Can anti-bullying laws increase bullying?

There’s no doubt that bullying is a major problem in schools right now. Clearly, we need to do something to try to solve this problem. However, one thing I’d never thought of though was that anti-bullying legislation might actualy increase bullying.

That’s what Izzy Kalman of Bullies2Buddies suggests in his article about New Jersey’s new anti-bullying laws. Recently, New Jersey passed a new law requiring all incidents of bullying to be reported. As a result, the number of reported incidents has quadrupled in the past year. Obviously, at least part of this represents bullying that would have happened anyways but gone unreported without the new law. This statistic is generally being seen as a sign of the law’s success.

However, Kalman says that there’s more to this. He claims that by encouraging students to report when they are bullied, the law encourages them to react in a way which makes them be bullied even more. Kalman believes that the solution is for victims to change their behavior and not react when they are bullied, instead of getting angry and trying to stop them. I found this to be an interesting position to read about, since I’d never heard a solution framed in this way. Most of the bullying prevention talk I’d heard had focused on what rules and laws could be created, rather than what the victims themselves can do.

I’m not really sure what I think about all that though. I’ll agree that we should teach children techniques to help them deal with being bullied. And I can definitely see how changing your reactions can help. However, I still think adult intervention is necessary, at least some of the time. Depending on how severe the bullying is, not every child is going to have an easy time just shrugging it off and not getting angry. If the victim isn’t able to solve it on their own, I feel that it is then definitely necessary for adults to intervene. Even if this doesn’t solve the problem, like Kalman believes, I think it would still be better than letting the problem play out on its own.

I suppose that the ideal solution would address why people are bullies in the first place. Because I believe that the responsibility for ending bullying lies first and foremost with the person who started it in the first place. Ideally, there would be some way to either prevent people from becoming bullies, or get them to stop once they’ve started. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no clue how that could be achieved though, or who is in the best position to do that.

But that’s just my own opinion, how about yours? What do you think is the best way to solve bullying?

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3 Responses to Can anti-bullying laws increase bullying?

  1. Interesting post & article. Abusers seek a reaction. When there is no reaction they hit harder-they don’t walk away. Ignore the bully & all will be well advice is a ” blame the victim” myth.
    However, laws can be abused and some may use the laws to further bully others.

  2. I agree that we need to start at the source and understand why people bully others in the first place.

  3. Kim L. Short says:

    Bullying is just another form of bigotry.
    If you bully black people you’re called a racist.
    If you bully Jews you’re called an antisemite.
    If you bully the opposite gender you’re called a sexist.
    If you bully gay people you’re called a homophobe.
    And if you bully those who are for any reason vulnerable to attack, you’re called a bully.
    Just envision bullies with pointy, white sheets over their heads and you have an accurate perception of the character of bullies and their enablers.

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