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Senator Oley Larsen, the Best Friend of North Dakotan Schools

He is trying to save them from a well-intentioned but misguided anti-bullying law that will waste incalculable time and money while intensifying the very problem it is trying to eliminate. For anti-bullying laws are a Catch-22. As I will be explaining, the very attempt to comply with anti-bullying laws results in an increase in bullying.

Larsen intuitively understands what Aristotle said 2400 years ago: “One thing that no state or government can do, no matter how good it is, is to make its citizens morally virtuous.” In current terms, “It is impossible to get rid of bullies by bullying bullies.” Senator Larsen should be commended for his wisdom. Instead, he has been cruelly cyberbullied by anti-bullying activists posting mocking videos on YouTube, and writing nasty comments on Facebook and other Internet venues. Ironically, anti-bully crusaders see nothing wrong with bullying anyone who doesn’t see things their way.

Fortunately for North Dakota, Senator Larsen has had the fortitude to continue his battle despite the vehement ridicule.

Taking a stand against anti-bullying laws does not mean that Larsen doesn’t care about schools or children. He has nothing to gain personally by taking such a wildly unpopular position. In fact, the easiest way for him to promote his political career would be to take the easy route and give the bully-hating citizenry the laws for which they are clamoring.

However, there is no evidence either from the scientific research, real life experience, or logic to support anti-bullying laws. The bullying problem has been growing during the very period that governments have been fighting it the hardest. Research has shown overwhelmingly that the types of anti-bullying interventions being mandated by the law rarely reduce bullying and often cause an increase. Schools are discovering that they don’t have the budget to comply with these laws. School staff can easily waste upwards of ten hours investigating each bullying complaint. Furthermore, educators are not trained to be law enforcement officers and usually resent being forced to play such a role. And once they get involved, hostilities escalate. In most of the prominent cases of bullying in recent years, in which children committed serious violence against themselves or others, the bullying almost always became aggravated after the school staff got involved trying to make the bullying stop.

The dynamics by which anti-bullying policies intensify bullying are simple. Psychology calls this process “triangulation.”

Let’s say you and I are kids in school and you insult me. I tell the teacher, who then sends you to the school principal, who in turn suspends you and forces you to go to counseling for bullying me. Is that going to make you like me? You’re going to hate me and want to beat the crap out of me. You will get all your friends against me and make me look like scum on Facebook. You will also hate the school staff, and so will your parents.

Now that the principal is involved, both sets of parents enter the fray. If the principal fails to make both sides happy, the disgruntled parents complain to the district office and may even hire lawyers to sue the school. With lawyers involved, the costs–and hostilities–skyrocket. And if the school loses the lawsuit, it is likely to be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars-or even millions.

If you apply the same procedures of investigating, judging and punishing your own children at home when they torment each other (and you probably do!), you end up with intensive, never-ending sibling rivalry. The same approach that causes intense warfare at home is hardly likely to produce peace in school.

The only people who unquestionably benefit from anti-bullying laws are lawyers and the companies that produce anti-bullying programs. “Anti-bullying” has become a billion dollar industry. Is it any wonder that the purveyors of these programs are on the forefront of lobbying for laws that force schools to implement anti-bullying programs?

Fortunately, there is a simple and free solution to bullying. It is the solution Senator Larsen has been advocating for, and it’s not law but education: teaching kids the simple wisdom of how to stop being bullied. It is effortless to stop being bullied once you know how. And that’s what Senator Larsen wants North Dakota’s schools to be: educational institutions that equip children to handle the challenges of life rather than correctional institutions that treat children like criminals.

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