Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From the Bully Pulpit: Law and Disorder

In an increasing number of cases, survivors of bullying have the law on their side, specifically perhaps an anti-bullying law such as what's on the books in forty seven US states. Canada is also picking up steam with proposed legislation against bullying, as is Australia. The problem I see is that they can be inconsistent, incomplete, and particularly when bullying crosses state or national borders, difficult to enforce.

In too many cases, bullying is treated by law as an issue to be handled by school districts. As a result, such bullying laws only address school bullying and may only touch upon cyber-bullying insofar as it affects students. Some don't even protect children in private schools. Laws against workplace bullying have been much slower to catch on, but those few that exist provide some protection to adults who are bullied- on the condition that they are bullied by an employer or coworker. Freelancers, independent contractors, and the like may also enjoy some protection under those laws. But if a bully is not an employer or coworker, generally the bullied adult has no recourse unless he or she has another criminal or civil complaint, such as a charge of hate crime, harrassment, libel or slander.

Still, some law is better than no law. Bully Police grades the policies various US states and territories have against school bullying. The Workplace Bullying Institute promotes legislation in the US and Canada to address and combat workplace bullying. Both organizations offer valuable services and resources, but I think they (and all bullied people) can benefit by working together and broadening their scope a little. We don't want to just stop school bullying or workplace bullying, but all bullying, right?

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