A statewide policy on bullying isn't a bad idea. Ensuring the policy is applied in a fair manner in every school district throughout the state won't be easy, but having a policy in writing that offers guidance to school officials will help schools and parents know when enough is enough.
Rep. Tricia Cotham is one of 50 cosponsors of the bill. She has personal experience with schoolyard bullies, having been a teacher and assistant principal in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Thank goodness for her level-headed, thoughtful discussion of this bill. She can speak and act from experience.
Rep. Nick Mackey, also from Mecklenburg County, can also speak and act from experience and we get a completely different approach. From the N & O:
Mackey, a freshman Democrat from Charlotte, filed a police report March 10 over one bullying incident. It says food -- Rice Krispiestreats, fruit roll-ups, pudding and cookies -- were stolen from an 11-year-old student's lunch. The boy had experienced similar thefts for two weeks.
Mackey declined to offer details about the incident or his relationship to the victim.
Bullying, which includes taking food or other possessions, can bring suspensions of a day or longer. Mackey said the punishment should be more severe.
"If a kid comes up to another kid and takes something from them, from their person, yeah, I would say that's a strong-arm robbery," said Mackey, a lawyer. "That's a felony. If I snatch your purse from you, that's a strong-arm robbery."
Again, thank goodness for Rep. Cotham who gives a more level-headed perspective.
"The question is, do we really want to get into the business of criminalizing children at our schools for every rule that they break? And I would say no," said Rep. Tricia Cotham.
"However, if a child breaks a serious rule that is also criminal -- such as using a weapon or taunting a person with a gun or with threats -- then it may be necessary to involve the legal system," she said. "But for most routine examples of bullying, they are not at that level."
As the parent of two children who have both faced down bullies at school, I appreciate Nick Mackey's passion. However, Mackey is the last person who should be pointing fingers at others and accusing them of criminal acts, especially when he is pointing at children.
For more on the Nick Mackey "strong arm robbery" charge.