Manteca’s elected leaders are just saying no to bullying - no to an anti-bullying policy that is.
They aren’t embracing kids bullying kids. That’s far from the case. What they are against is lawyers bullying taxpayers with costly lawsuits.
The Manteca City Council sidestepped political correctness Tuesday night to table indefinitely a request that they join the Manteca Unified School District board to take an official stance to “ensure” that bullying won’t take place in municipal parks and recreation programs.
The word “ensure” is used three times in the proposed city policy to “create a culture” that puts an end to bullying and harassment. That was enough for City Attorney John Brinton – responding to a question from Mayor Willie Weatherford – to recommend the council not adopt the policy.
Brinton said “ensure” essentially means the city would guarantee no bullying would take place as part of official policy. As such, if a parent felt that their child was being bullied verbally, physically or even in cyberspace by another child involved in a city program that they could hold municipal employees liable in a court of law if they did not stop it from happening.
That, according to Brinton, is an invitation to encourage suing the city if a parent believes city staff isn’t enforcing the proposed anti-bullying policy.
Longtime community activist Georgiana Reichelt got the ball rolling when she asked the council exactly how staff was going to enforce an anti-bullying policy and how much was it going to cost. Her comments mirrored the same thoughts of council members who spent close to 15 minutes questioning the need and rationale for such a policy.
At one point, the policy led to discussion that it was another assault on “aggressive males” that the mayor noted that some research shows are among those who are the most successful at business.
“Not one should fear for themselves,” noted Councilman Steve DeBrum who followed that comment with a question that if the policy was adopted if it would increase Manteca’s exposure to liability and legal proceedings.
Councilman Vince Hernandez said he supported the concept but was against making it official policy.
Councilman John Harris, a former Manteca Unified School District board trustee, used the occasion to note why he liked the city having an attorney to share the dais with them to offer advice when asked. Harris believed if the school board had an attorney at meetings they would never have adopted the anti-bullying policy as they did on a unanimous vote in April.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead expressed astonishment that any public agency would even think they could do anything to control or stop cyber-bullying which was also part of the proposed policy.
The proposed anti-bullying policy was brought up by the school district’s appointee on the Manteca Parks and Recreation Commission. The district was interested in having the city partner with them in having zero tolerance for bullying.
City staff noted that employees already work to discourage bullying and address it when it comes up. They added they weren’t aware of any parent complaints about Manteca allowing bullying at any time in parks and recreation programs.
The policy - as forwarded to the council by the Manteca Parks and Recreation Commission - notes:
• Every child participating in parks and recreation programs needs to feel safe and should be treated with understanding, dignity, and respect.
• International studies indicate bullying is common and affects as much as 54 percent of children.
• Bullying has triggered several suicides and increased suicide attempts among America’s youth including children as young as 11.
• Bystanders who often remain silent play a key role in determining whether bullying will occur and escalate or be prevented.
• Adults must work to ensure inclusive and safe settings for children and that adults in their own interactions must model the same behavior they expected from children.
The commitment to end bullying also includes cyber bullying and harassment in all Manteca Parks and Recreation programs and City of Manteca services.