Here we go again…

Published 10:02 am Thursday, June 25, 2009

I have uncovered yet another wonderful example of our money and recourses hard at work in our state capitol. Allow me to introduce you to House Bill 548.

The bill passed the Senate in May with a 26-22 vote and Tuesday, Democrats pushed the bill through the House with a 58-57 margin vote thanks to a vote from House Speaker Joe Hackney to break the tie.

This is not a bill to cut taxes, regulate fuel prices, stimulate our economy, create new jobs or increase tourism. It’s not even a bill to increase revenue flow from the North Carolina Education Lottery towards things like North Carolina Schools (a novel idea that may decrease the need for a 1.5 billion dollar tax hike like the one proposed by Governor Beverly Perdue).

House Bill 548, the most recent proposition of law created by our political public servants, does not pertain to any of the above mentioned needs and priorities that concern their constituents; it is a proposed law to stop bullies. That’s right, I introduce to you the School Violence Prevention Act (SVPA).

It seems that bullies have become such a problem in North Carolina public schools that our lawmakers have lost their trust in the ability of our local school administrators to deal with the issue. Instead of allowing teachers, principals and other school staff members to deal with the issue of bullies as generations of staff members have before them, our representatives have stepped in and made it against the law to bully a student or a teacher.

What exactly does the SVPA define as bullying? “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity or expression, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

That pretty much covers everything and everyone doesn’t it?

The SVPA would require that “Before December 31, 2009, each local school administrative unit shall adopt a policy prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior.” This seems repetitive however given that the state’s Department of Public Instruction requires all districts to have anti-bullying policies in place. If these policies are being ignored, isn’t it possible that our biggest problem doesn’t lie with the students at all but with certain district’s administrators ability and willingness to follow policy already in place.

If this is the case then I see no need to force the judicial system to become involved. There is no need for a teacher, principal or student to go to jail. You simply need to fire the administrators who have chosen not to follow state guidelines set by the Department of Public Instruction. It’s a tough job market out there and I bet only one or two would need to dismissed before word got around that the rules must be followed. Isn’t that a better message than the one being sent right now, that local policies are of little importance until they become law?

I implore our lawmakers to let our local school administrators deal with the super noogies and atomic wedgies and spend more of your time and energy dealing with the issues that really matter, like a budget that doesn’t require paycuts for our hardest working state and local government employees.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at