Is Bullying a Crime? - Lifeline Training - LawOfficer.com

Is Bullying a Crime?

Why I’m anti anti-bullying legislation


Lt. Jim Glennon | Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Humans have been coexisting on this spinning orb anywhere from 6, 000 to 30,000 years. To avoid any arguments let’s split the difference and say we’ve been bipedal with a functioning frontal lobe for roughly 18,000. That’s 6,575,000 days. In my opinion, so far, we’ve been doing fine without anti-bullying laws.

I often cite a reality as I offer an opinion about a current event, so here it is: I’m an old guy. Born in the mid-1950s, oldest of nine and bred to get out of the house as soon as possible.

My first job was at the ripe old age of nine. I was a paperboy, er, I mean paperperson. Several days a week 47,000 papers would be dropped in my driveway at 5:00 a.m. Greg Murphy, my best friend, would come over and we would begin rolling and rubber-banding the local tabloids. Once that was done we’d throw them into carrier bags and a wagon. Then we’d attach the wagon to a bike and head down the street as fast as we could—in the dark, no lights, no reflectors, no helmets, no neon vests, no parents directing us—oh the humanity!

Once a month we’d have to collect subscription fees from adults. So we’d walk door-to-door, without parental guidance and deal with adults who often complained about our service or feigned poverty. Some were mean, some were liars, some were confrontational. We learned to deal with it.

Greg and I had a group of friends and we would play together outside every chance we got. We played baseball, basketball, football, kick the can, capture the flag, and tackle pom-pom and WAR! Because most of these games involved reckless abandon, sticks, rocks and physical contact we’d often get hurt and occasionally angry. Sometimes a fight would break out. We’d shove, punch, kick and call each other vile despicable names.

When engaged in such conflicts we’d focus on some physical oddity and use said irregularity to further demean our adversary. Names such as Buck-Tooth, Freckle-Face, Fat-Ass, Skinny, Horse-Face, Shit-for-Brains, Dumb-Ass, Midget, Dwarf, Daddy-Long-Legs, Cross-Eyed Ass, Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, etc., were regularly used to denigrate our very best of friends. Once the episodic rages subsided, we’d go back to playing, chasing, tackling and laughing.  

No one went home to cry about being called names, the teachers weren’t involved. Cops were never a thought. In fact, getting an adult involved was the surest way to be permanently banned from the group.

But today many believe it is time for a change. We as a society must address the outbreak of rampant bullying (as well as 17-oz. sodas) before life as we know it disintegrates into nothingness.

Each of my friends bullied someone at some point in their lives. Each of my friends was bullied at some point in his life. And guess what? We all survived. In fact we did more than that. We thrived.
As for bullying friends and relatives, we began to learn when we crossed a line. How? Well, early on you got punched. That was usually an attention getter. Later we were able to recognize when we hurt someone we cared about. You read their body language and understood a change of tone or behavior.

Eventually you found out how to talk things through and actually tell a friend when they behaved inappropriately and affected you negatively. You also learned, through trial and error, the difference between being funny and being tactless, insensitive and just plain mean. Those that never learned grew up miserable and alone. The rest of us assimilated into adulthood and socially acceptable behavior.

For those of us who were bullied, we learned how to deal with adversaries. Sometimes that bullying was physical, which was scary, embarrassing, unsettling and confusing. But at some point it was dealt with. Often you would stand up to the bully, which in most cases settled the issue.

But sometimes you found it necessary to throw a punch and with that you learned how to fight and how to take a hit. Occasionally your allies and friends would step in as a group and deal with the situation—strength being in numbers. Rarely did we get the adults involved other than to ask advice on targeting: “A punch in the nose waters the eyes,” said my father.

This coping mechanism has been used throughout human history. Is it perfect? No. Does it work 100% of the time? Of course not. Is bullying bad? Of course it is. But should we have literal anti-bullying laws? No.

Now that may sound harsh, uncaring and cold. Maybe, but that isn’t my intention. My resistance is twofold.

One. This is another example of adults and The State stepping in, over-reacting and trying to regulate natural human behavior and manage everyone’s feelings and emotional states. Yes, there have been some fatal results from bullying, but does that mean we need to regulate the behaviors, words, looks and intentions of everyone in the country towards everyone else in the country?

What are we teaching kids who face adversity other than: someone else will ensure that you never feel bad and handle all of life’s obstacles for you? Don’t worry, it’s not your fault or your responsibility, someone else is responsible and someone else will fix it?

Growth (and this is basic psychology here) comes from working through fears, failures, losses and setbacks. The greatest artists, comedians, songwriters and authors succeed because of hardships and disasters they have experienced and endured. Why would we try to regulate that? It’s not fair in the long run. Insulating people from feeling bad is ultimately terrible for them physically, emotionally and even spiritually.

“You suck at basketball and I don’t want you on my team. Why don’t you go play racquetball cuz all you do is screw up this game. You can’t shoot or dribble, so quit trying cuz you just suck.”

This is uttered by a 40-year-old stockbroker to a 42 year-old engineer at a health club during the lunch hour. Twenty or so professionals show up every day and play pick-up basketball to release tension, get some exercise and have fun. Is this an example of bullying? I can agree that it’s unnecessary and perhaps a little cruel. But it says more about the stockbroker than anything (obviously an idiot—oh sorry was that a bullying remark!). He’s one of these guys still living high school dreams and this pick-up game is some sort of weird validation for his self-worth. But not the point: Is he bullying the engineer?

My second point: What is bullying? In the case cited above will the cops need to be called? Will an arrest be made? Is bullying a tort violation? So will lawsuits be filed?

What if on a daily basis some 15-year-old calls some other 15-year-old “Fat-Ass,” is that bullying? Probably. So now what? Is there an arrest? Suspension? Expulsion? A lawsuit? Who gets involved? Parents, teachers, cops, lawyers, the principal, the school board? Whatever you do, don’t make the kids deal with it. That’s a parent’s job. The kids need to be removed from this conflict so they aren’t scarred for life.

Is teasing a friend bullying? Is posting on Facebook that a girl on the dance team is terrible and shouldn’t be on the floor with the rest of the team bullying? And what is the result and who decides? How do you quantify bullying? How do you define it?
 

I heard someone on one of the talking-head news channels say, “Bullying is based on the feelings of the victim. Only he or she knows if they were bullied.” Seriously? So if someone is told that they “suck” at basketball are they really a victim? And should a violation of an anti-bullying law be based on someone’s feelings being hurt? Come on!!

I have read the U.S. Constitution thoroughly and I can’t find anything in there that says; “No one should have their feelings hurt by anyone else at any time.” In fact there is something called the First Amendment in there that protects an individual’s thoughts and their right to express them.
Nothing is perfect and quite frankly we shouldn’t be striving for such a thing. But sociologically, when it comes to relationships, human beings have been working things out between them for 6,575,000 days. Trying to legislate that further than we have already, is going to have a negative effect on society as a whole. And if you don’t agree with me, you’ve hurt my feelings, you bully.

I’m calling the cops!

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Lt. Jim Glennon

Lt. Jim Glennon, a third generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He is the owner of The Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. He is the author of Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.

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