NORMAN — A city councilman who voted against a bullying prevention proclamation said he opposes bullying but does not support a proclamation that is being used as a vehicle to promote a cause.
Dave Spaulding of Ward 5 said he thinks a proclamation that declares October as National Bullying Awareness Month in Norman is an effort on the part of the gay community to limit free speech.
The proclamation is “a first step” toward ordinances that would outlaw and criminalize speech that opposes the gay community's ideas, Spaulding said.
“Bullying, in the true sense of the word, is not what we are talking about here,” he said.
Instead, Spaulding said, the word has been “hijacked and used as a marketing tool” to promote the gay community's agenda.
“If you want to promote something, you attach something to something else that you can't say no to,” he said.
“It's like the man who is asked, ‘Do you still beat your wife?' It's a lose-lose question.”
The city council voted 8-1 Tuesday for a mayor's proclamation that denounced bullying and called for support of efforts by schools, police, faith groups and individuals to prevent bullying.
Spaulding later spoke during miscellaneous discussion about his vote, calling it an “uncomfortable” topic to address.
“But what if it were illegal to talk about your issue, whatever that may be. If we can criminalize speech opposing one issue, then we can criminalize speech on other issues, and that is my concern,” he said.
Councilman Tom Kovach said the proclamation was “about the safety of children. That's all it is about. It's not always minorities that are bullied … statistics indicate 75 percent of schoolchildren are bullied.”
Kovach said he appreciated Spaulding's “honesty and opinion. That's free speech. Nobody wants to impose limits on what someone says. We are just asking people to say it in a civil manner.”
Spaulding said children need help from their parents to counter bullying.
“They need to impart to their children that they are loved and important and that they can overcome things. They need it imparted continuously to them,” he said.
The proclamation doesn't talk about parenting, he said, or include “any reasonable measures” to combat bullying.