Standing Up To Rush Limbaugh

Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke told the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that contraception is a women’s health issue.

As a result, she was subjected to a personal venomous assault by a bully, conservative talk show host  Rush Limbaugh, who used his national radio platform to call Ms. Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

What happened after Limbaugh’s verbal assault is fascinating in the context of bullying.

When bystanders do nothing, a bully prevails and becomes stronger. And it is well known that bystanders often do nothing.

In this case, many bystanders chose to do something – they demanded that advertisers cease  supporting Limbaugh’s radio show. The result is that Limbaugh has lost dozens of sponsors. And he was forced to apologize – though, as Ms. Fluke notes, his apology is not very meaningful under these circumstances.

The Fluke episode lends powerful credence to the theory behind a new school anti-bullying program developed in Finland in 2007,  KiVa,  which is based upon the premise that bullies are rewarded by earning higher social status because of their bullying.  The program encourages bystanders to show that they are against bullying and to support the target.

Many school anti-bully programs show marginal results but a large scale 2011 study showed that KiVa halved the risk of bullying others and of being victimized in just one school year. Substantial decreases also emerged for other antisocial behaviors, such as vandalism, theft, and truancy, in addition to an increase in general satisfaction with school life.

Science Daily reports that an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Kansas (KU) plan to bring the KiVa program to American schools. Starting as early as the 2012-13 school year, a pilot program could kick off in selected classrooms in Lawrence, Kan. If shown to be successful there, the model could expand nationally..

Sandra Fluke was right, by the way. Not only do women use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnacy, but they also use it to treat diverse medical conditions, including dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, metrorrhagia, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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