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More Things That Really Bug Me - Jason Lindquist
Idle ramblings of an idle mind
jlindquist
jlindquist
More Things That Really Bug Me
Via ginmar, Amanda Marcotte over at Pandagon talks about a New York Times article about an Arkansas bullying victim. It wouldn't be a story if his school was doing anything about it.

There's a slide show of photos linked from the story, showing some of the wounds and bruises this boy has suffered at the hands of his classmates. There's also a link to a copy of the cell phone video shot by the friend of a kid who tried to beat this boy up while waiting for the bus, in front of his younger sister. All of it left me unsettled for most of yesterday.

The article talks about a Facebook group created to harass the victim, "Everybody Hates Billy Wolfe". Of course, it's been deleted and a bunch of supportive groups have sprung up. And then there's one called The Whole Story It's some kids at Fayetteville HS responding to the media attention, taking a "leave the guy alone and let the circus go away" perspective. Some comments indicate Billy isn't as innocent as the NYT article paints him. As always, there's two sides, and the truth lies somewhere in between. Having been there and done that (though fortunately not to the physical degree seen in this case,) I think I see where things fit. If you take the kind of crap that he has for more than a little while, you develop some way of defending yourself. Some people close themselves in, some quit school, some push their parents to move or transfer them to another school. Some will return the verbal assaults in kind. And some may strike preemptively, maybe because they see the confrontation coming anyways, and want it on their terms. Or maybe because they're Sick And Tired And Aren't Going To Take It Any Longer™.

I'm inclined to belive that's where this boy is. His school clearly doesn't care, its administration is wholly concerned with order and image, as most public schools are. His parents, maybe for good reason, but maybe not, won't move him to another school. It's true, someone shouldn't have to move to escape bullies, it does feel like admitting defeat. But changing an inherently hostile system is a much taller order. (And maybe, moving is irrelevant when everybody's so widely connected thanks to the 'net.)


On a side note, there's another article linked about the dissolution of friendships in junior high. By and large, my own experience there wasn't as painful. With a single exception sophomore year of HS, everybody just drifted away in other directions.
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Comments
nekosensei From: nekosensei Date: March 27th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to have problems with bullying starting when I was in fourth grade. I had just moved to a new school, and I had a brother who was mentally disabled who attended the same school. I remember getting shoved around on the playground pretty often...mostly by the boys. They also started on my sister, but her teacher laid into the class and they didn't bother her after that. But my stupid fourth grade teacher didn't do one goddamn thing. By fifth grade, it had gotten out of hand and there wasn't much that could have been done by that point.

Once, I had a classmate throw a bunch of punches at me. I ended up kicking him back in the shins to protect myself. Then, he started holding his shin and hopping around like he was in pain. He made a fuss and then told the teacher that I kicked him. He got off scott free and I got in trouble. I tried telling the teacher that it wasn't my fault and the other kid started it, but she didn't listen. Another time, I had just gotten over having a kidney infection, and the boys in my class thought it would be cute to push me down a snowbank we were playing on. I ended up getting wedged in the snow between the end of the snow bank and some monkey bars. The boys then slid down the snowbank and landed in the middle of my back. The bell for recess rang, and the rest of the kids went back inside. I ended up walking in late because I was in so much pain. Nobody offered to help me and my teacher didn't bother asking why I was late.

My parents tried dealing with my teachers, and then later, the school. We think part of the problem was that I lived in a wealthy suburb (the school was close to a country club) and my parents were struggling to make ends meet. So...naturally the teachers decided to side with the parents who could make more of a problem for them. Oh...the article was right, by the way. The schools really don't give a damn. The problem got so bad that the only solution they could offer me was to move to a different school...and even that didn't solve the problem. I still got harassed, but at least it was mostly verbal and not physical. My parents later told me that, by the end of fifth grade, I was clinically depressed. I kept to myself and didn't want to have anything to do with anyone. And being a kid, I always thought it was my fault that I got picked on and not the fault of whoever was tormenting me...and that they were probably doing that because I was weird or something. I don't think I realized that until late in high school or early in college. Too bad I couldn't sue the school district back then like parents are starting to do now.
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