Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bullying in Arkansas

Billy Wolfe, target of bullies, Fayetteville, AR, March 2008. photo Angel Franco/The New York Times

“He kept spitting blood out”

Billy Wolfe, 16, has been a target of bullies, since he was 12.

Knocked out, stitched up, left bleeding and bruised lying on the street and the floor at school, his mother has one simple hope: "I pray to God every day they don't kill him," said Ms. Wolfe. "Because of all the things that have happened I honestly don't know if he's going to be O.K."

The New York Times

A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he’s going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.

The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.

Whatever the reason, addressing the bullying of Billy has become a second job for his parents: Curt, a senior data analyst, and Penney, the owner of an office-supply company. They have binders of school records and police reports, along with photos documenting the bruises and black eyes. They are well known to school officials, perhaps even too well known, but they make no apologies for being vigilant. They also reject any suggestion that they should move out of the district because of this.

Judging by school records, at least one official seems to think Billy contributes to the trouble that swirls around him. For example, Billy and the boy who punched him at the bus stop had exchanged words and shoves a few days earlier.

But Ms. Wolfe scoffs at the notion that her son causes or deserves the beatings he receives. She wonders why Billy is the only one getting beaten up, and why school officials are so reluctant to punish bullies and report assaults to the police.

The Wolfes are not satisfied. This month they sued one of the bullies “and other John Does,” and are considering another lawsuit against the Fayetteville School District. Their lawyer, D. Westbrook Doss Jr., said there was neither glee nor much monetary reward in suing teenagers, but a point had to be made: schoolchildren deserve to feel safe.

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Jill is absolutely on the mark.
Brilliant at Breakfast

This just breaks my heart. As someone who endured my share of bullying when I was a kid, from being psychologically tormented by a troubled kid who was Catholic and delighted in telling me I would go to hell when I died to the boy in fourth grade who used to hit me every day to the time I was asked by a high school principal what I did to make so-and-so angry, I'm appalled that more than thirty years after I finished high school, nothing has changed.

That schools are still blaming the victim because they don't know what else to do is reprehensible. And the prevalence of social networking web sites make tormenting misfits an even more efficient operation.

I think back to the recent case of Megan Meier, who committed suicide at the age of thirteen after a boy she liked had turned on her, and the boy turned out to be a fake MySpace account set up by the parents of a girl with whom she'd had a falling out. And I wonder what on earth parents and schools in this country are doing when they want to put every kid whose brain functions differently on medication, but when you have actual cases of kids being tortured by their classmates, the schools blame the kid being victimized and the parents look the other way.

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The same thing happened to me.
Group News Blog

I Know and You're Stupid
Ass Kicking 101: Age Nine

I got my first serious beating at age nine (not counting Dad and any of the times he beat the shit out of me.) It was downtown at the Temple of Music and Art after choir practice. At nine I was in the Tucson Boys Chorus, working my way up towards the Touring group which I wouldn't make till I turned thirteen after a year spent living in Europe. I attended church regularly and was to all outward appearances a good boy. Boy were appearances wrong.

The problem with genius is simple. Genius plays by its own rules. Yet lives in the world with others. I tested out in the 160's both as a kid and then in my late teens on the adult tests. Certainly there are many people more adapt at solving intelligence tests than I am, but so far as relating to people who are "average", I didn't have a clue for a long, long time. Till I figured out how to put a stop to the bullying, people tended to beat the shit out of me because I was socially clumsy and freely volunteered my opinion that not only was I right, but everyone else was stupid for not seeing life my way. *laughs*

Dad forgot to pick me up on time so I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually two older kids, teenagers, showed up down in South Tucson where we rehearsed. After questioning me for a bit, they started to hit me. I was different, that's what mattered. My answers were off; I knew too damn much for a freaking nine-year-old and didn't yet know how to hide it. (Sometimes I still don't.) So they hit me. First a little, then a lot. Didn't matter what I said. Didn't matter what I knew. Only mattered that they were bigger and stronger. They beat on me with fists, boots, belt buckles, rocks, whatever was handy, for close to forever. Had me cornered all the way upstairs back where no one could hear me scream. It got dark as they kept it up. Eventually I wore out their fists on my head and they left.

Dad got there several hours later. I was huddled under a lamp post, waiting. Bloody. Not crying.

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What is happening to Billy is wrong.

He is a strong young man to be standing up to this. I applaud his parents for suing the bullies directly, and hope they soon sue the school district as well.

The refusal of the school administration to deal with these attacks is wrong.

Bullying is wrong -- verbal, sexual, classism, racism, and physical.

Attacking someone because they're different is wrong.

All of these are forms of violence against people.

All bullying (violence) is wrong, both individually and in mobs.

Anyone who participates in mobbing or bullying is wrong.

Anyone who watches mobbing or bullying and doesn't help stop it is wrong.