Rep. Hatfield has introduced HB 1093 concerning protective orders for bullying. “Bullying” is defined as “overt, unwanted, repeated acts or gestures . . . that are committed by a person or group of persons against another person or group of persons with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the targeted person or persons.” It gives verbal, written, and electronic communications, physical acts, and aggression as examples of “acts or gestures.”
It permits a person who has been a victim of bullying to seek a protective order in the same manner currently available to a victim of domestic violence. The orders can, among other things, enjoin the bully from threatening or committing future acts of bullying; enjoin the bully from communicating directly or indirectly with the victim; and order the bully to reimburse the victim for expenses related to the bullying – including medical expenses, counseling, and repair or replacement of damaged property; and prohibit the bully from using or possessing a firearm.
The structure of the legislation is perhaps a little kludgy at times because bullying has been shoe-horned into statutes designed for domestic violence. So, in the case of a bullying protective order, the court has the authority to order that the victim “has the exclusive possession, care, custody, or control of any animal owned, possessed, kept, or cared for by the [victim], [bully], minor child of either the [victim or bully], or any other family or household member.”
I don’t work with them a lot, so I’d defer to those with more experience, but I’m skeptical of the general effectiveness of protective orders. I don’t oppose them by any means, but I think probably they often do too much or too little. The legal system is an unsubtle piece of machinery not well designed to respond to nuanced human interactions. It’s a cleaver where sometimes a scalpel is necessary.
Bullying itself is an interesting question. People will complain — with some justification — that it’s too hard to define. Any definition you care to come up with will be both over and under-inclusive. And some of that is meant in good faith. But there are people who, when you get down to it, believe that bullying is good or, at least, that protecting kids from bullying is bad. Curbing bullying behavior in boys is emasculating. The pecking order is a natural and ultimately beneficial aspect of human society. Dealing with bullies make you a stronger person.
I disagree. I think tolerating bullying behavior is maladaptive for modern society where more people are placed in closer proximity with one another and required to work together and rely on one another for society to thrive. I’m an adherent (as should we all be) of the Road House rule as given to us by the best cooler in the business, Dalton (who’s not as big as you might think): “be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” Bullying, pretty much by definition, is someone not being nice when it’s still time to be nice. We shouldn’t tolerate that. (Though, like I suggested, I’m on the fence about whether a protective order is the proper tool for this particular job.)