The Self-Appointed Bully Police Resort to Name-Calling and Stereotypes in Critiquing Alliance Defending Freedom’s New Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick

By Jeremy Tedesco – Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) recently published a blistering blog post attacking Alliance Defending Freedom’s and Focus on the Family’s new Anti-Bullying Policy Yardstick. The misleading post warrants a response.

Before I get to the meat of my response, however, I would like to share a general, but pertinent, observation. As I have perused the blogosphere over the past several years, I have come up with a few rules for evaluating blog posts. My cardinal rule, above all others, is if the blog post is critiquing a document (or a speech, or a report, etc), but fails to provide a link to the document, then there is a significant likelihood that it is skewing what the document actually says. Under such circumstances, the reader has several basic options:

1) Upon discovering no link to the document being critiqued, immediately close out the blog and never return to it, since the blog is likely unreliable if its authors are unwilling to take the simple step of providing a link to what is being critiqued. (I do this only under extreme circumstances where the author’s bias is blatant).

2) Upon discovering no link to the document being critiqued, read the rest of the blog with a grain of salt. Then, try to locate the document yourself, review it, and judge whether the blog has fairly characterized what the document says. After completing your evaluation, determine whether the blog is a reliable source of information, or should be avoided. (This is typically my approach).

3) Upon discovering no link to the document being critiqued, continue reading as if nothing is wrong and believe everything the blog says. (I advise strongly against this course of action).

AU’s blog post harshly criticizes The Yardstick, but contains no link to the actual document (Note how, in stark contrast, my response to their post provides a link). Thus, at the very least, its readers should employ option 2 above.

And in employing option 2, you will find that AU’s blog post badly mischaracterizes The Yardstick’s purpose and what it says. Here are just a few examples.

• AU’s post states that The Yardstick represents “an effort to stop public schools from adopting policies designed to crack down on bullying.” Not true: The Yardstick is a tool that helps officials evaluate proposed or existing anti-bullying     policies. As the intro to The Yardstick explains, it “discusses ‘good’ and ‘bad’ approaches to the top ten most common components of anti-bullying policies/laws.” It does not say schools should not adopt anti-bullying policies. While at Alliance Defending Freedom we think these policies are often unnecessary because schools already have ample authority to prevent bullying, and most already have policies in place that ban bullying behavior, we think schools should have tools in their hands to evaluate the legal aspects of any anti-bullying policies they may be considering. That is where The Yardstick comes in.

• AU’s post states that The Yardstick “attempts to carve out exemptions for bullying if it’s based on religious rationales,” suggesting that it seeks to exempt religiously-motivated bullying. The Yardstick says nothing like this. Instead, it advises schools to do what the law already requires: to ensure that their anti-bullying policies are not written so broadly that they prohibit student expression protected by the First Amendment. Contrary to AU’s unfortunate charge, The Yardstick is not designed to secure the right of religious students to bully, but rather to protect the right of ALL students to express their views (religious or otherwise) at school without fear of being punished under overbroad and vague anti-bullying policies.

• AU’s post also includes a quote from its Senior Policy Analyst Rob Boston stating that schools adopting The Yardstick’s recommendations will “give budding fundamentalist bigots license to harass anyone they want.” Apparently, AU does not see the irony of resorting to name calling and stereotyping while complaining about our position on anti-bullying policies. But nonetheless, Mr. Boston is flat wrong. Schools that follow The Yardstick’s recommendations will not give any student a license to bully, but will rather ensure that they have anti-bullying policies that respect the First Amendment rights of their students and apply equally to all.

I could continue writing about the numerous other ways in which AU’s post misrepresents The Yardstick, but this post is already too long. So I commend The Yardstick and AU’s post to your perusal. Once you have reviewed them, employ Option 2 above and come to your own conclusion.

Author: Alliance Defending Freedom