Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

No other way?

Posted by pennywit on April 2, 2008

After what amounts to a multiyear campaign of harassment, an Arkansas boy named Billy Wolfe and his parents have filed lawsuits against schoolyard bullies, according to coverage in the New York Times, the Northwest Arkansas Times, and elsewhere. The kid even appeared on the Today Show to tell his story.

Honestly, the whole storyline — “Bully sues his tormentors!!” sounds like something out of Weekly World News, somewhere behind the pages about alien Elvis impersonators running for president. But it’s not. It’s as real as the various little monsters who over the past decade-plus have taken up arms and slaughtered their classmates for slights real and imagined.

And when I try to think about what the kid is supposed to do about the bullies, that’s exactly what I think of. The school shootings. A lawsuit against the bullies (and possibly against the school administration) seems to outlandish and disproportionate that I’ve spent the better part of a week trying to figure out what Billy and his parents are supposed to do about the bullying.

But I can’t come up with anything better than the lawsuit. They’ve exhausted their legal self-help remedies. Billy’s parents talked to the bully’s parents, to no avail. Billy turned to school administrators, but he found no succor. In fact, he was blamed — and the bullies escaped punishment — in at least one of the incidents! With these remedies denied him, what’s left? Self-defense? Perhaps, though I’m not certain if he’s tried (and failed) that remedy.

Hitting back — the traditional, parent-endorsed response to such things — is right out. That sort of thing is illegal. Assault and battery. Responding to the harassment campaign — which included a Facebook page dedicated to hating Billy — may or may not be effective. And, again, it’s probably illegal.

If a friend of mine finds himself the target of a long, multiyear campaign of harassment and he’s had no luck getting it stopped on his own, I would likely tell him he should turn to the court system. Injunctions, restraining orders, and defamation lawsuits can be highly useful things. And Billy has taken the same route.

And then there’s the school shootings. When some of these bullied kids have had enough, some have turned on their tormentors with violent results. Which would be bad enough. But those kids — Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris among them — lash out not just at their tormentors, but at nearly anybody who gets in their way. Despite the outward ridiculousness of Billy’s lawsuit, perhaps his choice is the better alternative.

UPDATE:  Hmm.  (RDC)

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One Response to “No other way?”

  1. […] said, I stand by my earlier rumination on the use of lawsuits in school bullying, even if my moral outrage on young Master Wolfe’s […]

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