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It Just Never Stops

Almost a year after those fabulous Researchers astonished us all by revealing the shocking, shocking news that bullying hurts kids, the intrepid investigative reporters at the nation's Paper Of Record have done the same.

This was reported a couple of days ago, and I would have posted it then, except that stories like this make me see red, and what with the surgery and all, I have to go lie down for a while after I read them. What makes me maddest here aren't the bullies; they exist, and they beat up kids for no reason. We all know that. Even the Researchers know that. What makes me mad here are the school officials, who punish the victim for fighting back, and let the bullies get away with a pat on the back.

This makes me hopping mad to read about, but it doesn't surprise me. Grownups* never really mean it when they say they want to Do Something about bullying. They'd much rather sit back and pretend it doesn't happen. I guess it's no fun trying to gather enough evidence to prosecute so many popular kids for assault, only to have them either win the case or get a teeny tiny juvenile sentence. Whatever. The school district doesn't have the time or the energy to stop the bullying. Sure. But what I don't get is why they punish the victim for fighting back.


Ms. Wolfe remembers the family dentist sewing up the inside of Billy’s cheek, and a school official refusing to call the police, saying it looked like Billy got what he deserved.


Not long after, a boy on the school bus pummeled Billy, but somehow Billy was the one suspended, despite his pleas that the bus’s security camera would prove his innocence. Days later, Ms. Wolfe recalls, the principal summoned her, presented a box of tissues, and played the bus video that clearly showed Billy was telling the truth.


Isn't that what grownups think kids ought to do? Isn't that why some people send their bullied kids to tae kwon do or karate classes, so that they can defend themselves against the bullies when the school district won't? Why does Billy get suspended or blown off by the school officials when he defends himself? Why do his parents have to file a lawsuit against the bullies themselves?

Do grownups really like bullies after all? Do they really want the bullied kids to be hurt? How does someone like that get to be a school official anyway?

*Yes, I'm thirty-one and a half years old, but in this matter, I refuse to call myself a grownup. I refuse to ally myself with those despicable adults in charge of school districts.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2008 08:30 pm (UTC)
Do grownups really like bullies after all?

There are grownup bullies too.
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
And they grow up and become school officials? Yeah, I guess that kind of makes sense. But it still sucks.
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
I've worked in environments with all 'adults' where there is plenty of bullying. It isn't confined to schools. :(
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC)
But maybe that's the pool of people where school officials come from? And then all the leftovers go work in other places and form the basis for sexual harassment suits?
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
That's terribly sad to read. In the UK schools take bullying very seriously (although there are some regrettable exceptions) and make every effort to stop it.

I'm a governor at a local primary school (ages 5-11) and the children there feel there is very little bullying, and what there is is dealt with immediately. I just hope we don't become complacent.

Mar. 26th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
What measures do UK schools take?
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)
They talk to the children, and their friends, and try to find out what's going on. The bullies are punished, and often excluded.

The bullies *know* they won't get away with it, and the victims know they'll be listened to. The system isn't perfect, but it helps.
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
I think the bit about punishing and excluding (that's like expelling them from school, right?) the bullies is what really works. If the grownups follow through on their words about protecting the victims, that's what counts.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 27th, 2008 02:20 am (UTC)
Yes! Let's be kids together. Perhaps we will be the bullied kids, but we will be the ones who see it happening.
Mar. 27th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
First off, that’s a very sad story. But to be fair, it was written to tell that boy’s story and doesn’t seem to me to be pretending to be a piece of research on bullying or even investigative journalism and it’s quite clear that we’re not getting the full story. Still, I absolutely agree that school officials should be doing something. I just personally think that it often comes down to a lack of training that makes them turn a blind eye. With bullies, you’re very often talking psychological issues, family problems, etc. and not all teachers or school officials are trained to deal with that. Like Nilmandra said, bullies don’t just exist in the schoolyard – like most of us I’ve experienced bullying in school and out of it and for me it was the bullying in the workplace that was most traumatic – and it’s too easy to just blame the people in charge for not doing anything. I guess what I’m saying is that there are a lot more issues there than it might seem.
Mar. 27th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
I don't think it takes a lack of training to suspend the victim first and only then check the security camera on the bus. That's what the security camera is for. It's supposed to be an aid in the due process of law, and that's what that kid didn't get. That's not lack of training. That's callousness. It's a willingness to do the easy thing first and only check the facts later. These parents have documented the kid's injuries -- you can look at a slide show with some of the photographs -- and the school seems to have done nothing.

People can have all the issues they want -- I had issues, probably still have them, you had issues -- but we did not go around beating other kids to a pulp. Kids are surely allowed to have issues, but they should not be allowed to deal with those issues by beating up other kids, as so many of them are allowed to do. I find it incredibly irresponsible that apparently not one single person in that entire school has the credentials or the training to deal with this kind of situation, even if "dealing with it" might involve calling the police to arrest the bullies for assault and battery.

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick, there is even cell phone video of an attack on that poor kid.
Mar. 28th, 2008 07:17 am (UTC)
That's actually a pretty typical case of a badly bullied kid. HE gets in trouble. The bullies walk free. HE must have 'done something'. For years, my self-esteem was in the toilet from constantly hearing that as a kid. "You must have done SOMETHING to DESERVE it..." I didn't even KNOW most of the kids. I'd never done or said anything to or about any of them. I was the kind of kid who just wanted to mind my own business, do my work, and get OUT of there. I got beat on for years, followed home, harassed, called every name in the book. If I said something? "What did you do to deserve it?" or "You know, you're a trouble maker...cry baby, tattle tale...etc." I never DARED to fight back. Learned that early. One day, in full view of the teacher, a girl kept getting up and slapping me in the face. Every few minutes WHAM. He did nothing. Finally, after a couple of hours, I couldn't take it, and DID slap her back. It's the ONLY time I ever retaliated. I was promptly sent to the principals office.

After awhile, knowing I'd done nothing, said nothing, I just figured there was something WRONG/BAD/DIFFERENT about me. I hated myself. I often wished I was dead. No kid should have to feel that way.

Popular kids and their cliques can be some of the WORST...and the teachers still adore them. Treat them like little princes and princesses, even JOIN the bullying sometimes, with snarky comments to their victims as well. Been there, done that, too.

Assault is assault. If someone is getting beaten, it should ALWAYS go to the police.

Sorry. You got my hot-button. :) I LOATHE bullies. It took my taking on a scary, CRAZY persona in highschool just to end the PHYSICAL part. The words continued, but I could by then at least fight back on that. I actually got very good at it. But then, hearing that you're a pig 50 times a day every day from whoever feels like saying it? You either get good at slamming back with a better response, or just curl up and die.

Mar. 28th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
I really hate the "What did you do to deserve it?" The answer is "nothing," but the kind of grownup who would ask that question cannot accept such an answer, and is usually in a position of authority that s/h/it will not use against the bullies because s/h/it will not accept that the victim did nothing to "deserve" being beaten.

I bet that these are the same people who like to point out miniskirt-wearing rape victims in court.
Mar. 29th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Exactly the same. As are the judges who tell you that 'he doesn't look like such a monster."

(Been there, done that, too.)

Mar. 28th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)

What really bothers me about schools' mishandling of bullying is that it often gets perilously close to child abuse-by-proxy. First you have a child singled out for humiliation, not to mention the physical injury which can be quite extensive on its own. Then you have an adult in authority tell the kid (or imply) that they must have done something to deserve it. If a parent hit, humiliated, and blamed a child he'd go to jail. (Or any adult, including the principal, if the principal did the hitting.) Yes, I know the principal isn't the one actually doing the hitting, but from the child's POV it's all rolled into one hurtful incident, and the principal's reaction compounds what the bully does and lends it legitimacy.

So yeah, I definitely think that this shouldn't happen. Even if life is unfair, shouldn't small children be cushioned from that? Because a primary-school kid probably doesn't have the emotional resources to deal with this situation.

Btw, on the remaining-a-kid thing: I keep saying that hobbits didn't come of age until 33 and so I have full license to behave like a tweenager until then. And when I reach that point I'll claim the LACE factoid that elves were juveniles until 50. :-)
Mar. 28th, 2008 03:29 pm (UTC)
And the worst thing is that a child in that situation learns that people in power are not to be trusted, that going to an adult for help -- that going to any authority for help -- will only result in added humiliation and no actual help. So you end up with kids who can't ask for help when they need it, and get into even worse trouble in their lives because of that.

the LACE factoid that elves were juveniles until 50.

And if you go by the reasoning that one is only as old as one acts . . . well, the seven sons of a certain Noldor craftself could be said to have been kids their entire lives.

Edited at 2008-03-28 03:29 pm (UTC)
Mar. 29th, 2008 08:43 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I agree that tha'ts the worst part. IMO, it's much worse for a child to think they deserve to be injured. But I suspect that's largely a question of what's most important to a person. I certainly think not being able to trust authorities is really bad, too.
Mar. 30th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
I think that the inability to trust authorities is the worst because it means that the kid won't ever be able to ask for help easily, and much grief will happen that could have been avoided had help been asked. Which it wouldn't have been, because the kid doesn't trust the people who could help it.
Mar. 29th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
Sometimes, it really REALLY is that. When I was bullied, (And this is going back over thirty years) at one school, there were a couple of teachers who would sit there and WATCH as I was pinched, prodded, slapped, and then call me cry baby and tell me how bad I was because I wasn't sitting still enough for it. The teacher was WATCHING the kids hurt me. Sitting right there. KNEW what was happening. It took the principal walking in on it one day to finally believe it, and stop it.

And agreed that it often does come close in any event.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )