Some reports say that he has been harassing elementary and middle school students for months. Another report said that he had been deliberately coughing and spitting on students, even sticking his head in car windows. A parent claimed that when a police officer did arrive on the scene, the officer delivered a lecture to the students on First Amendment rights.
Anger and Bullying are Wrong.
All of the facts haven't been sorted out yet, but no matter how you look at the situation, this is wrong.
Absolutely no adult should ever act this way at any time for any reason. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. As one parent said,
“Clearly there is a problem here, not just a mental health problem but an anger management issue where he feels compelled to attack people who are more vulnerable than him….”
The students should be praised for wearing a mask, not criticized and not lectured about First Amendment rights.
Is the Man Insane?
No, that behavior does not show that the man is insane. Remember, I talked before about the difference between bad behavior and insanity. Let’s look again at the definition provided by clinical psychologist Dr. Ryan Howes, Ph. D. Insanity is a
“…mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis [having lost contact with reality] or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.”
For more on mental illness, read: Why Can’t We Stop the Pandemic?
Do You Control Your Anger?
Anger alone is not a mental illness, but it can indicate deeper problems. We all get angry. Anger is a natural response to frustration. The question is how do you control your anger? Or, do you not control your anger? Are you yelling at others in your family? In your community? Uncontrolled anger is a problem.
Uncontrolled anger can, however, lead to intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is considered a mental illness.
“A person with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) has repeated episodes of aggressive, impulsive, or violent behavior. They may overreact to situations with angry outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation.”
On the video, the man was shown getting in his car and driving away before the police arrived. He was not totally out of control. He displayed enough control not to become physically violent. Yet, he was definitely verbally abusive. I think he also knew that what he was doing was wrong, that's why he left the scene.
Should someone like this be held accountable for his actions? Definitely. He needs an anger management program immediately. Should he apologize to the young people and their parents? Yes.
This is a case of Out-of-Control Anger, not First Amendment Rights.
We keep hearing claims of First Amendment rights. Anger is not a First Amendment right. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know whether what the man did was legal, but it was certainly very wrong. Let’s go read the First Amendment again.
“Amendment I“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Cornell Law School gives this interpretation, just in case we are having trouble understanding the amendment.
“The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.”
Do you see the word “peaceably” assemble?
The First Amendment does not give you the right to harm someone else. The First Amendment does not give you the moral right to harass children and youth. Adults need to stop harassing children and youth while claiming they are only exercising their constitutional First Amendment rights. Wrong.
In September, the people were also wrong who heckled and laughed at a young man who spoke at his school board meeting. Yes, the young man had a First Amendment right to speak, but the adult audience members did not have a First Amendment right to make fun of him.
See: Do No Harm: Adults Should Not Bully a Child
Frustration Does Not Give You the Right to Say or Do Whatever You Wish.
We're all frustrated over the pandemic, but that does not justify rude obnoxious behavior.
No, face masks will not rot your teeth out, cause you to have trouble breathing, or make you look stupid. Actually, wearing a face mask shows that you are intelligent and fully aware of the dangers from COVID-19.
Face masks are safe, and they do protect children, youth, and adults from COVID. Vaccines are important too. Face masks cannot do it alone. Make sure you’re vaccinated and have your booster.
Face masks are also not psychologically harmful, even if you wear them all day. Face masks help children and teens feel safer, and yes, they should be wearing a face mask in school all day and even after school on the way home. The youth were being smart and exercising caution.
Read: Does Wearing a Face Mask Affect Your Ability to Breathe?
I met a little 4-year-old boy one day at the grocery store while waiting in line. He and his dad were both wearing masks. I always wear a mask. As we stood in line socially distancing, I couldn't help but notice that the little boy was crying. Keeping my mask in place, I said, “Are you having a hard day?” His father answered, “A lady made fun of him for wearing a mask.” The psychologist in me came roaring to the surface as I replied, “Well that lady was wrong. The smartest and best thing you can do is wear a mask wherever you go. I wear my mask, even when I'm just walking around outside. I'm very proud of you for wearing a mask.” As I spoke, the little boy began to sniffle and stop crying. I noticed that he also stood taller, especially when I said I was proud of him. I went on to say, “I hope you continue wearing your mask. I know I plan to. Don't let anyone discourage you from wearing a mask. Be one of the smart ones. Wear a mask, everywhere you go. Throwback your shoulders and let everyone see how proud you are to wear a mask and stay healthy.” The little boy seemed to grow at least two inches and stood tall and straight beside his dad.
I don’t know if I helped that day, but I tried. When you see someone wearing a mask, tell them “Thank you for wearing a mask.”