Teen Bullying: Should it be a Crime?

Lady Gaga recently paid nearly $40,000 dollars to attend a dinner with President Obama. The “Mother Monster” had one thing on her mind to discuss with the President: bullying. The topic has received considerable coverage in recent weeks from trending on Twitter to interviews on the Today Show.  The current spotlight on bullying in the media is due to recent suicides of teenagers who were bullied because of their sexuality.

The recent suicide of 14 year-old, Jamey Rodemeyer, from Buffalo, New York, has caused many people to cry out that bullying should be made a crime. Jamey Rodemeyer was a young teen who was struggling with his sexuality and as a result was a merciless target of bullying. While the death of Jamey Rodemeyer and the numerous other teenagers who commit suicide as a consequence of bullying is undoubtedly tragic, the implications of making bullying a crime are complicated, and doing so may not be feasible.

The hardest question is how bullying should be defined? When does normal adolescent teasing and poking fun go from “kids being kids” to bullying? Is bullying to be measured by a subjective or objective standard? Furthermore, what topics or issues would be criminalized? Bullying because of one’s sexuality? Sure, but what about because of someone’s weight, or because they’re a “nerd”, or not popular, or not a good athlete? Criminalizing bullying would inevitably lead to a slippery slope argument where any topic a kid could be teased about is all of a sudden a bullying crime.

Bullying is a very relevant issue in today’s society and one that needs to be addressed; however, does the answer lie in making it a crime?

One thought on “Teen Bullying: Should it be a Crime?

  1. As I recently wrote for the Internet Safety Project, another law won’t do much to stem the tide of bullying. There are already state and federal laws regarding the acts of a bully: threatening, stalking, intimidation and harassment. Bullying is anti-social behavior that must be confronted by parents first and later schools as a reinforcement of lessons taught in the home.
    http://www.internetsafetyproject.org/blog/dont-go-gaga-over-national-bullying-law
    Resoectfully, -Judge Tom.

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