Saturday, October 12, 2013

Roundup: Bullying flaks, students, and more

Here are a few odds and ends that caught Grits eye recently but haven't made it into individual posts:

Former TDCJ flak's discrimination suit dismissed, appeal filed
Former TDCJ public information officer Michelle Lyons this week had a discrimination suit thrown out of federal court in which she alleged the agency retaliated against her for reports of misconduct, reported the Huntsville Item She has filed an appeal, declaring Judge David Hitner improperly dismissed the case. Her suit alleged gender bias because Jason Clark, who replaced her as PIO, did not face a demotion and pay cut for similar activities. FWIW, I don't think Lyons was demoted and Clark elevated because of gender bias - I think it's because Clark was willing to play ball with management while Lyons reported misconduct to the Office of Inspector General. Gender likely had little to do with it compared to her decision to report rather than cover up alleged misconduct. Regrettably, I've little doubt that's the message received by remaining TDCJ employees. MORE: From The Backgate.

Do anti-bullying campaigns make the problem worse?
Might anti-bullying programs counterproductively increase bullying among those who receive their messages? That's the contention of a UT-Arlington criminologist who studied the topic. He found that anti-bullying programs "may actually teach students different bullying techniques — and even educate about new ways to bully through social media and texting." Further, "some programs even teach students how to bully without leaving evidence behind." Fascinating. This dynamic reminds me of low-level offenders sent to prison which becomes essentially a "crime college," spurring them to heights of criminality they may have never otherwise reached. Often politicians react to perceived crises being hyped in the media with knee-jerk solutions because they need to do "something." But "something" is not always better than nothing and sometimes ill-conceived responses can make problems worse. That may be what's happening with anti-bullying campaigns.

Skimping on witness protection
Texas has no witness protection program like the feds and some other states. If we did, maybe this witness would still be alive and the San Antonio murder trial she was prepared to testify in would be going forward sooner than later.

Cold Justice, hot media property
Former Harris County DA candidate Kelly Siegler's reality TV program Cold Justice got picked up for a second season. The Texas Bar Journal has a brief profile (scroll down to see the story). I must say, while it appears Siegler is doing good work, I'm not a fan of turning the justice system into reality TV fare, though at least Cold Justice doesn't stoop as low as Cops, Bait Car, or other justice-related reality shows.

Limited government and Texas corrections
Brooke Rollins from the Texas Public Policy Foundation had a column in the Austin Statesman last week promoting the "Texas model" for criminal justice reform. She concluded, "Every dollar we save on costly incarceration is a dollar that a Texas family keeps. This is just another example of how limited, efficient government is a benefit to Texans everywhere." Grits has recently lamented the limitations of Texas' approach; it was a good first step but not nearly sufficient to reasonably argue the state is a national leader. RELATED: "If Texas' justice reforms were so great, why does the state still have the nation's largest prison system?"


Anonymous said...

I would suggest that former TDCJ public information officer Michele Lyons was using the only tool available in fighting her firing. For those with little to no power EEO suits are one of the few options that might offer some modicum of redress.

I understand that the largest group of EEO grievances claiming age discrimination (40 years old or over) are white males challenging their own discharges (logical). They too were attempting to obtain some justice where little is normally found.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the study on bullying, but when I heard this on the news, my first thought was whether or not the study's author looked into the possibility that the increase in bullying complaints had anything to do with an increase in reporting or bullying incidents in those schools where such programs were taught. It'll be interesting to read the full study and any further studies on the topic.