March 10, 2010 3:23PM

Hate Register?

In my policy analysis “Attack of the Utility Monsters,” I wrote that one problem with hate speech laws is that the longer they stay on the books, the more they can encourage outrage over increasingly petty offenses. Here’s a story from the United Kingdom I’d certainly have included if I were writing that paper today:

A ten‐​year‐​old boy from Weston Super Mare has been put on a school “hate register” after he allegedly made a homophobic insult in the playground.

Peter Drury, a pupil of Ashcombe Primary School, is believed to have called one of his friends a “gay boy,” according to his mother.

The boy’s mum says she was called into her son’s school to be told by head teacher that another mother had heard him using homophobic language.

She claims she was told the incident would be registered and his file monitored while he was at the school.

“He doesn’t even understand about the birds and the bees, so how can he be homophobic?”

Schools are reportedly being given advice that offensive comments made by children as young as five should be recorded and kept on record until the pupil leaves secondary school.

Kids can be incredibly cruel, in both word and deed. But if we were to put every child who ever said something hurtful on a “hate register,” just how many kids would we have to register? All of them? What good would that do us?