Thursday, September 17, 2009


I don't know if you've heard about the 17 year old high school boy beaten by a bunch of boys on his Belleville, IL. school bus. But, here in St. Louis, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Belleville, it has dominated our news lately. (That is when we're not hearing about Michael Jackson's death...3 months ago!)
It happened about a week ago on a high school bus in Belleville, IL. A 17 year old white boy boarded the bus, looking for a seat. Nobody would let him sit down next to them. So, he finally gave up and sat next to a black boy who obviously objected becuase he and another black boy proceeded to grab him by the neck and punch him repeatedly in the head. On the video, at least one other student was heard yelling, "Kick his ass!" The rest of the students were heard whooping and hollering and encouraging the attackers. The bus driver was heard saying, "Cool it back there!" and other such lingo. But he did not pull over to give the boy aid.
One student finally stepped in and pulled the victim away, and in an interview after the incident said he did so because the boy is very quiet and was not trying to defend himself. He went on to say that the victim often has trouble getting a seat on the bus, but they usually let him sit down eventually without physical incident. They usually just tease the boy unmercifully.The bus driver drove on to school with a school nurse waiting for the boy. News reports said he was bruised but overall okay.
The following day, the two main attackers had been suspended for 10 days, a few others suspended for egging it all on, and the bus had a different driver, complete with a security guard.
Now here is my worry. My boy is only 11 but he is ADHD and has often been ostrasized by his peers. I'm sure there are lots of other kids who are in the same boat...or should I say bus?
Even though my 11 yo knows some karate, I would not think he would have the presence of mind to use it under this much duress should something awful like this happen to him.
I would personally have expected that bus driver to pull over and put a stop to this horrible situation. As a student, I remember our bus drivers pulling over just because we would not sit down...or because our voices were too loud...or someone was being teased.
There was even a copycat situation a few days later at a sister school to my son's school.
What are parents teaching their kids? What kind of behavior are parents allowing without actually condoning it? What kind of person with children in their care lets something like this happen without intervening? What is this world coming to?
Your thoughts?


Michele said...

I did not hear about the Belleville boy but stories about bullying touch a nerve with me. I have written several posts on bullying. My daughter's school received a grant toward an anti-bullying program. On Monday, there is a special seminar for teachers, students and parents.

I am saddened by the way people treat each other. I echo your thoughts..."What is this world coming to?"

Martial Arts Mom said...

I did just hear on the news this morning that the expelled the two attackers for 2 years. There were those already complaining that the boys should not be punished that harshly and that they should be in school instead of let loose on the world. I believe they need to be put in some kind of program or special school where they could get the help they need but yet be watched more carefully to ensure they don't do this again.

Amy said...

It is sad. In our somewhat affluent suburb, there is this sense of entitlement that some kids have that often translates into bullying. It's more about the parents than the kids though I think. A lot of parents turn a blind eye to what their kids are doing, or don't really think it's all that bad, because their child is perfect in their eyes.

I have to say, I'm a little dismayed that their race was pointed out though. I feel it sort of makes an "us vs. them" vibe which can unintentionally create the kind of atmosphere where people act a certain way because one group expects them to.

It would be just as horrifying if the victim was black as well.

Perpetual Beginner said...

I tend to avoid bullying stories in the news. They bring back way too many memories of my time in grade school.

Bullying always seemed to me to stem from kids' tendencies to separate "us" from "them" gone toxic. It doesn't necessarily take a lot of parental encouragement - passive endorsement of the idea that people not like you aren't worthy of respect or kindness is more than enough. I'm flashing back to a minister who gave a sermon on how you ought to be kind to people you don't know because they might be baptized - with the implicit meaning (though I'm sure he would have denied it), that if you knew for certain someone wasn't baptized, there was no reason to treat them well. If you combine that sort of attitude with kid cliquishness and a bully's beatdown mentality you've got trouble on the hoof.

Apparently, the most effective anti-bullying programs don't actually focus on the attackers. The actual bullies are usually fearful and lacking in the skills to deal with their fears constructively. It's the attitude of the onlookers that empowers a bully to beat up others with impunity. If bullying meets with the approval of their peers, it will escalate. Remove the approval, and make bullying socially unacceptable, and the bullying stops, even if you've done nothing direct to the bullies.

Martial Arts Mom said...

I wrestled with even including the races of those involved, but did so because when this first happened, the police chielf of Belleville called it a hate crime and then issued a retractment when the ACLU and other groups protested. Now a white supremisist (sp?) group is going to demonstrate on Belleville's Courthouse steps Sat. becuase they said that if the situation had been reversed and the attackers had been white and the victim been black, it would have been called a hate crime and treated as such. The scariest part of the whole situation is that there have been 2 fights on busses since then - one of those happening two days ago at my son's middle school. (Not his bus, but one of his school's busses.) It has turned into kids thinking because they saw it on tv, they will have their 15 minutes of fame. Very scary and sad.

Steve said...

Well, it's hard to say without all the information, but this doesn't sound racially motivated.

Now, bullying wise, I'm with perpetual beginner. I held my own in school, but we got into fights all the time like this. I tell people that Texas in the 70's/80's was like lord of the flies.

This kind of thing doesn't lead me to wonder what the world is coming to. Rather, it reminds me of how continues to remain unchanged.

As for the rest, there are no easy answers, but I'm glad to hear that there are programs out there taking a realistic approach to minimizing bullying/hazing in schools.