Wednesday, July 16, 2008

School Bullying Revisited: Jonathan Turley's Analysis

As readers of this blog know, as an educator and a theologian, I have a strong concern to address school bullying. Weeks back, I blogged repeatedly about the case of Billy Wolfe in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As a New York Times article published on 24 March reported, following repeated multi-year incidents of bullying of their son, the parents of a Fayetteville sophomore, Billy Wolfe, filed suit in March against the Fayetteville School System (see My blog discussions of the Billy Wolfe case are at,,, and

Given my interest in this case (about which there has been little news since April), I was happy to notice in yesterday’s USA Today a strong op-ed piece by Jonathan Turley which references the Billy Wolfe story ( Turley is Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. His USA Today piece is entitled “Bullying’s Day in Court.”

Shapiro notes, as my postings on school bullying have stressed, the wider reach of school bullies today through the Internet. The same issue of USA Today that carries Turley’s op-ed piece also has an article by Janet Kornblum discussing the extension of school bullying through websites (see

Turley notes that too many citizens have apparently considered bullying part of the growing-up experience, and have tolerated school bullying for that reason. In his view, this attitude is dangerous, as school bullying proliferates today, and as it becomes ever more serious: standing up to bullies can cause a young person to be killed in schools today.

Turley encourages parents to follow the example of the Wolfe’s and resort to the legal system to put pressure on schools to eradicate bullying. As he notes, “Bullies are not adverse object lessons for an educational system; they are the very antithesis of education. They are no more a natural part of learning than is parental abuse a natural part of growing up.”

I second Turley’s call for proactive approaches on the part of parents whose children are bullied in our school systems. Schools have a strong responsibility to educate against bullying: to educate for tolerance and against any sort of violence premised on prejudice.

When schools fail to fulfill this responsibility, when there are repeated instances of bullying in a school system (as there have been in Fayetteville, Arkansas, schools), and when there are suggestions that a community not merely tolerates bullying but also protects those doing the bullying, legal action is imperative. It may be the only way a young person’s life is saved.

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