Last Saturday I spent two hours standing out on the Broadway Bridge, exercising my First Amendment rights. I and over four dozen other people held a rally for the anti-bullying and human rights legislation that will be introduced in the Idaho Legislature this session. It was great to see so many people willing to brave the cold and come out and show their support for this legislation and sign cards to be sent to local legislators. This rally was in coordination with other rallies across Idaho, and there were people all across the state holding vigils, rallies, and meetings in favor of this legislation on Saturday.
This is not the first rally on the bridge I have done, and while it is almost always cold and usually windy, I always come away feeling empowered. It feels so good to know that I am doing my own small part in keeping our democracy running.
I think that a democracy hinges on the will of the people to do two things. One, and this is the most important, vote. If you do nothing else, vote! Two, participate in non-violent rallies, protests, and demonstrations. It is up to the people to let our elected officials know our will, and that we are paying attention to what they are up to. Letter writing is great, and there was a component of that in Saturday’s rally, but I think there is nothing better for elected officials to see than that there is a group of people willing to give up some of their time and energy to making their voices heard.
I want to talk a little now about the specific legislation inspiring this rally. Some people might argue that we don’t need anti-bullying legislation, that the solution to the problem is to enforce existing assault laws and not make new laws for every problem. Some people don’t like to see the state reaching into the schools and dictating behavior there.
To the first argument, as I understand the proposed legislation, it will not preclude existing laws from being enforced, but rather tell school districts that they must have and enforce anti-bullying policies in the schools. Most bullying does not begin with actions that would be prosecutable under assault laws, but with something much more subtle and hidden, that should be addressed by school policies before it reaches the level of assault.
To the second argument, as long as the government is setting up and funding schools (aka public schools), then the government and the state have the right to pass laws mandating certain policies and behaviors in the schools, as long as those are consistent with the Constitution and other existing laws.
This column originally appeared in the (Idaho Falls) Post Register on February 2, 2011.
- Successful Anti-Bullying Rally (uucifsocialjustice.wordpress.com)
- Idaho Activists March to End Anti-Gay Discrimination (news.change.org)
- Idaho Lawmaker: Straight Allies Are Key to Stopping Anti-Gay Bullying (gayrights.change.org)
- The opening stance (ridenbaugh.com)
- Victory! NJ Passes Toughest Anti-Bullying Law In The Country (education.change.org)