Anti-Bullying Proponents Want To Ban Unpopular “Viewpoints Or Beliefs”

I’ve long felt that one recent political fad, the anti-bullying movement, was both dangerous and silly.

Silly because kids have been bullying other kids for about as long as there has been kids. I’m not condoning it, but to think that we can change it with a law is, well, pretty silly. But this effort is also dangerous.

“Whose subjective definition of what does and does not constitute “bullying” do we use?” I asked in 2010, in advance of North Dakota’s legislature taking up anti-bullying laws (they ultimately passed). It seems they’re having that very debate in Tennessee, and there anti-bullying activists want the ban on bullying to include unpopular “viewpoints or beliefs.”

An example of the conversation about bullying is found in a Feb. 24 News Sentinel story concerning a panel discussion about legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. The story was headlined “Panel discusses fears of proposed ‘license to bully’ bill.”

Notwithstanding the headline, that’s not the name of the bill. That’s what it’s called by its opponents. The body of the story identifies it as the “so-called ‘license to bully’ bill.”

Here is the section of the legislation that seems to be causing concern among those who feel it is a license to bully: “Creating a hostile educational environment shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular.”

Keep in mind that in our nation’s schools and workplaces, creating a hostile environment is something administrators and employers are already empowered to stop. Real bullying is already against the rules. What the anti-bullying activists are after now isn’t protecting children. It’s about controlling speech.

For instance, what if a Christian student says that homosexuality is immoral? That is a belief or viewpoint that is unpopular with many people, but is it really bullying? The anti-bullying people want it to be, because they disagree with it.

As someone who makes a living from expressing unpopular, controversial beliefs and viewpoints I find this trend very disturbing. What the anti-bullying activists are claiming is a right not to be offended or upset by things other people say. But how can free speech exist in an environment like that? How can education happen unless students are challenged with thoughts different from their own?

If we all have a right not to be offended, or “bullied” to use another term, then how do any of us have a right to free speech?

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • realitybasedbob

    rube, there is free speech and then there is bullying. Please, please tell us you understand the difference.

    • Trespassers W

       OK. Define “bullying.”

      • realitybasedbob

        Not being a lawyer, let’s go with, in your face, multiple incidents of harassing or demeaning language.

        • two_amber_lamps

          WRONG…  it’s whatever the leftist agenda wants/needs/requires that it mean. It’s definition is as meaningless and contrived as “hate crime” which too is a handy misnomer for whatever definition the left decrees is handy for the moment… Sorta like this case…

          Thank you, come again!

        • Trespassers W

           Plenty of big holes in that definition, but let’s go with it, and pose a hypothetical situation:
          Let’s assume that there are people in society who engage in a behavior called “widget snorfling;” these people are known as “snorflers.” I am a scientist engaged in research on widget snorfling, and my research shows that this behavior leads to a constellation of negative effects, both for the individuals and for society at large. For examples, snorflers have a significantly shorter life expectancy, and they are prone to a host of disorders and ailments, and their families are more disfunctional by a number of metrics (their children are more likely to drop out of school, commit violet offenses, etc.).

          However, when I publish or present the results of my research, the snorflers complain that I am engaging in demeaning language regarding their lifestyle.

          By your definition, in the terms of this hypothetical, am I guilty of bullying?

          • realitybasedbob

            By my holey definition, no.

            (sorry, gotta run RIGHT NOW, but I will gladly pick this up later)

        • Camsaure

          Isn’t that just what you do daily on this blog? You hypocrit.

    • bikebubba

      Actually, Reality Challenged One, maybe it would be better if you expressed this if it is so self-evident.  Let us know how, absent physical intimidation, shouting in someone’s face, and such, the expression of an unpopular viewpoint ought to qualify as bullying.

    • Rob

      The real question is, who gets to decide what the difference is?

      You? Me?

      Can you give me an example of a type of actual bullying that wasn’t already against school policies prior to this latest political fad?

  • mikemc1970

    Yes yes. Progressives/socialists always try to censor any viewpoint that doesn’t exactly match their own. Nothing new here.

  • Leon francis

    Silly Indeed! And to think, I was ostracized last year for pointing out the obvious flaws, not to mention the OBVIOUS AGENDA ‘anti~bully ‘ Bullies!

  • mickey_moussaoui

    “Bullying” is in the eyes of the beholder. Who defines the “popular” viewpoint these days anyway? The education system is controlled by the left so they control the defined standard of “bullying”. The rules of the workplace are dictated again by the group in control and how spineless the leadership is. These days, if you are a “normal” person you had better MYOB because someone else with issues will make your life a nightmare.

  • factsarefacts

    “Bullying” is defined as an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act, or a series of acts:
    (1) Directed at another student or students;
    (2) Which occurs in a “school setting” or occurs outside of school and the outside of school conduct materially
    and substantially interferes with the educational process or program in the school, as allowed by law;
    (3) That is severe, persistent or pervasive; and
    (4) That has the effect of doing any of the following:
    Ø Substantially interfering with a student’s education,
    Ø Creating a threatening environment, and/or
    Ø Substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.
    A “school setting” shall mean in the school, on school grounds, on school property, at any school testing sites or other
    sites used by the school, on the school’s server or school’s electronic, web-based, Internet or on-line programs, in
    school vehicles, at designated bus stops or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school and any
    time spent necessarily traveling to and from these locations. Additionally, any student whose out of school conduct
    materially and substantially interferes with the educational process in the school is also subject to this policy.


    You are barking up the wrong tree here.  Bullying does need to stop.  (Notice point 3 in our code of conduct.) 

    Times have changed and bullying DOES need to stop.  This isn’t a right or left side.  Kids are committing suicide over bullying and it needs to stop. 

    It has gone way further than it used to. Yes, we used to fight and that was the end of it.  Not anymore.  Social media has changed all of this.  Is this the way to stop it.  At least it’s being recognized and a step in the right direction.

    Read the policy to define bullying.

    • Rob

      Disruptive behavior of this sort was already against school policy.

      Why did we need to pass new laws?

      • factsarefacts

         It may need to be recognized at a national level. 

        Just because it’s against school policy doesn’t mean that kids aren’t going to do it. 

        I agree with you on a lot, almost everything, here, but with schools, times are different.  Bullying is one of these things.  This needs to be brought to the front and center. 

        Like I said, it’s a step in the right direction.  Do we need a new law about it?  Maybe, maybe not.  BUT something needs to be done.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Enforce the school policies…  nuff said.

          • factsarefacts

             You obviously don’t work in a school.  We do enforce the policies, but try to prevent them BEFORE they happen.

            There is more to this than just saying, enforce the policies.  Like I said, students are killing themselves because of bullying.  We need that to change.

          • Rob

            Kids were killing themselves long before Facebook and the internet came along.  I had a friend kill himself in high school.

            What’s interesting is that, alongside the rise on social networking, teen suicide rates are actually decreasing nationally.

            There are already school policies, and even laws, against things like disruptive behavior and harassment.  We don’t need more laws.

          • factsarefacts

             Laws may have helped this kid in Ohio.  And the one who was bullied who decided to open fire……..   We need to do more.  That’s all I’m saying.

          • factsarefacts


            Doesn’t seem to be ending.  Something needs to be done.  As a parent, I am concerned for my kids safety at schools. 

          • factsarefacts

             Another thing, the school policy is, “not allowed to bring guns to school.”  Tough to enforce that one when he brought it anyways.  

            We need to do more.  Bringing it nationally to the forefront is a start.  Just a start, but non-the-less.

  • Random Passerby

    I find that this law is bullying me and my sense of what I ought to be able to say or do. Therefor it must be struck down under its own statute.

    Now stuff that on your docket and smoke it.

  • Janne Myrdal

    “What the anti-bullying activists are after now isn’t protecting children. It’s about controlling speech.”  Right on Rob.  This piece is excellent. 
    To term something “bullying” and make us all drink the coolaid so we allow laws that are literally un-lawful is so dangersous, I do not even have words to express how concerning this is.  I fought the “anti bullying” laws at the recent Legislative session in Bismarck, but sadly unsuccessfully, so we now have it as law in ND.  Even the most conservative lawmakers fell for the emotions of it all, and now we have a law that will be amended dangerously by the liberal left at every session and will eventually take the rights of most citicens away!   At recent DPI and School Board Assoc. meetings, the video shown to undergird the “necessity” of these laws came from no other that the Southern Poverty Law Center which is a radical left wing activism group. The video was based on a sad story from WI, of course made sadder with the adding of horrific scenes. But emotions should NOT ever create law.  and law should never ever protect some citizens more than others, which is what anti bullying laws eventually do.  The cases of it in other states are horrific evidence of such.  As I have always said, hard cases make for bad law. How often have we heard lately from lawmakers or the president for that sake the sentence ” We HAVE to do something.” as if lawmakers can promise peace on earth at all turns.  No, you do not HAVE to do something.  Incidents of behaviours like “bullying” should be dealt with LOCALLY only.   Now what we have is sadly school board members facing this all across the state, HAVING to adopt a policy written by ND School Board Association, and poorly at that,  with gaping holes open for abuse of the freedom of expression the Constitution provides.  No, of course we do not want anyone to say mean things, nor should they behave in a manner as to be emotionally hurtful to others, but such happnes at times, to all kids and all of us have been part of either side of the coin at one time.  I have a better suggestion, put the Ten Commandments back on the wall, you kow those so very offensive rules of life that all religions and even atheists (if you take away first commandment) agree on regardless.  But anti bullying laws and the policies that come with it it all looks so nicey nice that no one dares to speak up.  I have actually benn called pro-bullying.  How funny is that.  These laws and efforst are ONLY to stop free speech, it has NOTHING to do with protection children or adults. 
    Rob says:  “If we all have a right not to be offended, or “bullied” to use another term, then how do any of us have a right to free speech?”


  • Neiman

    We always get distracted by things like definitions – it is pure and simple: In the 1st Amendment where does it say or even hint that speech that offends or even intimidates is excluded or limited? If it is not there, oh well too bad, so sad it is free sppech and cannot be punished.

  • Econwarrior

    The created “bullying” crisis is simply the latest weapon by the homosexual activists against normal people.  Somehow, we’re at fault when a homosexual feels shame at his lifestyle choice, and so they label it “bullying”.  Just another liberal hoax.

  • Clint F

    Sandra Tibke et al are trying to create an environment where kids claiming alternate deviant sexual lifestyles or identities will be able to silence any opposing viewpoint as well.  It’s right here in our own back yard, they’re just better at hiding it.


  • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

    Rob want’s the word “n1gg#r” shouted by 8 year old students to 6yr old students, because it’s unpopularity (the word) shouldn’t be a guide for social standards or norms determining what is and what is not expected as decent human behavior.  It’s about free speech you know.

    • Neiman

      If you think your views are right – then amend the Bill of Rights, but until then it does not set limits, none, as that means they are not rights at all.

  • A mom, who cares

    Next time a kid kills himself because it was  someone said bullying is considered free speech, I hope you feel the blood on your hands. These are kids you are talking about, not adults. 

    • Neiman

      That is nonsense! Free speech is free speech or amend the Bill of Rights and say, according to liberal standards these things are no longer protected, free speech is limited.

      If a child kills themself, as sad and painful as that is and how despicable that someone would bully them, there is something else very wrong in the home wherein that child would ever see suicide as a way of escape and for their not being able to deal with bullies. Look at the home, not the so called bully, look at the home.

      Further, there is no guarantee that people, even kids will not be offended or exposed to beliefs contrary to their own and they have no right to infringe upon the free speech of others, no matter how objectionable.

      • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

        It’s not a free speech rights issue to have behavior rules in school.

        Stop hyperventilating and attacking mothers who are defending their children.  You are about as Christian as dirt is water.

        • Neiman

          You are a mass murderer and have no moral high ground at all. So, when you look in that mirror the murderous non-Christian looking back is you.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            I will see you when I look in the mirror, woman basher?

          • Neiman

            No, you will just a bloody mass murderer that will suffer for every soul he killed and every soul he lied into hell – YOU!

            You cannot prove any woman bashing by me, just more lies from a liberal, but I repeat myself.

          • Guest

             It’s good that you finally admit that you rage against women and see the “woman basher” in your mirror.

  • JustRuss

    Am I just reading it wrong?  To me, the law as it is written simply states that if you have an unpopular viewpoint or opinion and you express it you must expect to get grief. That is not bullying.

    What hanni is trying to say is that means a kid can shout N# @#r on the playground because its just an unpopular word.

    Well what the bill actually states is NOT that you wont get in trouble for saying N#@@#r but that if you DO shout it you can expect to face consequences that will NOT be considered bullying.
    What’s wrong hannitized? You want to be able to shout it without repercussion? Or you just can’t read? 
    The Anti-bullying crowd wants EVERY form of speech or action to be covered so they can apply it liberally. The legislature is apparently being wiser and limiting the scope of the law so that it does not include getting beat up for being a white supremacist.

    • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

      You read it wrong.

    • Neiman

      Sadly we all, including you and me, to varying degrees allow these liberals to argue every issue but the only one that counts. It is an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights to punish anyone for expressing their political views in the public square. Children are not exempt for such protections. If physical intimidation or a pattern of verbal intimidation exists that creates a danger to either party, then that intimidation and/or direct, imminent threat to life and limb can be subjected to some penalties by rules or law, but NOT the words, unless those words involve threats to life and limb.

  • Fredlave

    The anti-bullying jihad will die down when the ‘”anger” crowd decides to inflict themselves on a different crusade, like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

  • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

    TJ Lane was a victim of bullying, but hey……let’s defend child bullying, it’s only 2 dead children.