February 3rd, 2006

by Illsaysheis

Hopping Mad

This just came down the pike from CNN.com: School Bus Bully System Exposed.

In a nutshell, authorities on Staten Island have just discovered that a school bus driver organized a bullying ring among the students on his bus, effectively maintaining discipline by terrorism between the kids. I trust that I do not have to explain to anyone reading this just why that part makes me mad. What really got me, though, was this line:

Smith [the spokesman for the Staten Island D.A.] said there was no explanation as to why the students did not report the bullying system sooner.

What the hell. I mean, seriously, what the hell? This guy isn't stupid; you don't get to be the press contact for the D.A.'s office by being stupid. Can he really not think of a single plausible explanation as to why an eleven-year-old kid who was regularly being put into headlocks by an older kid on the school bus with the driver's approval might not report it?

To whom, pray, would such a terrorized child report the bullying? To parents? Even if the parents believed him, which they don't always, there's no guarantee that the school system would take a parental complaint seriously. To the bus driver? The same bus driver who authorized the bullying to begin with? To a teacher? Teachers are so worn down by their jobs that they don't have time to listen to students complaining about bullying. To the principal? Assuming that this is one of those rare children who would voluntarily seek out the principal, what's the chance that the principal will care about something that happens on the school bus, or be able to stop it?

Clearly, someone did muster up the courage to report, and was believed. But can Mr. Smith really think of no explanation why the bullied children would be reluctant to report the harassment for so long? Schools are bad enough at dealing with bullying when it comes directly from student to student without adult involvement. It's not important enough to them. It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. If parents have to sue a school system to get them to pay attention to bullying, that's a sign of a broken system.

It speaks of teachers and principals who have grown comfortable with their positions of authority over children. They've forgotten what it's like to be little and utterly powerless. They've forgotten what it's like to muster up the courage to report being attacked and then be disciplined themselves for fighting when they admit that they tried to defend themselves. They've forgotten how it feels to know that the worst thing that can happen to the kids who make people's lives living hells every day of the school year is a stern talking-to that the bully will just laugh off. They've forgotten what it feels like to know that people twice your size who control your life may or may not believe you, depending on their whim, or may not even pay attention to you.

Is that what it means to be a grown-up? To forget how it feels to be small and powerless? To be the sort of person who uses the phrase "Mercy will not be tolerated" when instructing a teenage brute squad?

If it is, then I don't want to grow up.
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