Kids Fight Back Against Bullying With Lawsuits, Video

Illustration for article titled Kids Fight Back Against Bullying With Lawsuits, Video

Most people agree that bullying is a big problem for schoolkids, and anti-bullying efforts have gotten a lot of lip service in the past year or so. But now, some kids are doing more than talk — one boy is working with the ACLU, while others recorded their bullies to catch them in the act.

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The Chillicothe Gazette and Columbus Dispatch report that 15-year-old Zach Huston was getting bullied at Unioto High School in Ohio for being openly gay. When he reported this to school authorities, they refused to help, saying he should change his own behavior to attract less attention and that bullying was simply what he should expect from a school full of "Bible-beaters." Then he was brutally attacked, and a classmate caught the beating on video. Now the ACLU has sent a letter to the school asking school officials to meet with them to discuss better anti-bullying policies — if they refuse to do so, the ACLU will sue. James Hardiman, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, says, "It's not enough to have a policy on paper. The policy must have meaning — it must have teeth. [...] Having a policy in place and not enforcing it is tantamount to not having a policy at all."

It also appears, sadly, that reporting bullying to parents and authorities isn't always enough. Nobody believed 15-year-old Julio Artuz that his teacher was verbally abusing him, so he took a cell phone video that revealed the teacher's repeated insults and threats. And school administrators said 14-year-old Cheyanne was lying about her teachers' bullying — until she captured their cruel comments on tape. Bullying has become a high-profile national issue, and many schools now say they're committed to stopping it. But words aren't actions — and kids, frustrated that their schools aren't protecting them, are being forced to fight back. A major tool in this fight is recording equipment. With bullying on the forefront of people's minds, recorded instances of it are more likely than ever before to provoke widespread outrage. And that outrage makes it harder for schools to just sweep things under the rug. They shouldn't have to resort to this, but kids may be able to use nationwide anti-bullying sentiment to make their schools sit up, take notice, and protect them.

ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Unioto [Chillicothe Gazette]
Anti-Gay Bullying Gets ACLU's Attention [Columbus Dispatch]
Special Needs Student Films Teacher Going Psycho On Him [Gawker]
Teachers Caught On Tape Bullying Special-Needs Girl [MSNBC]

DISCUSSION

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And this is why I keep saying that "bullying" is not that one time someone said something mean to you, it's systematic, targeted, abuse and harassment. It's not harmless, and it's not some aspect of growing up that you just need to toughen up for. Is everyone going to like you? No. Does that mean they should get to make your life miserable, hurt you physically, or otherwise harass you? NO.

I'm glad these kids are taking this matter into their own hands because it doesn't seem like it's taken seriously enough, still. And the teachers? I can't even. I was really lucky that I only had to deal with daily awful from my peers. If my teachers had been in on it, ugh. Although...I was told by a guidance counselor during a session with the boy who spent every day telling me how worthless and disgusting I was for 2 YEARS...that I was to blame for "not fitting in". Apparently it never occurred to her that I might not fit in because people were spitting on me in the halls and screaming things across the lunchroom at me, so I had to eat lunch in the art room instead. That'll make you kind of withdrawn and unfriendly after awhile. I mean, no, I also didn't fit in in other ways...largely because I came from an arty family and was raised to be decent to others regardless of whether I liked them or not...which is apparently not that important in other households.

This is also why I get frustrated with people tell you how you should react to bullying. Lots of people react to abuse with shame and guilt, believing they've done something wrong. I know I did and it took me 17 years to finally unkink that way of thinking. Yes, I am a sensitive person. No, it doesn't make me defective or not tough. It just means that I have actual emotions and they can be hurt. That's not wrong or bad or irrational. That's being a human being.

The thing is...if a parent did the things we allow children to do to other children no one would call it anything but abusive. And it would have real consequences. Which is half the problem with bullies, because most of them seem to either not know or not care about consequences. And I do understand that many bullies come from abusive households and I feel sorry for them. But as someone who had to deal with precisely that kind of bully, who worked out all his anger and frustration on me because of a parental divorce...I can safely say that it didn't make me feel any better about it. And it didn't change the fact that he was manipulative, abusive, and incredibly calculated....and specifically targeted me and nothing I did to try and stop it mattered. Because ultimately it was HIS decision to be abusive and nothing I did or didn't do would change that.