Unfunded Educational Mandates


I suspect this won't end well:

Under a new state law in New Jersey, lunch-line bullies in the East Hanover schools can be reported to the police by their classmates this fall through anonymous tips to the Crimestoppers hot line.

In Elizabeth, children, including kindergartners, will spend six class periods learning, among other things, the difference between telling and tattling. And at North Hunterdon High School, students will be told that there is no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to bullying: if they see it, they have a responsibility to try to stop it. 

But while many parents and educators welcome the efforts to curb bullying both on campus and online, some superintendents and school board members across New Jersey say the new law, which takes effect Sept. 1, reaches much too far, and complain that they have been given no additional resources to meet its mandates. 

The law, known as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, is considered the toughest legislation against bullying in the nation. Propelled by public outcry over the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, nearly a year ago, it demands that all public schools adopt comprehensive antibullying policies (there are 18 pages of "required components"), increase staff training and adhere to tight deadlines for reporting episodes.

This is kind of thing that makes you sympathetic to the notion that people are asking too much of schools. I didn't see anything about requirements for parents in this piece. 

Filming a gay dude making out and posting it online is pure thuggery, and should be punished to the extent of the law. It's instances like the Clementi case which give pause to my uneasiness about hate crimes.  

But it also was a heinous act committed by a college-age adult, not a school-child. The specter of law enforcement involving itself in bullying at school, based on anonymous tips, really scares me. I say that as someone who spent a good portion of my own middle school years enduring random beatdowns.

As an aside, I'm hesitant to cast myself as victim of bullying,  because I think it conveys a kind of victim status, that was neither accurate, nor earned. I know, for instance, that I may well have done the same thing, and most of the boys who participated were, themselves, victimized. In short, I hesitate to think of myself as experiencing the kind of specific abuse doled to Clementi.

At any rate mandating this sort of increased responsibility, while putting no funds behind it, makes me question the seriousness of the law.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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