public Schools system. This is exactly the kind of thing I would have been screaming at the administration about.

  41. Margaret says

    …and calmly deciding that all those corpses and more are a small price to pay…

    To them, the corpses are not a bug, they’re a feature.

  42. lazybird says

    I am pretty sure that most atheists believe that people should be allowed to practice their religion without atheists howling them down and disrupting their ability to practice their religion.

    Depends on what you mean by “practice their religion.” Some practice their religion by breaking their child’s bones. Or by trying to outlaw abortion and contraception. Or by denying someone health care. Or by allowing their child to die from a treatable condition. Or by trying to rewrite history books. I think some howling is called for in these circumstances.

  43. says

    Of course, not letting them bully students that are already on the edge of society would be to trample on their religious freedom, but just mentioning that there are homosexuals is giving homosexuals special privileges.

    Personally, outside school I support the freedom of speech. These assholes can say anything they want. However, inside the school is different. Not so much that the audience is comprised of minors, but because these minors are compelled to be there by the state. It’s not free speech if the audience can’t leave or heckle back.

    I think the most disturbing part is that it includes teachers and other school employees in the exclusion. It is never ever appropriate for a teacher to bully a student. A teacher who does that should not be protected but fired.

  44. Esteleth says

    Some practice their religion by breaking their child’s bones. Or by trying to outlaw abortion and contraception. Or by denying someone health care. Or by allowing their child to die from a treatable condition. Or by trying to rewrite history books.

    Yeah, or by beating their children mercilessly (sometimes to death).
    Trigger Warning on both of those.

    I can barely be coherent on this. I was bullied in school. I came pretty close to suicide over it.

    Fuckers. This would have empowered my tormenters more than they already were.

  45. M Groesbeck says

    Anj @ 48 —

    Wow…it’s like an pop-evo-psych type got together with a game-theory reductionist and studied TV teenagers…

    WHH @ 45 —

    Changing opinion polls lead me rather to suspect that the SCOTUS will take up the Prop 8 case — because Roberts et al would like to take the opportunity to see how much heterosexual-supremacist garbage they can write into Federal case law while they still have a majority. They know that if they wait too much longer, they won’t be able to.

  46. JDG says

    This… sickens me. Just sickens.
    I was bullied in school, by students, and when I scored above a certain point on the IQ tests, by a teacher that for some reason I still can;t fathom, made the lives of any student who scored above him (Which wasn’t that hard, really) hell.
    Neck brace, cracked ribs, suicide attempt, and countless bruises, split lips, and a collapsed lung.
    And that’s just /my/ cost.

  47. lazybird says

    Esteleth says:

    I was bullied in school.

    Me too. If I knew then what I know now I would have had the perp arrested for assault.

  48. Dragon says

    After reading this hash job by the Michigan Senate, I had to find the actual bill:

    Here is the offending clause of Senate Bill 137 from http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billengrossed/Senate/htm/2011-SEBS-0137.htm

    (8) This section does not abridge the rights under the First
    Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian. This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.

    Just so everyone knew exactly what it does say.
    All the news stories seem to have left off the actual content. But they are all correct, it is a free pass for religious bullying.

  49. JDG says

    @59
    Tried that. One of the ‘in crowd”s father’s was RCMP. I was told, in no uncertain terms to ‘be a man’ and ‘it’s just part of school’.
    Three rugby players beating on a 80 lb cripple kid, apparently, is ‘just part of growing up’.

  50. Rey Fox says

    It’s no surprise when you consider the personality traits that come with being able to successfully obtain public office as a Republican. I bet they were all bullying assholes in school, and now they have their best chance to perpetuate the cycle. All the better to keep the “freaks” in their place.

  51. lazybird says

    @JDG

    That shit really pisses me off. Battery and assault are illegal whether you’re 12 or 50.

  52. DLC says

    I was going to ask: isn’t the act of bullying also known as the criminal offense of harassment and or assault ? Can’t the schools just ignore these insane assholes at the State and have bullies arrested for it ?
    I know. the sad truth is, they won’t. At least not in most of the country. Schools being notoriously risk-averse, they will go for the middle course and do nothing until forced by law. And the law is not forcing them. So, the problem will continue.

    Me, every time I acted against the bully I got punished for it.
    Not them, Me. So yeah, I’m a bit skeptical here about school administration actually doing anything constructive.

  53. JDG says

    @64
    Yeah, go to a teacher, they have a ‘talk’ with the bully, and it of course slips out who made the ‘complaint’. Or you;re grilled for what you did to ‘incite them’.
    Bully’s work because they act with the permission and support of a certain number of parents and teachers.

  54. Zugswang says

    @59:

    When I got bullied in school, the only thing that eventually got it to stop was when I completely snapped and apparently choked out one of my tormenters (I say “apparently” because the only thing I remember was four other kids holding me back from him). These bullies were smart enough to avoid getting caught most of the time, and the times they did get caught, the punishment wasn’t much more than a sternly worded “you should know better.” When I’d tell a school official, I was told to “suck it up.” But whatever I did in that brief period where I blacked out was all it took to get them to leave me alone for the next 2 years.

    Do I condone it? Nope. Was it the only thing I could have done when school officials did nothing? Aside from transferring schools, probably.

  55. carolw says

    My brother and I were bullied in high school, and the only reason it got taken care of was because our mother was a teacher there, and made sure it did. If she hadn’t been, I probably would have ended up in a lot of fights, or dead.
    And my thory is that bullies who aren’t stopped in their teens grow up to bully. Something has to be done to stop the cycle from perpetuating itself.

  56. Teshi says

    This is pretty low. I can’t even comprehend how this is possible. The Democratic Senator’s disbelief and anger is, if anything, muted compared to the sheer absurdity and idiocy of such a law. Bullying is not only okay, but it is protected by law and not only does it apply to children, but that it is okay for an adult in a school to bully a child if they hate them.

    It is… simply unfathomable.

  57. Ichthyic says

    Michigan’s failure indeed.

    wow, so instead of coming up with a statute to protect victims of bullying, and reduce the instance of bullying behavior, instead they come up with a legal JUSTIFICATION for bullies to continue their behavior instead.

    In most sane parts of the world, a government that did exactly the opposite of what it was asked to do wouldn’t last long.

  58. What a Maroon says

    I was mildly bullied as a child–mostly name calling; occasionally some mild physical assaults, but never enough to cause serious harm. I could never figure out why I was the target, but it has made it hard to form lasting social bonds–to this day I often have the feeling that I don’t quite fit into whatever social group I’m in, and I’m wary about taking the steps that would allow me to fit in.

    But here’s the thing–I also joined in on the bullying of other kids who were even further outcast. It gave me a (twisted) sense of belonging. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t deny it.

    What these people are missing is that when bullying among kids goes unaddressed, it leaves two victims behind: the bullied, of course, but also the bully.

  59. What a Maroon says

    What these people are missing is that when bullying among kids goes unaddressed, it leaves two victims behind: the bullied, of course, but also the bully.

    Thinking about this a bit, this comes uncomfortably close to mansplaining, though that’s not what I was aiming at. I think the bullying culture has a lot in common with the rape culture, in that while the broader society condemns it in principle, all too often it’s the victim who gets blamed. And not surprisingly bullies seem to choose their victims by taking cues from the adults around them about who are the outcasts.

    So when I say the bullies are victims too, I mean that to the extent that they’re acting out on what they learn from the broader society around them.

  60. Ichthyic says

    So when I say the bullies are victims too, I mean that to the extent that they’re acting out on what they learn from the broader society around them.

    yup.

    and then they become politicians, which of course explains the current topic of discussion.

    catch 22?

  61. lazybird says

    @66

    Yeah, I also went postal on a couple of them over the years, which does work, they would cry like babies then leave me alone. One came along that was real big and a real shit-for-brains. If he has kids they have my deepest sympathy.

  62. Akira MacKenzie says

    Hmmmm… I guess my Dogma Free America subscription is coming to an end today. Fuck you, Orman.

  63. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Me, every time I acted against the bully I got punished for it.

    Me too.

    I had a teacher tell me that I started it by provoking the bully. Apparently my provocation was mere existence.

  64. What a Maroon says

    and then they become politicians, which of course explains the current topic of discussion.
    I dunno, I think they’re more likely to become cops, or go into the military. The politicians were the ones that would comfort you afterwards, put their arm around your shoulder, listen to your fantasies of revenge, and then go back and repeat everything to the bullies.

  65. What a Maroon says

    And the Maroon rule of blogging comments strikes again. Forget to Preview, and you’re bound to have a blockquote fail.

    Trying again:

    and then they become politicians, which of course explains the current topic of discussion.

    I dunno, I think they’re more likely to become cops, or go into the military. The politicians were the ones that would comfort you afterwards, put their arm around your shoulder, listen to your fantasies of revenge, and then go back and repeat everything to the bullies.

  66. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Who would Jesus bully?

    Anyone who doesn’t agree with his particular line of bullshit. He was the one who created Hell, if the babble is to be believed. One could almost call that the ultimate act of bullying.

  67. Ing says

    Me, every time I acted against the bully I got punished for it.

    I lucked out by having bullies that were unpopular.

  68. Twist says

    I had a teacher tell me that I started it by provoking the bully. Apparently my provocation was mere existence.

    I got this too – I was told that if I wasn’t so weird, I wouldn’t give them a reason to bully me. Weird = science nerd. What I took from that is if you show anyone that you have an interest in learning you will suffer for it, which I thought was a GREAT message to receive from a teacher.

    That’s right, if you’re gay, geeky, ‘weird’, atheist, whatever, spend your whole school life pretending to be someone you’re not because the school system doesn’t want to protect you.

  69. billreed says

    Just here to say I’m not surprised. Growing up in Michigan public schools was a depressing experience. They genuinely do not give a shit about the victim in cases of bullying. Without exception, it was my fault for provoking it. I was harassed, for one reason or another, for all of my elementary school years as well as most of junior high, until my parents finally moved me to a charter school.

    I’m 25 years old now, and glad to be out of the system, but I feel for the victims that are going through this now. I’m extremely dismayed to find that not only is a blind eye turned to bullying around here, now it may as well be condoned by the people in charge.

  70. Hazuki says

    I think it’s time some of these bullies got shot or worse. Since the people who are supposed to be protecting the victims won’t, it will only lead to vigilantism. Maybe a case of high-velocity lead poisoning or six will get the message across. Schools are becoming war zones.

  71. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    I think it’s time some of these bullies got shot or worse.

    Sure. Let’s kill children, people with brains that are not fully developed, because they have absorbed the toxic theistic paradigm of their family. Much easier than working to eliminate bullying through education, monitoring and a refusal to tolerate a culture which accepts bullying.

  72. Ariaflame says

    Too many innocent people can get caught up in that sort of thing Hazuki. I don’t think any of the other school massacres have decreased bullying. I suspect that cognitive dissonance has kicked in again and now the ‘weird’ kids are disliked and distrusted even more.

    Was bullied a lot at school myself. Early on, the reasons weren’t clear. I was easily provoked to emotion, so an easy target, I liked books, and in primary 3 I think it was, I got glasses, thus sealing my fate. Most of it was the psychological kind, but there was some physical bullying too. In my primary school the biggest bully was a girl who had, as I remember, a black belt in karate. I may have been misinformed about that, but she certainly had not absorbed any lessons about only using it for defence or sport.

    The last tactic I remember was feigning unconsciousness after being shoved into a wall. I suppose I had a hope that the bully might wonder if it was possible to go too far. I don’t actually remember if it worked.

    What saved me was moving countries when I was 14 and being in a school where nobody knew me. I’m still not great at the social skills, years later. But the sheer relief at not being bullied was bliss. But the distrust of the motives of others never really goes away.

  73. julian says

    Much easier than working to eliminate bullying through education, monitoring and a refusal to tolerate a culture which accepts bullying.

    Meh

    If what it takes for some poor kid who’s had every possible safe haven taken from him to feel safe again is to put a knife in the gut of one his attackers, meh. Sorry that other kid got hurt but he should have backed down ages ago. You don’t get to threaten another person’s well being and torture them for years on end and claim to be the victim when they fight back.

  74. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    julian:

    I was bullied, unmercifully, from kindergarten through about 10th grade (my first try at 10th grade). I am large, I was usually the biggest in my class, so I very quickly learned that if I struck back at the bullies, it was my fault because I am bigger. If I complained to the teacher, I was told I should deal with it myself. Then when I did, I was at fault again. i do have some anecdotal experience in the subject.

    Bullies are responsible for their behaviour. However, they are children. Children whose minds are not fully developed. Children who do not understand the reality which their actions create. Victims cannot stop bullies. Bullies, generally, cannot stop their bullying. It is up to the authority — parents (unless it is their toxicity which makes the bully think this is acceptable behaviour), teachers, ministers (I cringe on that one, but theism is dominant out there), the school administration. This involves, of course, changing the bully culture which exists in most schools (often associated with concommittant athlete worship).

    Bullies are the ones who choose to bully. They do not know why they bully (no, no research on that one, that is a gut reaction and, if I am wrong, please let me know), but who they bully is determined by the dominant culture — if you do not go to church, or the right church, you are an acceptable victim; if you are an effeminate male, or a masculine female, one who does not fit in with accepted social norms, you are an acceptable victim; if you are socially maladroit, you are an acceptable victim; the list goes on, far too long, but you get the drift. Those who are bullied come to accept it as normal. Uncomfortable, painful, horrible, but normal.

    To suggest that a bullying victim should stab or shoot their tormentor shows a lack of understanding of what it is like to actually be bullied. Remember that it is rarely one person — or if it is one person, others pile on and jump in because it is culturally acceptable and, at the same time, protects the individual from becoming a target. What should the victim do? Shoot or stab everyone who either bullies or enables the bully? In most schools, that would be more than half of a classroom.

    Additionally, doing harm to another human being, unless one is a sociopath, is extremely difficult. The US Army spends a huge amount of basic training in unarmed combat, bayonet drills, pugil sticks, and other non-projectile fighting techniques even though the army knows that, in any war, very, very, very few casualties on either side are caused by edged weapons. So why do it? Because is helps to train the new soldiers brain to make killing another person, an enemy, acceptable.

    So a fifth-grade student is going to be able to overcome ten years of conditioning regarding trying to kill another human being? Again, if that person is incapable of seeing other humans as humans, it might work. I doubt it, though. The few times I used my fists to try (unsuccessfully) to stop a bully were some of the most painful times of my life. For me to actually try to harm another person made me feel ill. And when I broke Jimmy’s nose, and the blood flowed, I vomitted. Which, of course, in addition to the punishment I recieved for beating Jimmy up, also increased the bullying from everyone else. So yes, bullies do get to claim victimhood when the victim retaliates.

    I am a special case, of course. I am large and was bullied because I liked to read and was socially maladroit (Aspergers). And I couldn’t use force to stop the bullies. What makes you think putting a knife in the hand of a child will create anything other than a complete and total disaster?

    I have seen one case in which a young girl did use violence to stop a bully cold. She was a young Havasu girl and the bully was Hispanic. He kept picking on her. Finally, one day, she said to him, “Leonard, please stop.”

    He laughed and asked, “What’re you going to do?”

    She said, in a very serious voice, “Leonard, please stop picking on me or I will stop you.”

    “How would a shrimp like you stop me?”

    She took a step forward and brought her knee up into his nuts. He doubled over with an odd squeaking sound. Then she brought her other knee up and smashed his nose flat. He hit the floor in the foetal position. She then walked up to the teacher’s desk and said, “Mr. Halver, Leonard was picking on me and I stopped him. You need to send me to the office.”

    She refused to accept being a victim which took a very unusual and very, very strong and forceful personality. There is no way I could have done that and I was bigger than Leonard. Yes, it did stop the bullying by Leonard, but no one else was picking on her, or even actively enabling the behaviour, so it worked. If her situation had been like mine, with 12 of 15 classmates actively involved in the bullying or actively encouraging and enabling it, no way would it have worked.

    And yes, Leonard did claim to be a victim. His parents told him to shut up and correct his behaviour. The administration did kick the girl out for a week, but they also publicly disapproved of a boy picking on and bullying a girl. I guess since I was a boy, it was okay.

    Luckily, she did not have a knife or a gun or, given her hunting prowess and the fact that, at age nine, she could easily field-dress a mule deer, Leonard would have been dead (if she could have overcome the cultural resistance to killing another person).

  75. Amphiox, OM says

    Maybe a case of high-velocity lead poisoning or six

    This has already happened. Several times.

    will get the message across.

    It didn’t.

  76. Horwood Beer-Master says

    Anj (#48) – Thank you so much, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    I’m fed-up to the back teeth of this naïve liberal* ideology that says that kids are born unblemished blank slates, and that any evil they do can only be attributed to corruption by the nasty adult world.
    Although I’m not saying that some bullies don’t learn their ways from adults, by-and-large the main role adults play in the existence of childhood bullying is allowing it to happen, or tacit approval by means of a ‘blind eye’.

    The one thing I would stress though is that it’s probably wrong to attribute to much calculation to the motivation to bully. Most child bullies – like their adult counterparts (who as you rightly point out, normally started down that road as children and were never discouraged) simply get off on the power they have over another human being. It’s plain simple cruelty as much as social politics.

    Alas cruelty is not something juvenile humans need to be taught – it’s something they need to be untaught.

    *(I’m using ‘liberal’ here in a British social sense – not a US political sense, if that distinction is important to you.)

  77. julian says

    @Father Ogvorbis

    I know what it’s like to be bullied (although, mine did stop when I hit high school) and I stand by what I said. Maybe it’s my natural inclination to hate but I can’t no matter how hard I try muster any sympathy. Sorry for digging up those memories in you.

  78. Horwood Beer-Master says

    Oh, I forgot to add. The other thing that annoys me is the idea that kids don’t really understand the suffering they cause. – Bollocks. Of course they understand, that’s that whole point. They’re doing it to cause suffering.

    A bully who didn’t understand the suffering they caused would not be a very effective bully.

  79. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    julian:

    You were bullied. You have my sympathy.

    Do you think you would have been able to overcome conditioning to actually stab someone? To attempt murder? I had dreams about doing that but I never thought that I would have the guts to do it. In retrospect, I also do not think it would have solved anything other than putting me into a far more restrictive environment in which I would have been surrounded by bullies (or violent children) 24/7 rather than just at school.

    And no reason to apologize for opening memories. ‘Tain’t your fault. It’s been happening a lot this week. Not sure I like it, but it’s been happening.

  80. julian says

    Do you think you would have been able to overcome conditioning to actually stab someone?

    Maybe if I already had the knife in hand. I lashed back at them a few times but mostly I kept it bottled up. I was terrified of blood at that age so I doubt I would have been able to go looking for them with the intent to stab one.

    In retrospect, I also do not think it would have solved anything other than putting me into a far more restrictive environment in which I would have been surrounded by bullies (or violent children) 24/7 rather than just at school

    And that’s what really gets me. I know it’s a bad idea, I know that sort of violence will only make the situation worse but it just makes me that much angrier at the one who did the bullying. The very people who’s duty it was to prevent that sort of abuse, after ignoring everything else that happened, after patting them on the head and ‘saying boys will be boys’ and ‘oh, toughen up,’ are going to throw the book at the person who’s spent who knows how long being tortured by this ‘victim.’ It’s like one big cruel joke.

    ‘Oh, you’re finally gong to fight back? Here’s an orange jump suit, you evil disgusting monster. How dare you hurt an innocent child?’

  81. Dhorvath, OM says

    The very people who’s duty it was to prevent that sort of abuse, after ignoring everything else that happened, after patting them on the head and ‘saying boys will be boys’ and ‘oh, toughen up,’ are going to throw the book at the person who’s spent who knows how long being tortured by this ‘victim.’ It’s like one big cruel joke.

    This is a huge problem, action isn’t taken until someone who has the social standing or power complains about it. Bullies have the power, so most situations will only escalate to adult intervention when the bully decides it is appropriate. Not only do they have schoolyard fear, but the looming threat of administration on their side. By this time the problem is old and ingrained, we need to target sooner.

  82. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    julian:

    Yeah. It’s one of those things that sounds great when I play it out in my head (I’m gonna get that lousy so-and-so and put ground habanero down the front of his pants and then . . . ) but in the world in which we live really wouldn’t work.

    And when I broke Jimmy’s nose, I did get hit with, “How dare you hurt another child? You think that breaking his nose, scarring him for life, was a good response to him calling you a name?”

  83. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    Father Ogvorbis, having read quite a lot of these recent threads I’d just like to say I think you are fucking awesome, I really do, and – it goes without saying – an infinitely better human being than these arseholes you’ve told us about.

  84. Father Ogvorbis, OM: Delightfully Machiavellian says

    opposablethumbs:

    Thank you. If we ever meet in meatspace, I hope your opinion holds. I’m kinda hard to deal with.

    Thing is, these arseholes I have dealt with throughout my life are the inhabiting the dominant social structure making those who rage against the machine the outsiders.

  85. Dhorvath, OM says

    It could go without saying, but damn, it shouldn’t. Let me second that, and add that I could hope to someday step on your lawn.

  86. julian says

    You think that breaking his nose, scarring him for life, was a good response to him calling you a name?

    Ugh

    Because words can’t ever, like, under any circumstances cause someone emotional or mental pain or anguish. Ever.

    It’s like some people are programmed to be assholes.Sorry you had to deal with that, Father Ogvorbis.

    My bullying was of the physical variety (not that my nicknames weren’t faggot and jew-lian until I hit high school). I was tiny and ungodly skinny so there wasn’t much to fear in pushing me around. When I did fight back in public enough a place for those bastards to actually pay attention I got a similar talking to.

    ‘It is never ok to resort to violence.’

    To this day I wish I’d been able to do more than stare at my feet and feel pathetic during his little speech. Looking back I strongly suspect they were talking to me instead of them because if I shut up, they wouldn’t have to deal with the problem anymore. After all, if they can’t see it, it’s not there.

  87. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    I’d be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean then :-) (not waving but drowning, as the poem says …).

    I feel kind of envious of the pharyngulites who actually get to meet up though.

    I agree with what you said about bullies. It’s easy for kids to slide into this way of behaving; they effectively get rewarded for it and go right on doing the same shit as adults. I’m just glad that most (most) of the teachers at my spawn’s schools have taken a better attitude to dealing with it than some people here have encountered.

  88. Jim Hudson says

    I assume that a Muslim bully can institute a jihad against a weaker Christian (according to Michigan Republicans) because they may have a strongly held religious belief that Mohammed has been offended.

  89. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Anj,

    I will now be horribly stereotypical.

    Uh, yeah, you’re disappearing the physical and sexual bullying of girls. Which does happen. And often at the hands of boys, particularly the sexual bullying. But, as Ariaflame at #89 writes, girls bully physically too.

    Julian: Agreed w/r/t words. If we can agree in this space that oppressive words cause harm in the real world, I don’t understand why the idea that a bully’s words can cause harm to his or her victim is contested.

    And, as much as I respect Ogvorbis, the idea that violence is “never the answer” is, honestly, wishful thinking.

  90. Azkyroth says

    I was mildly bullied as a child–mostly name calling; occasionally some mild physical assaults, but never enough to cause serious harm. I could never figure out why I was the target, but it has made it hard to form lasting social bonds–to this day I often have the feeling that I don’t quite fit into whatever social group I’m in, and I’m wary about taking the steps that would allow me to fit in.

    Make up your mind.

  91. Amphiox, OM says

    And, as much as I respect Ogvorbis, the idea that violence is “never the answer” is, honestly, wishful thinking.

    Perhaps it’s fairer to say that force, judiciously applies, should not be ruled out as part of the answer, but that violence should be avoided as much as possible.

  92. Akira MacKenzie says

    During my hellish middle-through-high-school experiences with bullies, one of the things I learned is that fighting back only works when you can consistantly hurt your tormentor/s everytime you’re picked on. Otherwise, your efforts become a new source of amusement for the sadistic fuckers.

  93. julian says

    Otherwise, your efforts become a new source of amusement for the sadistic fuckers.

    Oh yeah… Lose lose no matter what you did.

  94. redwards says

    For fuck sake, does nobody remember what is was like in public school after Columbine and the other school shootings? Fuck them all, they made it WORSE.

  95. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    It’s not just the gays who have just had bigger targets painted on them. The Jewish kids, the girl who doesn’t fit in and gets labelled a slut, the kids who speaks up in biology class in favor of evolution, the kid who doesn’t go to church, the person who wears something that can be considered pro-gang, the kid with the pet snake, the kid who dances, the kid who smokes pot, the gamer, the writer, the rapper, the pagan, the kid who simply dressed up as Harry Potter, the illustrator, the kid with the tattoo– there’s always a moral excuse. The Bible gives you an excuse to throw rocks at someone who wears a polyester/cotton blend.

    And there should not be an exemption– I know how much I hate bullies, and if I was in charge and knew someone was being bullied, I would come down on those bullies with full wrath, because I would be full of moral indignation. And in the end, I would be a bully myself, albeit a bully of bullies. And the rules should rather demand that I act in moderation, proportionate to the level of the problem, and keep in mind that the offenders are children who should be corrected but also given the chance to learn better.

  96. nesetalis says

    my solution: Move to the state and bully religious folk due to their offensive beliefs that i feel morally obligated to beat them to a bloody pulp over.

    and for the idiots, that was sarcasm.

  97. nmmng says

    Hmmm…

    A teenage boy is bullied into suicide, and rethuglicans spit on his grave by passing a law that gives carte blanche to bullies => just over 100 comments.

    A guy makes a clumsy pass at a woman in an elevator => well over 10,000 comments.

  98. What a Maroon says

    Hmmm….

    PZ posts an entry on elevatorgate, and inevitably legions of MRAs come to attack Rebecca Watson.

    He posts an entry about an atrocious law in Michigan, and no one defends it.

    And you wonder why the former gets more reaction.

    You want to see more responses here? Post a comment defending the bullies and the law, and defend yourself against all comers.

    You’ll get responses.

  99. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    For fuck sake, does nobody remember what is was like in public school after Columbine and the other school shootings?

    I’m sure somebody does. But it’s going to be people younger than a lot of us that are commenting here. I’m sure there were school shootings somewhere while I was in school, but I don’t remember hearing about them. Maybe they just didn’t get as much press until after Columbine, but by then I wasn’t in public school anymore.

  100. Dhorvath, OM says

    I would note that so long as we leave the solution in the hands of children, bullying will result in violence as a push back by the victims. This is grossly unfair to them in so many ways and will do virtually nothing to discourage bullying, merely shifting attention to other victims at best. This is an adult problem with child actors, we need to do better by our young than we do currently.

  101. Porco Dio says

    Can i has a slave?

    After all, I do have a “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” that slavery is the right way to do things.

    It says so in my bible and I am morally convinced that I should have one.

  102. BenjaminTR says

    I am surprised no one has pointed this out yet (unless I missed it). The “moral conviction” exemption is this:

    (8) This section does not abridge the rights under the First Amendment of the constitution of the United States or under article I of the state constitution of 1963 of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian. This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian.

    I am not a lawyer, but it appears that the exemption is for statements of belief, not for bullying. It does not permit bullying, physically assault or even verbal abuse based on a moral conviction. It says that a person can state her religious and moral beliefs. So a student can say, “Homosexuality is a sin,” but cannot bully gay students. The law explicitly says that no bullying is permitted (as the law states “all pupils are protected under the policy and [...] bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus”). Bullying is defined, in part, as:

    (b) “Bullying” means any written, verbal, or physical act, or any electronic communication, by a pupil directed at 1 or more other pupils that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm 1 or more pupils either directly or indirectly by doing any of the following:
    [...]
    (iii) Having an actual and substantial detrimental effect on a pupil’s physical or mental health or causing substantial emotional distress.

    If I interpret this correctly, persistently singling someone out with statements about how they violate some moral or religious tenet with the intent of shaming them into compliance would be bullying. So would similar actions.

    Of course, even if I am interpreting this correctly, I do not in any way trust school employees to recognize the difference between mere statements of belief and bullying, but we should at least be clear that the law as stated does not have any exemption for bullying of any kind.

  103. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    You’d have to be incredibly naive to think that the quoted passages above prevent someone who thinks gays should burn in hell from using their “personal conviction” to bully someone.

  104. Just_A_Lurker says

    Too true Rev., too true.

    This just breaks my heart. I grew up in MI. Yet it is not surprising. That just makes it worse. My first thought was “What took them so long to finally do this?”. I can see how with the issue of bullying being brought up and fought against hard, it made them take an official stance while pissing on a victim. Since clearly driving him to suicide wasn’t enough, they just had to ensure there will be more victims like him and do in with his name on the banner.

    UGH.