In the aftermath of Tyler Clementi’s suicide, Senator Lautenberg is proposing a bill that would require colleges to adopt anti-harassment policies as a condition for receiving federal aid. The last thing colleges need is another anti-harassment regulation. Already, an avalanche of speech codes chills free expression from coast to coast, and at Rutgers itself, anti-bias polices were so LGBTQ-friendly that the university actually places the “Center for Social Justice Education and LGBTQ Communities” in charge of investigating “bias incidents.” Yet this could not save Tyler. Neither could the existence of clearly applicable state criminal statutes.
True “bullying” is already unlawful. Myriad state and local laws constitutionally and appropriately prohibit invasion of privacy, assault (in cases of physical bullying), and harassment as appropriately defined (so severe and pervasive as to deny the student the benefit of the educational program). Moreover, in grade schools (where a great deal of bullying occurs), teachers and administrators have inherent authority to limit speech and actions that substantially disrupt the learning environment.
As I said before, the solution is not more regulation. It’s time to rethink, not regulate.