A case in Fayetteville, Arkansas could prove very interesting as a family has sued a high school bully and may soon sue the school district over a prolonged and dangerous pattern of bullying directed against 15-year-old Billy Wolfe. It appears that the school district left this family few choices other than litigation after their son was repeatedly attacked as a type of collective sport for bullies in this high school — and school officials seemed remarkably passive and unsympathetic in the face of the resulting injuries (even after viewing the video below). Notably, the Wolfes are not alone in seeking legal action when school official fail to act.
At some point, high school bullies decided that Billy was the designated victim for the high school and made him a type of sport prey for punches and ridicule. A video shot by some boys on a cellphone shows how arbitrary the attacks could be. On the video, one of the boys announces that he is going to beat up Billy Wolfe and in front of his younger sister he walks up and suddenly punches him. For the video, click here
This appears to be the life Billy has had to live while trying to learn. The beatings were triggered years ago after Billy mentioned to his Mom that a kid had called teasing him about buying a certain sex toy. When his Mom called the boy’s parents, the boy showed Billy a list of 20 names the next day of boys who signed up to beat him.
One attack occurred in a bathroom. In another, it happened in shop class when a boy walked up and sucker punched Billy so hard he needed medical attention to stitch up his cheek. What is bizarre is that, despite the video above, the school suspended Billy.
The bullying then extended to the Internet. In a situation disturbingly like the Megan Meier case, here, Billy was made the subject of a vile Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.” The bullies put a picture of Billy’s face over an image of Peter Pan and wrote: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”
Not surprising, Billy is hardly flourishing at school.
This is not the first lawsuit involving Fayetteville and bullying. The district was previously sued after a student was savagely beaten for being gay. Parents in other school district have also turned to the court to force educators to take action and not simply treat bullying as a nature part of growing up. Click here and here and here and here.
Juries and courts are not buying the argument of educators that there is nothing that they can do. One obvious measure is to expel bullies. In one case, a Kansas boy harassed and bullied for being gay (he wasn’t) resulted in a $250,000 award. Dylan Theno, 18, filed the lawsuit in May 2004 against the Tonganoxie School District after years of bullying led him to drop out of school.
Such lawsuit may force educators to act with the threat of financial penalties. I have been a critic of one response, however: taking the victims out of the school and leaving the bullies, click here. As soon in the Meier case, bullying can resulted in terrible injuries or even deaths. It often results, as with Billy, in the destruction of a high school education — the most important stage of education for individuals.
The idea of suing the bully is a bit novel, but perhaps it will have a deterrent on those parents and other parents who fail to control their children. I do not believe that kids just spontaneously become bullies. The parents share responsibility in such actions. For those who decry “bringing in the lawyers,” they should consider the fact that these kids received little support from the educators. Moreover, these are physical assaults by bullies and, in some cases, acts of negligence by educators. I am constantly horrified by these stories of schools with histories of open bullying and harassment. As educators, our most sacred duty is to preserve a safe and nurturing environment for our students — particularly when they are teenagers struggling with all of the physical and emotional changes in their lives. Indeed, some educators have given their lives to protect their students form violence, click here.
If litigation is needed to prevent another Meier case, than so be it. Perhaps a couple of judgments will result in serious anti-bullying training and programs for schools. What particularly worries me is that the boys described in Wolfe’s lawsuit will become citizens and parents without any corrective action. They have to taught by omission that their conduct is popular and natural. This only serves to replicate homophobic, intolerant, and violent values in society. High school is a powerful learning ground and this is one lesson that we need to stop.
For the full story, click here