SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 27, 2014

Our view: Let teachers teach

Ask any teacher or school administrator these days what their biggest distraction is, and more than likely they’ll tell you that it’s the state’s constant meddling in the classroom.

Laws, directives, “benchmarks,” policies, mandates — some of which are barely tangentially related to classroom learning — are heaped on teachers. As lawmakers and bureaucrats demand that teachers push students to achieve the highest standards of learning, they also require that public school educators take on a growing role as de facto social workers.

The latest bit of meddling coming down the pike is a plan by a handful of state lawmakers to have schools document incidents of bullying so that a database can be created that pinpoints what categories of victims are being picked on. This comes from a “special commission” that studied the state’s 2010 anti-bullying law and recommended numerous additions.

Upon its passage, that 2010 law was heralded by politicians as a “landmark” for the rest of the nation, the most comprehensive law in this country. But when the rubber hit the road in the classrooms, its glaring failures became obvious. Schools were required to develop anti-bullying plans. They spent plenty of time and resources complying with this mandate, but many schools didn’t have the people or money to actually do much of anything beyond that. The plans gather dust on the shelf. It was another feel-good “landmark” mandate that had little real impact. Our local schools are used to them and grow weary of them.

Now, another feel-good mandate is rushing through the Legislature. Schools will be required to gather data on victims so that bureaucrats can study the trends, produce reports and shuttle them off to the Legislature. The goal is to guide anti-bullying “resources.”

“There are various categories that are now set forth where it is felt most of the bullying is taking place — you know, in the gay community, race, physical appearance — and it sets up a mechanism for them to report to the Department of Education, so we, as a commonwealth, will have a better idea,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Monday.

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