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How New Jersey Can Reduce Bullying With No Extra Budget

Money cannot make an counterproductive anti-bullying law become successful.

Published on January 31, 2012 by Izzy Kalman in A Psychological Solution to Bullying

No Amount of Money Can Make the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Law Successful

New Jersey proudly passed the toughest school anti-bullying law in the country, only to discover that rather than eliminating bullying, it is making schools miserable. Complying with the law is so expensive that the state Council on Local Mandates has declared the law to be unconstitutional because it is an unfunded mandate.

The unchallenged but naïve belief is that if there were only enough money to comply with the law, schools would be able to eliminate bullying. However, there is no reason, either from research, logic or real-life experience to support such a belief. Research shows that the anti-bullying policies being mandated by New Jersey rarely reduce bullying and often result in an increase. Whenever states intensify their failing anti-bullying laws, bullying intensifies as well. Intensifying a failing approach is hardly likely to make it successful.

An anti-bullying law is a Catch-22. The very attempt to comply with it causes an escalation in bullying. It is a prime example of what is known as an unenforceable law.

Please realize that bullying is not criminal behavior. Acts like assault and battery, rape, theft and murder are true crimes, and people who commit them deserve to be punished. The purpose of anti-bullying laws is to criminalize any behavior that can upset anyone else–things like name-calling, rumors, gestures, social exclusion, nasty postings in cyberspace and the non-injurious physical acts that are typical in childhood. Even we adults regularly engage in the acts that are defined today as bullying. Most of the acts of bullying are actually protected by the First Amendment. The real reason the NJ anti-bullying law is unconstitutional is not that it is an unfunded mandate but that it is a violation of the First Amendment.

If you have two or more children of your own, you can conduct your own mini-test of the effectiveness of the law. For one week, treat your kids the same way schools are now mandated to treat their students. Monitor everything they say and do to each other and stop them from doing or saying anything negative to each other. Whenever you get a complaint from one of them that their sibling treated them badly, conduct an investigation and punish the wrongdoer and/or send him for therapy.

Don’t be surprised to discover that they are viciously fighting all the time, that they hate each other and you, too, and that you have no time left for anything else. By the way, there is a good chance you are already doing this. That’s why sibling rivalry is a problem that plagues most families.

When you discover how futile it is to try to force your own kids to be nice to each other, perhaps you’ll feel some pity for schools that need to comply with draconian anti-bullying laws!

The reason the anti-bullying law is counterproductive is simple. Let’s say you and I are kids in school and I don’t like the way you treated me. I report to the teacher that you bullied me. Now the school proceeds to conduct an investigation of you and informs your parents. Is this process going to make you like me? You will hate me, and so will your parents. You will hate the school, too. You will want revenge against me by doing something even worse to me, so the next act of bullying is set into motion. You will get all of your friends against me, too, and try to make me look like scum on FaceBook. You will get me known as a snitch.

Will you admit guilt to the bullying investigator? No way! You will do what anyone in the same situation would do. You will try to prove to the school that you are innocent, that I lied, that I am the one who started.

The school also needs to get my parents involved, and they will take my side against you. So what began as an incident between two kids escalates into a feud between families with the school playing judge. A judge, at most, can make one side happy. After the verdict, the two sides still hate each other and one side hates the judge, too. The dissatisfied side is now likely to complain to the school district and may even hire lawyers to sue the school. Then the hostilities-and expenses-fly through the roof.

A school can easily spend ten or more hours investigating and reporting a single complaint of bullying. The total cost of this process, taking into account base salary, vacation time, medical insurance, pension and other benefits, can easily surpass a thousand dollars. Meanwhile, not only does the investigation fail to solve the problem, it escalates hostilities and causes further incidents of bullying.

Anti-bullying laws are meant to make it easier for kids to learn. However, during the investigation period, all involved students become more angry and tense and therefore less able to concentrate on schoolwork. Any teachers accused of inadequately addressing bullying also become more stressed out, so their teaching suffers. If the school fails to make the bullying stop, the misery, and the difficulty functioning in school, continues.

Is there then no solution to the bullying crisis? Fortunately there is. And not only is the solution essentially free, it quickly saves schools money. However, it requires a completely different paradigm. It will be necessary to abandon our most basic assumptions about bullying and how to deal with it. First of all, we need to stop treating it like a crime. Only acts that cause objective harm to bodies or property should be treated as crimes.

The most reliable way of eliminating bullying is not through law enforcement but through education–but not just any education. Schools have, in fact, been intensively trying to eliminate bullying by teaching kids that it is wrong and they shouldn’t do it. However, this education has been failing because it does not address the real problem: what should you do when people do bully you?

What kids really need to be taught is how not to be victims. When kids acquire this wisdom, no one can bully them and their problems disappear quickly without getting school authorities involved. It almost immediately saves schools money because it is no longer wasting valuable time on bullying incidents and can devote its time and energy to teaching.

But this is precisely the education that is missing from our schools. There are two major reasons that for this failure. One reason is that anyone who focuses on teaching kids how not to be victims is likely to be angrily accused of “blaming victims.” Thus, to avoid this accusation, we deprive kids of the most effective solution available.

But perhaps even more importantly, most people, including the world’s most renowned experts in bullying, do not know how to teach kids how to stop being victims. Without this knowledge, they have no option but to try to either teach or force kids not to be bullies.

The truth is that it is essentially effortless to stop being bullied. This knowledge is not new or obscure. It is basic psychology and philosophy. It has been known and taught by wise people throughout history. Not only have I been teaching it throughout the country at my seminars and school trainings, I have made it available for free on my website,, and students and schools throughout the world are taking advantage of it.

New Jersey, you desperately need to be saved from the ravishes of your well intentioned but counterproductive anti-bullying law. At my own time and expense, I will be happy to demonstrate that you can quickly and easily achieve a dramatic reduction in bullying through education rather than law enforcement. Please contact me and we can set up a trial study.


Israel Kalman, MS

Director, Bullies to Buddies, Inc.

65 Fraser St.

Staten Island, NY 10314


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