Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom have released a new resource they call the Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick. Under the guise of “helping parents protect their children” the guide actually features an elaborate scheme to ensure religious bullying is protected in schools while students most likely to be targeted for harassment are made more vulnerable. Here are these anti-gay groups’ bullying policy ideals:
- Bullying policies should use “precise” definitions. The goal of this is to prioritize “free speech” over a safe learning environment. ADF even suggests that some forms of harassment might be “objectively reasonable,” implying that the bully should always be given the benefit of the doubt while the impact on the victim is disregarded.
- Bullying policies should not apply to “religious, political, philosophical, or other protected student speech.” Like states that have tried to pass similar laws, this amounts to a “license to bully.” Given that anti-gay bullying is often justified by religious beliefs, such an exemption would invite bullying to persist, defeating the point of a comprehensive policy.
- Bullying policies should not examine intent or include “re-education.” According to this ideal, a student who believes it’s okay to violently harass a gay student should never be taught to understand the nature of sexual orientation. Education about LGBT issues has been repeatedlyproven to make schools safer, but ADF remains adamantly opposed.
- Bullying policies should never highlight certain characteristics (i.e. race, sexual orientation). Obviously, any sensible bullying policy covers all students, but it’s important to recognize certain types of bullying that often go unaddressed. Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District provides a prime example of how teachers and administrators neglected to interrupt anti-gay bullying or properly protect LGBT students.
- Bullying policies should have no reporting requirements. The only way to actually address a bullying problem is to identify it. A policy with no reporting requirements for teachers is a policy with no accountability. ADF worries teachers and staff might “over-report bullying,” again, seeking to protect the bullies and not the victims.
- Bullying policies should ignore cyberbullying and off-campus speech. Studies have shown that 90 percent of teens have experienced cyberbullying, but ADF believes it’s possible to distinguish between cyberbullying that happens on-campus or off-campus. Again, this reflects a commitment to protecting bullies’ speech instead of victims’ learning environment.
- Bullying policies should not include any trainings or materials from “homosexual activist groups.” ADF doesn’t believe students should actually learn about why not to bully, only how not to bully, suggesting schools “limit the instruction to a description of bullying behavior.” Learning about LGBT people is important for all young people, even if they may not identify, and it’s completely outlandish for ADF to claim such materials “promote homosexual behavior.”
- Bullying policies should always inform parents if their child is bullied or accused of bullying. This policy would be incredibly problematic for LGBT students who experience bullying, who would very likely be outed to their parents through this process. The leading reason 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT is family rejection, so schools should consider each case independently and act in ways that best protect each child. ADF’s priority is a notion of “parents’ rights” that can further harm LGBT students or protect bullies from remediation.
- Bullying policies should ignore anonymous complaints. Bullying creates a culture of fear, even for bystanders. Any student with the courage to report bullying, even anonymously, should be taken seriously. Again, ADF’s policy blatantly ensures more bullying goes unaddressed.
- Bullying laws should exempt private schools. The state guarantees an educational experience for all young people, and just as private schools should be held accountable to academic standards, so too should they be held accountable for safe learning environments.
Point for point, the Alliance Defense Fund’s model policies, promoted by Focus on the Family’s True Tolerance page, intentionally protect bullies while making LGBT students more vulnerable to victimization and harassment. This “yardstick” measures only one thing: intolerance.