Taking it a little too far

Ah the ever-popular response of busy school administrations to a bullying problem – they tell the person being bullied to stop doing whatever it is the bullies think is bad.

There’s a fundamental mistake being made here. The mistake is taking advice on what’s “bad” from people who think bullying is permissible and suitable.

In this case it’s a nine-year-old boy who wore a “My Little Pony” backpack to school.

Grayson Bruce said other students picked on him and bullied him because the backpack was “girly.” His mother, Noreen Bruce, said her son was punched, pushed down and called names over the fuzzy blue pony bag with ears.

“They’re taking it a little too far with you know, punching me and pushing me down — calling me horrible names. Stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” Grayson  said.

Bruce said Buncombe County Schools officials told her son to leave the backpack at home to “immediately address a situation that had created a disruption in the classroom.”

Nope. Nope nope nope. The thing to do there is to tell the children doing the punching and pushing down and calling horrible names to stop doing that, and enforce it. It’s not to punish Grayson Bruce, or to tell him he did something wrong. It’s not to let the children who did the bullying get their way while Grayson Bruce isn’t allowed to take his chosen backpack to school.



  1. Wylann says

    How the hell do adults (and I use the term very loosely) like that get to be in charge of a school? Fuck me, but it seems like school administrators are like cops these days, the worst thugs and bullies get drawn into positions of power. (Some teachers too, but the bad teachers seem to be the exception, whereas with administrators, it’s the other way around.)

  2. AnotherAnonymouse says

    Pandering to the bullies is not new. When I was in high school in the 1980s, there was a girl being physically assaulted every day by two girl bullies. She reported it to the teacher, who didn’t care. She reported it to the guidance counsellor, who didn’t care. She reported it to the principal, who told her to “work it out”. One day, predictably, she snapped and hit back. The victim was suspended. The bullies were ignored.

  3. noxiousnan says

    Bullies wouldn’t exist without the assholes who permit it in the name of convenience (or whatever other stupid rationalization they use to let it slide).

  4. Sastra says

    The “leave the backpack at home” mentality is possibly also coming from the Negotiator Stance, where everyone is automatically a little bit right and everyone is a little bit wrong. No, they shouldn’t have hit … but you shouldn’t have provoked. Let’s take our view from the moderate middle, shall we?

    Sounds like this kid could use some support from the Bronies.

  5. chrislawson says

    I see, spectator, that you do not understand the concept of bullying…or more likely, you’re perfectly OK with bullying so long as it’s people you like doing the perpetrating.

  6. says

    I understand your point, Marcus Ranum, but that’s a common misconception about what happened at Columbine: Harris & Klebold were not bullied victims who struck back. Harris was a sociopath and Klebold was depressive and a follower.

  7. says

    @ Sastra
    We are already on it.

    It’s not the most stable community (pretty damn chaotic), but we do have good communication as a community. I and others have been supporting him and pointing out all the logical problems with how anything but cracking down on the bullying is an unacceptable solution. Especially when they supposedly have a “zero tolerance” solution when it comes to bullying. Apparently it’s “screw the rules, we can’t deal with gender weirdness”.

    There have been other examples of bullying over this, and one kid tried to kill himself and is now recovering from brain damage.

  8. says

    Spectator has a point — the white students were told not to wear the shirts because of violent threats from some of the latino students. It was a fairly clear case of “caving to the bullies”, even if the victims were obnoxious little shit-stirrers.

    Now, I don’t think it’s right for the white students in question to deliberately provoke the latino students, but there’s no real evidence for that being the case.

    Even if the shirts were an attempt at deliberate provocation, and there was resulting violence, the blame still would lie entirely on those perpetrating the violence. Why? Because there is almost always a non-violent choice.

    If the administration wanted to prevent violence in the school, they could have (and should have) targeted and suspended those students who were making violent threats instead of telling the intended targets “”lay low, or else.”

    To relate this back to the OP, and re-rail the de-rail, it’s the same shit in a different package. This kid isn’t hurting anyone with his (admittedly adorable-awesome) bag. Let him wear it. Target and “deal with” (by which I mean counsel, suspend or expel as appropriate) those kids who are abusing this child!

  9. Amy Clare says

    The teachers and school admins *themselves* think it’s weird for a boy to have a My Little Pony backpack. That’s why they’ve told him to leave it at home. Far easier to side with the bullies and squash this boy’s individuality than to admit that even a tiny bit of gender nonconformity makes them uncomfortable.

  10. John Horstman says

    @abbeycadabra #11, WMDKitty #13: Yes and no. Beck used the issue to complain about accommodations for trans* kids, like the hateful shitweasel he is.

  11. jesse says

    Question for parents.

    Your kid is getting bullied in school. The administrators and teachers all mean well and for the sake of this let’s just say they do all the right things.

    Your kid gets bullied, goes to adults. The minute your kid is alone the jackals come. Beat the crap out of the kid.

    Rinse. repeat.

    So what now? I was in that situation as a kid and the lesson learned was “adults cannot protect you” and “violence works.”

    (I really had to hurt someone to get the abuse to stop. It worked, but I don’t like that fact).

    I’m really asking. Because I worry that I will be the worst parent in the world, because even as a non-parent I cannot bring myself to tell a child that non-violence is a solution to people going after them. I feel like a liar and that the only result will be abusers who are even more likely to scar another kid. (And yes when the topic comes up I am surprised at my own reactions, and how much the memories still sting, I really should be over it by now).

    Has school changed in the intervening decades enough?

  12. medivh says

    Jesse: you shouldn’t anything. Healing from that kind of trauma takes as much time as it needs and may just scar and be permanently tender instead. I speak from a similar position to you.

    The parts of my childhood where I felt like there was some adult who was actually willing to help me put a stop to the kind of abuse you describe had a few key features. Firstly, I felt that when I spoke that someone was both listening and thinking on the situation. Not just that they understood, but that they were evaluating my words and seeing what action – teaching me something, help me face down the threat, etc – could be done. Secondly, action that was promised was taken. Third, the action didn’t stop until the threat did; school administrators were annoyed into action, lessons were taught until internalised, etc.

    Unfortunately, though, I think that sometimes the only way out is violence. Some people don’t listen and not every situation is escapable. Not a world you want your child to have to live in, but it might be worthwhile equipping them for the possibility…

  13. jesse says

    Medivh- thanks. I had plenty of adults who were willing to help — but the problem was that the schoolyards where I grew up were not unlike prison yards. I joke that the difference is that adult prisoners have more self-restraint. I think the adults wanted to make things better but simply could not.

    Eventually I learned that since adults can’t be around you every minute, and that any action taken against the bullies was going to get right back to me in the worst way… unless they were fools I can’t imagine that the adults weren’t aware that such reprisals happened.

    I do think the anti-bullying campaigns are progress. So there’s that.

  14. medivh says

    The time I felt safest was under a school administration that was quick with suspensions for bullies. At one time I fell foul of that policy after an incident where I was provoked and struck out with far too much violence for the situation to even mitigate. My provoker was to get off scot-free despite the fact that she would have been suspended for her behaviour had I not lashed out at her violently. At least, that was the case right up until my parents and a teacher virtually laid siege to the administration on my behalf. I still got suspended, as I should have. But I was taught that coming off worse in an engagement wasn’t going to be rewarded (then) with dropping all charges, so to speak.

    On the other hand, the time I felt least safe was at another school; the administration was feeding propaganda out about how nasty I was acting, and my parents believed what they were saying and continued the abuse at home, though I’m fairly sure they thought they were just using a firm hand.

    You can intervene in a school environment. You can’t be there to stop the assaults, name calling and bullshit at the time, but you can be a thorn in an otherwise apathetic administrator’s side. And it’s perfectly OK to be and often required for the best outcome. You can take an administrator’s story and accept that they also have an agenda, and that agenda may be against your child. By all means, take the first incident at face value. But make sure if there’s a second and a third that you get more information about what they’re doing to stop further incidents, if they’re aware of what happened and listen to your child’s side with equal acceptance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking kids are more likely to lie than adults – they’re less likely to tell convincing lies so you’re more likely to spot them.

    On top of that, though, you seem to have the lesson that kids need to have a large measure of self-sufficiency. Also remember, though, that self-sufficiency must be learned, and so try to teach it early and often.

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