By Robert Mann
According to author Brad Tassell, his book Don’t Feed the Bully “is an important self-help book for pre-teens that is cleverly disguised as a hilarious, fictional novel. “ He says the book “provides practical advice to children on the extremely important topic of bullying.”
As it turns out, Don’t Feed the Bully might also be the motto of the coming session of the Louisiana Legislature.
That’s when the state Board of Regents – the governing board for Louisiana higher education – declared its independence, refusing to heed a reported order from Jindal to fire higher education Commissioner James Purcell.
It seems that Purcell’s recent statements about higher education funding, critical of crippling budget cuts and one-time money, have angered Jindal and his aides.
Because Jindal has appointed the members of the Board of Regents, it must have seemed reasonable to expect that they would be as slavish as the dutiful lap-dogs on the LSU Board of Supervisors who recently fired LSU System President John Lombardi and hospitals chief Fred Cerise and then chased off Chancellor Mike Martin.
Citing “two board sources,” LaPolitics Weekly editors John Maginnis and Jeremy Alford reported that Jindal’s deputy chief of staff Taylor Teepell instructed Regents’ chair Bubba Rasberry to fire Purcell. When asked for comment, Rasberry said simply, “Dr. Purcell works for the Board of Regents.”
Translation: “I don’t take orders from the Governor or his minions. They’re not going to bully me.”
On Monday, Rasberry told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he had not been ordered to fire Purcell, but added, “it’s common knowledge throughout higher education that the administration is upset with Purcell.”
Rasberry did seem to acknowledge that Jindal’s aides have tried to intimidate Purcell. “They’ve talked to him in the past and sent messages to him through other people,” Rasberry told reporter Koran Addo. “But this is common knowledge. And this is just another distraction; there is nothing positive about this. We’re looking for solutions.”
Instead of letting this whole matter drop, Jindal and his petulant staff couldn’t help themselves and made it clear – Rasberry’s statement notwithstanding — that they really want Purcell gone.
They released this statement to Maginnis and Alford: “It’s disappointing that the Commissioner of Higher Education would try to discredit Louisiana’s great universities and suggest our graduates will not have the skills to find jobs. We know that our students are getting the skills needed to find jobs in the 21st century workforce. They deserve a leader who shares that vision and has a plan for the future, not one who is living in the past.”
It doesn’t take a mind reader to divine that Jindal believes that Purcell is most certainly not the leader that Louisiana deserves.
Jindal and his aides should have hoped that the matter would die quietly on the pages of LaPolitics Weekly.
No such luck.
Emboldened by the courageous example of Rasberry and his fellow Regents, a group of Republican legislators — led by Rep. Cameron Henry of New Orleans — issued its own declaration of independence on Monday.
“Clearly, the governor would prefer to run the state like a dictatorship,” Henry told the Advocate. “He shouldn’t be in the business of trying to fire people for telling the truth.”
Joining Henry in issuing a statement to “condemn” Jindal’s meddling in higher education were: Rep. Brett Geymann of Lake Charles; Lance Harris of Alexandria; Jim Morris of Oil City; J. Rogers Pope of Denham Springs; and John Schroder of Covington.
These legislators are also part of the group of conservative House members who call themselves “fiscal hawks” for their determined opposition to Jindal’s liberal use of one-time money in the state’s budget.
It’s one thing for these members to stand on principles of fiscal conservatism; it’s quite another to attack the governor in such vociferous terms for trying to intimidate Louisiana’s higher education board.
Which brings us back to the book Don’t Feed the Bully. On the book’s website, the main character, Handy, offers his readers some helpful hints for dealing with bullies.
Perhaps Henry and his cohorts – as well as Rasberry and his fellow Regents – no longer need this advice. They have clearly resolved to stop letting Jindal push them around.
But, for the LSU Board of Supervisors and those members of the House and Senate still afraid of Jindal and his bullying staff members, I offer these helpful tips from Handy.
Act brave. When you’re scared of another person, you’re probably not feeling your bravest. But sometimes just acting brave is enough to stop a bully. If you walk by as though you’re not afraid and hold your head high, a bully may be less likely to give you trouble.
Ignore a bully. Simply ignoring a bully’s threats and walking away robs the bully of his or her fun. Bullies want a big reaction to their teasing and meanness. Acting as if you don’t notice and don’t care is like giving no reaction at all, and this just might stop a bully’s behavior.
Stand up for yourself. Kids can stand up for themselves with words by telling the bully to stop it, and then walk away. Kids also can stand up for each other by telling a bully to stop teasing or scaring someone else, and then walk away together.
Be a buddy. Kids who are being bullied can use the buddy system. Make a plan to walk with a friend or two on the way to school or recess or lunch or wherever you think you might meet the bully. Offer to do the same for a friend who’s having trouble with a bully.
Don’t bully back. Don’t hit, kick, or push back to deal with someone bullying you or your friends. Fighting back just satisfies a bully and it’s dangerous, too, because someone could get hurt. It’s best to stay with others, stay safe, and get help from an adult.
Very good advice, but when it comes to the legislature, I suggest that lawmakers ignore that last point.
I think they’ll find that Bobby Jindal, like most bullies, isn’t as tough as he seems.