The headline read, “Zero-tolerance policies ineffective”, as if it was something new.
We’ve all seen far too many stories of kids, bullied for years, finally “snapping” and either taking their own life or trying for a mass shooting. This zero tolerance system punishes them for their actions, but is ineffective in stopping those who picked on them.
Why? Because zero-tolerance doesn’t stop bullying. It encourages it.
Zero-tolerance tells bullies the authorities will help them pick on and humiliate their victims since the victims of bullying will get punished more often than the bullies will. Newsflash! Bullies like it when they have that much control.
Zero-tolerance tells victims they have no recourse. In fact if they say anything they will get punished before the bully will. That’s what zero-tolerance tells kids.
That’s what I see happening far too often in the stories I see in the news. Innocent victims either never fight back and take their own lives or finally snap and fight back only to have the authorities FINALLY notice, but they come down on them harder than they do the bully.
In all cases the bully’s get their way. The victim is humiliated, isolated and feeling lower than dirt. So why should the bullies change if the authorities are helping them?
And the problems of zero-tolerance go way beyond not punishing the bullies.
We have real problem when authorities are so concerned with violence that they have to expel a kid from school because he nibbled his pop tart into the shape of a gun or drew a picture of one. They focus so much on the harmless that they don’t address the class full of third graders calling a classmate fat every chance they can. They don’t address that boy poking that girl every time he walks past her, or that girl insisting on playing with that other girl’s long ponytail. They punish that girl for finally slugging that boy to make him stop snapping her bra, attempting to undo it in class but shrug at the boy’s actions. They suspend a tiny first grader because he fought off five fifth graders who were picking on him. (Fortunately for the first grader he had a black belt.)
Zero-tolerance policies dictate in often minute detail what a girl can and can’t wear to school but often the more detail they give on the girls attire, the less they give on the boys, i.e.: t-shirt and jeans compared to shirts must cover the collar bone and pants/skirts must cover the knees and nothing can be skin tight.
I’ve read dress codes where the girls’ guidelines were a full page and the boys’ were one paragraph.
And what does such policies do?
They just make it easier to pick on people thereby furthering the environment that bullies thrive in. No wonder zero-tolerance policies don’t work.
You can’t stop bullies by being bullies.
Let’s put some sanity back into our society and start teaching people to respect one another.
I’ve been facing down bullies since I was a tiny first grader. The best solution I came up with was in second grade. I showed the class bully some respect and befriended him. Not only did I not have a problem with him after that, but it also protected the kids in our class who were the usual outcasts.
Some bullies refuse to be befriended. That’s when you have to stand up, look them in the eye and tell them you’re not scared of them. It’s time to tell supporters of zero-tolerance that we’re not running from them anymore.
So I’m borrowing this phrase today, “Stop the insanity”.