Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Wolfe among sheep?

Posted by pennywit on April 9, 2008

It’s worth following up on the story of Billy Wolfe, who has filed a lawsuit to halt bullying, if for no other reason than because the other side is coming out. Overlawyered’s Walter Olson links to a story in the Northwest Arkansas Times that sheds light on the other side of the story. Young Master Wolfe, it seems, is a bit of a bully himself.

I don’t necessarily share Olson’s criticism of the NYT story. School officials — and, to a lesser extent, police officials — are often unwilling to cooperate with journalists early in a story like this, so getting the “other side” is usually difficult in the early coverage.

That 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 behalf is no longer as appropriate. If a student finds himself in a situation where officials are indifferent to bullying and he has exhausted other avenues, then perhaps legal action is the only way out.

I also think the lawsuit brings out another dimension of the story. Sometimes, when you bring a lawsuit against somebody, unpleasant truths come to light.

Update: Contra Overlawyered, the NYT did include some of the “other side” of the Wolfe story:

Some teachers think he’s a sweet kid; others think he is easily distracted, occasionally disruptive, even disrespectful. He has received a few suspensions for misbehavior, though none for bullying.

Judging by school records, at least one official seems to think Billy contributes to the trouble that swirls around him. For example, Billy and the boy who punched him at the bus stop had exchanged words and shoves a few days earlier.

[…]

Mr. Wilbourn said federal law protected the privacy of students, so parents of a bullied child should not assume that disciplinary action had not been taken. He also said it was left to the discretion of staff members to determine if an incident required police notification.

That said, there is always a choice in how to play these stories. The “other side” of the story was pushed to the very end, while the Wolfe family was placed at the top. And with more coming out about Wolfe’s own actions, the NYT really needs to revisit the story if it has not done so already.

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5 Responses to “Wolfe among sheep?”

  1. Jack said

    I haven’t been following this case.

    But given the way you outlined it then title of the post made me laugh.
    It reminds me of an old story.

    Not about bullies, but about a Wolfe I once knew.

  2. I actually wanted to comment on your first post, pennywit, but can just as soon do so here.

    Even though far too much is litigated today, I agree with the way you posed the problem. I remember feeling, as a kid who was bullied quite a bit, that the system had absolutely failed me and my parents, and not understanding why, as a kid, I should have to endure this in my life.

    Being bullied can really make your existence miserable.

    I finally solved my own problem by socking someone in the face. Hard. Like as in making red red blood come out of his nose.

    My quality of life radically improved after that. But not every kid has it in him to do that — either as a matter of character, or physical capability. And after all, is that what “the system” really wants us to do, anyway?

  3. Jack said

    “But not every kid has it in him to do that — either as a matter of character, or physical capability.”

    Well, I never really got bullied, but I sure beat down a few for the younger kids and for a few buddies a’mine. So there’s always a way if you’re willing to go looking for it.

    Course sometimes a good talking to works just as well.
    Depends on what ya say and how ya phrase it.

    Some people are just more open to reason and persuasion than others.

    “And after all, is that what “the system” really wants us to do, anyway?”

    Maybe not Ron, in a perfect world.

    But it has been my experience that beating the living hell out of a bully sure goes a long way towards focusing the mind of those who remind undecided about the matter as a career option.
    If you make the profit small enough and the cost high enough, a lot of folks will seek a new glidepath.

  4. jan said

    I think Ron, that these days “the system” would have punished you for striking someone, no matter how much they deserved it. “The system” has lost the ability to reason above the intellectual level of a four year old, and can no longer distinguish between predator violence and protector violence.

  5. Jack said

    “I think Ron, that these days “the system” would have punished you for striking someone, no matter how much they deserved it. “The system” has lost the ability to reason above the intellectual level of a four year old, and can no longer distinguish between predator violence and protector violence.”

    You gotta real point there.

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