Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Anti-Bullying Legislation, BBIRT "Bullying Behavior Incident Reporting Tool" & South Washington County School District 833

There has to be somebody, some agency and, ultimately, some person that is responsible.  We have to show schools we are serious about this. ~ Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Just as President Johnson vowed to eradicate poverty, Mark Dayton has vowed to eradicate bullying.   He means to do this through the work completed by the Anti-Bullying Task-Force, along with Anti-bullying legislation that was introduced in last year’s legislative session and will be re-introduced at the next one.

According to Walter Hudson and Katherine Kersten this anti-bullying legislation will institutionalize bullying by creating a new bureaucracy that all students, teachers, staff, parents and anyone serving in the education system, public or private, would have to answer to. 

It would create mandates that would divert resources away from academics, while also forcing teachers into the role of thought police by requiring them to remediate children’s undefined “inappropriate” behavior and belief systems. These behaviors will be reported in a climate report that will follow students for the rest of their lives.  Imagine, your child, who was accused of a bullying incident in the third grade, unable to follow their chosen career path because of this report. 

According to legislative testimony by Ms. Kersten, One of the bill’s most chilling aspects is that students who dissent from certain state-approved cultural/political attitudes—who maintain, for example, that children do best when they have a parent of both sexes, a mom and a dad—could potentially be referred to “counseling” by school authorities for failing to sufficiently “value diversity.” 

She went on to say that H.F. 826 would send a message to students—at least those who belong to so-called protected classes—that they have an absolute right not to have their feelings hurt or their ideas challenged; and that authorities will intervene if this occurs.

Furthermore, the state would compel the educational system to investigate every reported incident of bullying, including anonymous accusations, which withholds due process of law, where the accused is allowed to confront their accuser.  It would also permit students to harass one another by making unsubstantiated charges of misconduct without accountability.

It is ironic to note, that every school district has a written Code of Conduct that in no area allows any kind of bullying, harassment, intimidation, etc. that all students must abide by.   These locally controlled Codes of Conduct are developed and enforced by teachers, school administrators and our elected school board members.  Why would an additional layer of intrusive enforcement be required?  Is it because the schools are not properly enforcing their own policies or is it there something more nefarious going on?

Woodbury resident, Doug Ballinger was recently quoted in the Woodbury Bulletin saying that he was horribly bullied when he was growing up.  Looking at bullying today, he reports that “This is a problem that is not being fixed.”  Ballinger’s thought process leads him to believe that adequate progress has not been made in the eradication of bullying. He also believes that “Each one of us has a range of tolerance to certain things, so that tolerance could be something as thick as a tree branch…or it could be a piece of spaghetti...however, one thing that cannot be argued is how a person feels.”  
To do his part in “fixing this problem” he has helped to create the "Bully Behavior Incident Reporting Tool" ("BBIRT") app, which he eventually intends to have on all Minnesota students’ phones…surely he is doing this out of the kindness of his heart not from the depth of the school districts’ pockets, right?

Ballinger’s vision for the tool includes:
A timely, accessible, and accurate bullying incident report to relevant offices/agencies with oversight of such incidents – and maybe parents, too…
While providing the schools usable data and platform for ensuring the right supports are provided for both school bully victim and bully alike.

His goals for the app are to establish a safe environment where kids can learn and grow mentally and physically, while not having to deal with his definition of bullying as “social distractions” while also helping the “bullying” student learn to cope and eliminate bullying behavior.
Mr. Ballinger believes that his app will help eradicate bullying behavior.  However, it would seem that a long list of abuses could occur with this technology in the hands of teenagers or adults.  If there is no set definition of bullying but instead a reliance on the tolerance level of the supposed victim, the number of bullying behavior incident reports will skyrocket.  Furthermore, when the incident can be anonymously reported, intent is left to be determined by the victim and may not accurately reflect the situation in which the incidence occurred.  Also, the possibilities of students, teachers and administrators abusing this tool, either through intimidation – fear of being reported – or false reports are extremely high.  
This app also indoctrinates children into the idea of “reporting” on their fellow-classmates.  If there are no consequences for a false report, than who is to stop those reports from happening? Or eventually, reporting anyone who speaks against the overriding political/societal ideology of the time?  

Apparently, South Washington County District 833 thinks that this is a fantastic idea.  They have partnered with BBIRT to pilot this app with the ERHS freshmen this year. 
Incidentally, SWC833 schools is also asking for a levy referendum that among other things, asks for money for improvement/additional of mental health staff; improved safety and security in the schools along with improving technology in the district under their T3Initiative: Transforming Thinking Through Technology.  It would seem that the District 833administration is all on board with this latest anti-bullying, thought police technology and legislation.  Perhaps we should ask our current school board members how and why this app is being allowed in this school district?  We should also research to see if any of our erstwhile Representatives and Senators, who also sit on the Legislative Education committees, are in support of the intrusion into civil liberties that this technology and anti-bullying legislation represents. 

1 comment:

  1. MNHockeyMama,

    Thank you for understanding the reality of bullying...there are those who believe this is all made up. Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old girl who recently killed herself after being bullied for far too long, is an example of the kind of young people I want to reach before it is too late. I hope to chat with you more about BBIRT and the path ahead.

    Best regards,

    Douglas Ballinger
    Creator, Bully-Behavior Incident Reporting Tool (BBIRT)