According to the American Justice Department, one out of every four children will be bullied in their adolescent years. This entails that bullying has become so widespread that it can serve as a destructive force to society. The seriousness of bullying has been a concern for many, which leads one to consider if the criminalisation of bullies could be the only effective measure left to eradicate the problem. Although there has been much controversy surrounding whether bullying should be made punishable by law, I personally believe that doing so will put an end to its destruction. Bullying should be considered a punishable crime for several reasons. It is abusive to the victim, has negative repercussions on the education system and impedes societal progress. The authorities should definitely consider the criminalisation of bullying, especially if alternative measures such as counselling, stricter school regulations and gun control have not been fruitful.
Bullying should be punishable by law because it can be considered as an act of abuse to the victim. According to The Law Handbook, a guide to the law in South Australia, bullying can be described as repeated attacks to the victim by those in a position of power. These attacks can be psychological, physical, verbal or social in nature. This definition can be understood from the cases of bullying that we read in the news today. One example is the story of T. Nhaveen, a victim of physical bullying. He suffered serious injuries and became unconscious after getting beaten up by five youths in Jalan Kaki Bukit. He was admitted to Penang Hospital and unfortunately passed away shortly after. This brought much grief to his friends and family, who were filled with grief. Although Nhaveen’s case was very severe due to the physical intensity of the blows he suffered, it is good to note that other forms of bullying such as verbal bullying are often serious as well. One instance of this can be seen from the story of Angel Green, a teenager from Indiana who was badly harassed by bullies at her school. She was taunted for her red hair, freckles and weight. The bullying became aggravated when her father was arrested for molesting her and had to serve an 18-year jail sentence. Green, who was badly affected by the jeering that she received from the bullies, hanged herself from a tree near her school bus stop. She was only 14 years old then. In view of these two cases of bullying, it can be seen that acts of bullying have the potential to adversely affect the victim and are often abusive. Therefore, bullying should be criminalised due to the severity of its impact on the victim and the long-lasting repercussions that it can bring, such as the death of the victim.
Bullying should be punishable by law because it has negative repercussions on the education system. According to the United Nations, bullying affects millions of children across the globe and impedes their right to education. This is firstly because the prevalence of bullying in schools causes students to skip school in order to avoid bullies. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, it was estimated that 5.4 million students in the United States skip school at some point in the year due to bullying. Additionally, bullying affects the education system because it leads to the lowered productivity of students during lessons. When a school does not deal effectively with cases of bullying, it can create an environment of disrespect and fear. This reduces students’ ability to concentrate in class and causes them to have difficulty absorbing what was taught. Apart from this, the effects of bullying on the education system can be seen from the impact of bullying on students’ academic performance. A research presented at the 119th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association revealed that students from high schools in Virginia had much lower test scores on the standardised tests that they had to take in order to graduate. The findings were significant because the students had also reported that there was a high rate of bullying in Virginia high schools. Therefore, in view of how bullying can negatively impact the education system, it should be criminalised.
Bullying should be made punishable by law because it can lead to further acts of crime that destroy the law and order of society. Bullying can result in mass shootings if they are not effectively dealt with. This can be seen from the Columbine school shooting in 1999, which is considered to be one of the most tragic happenings to occur in a school campus. Shooters Dylan Kleboid and Eric David Harris opened fire in the school, which resulted in the death of 12 students and a teacher. 23 students also suffered severe injuries. Afterwards, both shooters took their own lives. When attempting to find out what were the intentions of the Kleboid and Harris in carrying out the shooting, it was revealed that Kleboid was a victim of bullying and a bully himself. Students had also picked on both shooters previously at school. Although further investigations revealed that this was not the only factor leading to the school shooting, it can be inferred from this incident that the prevalence of bullying in schools can lead to very severe crimes. Therefore, bullying should be criminalised because it can lead to severe crimes that affect many individuals.
To many detractors, bullying should not be made punishable by law because schools and families are able to provide adequate support to the bully and the victim. One instance is the administering of counselling sessions for those affected by bullying. Disciplinary action can also be taken towards bullies to correct their behaviour. However, I maintain that bullying should be criminalised because the help provided by families and schools are not effective enough in reducing the cases of bullying. For instance, bullying in American schools still remains a widespread issue today, which leads one to consider if the current measures taken within institutions and families are actually dealing with the problem effectively. Therefore, in view of how bullying is still occurring despite the preventive and corrective measures put in place within schools, criminalisation is the only measure that is harsh enough to deter individuals from bullying.
In conclusion, bullying should be criminalised because it can be considered to be an act of abuse, reduces the quality of the education system and can lead to the committing of more serious crimes. Barack Obama, the former president of the United States, said that “Each of us deserves our own freedom to pursue happiness. No one deserves to be bullied.” The detrimental nature of bullying to society indeed warrants the need for it to be made a punishable crime. The criminalisation of bullying is likely to reduce the occurrence of the act. However, it is also crucial for the authorities to do so with caution, as implementing excessively harsh sentences could defeat the purpose of allowing bullies to turn over a new leaf.