Sunday, April 20, 2014
By TIM RUSSELL
SIDNEY — Regarding your July 1 editorial ("Republicans fail to show courage on anti-bullying bill"):
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Russell is a resident of Sidney.
Courage, like beauty, must be in the eye of the beholder. The Republican legislators who stood their ground for the truth regarding L.D. 1237, the anti-bullying bill, showed far more courage than those legislators who succumbed to the hidden gay agenda presented in the bill and, for that matter, The Portland Press Herald editorial board.
At the public hearing for L.D. 1237, Rep. Terry Morrison, D-South Portland, began the presentation for his bill to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs by passing out an amended version that was entirely different from what was originally proposed.
Needless to say, those there to testify at the public hearing were unprepared to speak on what was actually being presented.
Morrison proceeded to introduce the newly amended version of the bill and asked if attorney Mary Bonauto could help present the bill to the committee.
The amended version of L.D. 1237 being presented to the committee members did, in fact, contain the following header: "Proposed Amendment to L.D. 1237, An Act to Prohibit Bullying in Schools; Drafted by Mary Bonauto; Submitted by Rep. Terry Morrison."
So who is Mary Bonauto? Her business card identifies her as civil rights project director for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), based in Boston, Mass.
A legal analysis – as opposed to emotional analysis – of the proposed bill's language confirms it does not live up to its title and is woefully lacking in its stated purpose, potentially creating an unconstitutional hodgepodge of local school policies across Maine. Here's a look at several of the bill's many inconsistencies:
• It requires schools to enforce protection from harassment orders. How can staff realistically implement this in a school environment – hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, etc?
• The definition of bullying is imprecise, ill-defined and vague. It is open to subjective interpretation and enforcement. The primary flaw with the definition is that, in part, it classifies acts or words based on the perception of the victim and how the victim feels – not the actual conduct of the suspect bully.
• With regard to determining the motive of the bully, there is no specific objective guidance, inviting all types of inquiry and invasion into the private thoughts and beliefs of students. This is a very dangerous requirement.
The goal of the bill should be to eliminate wrongful conduct, not provide a means for a fishing expedition into the private thoughts and beliefs of students.
• There is no articulated provision in the bill's text limiting it to public schools. To impose these regulations on private schools interferes with their private interests and rights.
• The language under bullying definitions is imprecise in that it only stipulates sex, mental disability, race/national origin and sexual orientation without enumerating other recognized protected classes; sexual orientation is not a protected legal class under Title VII.
The deliberate inclusion of sexual orientation and the exclusion of other protected classes underscores the real hidden agenda of this bill and its advocates.
• The most serious flaw with this bill is that it incorporates no protections for First Amendment rights of students or how First Amendment protections are factored into it. Speech, otherwise protected under the First Amendment, may be punishable under L.D. 1237.
If a student expresses an opinion as a legitimate part of a school assignment (and ordinarily protected speech) but another student complains, is this bullying?
All Maine residents can agree that bullying should not be tolerated, but the solution is not to give preferential rights to or promote a particular agenda of some students at the expense of the rest.
Honorable goals cannot substitute for good judgment and legally vetted legislation. Only a carefully written bill that protects not only potential victims of bullying but also safeguards the constitutional rights of every student is a suitable solution to address bullying in school.
An effective anti-bullying policy can be implemented that adequately deals with bullying without advancing a specific ideology.
Bonauto's business card proclaims "Equal justice under law." L.D. 1237, as written, is not equal justice under the law, and those Republicans who defeated the bill are to be commended rather than rebuked for the courage they showed.
- Special to The Press Herald