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Anti-bullying policy: Mental gymnasties in the CC Times

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Jan 30, 2011

Here is a link to the article to which I'm responding, headlined in the print edition: "Anti-gay bullying proves tough for schools to tackle" Web Link

With whatever respect might be due, balancing the concepts of "nobody should be bullied," "schools shouldn't involve themselves in these issues" and "gay-bashing should be ignored" requires mental gymnastics that are way beyond my powers.

Note that we're not talking about Curriculum, here, but student Conduct Policy, so the 3Rs argument is essentially meaningless. It may resonate with those who worry about US schools losing ground to foreign competition, but it strikes a false note of relevancy. Rules of Conduct, whether they be "no running in the halls" or "no smoking in the girls' room," have to be enforced to provide a safe, unfettered learning environment for all students. Anti-bullying policy needs no further justification than this. That it is also good preparation for life in a free, pluralistic society is a bonus.

Gay and lesbian students (real or as imagined by their tormentors) are frequent objects of bullying, thus disrupting their learning environments, as well as those of the many other students who accept them. As noted, the term "gay" has also apparently been popular as a general term of negativity. Gays are thus included in policy coverage because it's important to do so, just as a matter of volume. On the flip side, what if gays were to be excluded from the policy? Would that not send a message of free rein to bullies: bullying is actually okay, as long as you choose your targets well?

The call to label the inclusion of gay-bashing within the Conduct Policy as "homosexual activism" is similarly discordant. If bullying overweight kids is included within the prohibitions, does Mr. Arata think that encourages poor eating habits? What about short people, Randy Newman satires notwithstanding? Does that encourage poor posture? "Bad" genetics? These are all "status offenses"– they are prone to neither encouragement, nor discouragement – they just "are." This is a time-honored test, but there's no better example of the concept: kindly ask yourself when you made the choice to adopt the heterosexual lifestyle?

I believe that sentiments expressed by Mr. Arata mostly reflect a discomfort with "difference." They are reminiscent of earlier civil rights struggles where folks in the majority were happy to sign-on in the abstract, as long as a black/Jewish/Asian family didn't move in next door. It's an understandable desire to remain contained in one's familiar comfort zone: here, "gays are all right, as long as they stay in their closets and don't flaunt it (really?) in my face." I hope, instead, that those folks will choose to emerge from their own self-imposed closets and embrace the world as it is -- that they adopt a lifestyle of tolerance and acceptance.

My two cents. Yours?

Comments (16)

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Posted by jrm
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Jan 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

jrm is a registered user.

The husband and wife Arata team have been spewing their hatred, intolerance and vitriol in our community for years, why can't they just go back to Ohio? Arata is one of the most radical homophobes one could ever encounter, I remember his viscious attacks on St. Timothy's years ago and he wasn't even a member of their parish, he just felt in his trumped up sense of self importance gave him some right to bash others. Every time I see one of his or Sharon's letters in the paper I feel sorry for them...they must wake up angry every morning.


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Posted by LBGTQ Youth
a resident of Danville
on Jan 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Although people in our community and school district provide political correct lip service to supporting gays, most people, that is the majority of people in our community believe homosexual sexual practices to be odd and perverted. We therefore need to openly teach in the classroom that homosexuality (girl/girl and boy/boy sex)is indeed normal, and should be openly accepted by all. If bullies are not taught homosexuality is "ok" in school, then homosexuals will always be bullied. It is the schools responsibility to correct the situation, by protecting gays, and punishing the bullies.


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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Jan 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

LGBTQ Youth: I agree with you that it is school's responsibility to protect the victims and discipline the bullies, but respectfully disagree that schools should get involved in "teaching" that homosexuality is normal, just like schools should not get involved in teaching that being straight is normal...Schools simply need to get back to teaching the golden rule of treating everyone with respect the way you would want to be treated, but not give labels of what is normal and what is not normal... It is not the job of schools to determine what is normal and not normal...Schools need to get back to teaching core subjects like math, science, english, social studies, and spend less time in getting involved in demands of special interest groups.


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Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on Jan 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm

jrm - I agree with you completely. I have often thought of the couple you mention as two of the most miserable people I can imagine. All that hatred and arrogance must be hard to carry.

American, I think the schools at minimum sanction hetero relationships by discussing them in health class, etc. Unless time is also afforded to discussing healthy non-hetero relationships and families the impression that these relationships are somehow abnormal will remain.


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Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Danville
on Jan 30, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Diane- SERIOUSLY? "Sanction" hetero? Give me a break! They teach how babies are made-which is through heterosexual sex. Or-IVF-but still-requires man/woman. That was absolutely the dumbest comment I have ever read.

Schools don't teach WHY some women prefer tall, dark men or short, blonde men...why should they teach man wanting man or woman wanting woman? Sexual PREFERENCE is not part of the curriculum. That is a PRIVACY issue.

I wish liberals would get off the double speak! "Don't invade my privacy but teach about WHY you shouldn't judge people's private choices"? If I am not attracted to blonde women, it doesn't mean I am biased or "prejudice" against blondes. They just aren't my thing. Does that make me a blonde-a-phobe?


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Posted by Steve
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 31, 2011 at 6:06 am

I completely disagree that homosexuality should be addressed or taught in the classroom. No form of sexuality should be taught--ever. It is the responsibility of schools to keep all students and staff safe from abuse or harrassment of any sort. Then they must focus on teaching the basics of learning. Period. I strongly hold to the commands of my religion. If the public schools ever thought of teaching children that conduct which could lead to eternity in hell were "fine" then they also would need to allow priests and other proponents of marriage between and man and a woman to be taught as well. Let's throw in abstinence as part of the course as well!


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Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:27 am

Hi Steve:

I'm not clear where you come out on anti-bullying policy. I assume your religion has something to say on the subject, but you don't identify which faith you've chosen to follow.

Assuming your faith condemns bullying in some manner, does it have an exception for bullying those it considers to be sinners? Or for gays explicitly? If not, do you really consider it acceptable conduct for some students to bully others on any basis? What if the bullying is on the basis of its objects' religious choice?

Finally, although this is off-topic, there is no more fundamental drive in any animal's soul than to, ahem, pass along its genetic heritage. Better, methinks, to teach children from an early age (age-appropriately) to understand and accept their urges, and align them with their values (as is done in the Our Whole Lives curriculum in some churches). Otherwise, when that urge bumps up against an abstinence pledge, the outcome is often "offspring."


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Posted by just a parent
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:40 am

I agree with Steve.

The teachers are there to teach--not to preach. I only wish the teachers would spend more time teaching grammar than policing the "gay" word. If they are going work on that, then they should give equal time to teaching the kids NOT to say "Me and Jimmy went to the movies!" -- That is their job as teachers.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 31, 2011 at 8:26 am

I agree with the idea of teaching homesexuality in the public school classroom. But that does not go far enough. Let's also have the schools teach beastiality, how to roll a joint correctly, hand out shots of Jack Daniels so they can learn to control their liquor and even give out copies of pornography. Why should anything be taboo?


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Posted by Momm
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 9:41 am

Judging by the many conversations I have had recently with friends, a lot of people in this area are familiar with the book excerpt run in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua. While I don't agree 100% with her parenting method, it is true that the Chinese and Indian parents in this area are doing things differently and with academically greater results in their students. And I highly doubt that the public school systems in any of those nations who are "kicking our hineys" are having debates about what forms of sexuality should be taught in school. They are teaching their students math, science, more math, more science, music, foreign languages and things which lead to academic excellence. The SRVUSD should stick to those topics and get our students back on track so they too can thrive and excel in any field of their choice anywhere in the world.


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Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 10:11 am

@ Dave: are you intending to claim an equivalency between homosexuality and bestiality? That's at best profoundly ignorant. As to your other suggestions, I don't think our students require training in those skills.

@ others: the confusion continues between Curriculum and Conduct Policy. Are you arguing that there should be No rules of student conduct? Is all bullying okay, or just some?

I say "none."


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Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

@ Seriously - mine was the dumbest comment you have ever read? Do you not get online much?

With two kids in local schools, I can attest that when relationships are discussed in the classroom they are invariably between opposite genders. Unless we discuss same gender relationships within that same realm of normalcy, we send a message that non-hetero relationships are abnormal.

btw - I believe the term is "sexual orientation" rather than "preference." This takes a person's orientation out of the dark ages and doesn't blame the individual for an attraction that is quite normal, yet viewed as perverted by a select bunch, some who choose to bully others based on their views.

Finally, I am capable of disagreeing without throwing punches. Are you?


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Posted by Questions
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm

quoting from the previous post:

"...doesn't blame the individual for an attraction that is quite normal"

It's NOT NORMAL...and the gay population is a sliver of the population. Why do we have to be so politically correct?


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Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I would add a few comments:

- I am a strong proponent of anti-bullying policies, rules of conduct that are aimed at preventing bullying, and believe that bullying needs to be addressed by the schools, regardless of who is being bullied, and regardless of "reason" (real or perceived).

- Gay students, as well as students who are labeled as gay by other students, deserve just as much protection from bullying as all other students.

- I don't see that anti-bullying programs, education, and rules, etc., need to be tied to sexual orientation or preference. Bullying is wrong, period. By the same token, being a victim of bullying isn't unique to gay students, and therefore the bullying issue shouldn't be viewed primarily as a gay rights issue. In fact, it seems highly possible, and even desirable, to adopt anti-bullying policies and rules that are independent of student sexual orientation and preference.

Just my $0.02...


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Posted by Diane
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm

@ Mudgeon, I agree completely that all children should be protected from bullying behaviors. When that bullying is based on homophobic views, I think that needs to be addressed. When that bullying is based on other issues, I think they should be addressed. I don't think you can effectively address the behavior without addressing the expressed motivation of the person who is doing the bullying.

@ Questions - you and I will have to agree to disagree. My sister is left handed which is not as common as being right handed - this does not make her abnormal in any way. She is also a lesbian which may not be as common as being hetero, but it is still not abnormal. I'm not sure how you see this dialogue as trying to be "politically correct." Rather, we are discussing the bullying of children in our school district, whereby the rationale for the behavior of those who bully (in this instance) is the perceived sexual orientation of another child. I don't see protecting these kids as being politically correct. Really, it is just being a good parent, teacher, school counselor, etc.


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Posted by LBGTQ Youth
a resident of Danville
on Jan 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Homosexuality is quite natural and should be taught as much, it is neither perverse, nor against God's law for mankind, it is just as natural as heterosexuality is for straight people which just happens to create reproductive off-spring. Homosexuality deepens the same-sex relationship and should thus be supported by all SLUSD administrators and teachers. The minds of our youth must be expanded to accept all people of color, gender, religion and sexuality.

Math and science simply do not teach our youth to create a more loving and accepting world. Teaching the value of acceptance in school does.


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