A Tennessee House lawmaker said on Tuesday that he opposes an anti-cyberbullying bill because the real cause of bullying related teen suicides is a failure in parenting.
The lawmaker, Rep. Jeremy Faison, also said he opposed the bill because it could criminalize children who bully others (to the brink of suicide).
We can’t continue to legislate everything and we’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.
You can listen to Faison’s remarks below:
Rep. Faison (R-Cosby) seemed to be alluding to the recent suicides in Cheatham and Smith counties. The two cases have drawn national coverage and prompted lawmakers to look again at the state’s bullying laws.
Within minutes of Rep. Faison’s remarks the Tennessee Democratic Party issued a statement saying he was displaying a “boys will be boys” mentality in the face of parents and children who have lost kids and siblings to bullying-related suicide. Said a spokesperson on the Party’s official blog:
“What a disgrace. Now, of course a tall and burly Faison doesn’t see any problems with bullying, as he admitted, he was perfectly capable of defending himself or dishing out punishment as he saw fit. But many kids don’t have that ability. That is why laws like these need to be passed.
“It is unfortunate that some in the Republican Party have become the protectors of bullies. Of course, it is not terribly surprising, because as a legislative group they are nothing but bullies, disparaging and demeaning those without power in this country in order to build themselves up. So it is no wonder that they would see no big deal with the problems associated with childhood bullying in this country, and become the defenders of harassment.”
Rep. Faison has now apologized if he offended, though one notes he doesn’t actually disavow what he said:
“After reviewing my comments on the House Floor today, I regret what was a poor choice of words. My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy.”
I can’t think of a better reaction to this so-called apology than the Tennessee Democratic Party’s:
So, in other words, he was so worried about protecting bullies from the possibility of criminal charges, that he mistakenly blamed parents for their children’s suicide.
Also a moment to marvel at Faison saying Tennessee can’t legislate on everything. Really? Because it seems that the Legislature has been trying fairly hard to do just that.
Examples are numerous but to list just a few, a ban on showing underwear in public due to low-rise pants, a bill that characterizes miscarriage as murder, legislation to allow Creationism to be taught in the classroom as an alternative scientific theory, a bill that characterizes hand-holding as a gateway to sexual activity, and of course the infamous Don’t Say Gay bill that could ultimately imprison teachers if they were to mention sexuality outside of a reproductive science framework.
But apparently trying to create tougher anti-bullying laws was the step too far.