Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bullying Victim Punished--Bullies Go Free

Image by Chesi_Fotos CC
A 16-year old boy from Whitewater High, Fayette County, Georgia, taunted with homophobic slurs on a school bus, threatened to go Columbine on his school in retaliation. He was suspended for 10 days and charged with making a terrorist threat. When his home was searched, there was no evidence of weapons of any kind.

Obviously, threatening to kill classmates is a very serious matter and students who make such threats should be disciplined. However, this kid was no terrorist. He was a tormented teen who felt abandoned by the adults in his life and who lacked the emotional resources to handle a stressful and difficult situation. Even if he had wanted to kill his classmates, he lacked the weapons to do so.

Meanwhile, Whitewater High has made no statement critical of bullying or anti-gay slurs. There has been no move to punish those who had been tormenting the boy. By failing to discipline the bullies, the school has sent a message to students that bullying and homophobia are acceptable and will be tolerated at Whitewater High.

This story reoccurs far too often in America. I remember a similar situation at a school I taught at. Two lesbian students were eating lunch together, when a group of students started shouting anti-gay slurs at the girls and then began to pelt them with food and bottles. In the end, the victims of the bullying were suspended, along with only one of the many attackers. The only attempt my school made to address the matter was to encourage teachers to encourage their students to attend a voluntary debriefing of the incident to be hosted by some of the school's leadership students. Needless to say, bullying continued at that school.

If you would like to do something about this injustice, has started a petition drive. You can tell school administrators at Whitewater High School to adopt a zero tolerance bullying policy, one that is inclusive of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and gives all students equally a welcoming, safe and affirming environment.


  1. Sounds like an arguement in favor of school choice to me... I had a friend who did the same thing. I often thought about doing the same thing, homophobic taunts, but more because I was an aspie. What I would have given for a chance to get out of that hell... but when your moms poor and can't get out of work to fight on your behalf enough... well thats what always happens.

  2. The school I was at that "looked the other way" at the assault on the lesbian students also had a terrible history of allowing bullying of sped students. This is intolerable, but unfortunately far too common.

    While it's tempting to run away from a problem, it doesn't make it go away. Middle class parents tend to yank their kids from public schools and place them in private schools and charters, but this doesn't make the urban schools any better. It just makes them less diverse, and leaves the poor kids to suffer on their own. For every kid that flees a bullying situation, there are dozens more who remain stuck with their plight.

    I've had lots of Aspergers students and have successfully encouraged them all to take my Biotech class, which is a high level elective science course that involves considerable collaborative team work and career training.

    All of my Aspies have thrived in this environment precisely because I insist on respect for all my students and encourage collaboration and team work with everyone, regardless of whether a person is part of your existing peer group.

  3. So we take away choice so 100% stay with their bullying situations instead of say... 80%. That sounds dumb to me. I agree that poor kids shouldn't be made to suffer on their own, rather they should get the same chance to flee.

    I tried to ask this before but it never went through (mistake on my end I think), but with all this coming out on Alex Barton (a young boy with asperger's... I will let you look up his name so you can learn a little more) what would you have done with him. Would you force him to stay at the school where he was abused by his teacher (like happens all too often, his sitution is not that rare, just the amount of attention it got was) or would you give him some form of choice. I can just imagine what the kid who sued the school district for 300,000 is treated like... most likely like a leper.

  4. The point is that we need to fix the problem of bullying (by students and adults). Letting everyone flee who feels dissed or maltreated will result in a islands of jocks and aspies and emos and punks and gang-bangers and gays, etc, but the underlying problems of homophobia, racism, arrogance, intolerance and abusive behavior all remain.

  5. "In the long run we are all dead" Alfred Keynes. So in the meantime (as in before the long run) what should happen to kids like Alex Barton. Keep in mind you don't flee until you have somewhere to flee too. This is a problem for poor people only. I know if I was to ever adopt an aspie kid (which is about the only way I ever plan to have a kid) sending him somewhere to be abused... thats more then anyone can ever ask of me.

  6. Whoops just looking, I meant "You don't complain until you have somewhere to flee too". Nobody is going to risk getting a teacher fired until they don't have to worry about retelation.

  7. P.S. Just seeing you are from San Fran... look around you at how many schools for aspie kids are around there. You don't get that kindof supply without a lot of demand. The problem is they are all so expensive... adding a few charter schools that will serve more then just the upper class would be nice.