Orwellian School 'Harassment' Policies Threaten Freedom of Speech

One of the most common arguments in favor of school district transgender "non-discrimination" policies is that such policies prevent "bullying" and "harassment." But what is bullying and harassment? Definitions are often so broad and all-encompassing that people end up being severely penalized for "harassment" when all they did was speak their mind.

Real-life examples of how "harassment" is really an excuse for censorship are abundant.

  • In Massachusetts, a renowned urologist was fired by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center because he sent emails to hospital officials expressing concerns about the hospital's "aggressive promotion of and involvement in LGBT activities ... and its emphatic push for staff participation in them." He was informed that his opinions "constituted a violation of the hospital’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy." 
  • An Illinois school attempted to censor a student's shirt that said "Be Happy, Not Gay" because of policies about "offensive messages," as well as bullying and by extension, harassment. Thankfully, a federal court stepped in, noting that in a free society, individuals "do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or even their way of life."
  • Elliot Chambers, a student at a Minnesota high school, wore a "straight pride" sweatshirt to school on the school's "gay pride day." The administration attempted to censor the shirt to "promote student safety." Chambers sued and the court ruled that the school had illegitimately infringed upon his freedom of speech.
  • The Ann Arbor, Michigan school district was successfully sued by Betsy Hansen, a student, after it censored her "What Diversity Means To Me" presentation because the speech made the factual claim that the Bible prohibits homosexual relationships. Hansen was granted over $100,000 in damages by a federal judge, who slapped down the school district in a 70-page opinion. Her attorneys stated that "this case should remind school officials that public schools are not a forum for their personal political agenda."
According to the founder of Liberty Counsel, a group that litigates on the behalf of people whose religious freedom and free speech rights are violated, "anti-bullying" policies (such as the ones passed in Fairfax County and proposed in Loudoun and Prince William counties)  can - and have - lead to punishment of students for the simple statement that "homosexuality is a sin."

But members of conservative activist groups such as the Liberty Counsel are not the only people who understand the dangers to free speech that many so-called anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies pose. For example, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is a group which is hardly on board with the resistance to the Orwellian LGBT agenda. In fact, it appears to support "the need to prevent bullying and harassment in schools, especially when the targets are young and vulnerable ... for example ... LGBTQ high school students." It also opposes parental rights when it comes to explicit school library materials, believing that laws which allow parents to decide what books are appropriate for their children are somehow "censorship."

Nonetheless, the NCAC has raised concerns about the broad nature of many educational institutions' definitions of "harassment." The group has submitted testimony to the Commission on Civil Rights and the House Committee on the Judiciary, explaining how broad definitions of "harassment" and "bullying" threaten the First Amendment right to free speech.

The NCAC has published several detailed articles on the danger of defining "harassment" and "bullying" so broadly. While this is a far-left group, they do seem to have some sense on this one issue.

If school systems want to avoid expensive legal battles that they will inevitably lose, they must define harassment and bullying narrowly to protect the free speech rights of students. However, many school systems appear to place ideological homogeneity over free speech and fiscal responsibility. One of those school systems is Fairfax County, Virginia.

According to anonymous sources, a student at a FCPS school was accused by administration of conduct that "border[ed] on harassment" for little more than telling another student to visit a certain website.

Those who quarrel with my use of anonymous sources should remember that the mainstream media heavily uses anonymous sources as well - on far more consequential stories than this one - such as their recently retracted claim that Russia hacked into a Vermont utility provider, which was entirely based on anonymous sources.

Further, broad definitions of harassment and bullying lead to potential targeting based on politics or personal conflict. If a student or his/her family is on the administration's bad side, for whatever reason, "harassment" is the easiest way for corrupt, dishonest school officials to take revenge. Without a clear-cut definition, administrators can accuse a student of "hurting someone's feelings", and punish them as they wish. Since the definition of harassment is entirely subjective, there will be no feasible way for the targeted student to challenge the school's decision. (Of course, the majority of school employees would not do something like this, but there are some who would.)

In fact, false accusations of harassment or bullying can be a form of harassment and bullying. By falsely accusing them of harassment, a bully can take down an enemy without laying a finger on them - and while being painted as a victim or even a hero by school officials.

The potentials for abuse are too great. Policies designed to prevent bullying are creating more of it instead. The time has come for citizens to question the propaganda spewed by "professionals" who claim to act in the best interest of children but instead dismantle our basic liberties. The best anti-bullying program is a karate class - not endless indoctrination about "diversity and tolerance", much less policies that eviscerate free speech and enforce radical political correctness on our schools. Reform is needed, now. 

Comments

  1. According to the current WH occupant, bullying includes such nebulous, subjective calls as:

    Leaving someone out on purpose
    Telling other children not to be friends with someone
    Spreading rumors about someone
    Embarrassing someone in public

    (https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html)

    So now, "bullying" is anything that someone (liberal) doesn't like.

    ReplyDelete

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