For many Democrats these days, the 1st amendment is a wonderful thing, provided their detractors shut up and accept the greatness of the liberal worldview as objective truth. The left counters the opposition’s refusal to roll over and surrender with a wide-range of strategically spewed epithets. These “conversation-ending” terms include, but are not limited to, ‘bigot’, ‘homophobe’, ‘neanderthal’, and ‘racist’. Liberals justify their vitriol as a necessity, claiming conservatives are so stupid that rational conversation is simply impossible. As should be apparent already, liberals protect free speech only insofar as those with whom they agree are given the bully pulpit and those with whom they disagree don’t get a chance to speak.
This liberal, anti-opposition mindset has had a severely detrimental effect on our nation in the past 50 years. Post-secondary bias is a prime example of national degradation.
Freedom of speech has all but disappeared on most university campuses, replaced by an overwhelming number of leftist faculty and administrators. These faculty have made it their job to indoctrinate America’s youth and muzzle the opposition. I should note that isn’t the case for all university faculty; many professors actively choose to leave their opinions out of class discussions. In general, however, the left, which claims to support “free expression” on campus, has succeeded in shouting down conservatives and giving students no choice but to entertain its unrealistic worldview.
So how does this liberal, “anti-free speech” drive, which is sickeningly apparent on college campuses across the United States, apply to the new anti-bullying law working its way through the Minnesota Legislature? The answer to this question lies in one two simple words: emotional distress.
On the surface, the “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” seems a common sense measure. In short, the bill wants to eliminate bullying in Minnesota schools via a number of legislative mandates and programs. As I said, on the surface, the bill doesn’t seem all that bad. However, beneath the surface, this potential law is a blatant assault on the First Amendment, and more importantly, continues the liberal tradition of shutting up the opposition and using education to muzzle America’s youth.
The problem with this bill lies in its very broad, and consequently very vague, definition of bullying.
The definition is as follows: “Bullying means intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harassing conduct that is objectively offensive and [...] constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress against a student [...] Intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harassing conduct may involve, but is not limited to, conduct that is directed at a student or students based on a person’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined in chapter 363A.”
At first glance, the definition doesn’t seem to pose any problems. The fact that intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harassing conduct shouldn’t be welcome on high school campuses appears to be a foregone conclusion. That’s not to say this definition isn’t full of problems, however. On the contrary, at second glance, the deep-seated faults in this definition are hard to ignore.
I’ll begin with what I call the “emotional distress clause.” As noted earlier, the Legislature states that bullying “constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress against a student…” I have two huge, constitutionally-based issues with this statement.
First, the idea of “intentional infliction” is far too vague. These words demand an objective definition, and yet, there can be no such thing. The idea of intentionality is completely subjective, for only the doer of the action can know with absolute certainty whether he or she committed the act “on purpose.” Consequently, the trustworthiness of the accused becomes the main point of tension. Did he do it intentionally? Was it an accident? These are questions that cannot be answered unless the accused is provided a reasonable amount of trustworthiness.
Is this possible, though? Can such a “case” (I’ll use legal terms to make this situation more understandable) be solved, and the guilty be acquitted, based solely on trustworthiness? Of course not. Real, objective evidence is required to rebut an accusation.
In an average bullying case, however, the accused can only offer a statement that he or she did not act intentionally. Unfortunately, unless the “bully” talked to others prior to the incident or in some way made his or her plans known, there’s no way to tangibly prove that the accused didn’t think about the bullying beforehand.
Thus, if this law were to pass and make intentionality a tipping point in bullying cases, the “jury” (i.e. school administrator, principle) has no choice but to believe the accuser and punish the accused. In effect, “guilty before proven innocent” would become the law of the school bullying land.
My second issue with the aforementioned statement (bullying constitutes an intentional act that causes emotional distress) is its final two words: emotional distress.
My problem with the “emotional distress” clause is as follows: what exactly does emotional distress mean? Where is the line drawn? As it stands now, the line is drawn wherever the accuser wishes it to be drawn.
For example, let’s say a homosexual student attends a class and a classmate happens to mention that he or she doesn’t support gay marriage. Let’s then say that the homosexual student takes offense to that statement and claims that he or she feels emotionally distressed by the other student’s opinion. In this situation, if this anti-bullying law were to pass, the “offending” student has no defense. The accuser feels emotionally distressed, and thus, the accused is, by definition, a bully.
But, wait, you say! The accused didn’t do it on purpose! He obviously didn’t intend to emotionally harm his peer. He merely exercised his right to free speech!
My friends, you are correct. He didn’t do it on purpose. But as noted earlier, how can he prove that? There’s no tangible way for the accused to prove he didn’t intentionally harm his peer. Additionally, because of the “emotionally distressing” nature of his words, according to this law, he forfeited his right to free speech before even opening his mouth.
So what’s at stake here? Quite frankly, free speech. If Governor Dayton signs this bill, “distressing” speech will be outlawed in public school settings. No longer will students be able to freely discuss their political opinions. What was once a “marketplace of ideas” will become a marketplace of politically-correct, unconstitutional education.
I’m sure many of you feel that I’m overreacting. It’s just an anti-bullying bill, right? How could I possibly oppose a bill that protects kids from bullies?
Let me put it this way: I don’t oppose bills that protect kids from bullies. I do, however, oppose bills that blatantly infringe on my rights of free speech. The “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” does just that. With its vague definitions and “emotional distress” clause, this bill is an absolute assault on free speech, and as a conservative, I cannot and will not stand for it.