Op Ed

Focus on the Family’s Anti-Bullying Plan

Yesterday we looked at True Tolerance, Focus on the Family’s website which addresses school bullying.  Today we’ll be looking at the policy they recommend for school districts to address bullying without furthering the “homosexual agenda.”   And boy oh boy, is it a doozy.   As the True Tolerance site claims any of the materials available on their sites are able to be shared freely, we’ll share the policy in full, with plenty of commentary, after the cut. It’s been difficult for me to write these pieces without devolving into sarcasm and snark, which is inappropriate because of all the kids and families who will suffer if FotF is able to spread their cruelty and intolerance to our public schools.   It’s trickier than I thought it would be to objectively address what FotF advocates, because this is a topic that hits close to home for a lot of people I care about.

FotF’s recommended plan was drafted by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a organization of lawyers with the tagline “Defending our first liberty” whose stated mission is to defend First Amendment rights.  You know the one, it gives us ALL freedom of expression.  Unfortunately, ADF believes some kids are more entitled to freedom of expression than others.  To wit:

Efforts to indoctrinate our society into supporting homosexual behavior have been ever increasing over the last several years. Many of these efforts have targeted those most vulnerable and impressionable to this indoctrination-our children. Schools are being transformed from places of safety and learning to places of unprecedented sexual education. Children as young as kindergarteners are being subjected to books, programs, and teachings designed to undermine traditional notions of sexuality and family.

Sure thing, ADF, because knowing Heather Has Two Mommies will surely cause a graham cracker and sex riot in our kindergarten classrooms.   Doesn’t free speech include the right to speak about things not endorsed by the Evangelicals?

Attached for your dissemination and use is a model anti-bullying policy. This policy was carefully researched and crafted by ADF attorneys. This policy can be used or implemented at either the state or local level, and is comprehensive in all respects, carefully balancing the rights of children with the rights of administrators and educators.Without advancing any sexual or other agendas, this policy successfully prohibits all forms of bullying, for any reason, and cannot be argued to exclude any particular child, or class of children, who are vulnerable to being bullied.

Except that the policy doesn’t do anything of the sort.  More on that in a minute.  One can assume that children from FotF households are taught that only married, man/woman couples are acceptable in the eyes of FotF, but don’t they share this information with their children in a way that’s non-sexualized?  I’ve read Heather Has Two Mommies, not once is a single sexual act mentioned.  It is not, as ADF and FotF would like you to believe, a how-to manual on non-“traditional” sexual acts.   If we’re to really play Devil’s advocate, couldn’t the exposure to this book create an opportunity for parents to reinforce their own values systems in their children?  For an organization so fond of free speech, they certainly don’t want to have any difficult conversations with their children.

Moving on to the policy itself, we see what interests ADF is really concerned with protecting, made clear by their definition of bullying.

The [INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL DISTRICT] (the “District”) recognizes that a safe and civil environment in school is necessary for students to learn and achieve high academic standards. The District finds that bullying, like other disruptive or violent behavior, is conduct that disrupts both a student’s ability to learn and a school’s ability to educate its students in a safe environment.
A. “Bullying” means systematic, repeated, or recurrent conduct committed by a student or group of students against another student that causes measurable physical harm or emotional distress. Verbal expression, whether oral, written, or electronic, is included within the definition of “bullying” only to the extent that (1) such expression is lewd, indecent, obscene, advocating for illegal conduct, intended to incite an immediate breach of peace, or the severe and pervasive use of threatening words that inflict injury; or (2) District administrators or officials reasonably believe that such expression will cause an actual, material disruption of school work.

Emphasis mine. If I’m reading this policy correctly, verbal abuse, whether in speech, in writing or by electronic means only becomes a problem when it disrupts the classroom.  So if one student quietly torments another student, it’s just fine, because their right to free speech allows them to be as much of a bigoted asshole to another student as they’d like and the right of the tormented student to enjoy his or her education free from abuse means nothing.  So in the f’ing ridiculous tradition of Fred Phelps, ADF is trying to preserve the right of a selected few bigoted jackasses to say “God hates fags” as often as they’d like.

Here’s the rest of the policy.

B. “School Premises” means any building, structure, athletic field, sports stadium or other real property owned, operated, leased or rented by the District or one of its schools, including, but not limited to, any kindergarten, elementary, secondary, or vocational-technical school.
C. “School-Sponsored Functions or Activities” means a field trip, sporting event, or any other function or activity that is officially sponsored by the District or one of its schools.
D. “School-Sponsored Transportation” means a motor vehicle owned, operated, leased, rented or subcontracted by the District or one of its schools.
The District prohibits all bullying on school premises, at school-sponsored functions or activities, or on school-sponsored transportation.
Any student who believes he or she has been or is currently the victim of bullying should immediately report the situation to the school principal or assistant principal. The student may also report concerns to a teacher or counselor who will be responsible for notifying the appropriate school administrator.
Every student is encouraged, and every staff member is required, to report any situation that they believe to be bullying behavior directed toward a student. Reports may be made to those identified above.

All complaints about bullying behavior that may violate this policy shall be promptly investigated.
If the investigation finds an instance of bullying behavior has occurred, it will result in prompt and appropriate disciplinary action. This may include up to expulsion. Individuals may also be referred to law enforcement officials. The complainant shall be notified of the findings of the investigation, and as appropriate,
that remedial action has been taken. Retaliation against any person who reports, is thought to have reported, files a complaint, or otherwise participates in an investigation or inquiry concerning allegations of bullying is prohibited and will not be tolerated. Such retaliation shall be considered a serious violation of Board policy and independent of whether a complaint is substantiated. Suspected retaliation should be reported in the same manner as bullying. Making intentionally false reports about bullying for the purpose of getting someone in trouble is similarly prohibited and will not be tolerated. Retaliation and intentionally false reports may result in disciplinary action as indicated above.
This policy shall not be interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students, and is not intended to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views, provided that such expression does not cause an actual, material disruption of the work of the school.

So kids, it’s completely okay for you to discriminate against your fellow students for any political or religious reason, as long as you do it quietly.  Because this is exactly what our schools and our kids need.

Stay tuned tomorrow as we look at section of the True Tolerance website that addresses the curriculum, teacher materials and suggestions made by people who actually want our kids to treat each other with respect.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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