Favorite

Bullying bullies is bad law 

I've known students like Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi.

Those like Clementi are grappling with their newly discovered sexuality and face mental health issues often tied to society's continued negative attitudes towards those who happen to be gay or lesbian. Others like Ravi are confused by all that comes with life outside the suburban cocoons of their childhoods and overcompensate by cockily behaving like complete jerks.

Most students like them have used their college years to come of age and work through their freshman year anxieties. By the time they graduate, the Tyler Clementis I've known have become more confident in themselves and are on their way to happiness in love and life. The Dharun Ravis are embarrassed about the mean spirited Facebook posts of their past but are prepared to more maturely deal with the new and challenging experiences of adult life.

Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi didn't have the time or the space to find themselves during college. Instead, they were forced together in a Rutgers University dorm room where their teen-age angsts collided in a tragic manner. After only a few weeks of living together, Ravi had used his computer camera to spy on Clementi during two intimate encounters with another man and had used social media to let friends know about his roommate's behavior. Clementi asked dorm officials for a roommate shift because of Ravi's offenses, then only hours later committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Last week, a New Jersey jury found that Ravi had committed criminal acts not just by invading his roommate's privacy through the spying and by attempting to cover up his Twitter-based communications, but also through more serious bias intimidation charges. While Ravi's tweets clearly showed he simply didn't know how to deal with his roommate's sexuality respectfully, he showed no physical violence towards Clementi and his communications lacked any overt statement of antigay bias. All told, Ravi will be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and will face likely deportation; the bias intimidation verdicts will be the source of most of that prison time. When applied to nonviolent acts as in the Clementi case, a hate crime law like the New Jersey bias intimidation provision is essentially a wide-ranging antibullying law applied to adults.

Strong antibullying provisions make sense in elementary and secondary school settings. When bullying occurs and school officials fail to respond, bullies can effectively deny their victims educational opportunities by undermining their ability to learn. As someone who had to deal with a bully through junior high and high school, I know how debilitating that reality can be to kids' educations. Arkansans should be proud that — thanks to the smart work of legislators like Sen. David Johnson and others during the 2011 legislative session — our state has a clear antibullying law that is one of only 14 in the nation that specifically protects students from bullying based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, there reaches a point where the state protecting minority group members from nonviolent acts is no longer healthy for anyone. That moment is when those individuals become adults.

Ravi deserved to be charged for certain offenses (especially related to the cover-up), but the primary legal proceedings should have been civil rather than criminal, with Clementi's parents seeking damages for the harm that Ravi did them and their son.

When the state plays the ongoing role of protector of groups through criminal sanctions, it instills victimhood in the groups it chooses to protect. Even more troubling, it raises the real likelihood that some unpopular speech will be chilled because it might be perceived by some as an expression of intimidating bias that could send that individual to jail.

Most members of the LGBT community instinctually cheered the fact that a jury found Ravi guilty for his clear meanness towards his gay roommate last week. However, it would be short-sighted to see this as a victory for LGBT Americans or those who care about creating an America where civil rights are taken seriously. For real social change to be cemented, empowered members of those traditionally oppressed groups must stand up for themselves and demand respect.

Instead, when bullies, like Ravi, are bullied by criminal law we all are less free.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Tyler Clementi, Dharun Rav

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Jay Barth

  • Remembering Elaine

    Elaine's 1919 race massacre marked, probably, the deadliest event of racial violence in U.S. history.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Trump's purge

    As is typical, President Trump has tweeted about any number of subjects in recent days. They ranged from advising former NSA head Michael Flynn that he should seek immunity for testimony related to the Trump/Russia case to personal insults directed toward "Meet the Press" host Chuck "Sleepy Eyes" Todd.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • GOP health care

    There is this little thing called the Affordable Care Act that screams "danger ahead" for Republicans in Arkansas.
    • Mar 9, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Ban the box in Little Rock

    In the latest evidence of the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement in shaping the American policy agenda, this past week has become "ban the box" week.
    • Nov 4, 2015

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Latest in Jay Barth

  • Remembering Elaine

    Elaine's 1919 race massacre marked, probably, the deadliest event of racial violence in U.S. history.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Trump's purge

    As is typical, President Trump has tweeted about any number of subjects in recent days. They ranged from advising former NSA head Michael Flynn that he should seek immunity for testimony related to the Trump/Russia case to personal insults directed toward "Meet the Press" host Chuck "Sleepy Eyes" Todd.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • Worse than N.C.'s bathroom bill

    SB 774 extends birth certificate requirement to bathrooms in all public facilities, and that's an original birth certificate, too.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Viewed

  • Forget the hairdo

    As the 2018 races begin to heat up, we see more and more women running for office. And as more women run, we will see more of the seemingly endless critiques of their appearances.
  • Intracity tourism

    The issues that tug at my heartstrings are neighborhood stigma and neighborhood segregation, which are so prevalent in Little Rock. In my opinion, the solution to those problems is "intracity tourism."
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.
  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Art bull

    • Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…

    • on April 24, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation