Billy and the Bullies: Family Sues High School Bully and May Soon Sue an Arkansas School District

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

51 thoughts on “Billy and the Bullies: Family Sues High School Bully and May Soon Sue an Arkansas School District”

  1. Republicans in our state are against anti bullying legislation. They contend it is to protect homosexuals.

  2. Westbrook,

    Thank you very much for your signed contribution. I have long suspected that the pro-bully anonymous postings on this site were fiction, written by grown-up liars inventing made-up facts and pretending to be high school classmates. It certainly seemed like a waste of time to engage them or to respond to them or to ask them for details. It seems better simply to draw an adverse inference, allowing those posters to rebut this presumption at any time by identifying themselves and providing evidence for their assertions. Until they do, we cordially assume they are malicious and destructive. This stuff about killed-a-cat, dissed-a-mother, or used-the-N-word is all over the net. I do think it is worthwhile to refute false statements early and often.

    The anonymous posters are fine when they express opinions, or cite facts about history or current events that we can discuss or verify.

    But there is a real big difference between that, and personal attacks on a named individual involving invidious charges that may even possibly be a little bit defamatory. Many forums have had to name moderators to screen abusive posts, and others (like the Washington Post) allow reports of abuse to the moderators so that offensive posts can be deleted.

  3. Westbrook:

    I applaud your representation but, as a practicing attorney, I think you ask too much. As you know from my previous posts, I endorse your client’s cause not out of some love of his reputed actions, but simply on principle and in the interests of maintaining safe schools. As I noted above, I find few angels in my practice and the fact that there is some wide-spread resentment coupled with his age and notoriety leads me to believe that some of his actions served as a catalyst for the resentment. I do not condone anonymous threats, but I do support anonymous expressions of dissent. They are much like gossip, which if wide-spread enough, serves to reinforce community values without direct confrontation. As Gerry Spence says he who points the accusing finger must remember three more point back at him.

  4. DW,

    I agree w/ your concern. Without the first amendment this situation w/ Billy would have never been brought to light. I am just calling on these parents to be courageous enough to voluntarily print their names and offer evidence if they are going to bully a young man by calling him a cat killer. This characterization has severe implications associated w/ serial killers. Their children do not accept responsibility for their actions and the school district nor the parents enforce accountability. They are literally putting a young man’s life at risk.


  5. Westbrook,

    I am not JT, but what you mention about the anonymous posting raises some issues that have ominous overtones for the current ability to post anonymously on the internet.

    We know that there have been legislative proposals to curtail such postings. See the earlier thread about the Kentucky proposal.

    I am worried that abuse is going to result in federal moves to strip anonymity…and, abuses aside, that’s not a good thing.


  6. Hello Jonathan. I am Billy’s attorney. I met you when I was Asa Hutchinson’s chief of staff in the late 90s. Possibly the bigger story in this matter is the mob mentality of the parents who print totally irrational and outrageous rumors under anonymous posts. Unfortunately, the school system gives license to this behavior w/ its pr responses inferring that there is more to the story. The “Everybody hates Billy” websites and t-shirts, the administration response and the anonymous posts all serve to dehumanize this young man and perpetuate the violence, which Billy totally rejects. These posts are no different than the sucker punches thrown by the cowards that maimed and knocked Billy unconscious. The posts are so easily refuted that I hesitate to spend any time on them. I want people to think. If any of this really happened do you think that any of these people would have hesitated to have Billy arrested? I want these people to step out of the mob and print their names. Do not hide behind “anonymous.”

    Westbrook Doss

  7. Jill:

    Thank you. My comment really was from the heart. I do love your example. It’s why I can’t support capital punishment. The theory seems to be: let’s end violence by committing violence. I must say however that my conviction waivers in cases of deadly child abuse.

  8. You don’t…:

    With all due respect, if you really knew him, you would realize that his actions demonstrate some deep-seeded pain and reach out to him as a friend instead of merely judging his actions. In truth, no one really “knows” another person save only his parents and spouse.

  9. mespo, I really appreciated what you wrote to concerned student and about the young girl who died. Thank you for caring in each case.

    I doubt Billy is a perfect child either and, as many have pointed out, this isn’t a reason for beating him up. It would be an argument for firm and compassionate action to have been taken by the school immediately upon learning of any child’s harmful behavior.

  10. You don’t know the WHOLE story…
    “… Seriously…
    I go to school with Billy. I KNOW HIM!.”

    We get it – in order for you to be ‘right’ you have to make everybody else ‘wrong’ – especially Billy.

    What we are requesting you to do is ‘get off it’ with Billy for a few moments and listen to what is being said by some very smart people, who are not your parents, but who have, likewise, been around a while and are clearly willing to take the time to state the important message you seem to be missing.

    Bullying is hurtful and destructive – no matter who is perpetrating it.

    The mild example I like to use is the parent who ‘disciplines’ their child for striking another child on the playground by hitting him/her themselves.

    It’s inappropriate behavior in both instances which, in the second instance, sends a very powerful and negatively mixed message which
    in turn gets handed down from generation to generation – unless the cycle is broken.

    You may think you know Billy. My guess is you don’t know him
    -not at all! Seriously…

  11. This is rediculous. If you only knew why he got into so many fights, there wouldn’t be all of this drama.

    I go to school with Billy. I KNOW HIM!

  12. Concerned Student:

    Since you are old enough and courageous enough to post here, I will do you the courtesy of treating you as an adult. There is no magic in knowing the people involved in an issue involving the law. Judges don’t know the persons who come before them, but we empower judges to gauge the conduct of others. In your case, you obviously don’t like Billy and you think he is a liar. That is your OPINION which we have the right to accept, reject, or discount based on many factors such as your age, experience, bias, prejudice, and closeness to the situation. I choose to accept part of what you say as true because my life experience includes both bullies and their victims. Neither group were wholely blameless and I am sure Billy is not either.

    I am compelled however to make a value judgment on what is the best course for school officials to take. As I have said here, I know that bullying is wrong, makes isolated kids more isolated, and should not be permitted by the school, as you say. I also know that heeping blame on Billy who is an a loner with feelings of resentment, will do nothing except exacerbate the situation. I have no desire to see your school added to the sad roster of schools rocked by violence from persons whose psyche has been abused and then left feeling as though no one listens or cares about their plight. All in all, I come down on Billy’s side as much for your protection as for his. Now if you will permit me one condescension, my age, experience and distance from the situation affords me the luxury to look at all the competing interests in the case and determine there is more at stake here than whether or not one boy lied, or started the trouble.

    I hope one day you will understand my thinking if you do not do so already. I wish you well and compliment you for caring enough to share you insight and your opinions.

  13. While I believe that many school administrations do not do enough to prevent bullying, I also think that it comes about because there is a macho undercurrent that pervades our society. The myth is that to be “manly” you have to be “tough (macho).” We see it in our sports metaphors and in the fact that in many areas the high school athlete gets undue attention. I’m not saying this as someone who is not into sports, quite the contrary, but we see this myth play out in all areas of our society, be it politics, business or education, etc. While I believe that school administrations should take action, as should parents, in the end we as a society and we as humans must work to resolve the innate aggression that is the root cause. Given what we know about simian societies the prospects aren’t hopeful, but are well worth pursuing.

  14. “Billy and the Bullies”

    I thought this thread was about William Jefferson Clinton and the House Republicans!


  15. From now on ‘concerned student’, your name is ‘grasshoppa’ and
    mespo is your ‘masta’…

    Forget ‘Socrates’ for now – this falls under ‘Popular Culture’.

    ‘Kung Fu’, with David Carradine, WAS a popular TV series in the 1970’s. I’m not sure if it is still being programmed anywhere, but
    it must be available somehow. You wouldn’t need to see more than a couple of episodes to catch on.

    The David Carradine ‘Kill Bill 1 & 2’ movie reference was not an attempt to ‘dis’ Billy or applaude those who wish to ‘do’ him in.

    Just so you know, the coincidence of the name, Bill, in the title is happenstance and not related to the subject matter, bullying at school, being discussed here.

  16. Mespo:

    You make it sound like i think Billy deserves to be beat up..NO!
    I just don’t think it is fair that he can go on Good Morning America and have Matt Laur ask him if he dose anything to bring it upon himself and have Billy sit there and LIE! on nation televison! i know first hand what he says to people! i have been going to school with him since 5th grade so there is no way that i am “believing in stories made up by his bullies themselves” i have witnessed his harsh words! i find it really funny that you dont know Billy, you don’t go 2 Fayetteville High School, and you don’t know the people who are beating him up!

  17. Patty C & Susan:

    Thanks for the support but niblet knows I love him and his wacky ideas. Plus I was trying not to clue him about the Socratic method, but Patty spoiled the fun. Anyway, I ‘m down to just asking him to “snatch the pebble from my hand.” Well maybe it will be best two out of three for him!

  18. Mespo, a bully? NO way. I’ve seen NO evidence whatsoever of bullying in any of his posts, on this thread or any other. I’m just curious, Niblet, when did honest opinions or honest criticism become “bullying?”

  19. Mespo, we don’t know how old niblet is, so to be fair, might we suggest he understand your ‘Grasshopper/Master” approach:

    and then suggest picking up copies of ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ and
    ‘Kill Bill Vol. 2’ also, with David Carradine – unless he can see
    it on Cable.

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