I managed to get this out in my allotted 2 minutes, a rarity for Baptist preachers.
My Comments to House Education Committee re: HB 407, the School Bullying Prevention Act today, April 18, 2012, Baton Rouge, LA
As a pastor, I whole-heartedly support this bill for several reasons. First, I support it because it sounds like Jesus. It just sounds like a bill he would develop after learning of students who skip class to avoid a bully, of children who commit suicide after persistent harassment, and of students who snap and seek revenge in the way of Columbine. This bill provides help for the kind of people followers of Jesus are to look after in this world. As Jesus said, “When you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” Jesus always looked out for the minority, the marginalized, the bullied. It was a matter of understanding the beauty of diversity and that every person had been made in the image of God.
Second, supporting this bill does not violate religious expression. This bill is intended for public schools, which are for the public-at-large, not a representation of a particular religious understanding or interpretation of the Bible. As a Baptist, I believe in freedom of and from religion. I believe that the care for the bullied of our society unites much more than what divides us. Our religions hold in common the idea that we are to look after those who need our help. And the rights and security of our children in a public setting supersedes our individual religious beliefs. There is nothing here that states we religious groups have to agree with how people live their lives or to uphold what perhaps makes them different, but it does call us to treat one another with love and that everyone deserves dignity. As one minister said recently, “This is a no brainier. Why wouldn’t I support this?”
Third, this bill makes it possible for children, who are regarded as different for whatever reason, can go to school with the confidence that their teachers, coaches, and principal will protect them from the harassment, threats, and harm from bullies. It gives them the security that they can attend school and focus on learning rather than their fears of ridicule and even violence. It reminds them that they are humans and have intrinsic value, something which must always be valued and protected.
While it can’t guarantee that people will stop bullying, it sends a message to bullies that their behavior will not be tolerated, while providing those in charge of our schools with helpful and enumerated guidelines for enforcement. And it does provide the means by which they can be held accountable within our public school system.
There is no question that the problem of bullying has increased as our world grows smaller. What a better world it will be when all children can learn and develop in a community where love and acceptance for all are valued and where bigotry and exclusion are no longer tolerated.