Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MA ATTORNEY GENERAL MARTHA COAKLEY’S BRILLIANT SOLUTION TO THE BULLYING PROBLEM

On Monday, the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog broke the news that Attorney General Martha Coakley was about to meet with the legislature with recommendations in connection with the legal abomination our representatives passed into law last year about Massachusetts bullying.

Ever the optimist, I actually hoped that perhaps she would arrive with recommendations that actually add some common sense to the situation after both prosecutorial and regular politicians have botched the job…for the bully and bullied alike.

Well, apparently, she thinks she did. In fact, she told the Legislature’s Education Committee yesterday that her suggested requirement would be a “common sense” follow up to the statute passed and the several subsequent high profile bullying incidents in the Commonwealth.

I agree with her. Her solution is the perfect”follow-up” to that embarrassingly worthless statute.

Her recommendation? That every case of confirmed bullying be reported to the authorities. That’s right, the police and prosecutors. Let the prosecutions begin!

Attorney Sam’ Take On AG Coakley’s Solution

My first professional response to this was something like, “no…wha…really? no really? She didn’t actually say….really?” Then, I sat and thought about it. I mused that perhaps her approach was the right one. In fact, maybe the only problem is that her approach does not go far enough.

Following her “logic”, I think that it is unfair (not to mention costly) to keep bothering law enforcement with all these instances of bullying. I say we take preventive action. Let’s cut out the tongues of all our kids before they enter school. What better way is there to be sure that they will not say anything mean to anybody? If they further abuse the privilege of going to school by writing nasty notes, giving someone the finger or something, they lose a hand each time.

An insane idea? Seems to fit right in, then, doesn’t it?

I will remind you of a couple of fascinating tidbits about the anti-bullying statute that was passed. First of all, it applies to all students….in the exact same way. Therefore, there is no difference in the eyes of the statute between a first grader and high school senior. Second, the definition of “bullying” includes any upsetting or offensive thing said or written by one student to another. Naturally, any other aggressive or insulting behavior qualifies as well.

Repeating a rumor is bullying. Sneering at someone is bullying. I suppose breaking up with somebody is bullying too! At any age!

So, let me give you a likely scenario. Little Stevie comes into his second grade class one day. He used to be friends with Davey, but fickle ol’ Steve has moved on to greener friendship pastures. He tells Davey, “I don’t like you anymore. You stink”. Under the applicable law, this is bullying. Under head prosecutor Coakley, this should be reported to the police if it is confirmed. So, yes, Tiny Tina, sitting at her desk, heard it. Now we can all go to juvenile court.

Of course, should Tina repeat what she heard in the form of “Hey…Davey stinks!”, her last name turns to “Defendant”.

You see, as we have discussed many times, prosecutors prosecute. Police officers arrest. Just like politicians do what they can to gather support (and, as we know, nothing sells like “tough on crime”!)

It is no big surprise that all three of these prosecutorial sorts favor such approaches. That is why they frankly should not be in a position effecting kids’ lives! They ignore, and are happy to keep you ignorant to the fact that once facing charges in court, the scarlet “C” for “Criminal” is branded on the defendant…regardless of the outcome and regardless of the age. The brand is the gift that keeps giving as it prevents said child from progressing in the world of academia or the workplace.

As I have said in the past, this is one of the reasons for this blog…to inform you as to what your criminal justice system is doing in your name.

“Well, maybe that’s the point, Sam! Once these six and seven year olds realize that, if they are mean, they will be punished severely…they will think twice about bullying!”

Really? Have you ever actually met a child? I don’t know many adults that I would trust to always keep their wits and never be cruel. But children???

I always feel compelled when I write on this subject to tell you that I am not pro-bully. However, these feel-good instant statutes that do nothing but confuse the schools and give some adults a false sense of security do not help the bullied. Neither does bullying the bullies. Solving the problem, which desperately needs solving, is going to take more thought than that.

And might I suggest that there is an interest in saving the “bully”, often a young child having emotional issues. These kids tend to grow up. Limiting their options in life is not likely to improve their state of mind. Perhaps one should think about that part of the equation as well.

Thought. What a concept.“““

Attorney General Martha Coakley holds a prestigious and powerful political office. She is very well educated. She deserves a certain amount of respect. Therefore, I will not indulge in phrases like “idiot”, “crazy” or “the stupidest idea I have heard in a very long time”.

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