The Corner

Re: A Federal Response to Bullying in Public Schools?

Commissioner Kirsanow, as usual, makes excellent points. I testified before the Civil Rights Commission last Friday on this issue, specifically whether there should there be a federal law against student-on-student “harassment” on the basis of sexual orientation. The basic point I made was that of course bullying of any kind is bad, but that getting the feds involved here is also a bad idea.

Everyone agrees that it is wrong for one student to beat up another student on the basis of sexual orientation, or any other reason for that matter. But the question is why bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation should be singled out for special federal protection, especially when there are difficult line-drawing issues here — e.g., if one student tells another that gay sex is a sin, is that “harassment”? — that should not be left to federal bureaucrats in the Obama administration, who will put us on a road to speech codes, sensitivity training, and the like.

Children and, especially, adolescents have teased, harassed, and bullied one another on the basis of real or perceived homosexuality for a long time, maybe forever. No one until recently has suggested that this is a federal issue. The reason some would make it a federal issue now is not that suddenly the problem has gotten worse. After all, being gay is more accepted now than it used to be, certainly among those running our public schools and disciplining our students. In fact, the reason this is being made into a federal issue now is because it is seen as part of a larger culture war that gay-rights advocates are winning and in which they are hoping to press their advantage. They want to vilify and marginalize those who believe that gay sex is a sin.

And I suspect that the Obama administration’s interest in this topic is at least partly political: It will appease part of its base; it is easy to be against bullying; and it is less complicated for this administration than, say, figuring out what to do with the economy or in Libya.

One last point: If federal bureaucrats can twist the meaning of “sex” in a statute into “sexual orientation,” as they are doing, they are certainly capable of defining “harassment” to mean just about anything.

You can read my written testimony here (it appends several NRO pieces I’ve written on the Obama administration’s dubious efforts in this area). And you can listen to my oral testimony here (my statement runs from about 1:18:50 to about 1:26:00).


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