Remember when tossing a balled up piece of paper at the kid in front of her to try to get her attention was considered, well, trying to get her attention? Apparently now it is considered one step away from bullying. That is, as long as the girl whose attention you sought “feels” bullied. You see, your actual actions are irrelevant; it is only the perceptions of the recipient that matter. Real bullies beware: your ranks are being diluted by paper-throwers and people who speak in a moderately loud tone of voice.
Bullying is bad. It is wrong. It is harmful. In many places it is illegal. This of course refers to the commonly understood concept of bullying, which includes physical violence, threats of violence, consistent verbal abuse, etc. Of concern is the extent to which our zero tolerance mentality has redefined any and every misinterpreted word or behavior as bullying.
Meanwhile, school systems that are struggling to keep math and science scores above the national average are spending inordinate amounts of time on paperwork, meetings and counseling sessions in response to the most inane of incidents that used to be known simply as “human interactions”. The so-called “aggressors” in these incidents are routinely counseled and disciplined to prevent such behaviors in the future. It can only be speculated as to whether the so-called “victims” are being instructed in the positive benefits of developing a thicker skin. Living a life in which there is perceived offense and torment waiting around every corner cannot possibly be healthy.
Could it be that the barrage of anti-bullying posters and public awareness campaigns has planted the idea into the minds of the sensitive that any and every misplaced word or misunderstood action must be bullying? Let’s face facts. Teenage awkwardness and hormone-driven emotions are frequently going to result in encounters that leave one or both participants feeling embarrassed or upset; to label this anything other than teenage angst is beyond common sense.