Safe Enough?

A friend recently described a school-mandated bystander intervention training she’d participated in.

From the sound of it, the school has decided to take on the consequences and liability of poor socialization — and to respond by teaching students to police each other.

Let’s face it: by the time some twenty- or thirty-somethings end up in an uncomfortable situation on or off campus, all sorts of systemic factors are in play. People have different head starts in life — or at the keg in the basement.

Mandating that student leaders receive training in bystander intervention is pretty unobjectionable on its face. Hazing, bullying, and harassment will always start from time to time; it’s worth stopping them when they crop up, and with as much skill and tact as possible.

But this way of framing the problem is pretty unhealthy on the whole. How did all of this become schools’ responsibility? How can they expect students to handle it? And when safety is mandated and mandatory, educated and enforced as a matter of authority rather than citizenship, how will that shape the culture over the long term?