Thursday, April 30, 2009

Systems for Bullies

The way we handle bullying in schools has always been archaic. In the rest of our civilization, we are not expected to put up with threats of violence. Threats of violence are considered "assault" and the perpetrators can be arrested and jailed. In school, though, local authorities have long expected victimized students to simply suck it up. Victims should either roll with the punches (i.e. capitulate to violence) or stand up for themselves.

Of course, they'd better not stand up for themselves too much, because then they get arrested. For example, we have this 15 year old Asian kid in Keswick, Ontario. He faced off against a racist bully. The bully punched first. The Asian kid punched last, breaking the bully's nose.

It'd be as well at this point to explain why I'm taking the story at face value. Why do I believe that, as written, the white kid was an aggressive, racist bully? Why do I believe that the Asian kid acted with the absolute minimum force at the last reasonable moment? Because I read the story. Keswick has a racism problem with documented assaults. 400 students came out to protest the Asian kid's suspension. The Asian kid has a 90% scholastic average. All relevant implications lead me to believe that the story is accurate.

I also believe the story because it is absolutely par for the course.

As far as authorities - police as well as school administration - are concerned, bullying is not a problem. The bullies only perform their assaults and batterings out of sight. There is rarely obvious bloodshed or broken bones. The victims are frightened in to silence. If the victims don't fight back, authority can blithely pretend that there is no violence in the school, that any rumours are just boys working things out for themselves, and fill out reports to that effect.

When the victims fight back, the problem is different. It is rarely effective for a smaller boy to wrestle or idly punch at a bully. Small amounts of pain are rarely a deterrent to large, aggressive people. To stop a bully, you have to stop a bully. And at that point, you often have blood, a broken bone or a concussion. Now the administration's "boys will be boys" ignorance falls on its face. They have an obviously damaged kid and another who damaged him.

So punish the kid who did the damage. Ignore all historical facts, torment and accumulated damage in the opposite direction. Wipe your hands and walk away. Done.

So that's what they did. They not only suspended the victim, they also had him arrested for assault. How ignorant is this? Let us take the punch completely out of context. Let us pretend that this Asian kid just whaled on the white kid for no reason. The Asian kid isn't bleeding, right? His nose isn't broken. So it must be his fault.

Kudos the kids at the high school for walking out and protesting on his behalf. I never saw the likes of that when I was growing up. If there's hope for the future, it's those 400 kids right there.

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