Poor Billy.

Did everyone have a good Easter? I caught a cold, which really frosts an Easter cake served with three inches of snow. So if you came here to be entertained, all I can offer is this: I’ll try not to sneeze on you.

This story is going to get a lot of buzz today, so prepare to weigh in. Dan Barry’s portrait of the virtual runt of a high-school litter is pretty wrenching. Billy Wolfe is the kid whose ass everyone loves to kick, and as bad as his story is, the portrait it paints of a typical American high school is worse. The new technology is galling — the beatdowns of Billy are recorded on cell-phone cameras and then passed around the school — but at the end of this depressing tale, what it really calls to mind is prison. The code of any large population overseen by a much smaller power class will eventually evolve like this, where the most thuggish thugs of the lower class are the real people to fear.

Note how it started:

It began years ago when a boy called the house and asked Billy if he wanted to buy a certain sex toy, heh-heh. Billy told his mother, who informed the boy’s mother. The next day the boy showed Billy a list with the names of 20 boys who wanted to beat Billy up.

What do we tell kids when they’re in over their heads? “Tell an adult.” And look what happens when they do:

Ms. Wolfe says she and her husband knew it was coming. She says they tried to warn school officials — and then bam: the prank caller beat up Billy in the bathroom of McNair Middle School.

Not long after, a boy on the school bus pummeled Billy, but somehow Billy was the one suspended, despite his pleas that the bus’s security camera would prove his innocence. Days later, Ms. Wolfe recalls, the principal summoned her, presented a box of tissues, and played the bus video that clearly showed Billy was telling the truth.

Clueless school administrators can’t stop it? Contemptuous student body reinforces it? Color me astonished. Billy, Billy’s parents, if you know what’s good for you you’ll get out of this hellhole before it turns your boy into a monster. I suggest private tutoring or, at the very least, a very pricey private school, paid for by the public-school administrators who allowed this situation to grow and flourish. Maybe that’ll get ’em fired, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

OK, let’s turn 180 degrees, as befits a head clouded with decongestants.

More proof of my husband’s gay gene: Some years back we upgraded our sleeping platform. Our bedroom furniture was inherited from my grandmother, and the bed was starting to be a problem. It was so noisy you couldn’t roll over from your left side to your right without awakening your partner, and never mind the other thing. Plus, we were ready to make the jump to queen-size. So Alan went in search of something that would please his eye but not require replacement of the two dressers, which are still doing their work just fine. (Plus, I hate matchy-matchy in all things.) He found us something from following an ad in the New Yorker, and it fit the bill just fine.

That was in…? Nineteen and something, so at least eight, nine years ago.

So the “Sex and the City” trailers are out now, and oh my, it looks like Charlotte York finally caught up with the trendsetters:

My bed

That’s our bed. (Satin pillows, actresses and child not included.)

“Sex and the City” comes in for a lot of well-deserved abuse, and someday when I’m on a long bike ride I’ll have to decide why it fails to irritate me as much other shows loaded with shameless product placement and unrealistic New York housing options. The writers could be so ham-fisted with it; I still cringe to recall the AOL-plug episode, and the one where Carrie mentions “my new favorite website, Google-dot-com.” Because “Google-dot-com” is what everyone calls Google, right? The many Hermes plugs were totally grating — they squeezed their orange boxes into “The Devil Wears Prada,” too — but I still wear my Hermes scarves. It’s a crime against beauty to leave a Hermes scarf in its box for too long.

I think the thing about “Sex and the City” is, it distracts you with the ridiculous outfits. Once you’ve seen Kim Cattrall in gym clothes with her thong riding six inches above the yoga pants (because there’s nothing that feels good during yoga like a thong), or Cynthia Nixon in her…well, she played a lawyer, so she usually looked OK. And Charlotte was the epitome of good taste, which is why she bought our bed. But Carrie made up for all of them, especially when she ran down the street in a corset, net skirt, seventeen thousand ropes of pearls, stilettos and an Hermes scarf wrapped around her head so that the logo rode over her eyes, and the rest of America gaped and said, “What the fucking fuck?” So you were distracted from the next scene, which was set in the Magnolia bakery. The only Carrie outfit that didn’t make my head spin was the Vivienne Westwood suit she wore for her first day at Vogue. (Says Vogue: “a suit that nobody at Vogue would wear to work (too theatrically chic.)” Well, whatever.

I’m going back to bed. Or to couch. Or somewhere. Be nice to one another.

Posted at 9:42 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

34 responses to “Poor Billy.”

  1. john d said on March 24, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Morning Nancy. Heartrending story. But I doubt it’s the whole story. It’s just too good. I question what parents, especially these who seem well off, would put up with this for any length of time without taking steps to get their kid out. Second, I doubt all the school administrators could be so unconcerned or venal about a situation like this. Great story. Perhaps too great.

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  2. nancy said on March 24, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I see your point, John, and if it wasn’t Dan Barry, I’d be a lot more skeptical. However, it rang true enough for me — there’s a certain kind of beating victim that can arouse contempt even in people who want to help. Have you ever noticed that? Cringing isn’t an attractive behavior in anyone. Half of me wants to buy this kid a membership to a gym with a good martial arts program. And he’s not a perfect kid. It sounds like he has one of those sort of developmental delays that flies under the radar.

    But the rest of it — the clueless administrators, the savage student culture — rang absolutely true. Something to think about, anyway.

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  3. Jolene said on March 24, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Even as we speak, Mayor Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty are being charged with obstruction of justice and other crimes.

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  4. john d said on March 24, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Nancy. Maybe you’re right. Unfortunately jounalism has reached a point where I have to question the truth about virtually every story they write. Perhaps I’ve watched too much of the Wire.

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  5. Sue said on March 24, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Happy Easter Monday.
    1. Yup – a toxic school situation, where everything comes together juuuust right, can kill a kid or cause a kid to kill. And “keeping the lines of communication open” doesn’t work when an administration doesn’t choose to listen because, you know, they know best, so just go raise money for us, ok? I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum – the mom who lights into the teacher/coach/director who doesn’t put her kid first, and the school admin who ignores obvious danger signs or encourages a “zero tolerance” policy that is either applied ridiculously or applied selectively. God, I am so glad that my kids are done with that crap.
    2. My daughter bought me a Coach purse a few years back because she was tired of seeing me lug around “six-dollar pieces of crap”. Ok. The thing is ugly to my eyes and will last forever. I feel like I’m showing off in the grocery store when I’m rummaging around in its too-small interior to find my Cherokee wallet. Goes real well with the jeans I scavenged from my son and the coat some other male relative discarded (I like things loose and men’s clothes are comfy). Why, when I look as awful as I do, do I feel most ridiculous because of my fashionable purse?
    3. You admonish us again to be nice to one another. It’s not working. I think it’s time for a talking-to.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Detroit is in the news for non-murder related events, so life is good, right? Maybe the prosecutor can run for mayor: she sounded quite bs-free.

    There’s a Ghost Dance mentality of “the bullets won’t hit me” that must overcome folks who dance in the ceremonial election circle too many times.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Read the Barry piece — plenty of ghosts in that story, from a juvenile court mediator’s point of view.

    As for “could it happen,” we’ve got specific incidents numbering five in the story, over a five or six year period. That’s not enough to keep a busy, harried administrator’s attention right there.

    We’ve got incidents where he was unfairly blamed for starting a fight, check, but a number of mumbled asides, not questioned, that he’s been in the thick of back-and-forths. Doesn’t sound like he’s mean, does sound like he and Napoleon Dynamite both have some attitude issues that fellow classmates enjoy addressing in their usual, hamfisted, juvenile way. Which from one angle looks like bullying, and should be treated that way up to a point, but isn’t bullying in the way that administrators dare spend much time on, or they’d be doing nothing but deportment and etiquette lessons.

    “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.” That pair of sentences is a masterpiece of minimization, but it tells me that Billy may not be an equal partner, but he’d be a party to some kind of mediation process with a couple of his classmate ringleaders on the other side of the table.

    Even in a classic victim/offender mediation, with juveniles you never know when you’ll hear the victim pop up with the comment “well, you know, i did that to another kid once myself, so i know why you did it to me.” When there’s a parent in the room, the eyeball extension at moments like that is truly impressive.

    This story is Barry-able only because of the kid’s isolation, and i suspect a bit of a desire to indirectly address the idioticy of homophobia. That, and i even more strongly suspect he wanted to paint the parents just positively enough that they don’t realize, as they read it in the New York Times, that they will be called “tools” in comment boxes and chat rooms all over the world by noon today.

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  8. Connie said on March 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Never watched any Sex and the City, probably never will.

    It’s Dyngus Day today, a mysterious holiday on the Monday after Easter, celebrated only in the South Bend area and Buffalo New york. As best as I can figure on Dyngus Day politicians eat sausage at American Legion and Knights of Columbus type places. Bill and Chelsea Clinton are expected at one of those events in South Bend today, right about now. And Chelsea will be appearing at something at IU/Bloomington tonight.

    Off to a big library do in Minneapolis where I hope to get to say hello to Laura Lippman who is on the schedule.

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  9. del said on March 24, 2008 at 11:08 am

    john d and nance, agreed. But let’s treat the story as if it’s true, because somewhere, it is. Doesn’t everyone remember some kid from childhood upon whom TOO much abuse was heaped? Out of proportion.
    The story really gets to me. Nancy’s conflicted about wanting to get the kid to fight back (me too). Remember the old TV shows in which the dads taught Beaver, Bobby Brady etc. to punch back. Amusing. Conflicted with the law in my jungle, never pull the Tiger’s tail.
    Another thing, adults tend to think of kids as not fully sentient beings. They can’t be hurt like an adult. I’m very sympathetic to extending criminal law protections to the playground (but not so keen on extending criminal law penalties there). My thinking is that the pain is real, but the criminal intent to harm isn’t always . . . and when it is, it’s there because another person (maybe an adult) put it in the bully. When I was 11 or 12 the kid with the locker next to me, who wasn’t very big, would punch me and act tough. One day he showed up with a black eye that I think his dad gave him. Yeah, we’ve gotta watch how we teach toughness.

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  10. Danny said on March 24, 2008 at 11:09 am

    The technology aspect of the bullying story is very disturbing. Between cell phones and the social networking sites, there is no breathing room or escape for kids today. They can’t simply sneak out the back door of the school and run home to safety and rest.

    Adolescence was already horrible without all of the gadgets.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Del — criminal law protections are already on the playground, penalties included, juvenile court version of course if you’re under 18. It’s the civil law/lawsuit presence on the playground that’s making administrators crazy, writing up everything and punishing nothing — if you doubt me, read the Barry piece again. Clearly he learned about the story from the lawyer who filed the parents’ lawsuit.

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  12. del said on March 24, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Jeff, you’re right. It’s always been there yet we rarely hear of criminal prosecutions; the way it typically reaches the public’s attention, as you mention, is through civil claims for assault and battery.

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  13. alex said on March 24, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Story rang true to me. I used to get picked on and then in turn would get punished by teachers and administrators for being involved in fights that I wanted no part of. When a teacher or administrator walks in on a fight and asks the crowd what’s going on, what do you think the answer is? That a thug is picking on a fag? Of course not. It’s the fag’s fault, the fag incited it and no matter how much the fag protests to the contrary, the teacher/administrator responds “You’re a liar. I’ve got twenty witnesses right here who say you pulled the first punch.”

    I remember as early as the fourth grade going to my teacher complaining about a classmate who was assaulting me physically at every opportunity. “You and your smart mouth. You bring it on yourself. You deserve it,” she told me. In hindsight I think it was a big copout on her part. Or perhaps her dislike for me overwhelmed any sense of fairness she may have had. The fact is that fights always begin as verbal exchanges and escalate from there. And the abusee may not be a model citizen but that should in no way excuse the abuser’s behavior. And any school teacher or administrator who doesn’t have the brains or maturity to recognize this has no business teaching anybody anything, IMHO.

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  14. del said on March 24, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I think corporal punishment sends a bad message.

    At the same time I think physical beatings get too much a bad rap vis-a-vis psychological beatings. Go figure.

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  15. del said on March 24, 2008 at 11:44 am

    People use the weapons at their disposal. If they’re physical they beat people with fists, if verbal, they beat people with words. I’m amused at tough-talking sports guy Jim Rome — a little man with a sharp tongue. He goes berserk whenever athletes get physically aggressive with one another, and then he proceeds to verbally hammer them.
    Remember when sportswriter Mitch Albom had a bucket of cold water dumped over his head by Cy Young winner (I think) Willie Hernandez? Albom responded with written vitriol.
    Let’s all be nice.

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  16. Scout said on March 24, 2008 at 11:49 am

    As a parent (and now a grandparent) I’d no more leave my child to fend in that situation than I would allow him to jump into a tank of piranhas at Sea World. Honestly, a law suit? That’s not much comfort to a kid who has been repeatedly beat up so brutally. I can’t fathom how those parents would allow this to continuw for so long, especially once it became apparent the school and authorities were never going to step up to the plate. It’s one thing to take a stand and say we’re not backng down and we’re not moving when you have the power to make that decision. But what would Billy’s vote be?

    Those who insinuate he has it coming because he antagonizes or tries to push back are missing the obvious point that Billy is the only kid sporting blood and that should never be OK.

    I work with a Napoleon Dynamite-ish young man who obviously has spent his entire life taking ridicule and still does in a mild way from the rest of the staff here. He fights back the only way he can, with sarcasm, negativity and sometimes just plain withdrawal. I don’t know if he was ever physically bullied as a kid, but I suspect his parents would have taken steps to remove him from harm’s way. Something I don’t see the Arkansas parents bothering to do for their son.

    I hope the national attention helps Billy, as well as other kids going through the same hell.

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  17. Kirk said on March 24, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Well, Connie, I’d never heard of Dyngus Day so I had to look it up. Turns out it’s a Polish deal (my wife’s half Polish, but she’s never mentioned it). If anyone cares, this site has all you need (including a fine shot of a worthy Mr. and Mrs. Dyngus Day). Now I can’t stop thinking about the Schmenge Brothers.


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  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Well, i’ll cautiously still re-state: making this or any situation like this fit into a victim/offender template rarely moves anyone towards a solution. It’s not about blaming Billy, but it is about looking at him as something other than a purely passive victim, and his tormentors as guilty thugs. That feels satisfying, but isn’t going to work. I’ve had many, many conversations with parents who want to know how the other child is being punished, and refuse to participate in mediation or any other form of diversion unless we tell them what’s happening to the other kid, which of course we can’t do.

    And they leave threatening legal action, decline mediation, and 99 out of 100 don’t actually do anything . . . in this case, they did. Maybe that’s what they needed to do; it is their right. But it isn’t going to improve any relationships at that school, and they aren’t showing any interest in that — what they want is more punishment listed on the books that they can see and viscerally appreciate. Which next time, once it’s written into the new Student Handbook (please read, have your parents sign, and bring back the signed back page with perforations by homeroom next Monday), could be applied . . . to Billy.

    My worry on the national interest these days in “bullying” is how often the discussion gets off into the weeds of sorting out who the bullies are, and by implication who the victims are, as if those are enduring categories, when the everyday reality is that we have a bullying culture that needs changing. I was two years younger than my classmates and bookish, and spent a good part of my life dreading bus rides and th cafeteria. Until 11th grade, i was shortest in my class to boot, and since i was in drama club right through, got called “gay” and “fag” often enough. But tagging me a victim and the knuckle-draggers offenders wouldn’t have fixed a thing.

    Nowadays my fourth grade son, in Ohio’s finest school system (they tell us ceaselessly), gets called “gay” and “retard” and shoved on the bus. I honestly don’t know what the answer is, but acknowledging something’s broken in the culture that can maintain those fractures is a start. And i do think Barry was trying to get off an effective indirect critique of the silliness and absurdity of homophobia, which is the strongest part of the piece. But does he sympathize with the parents? Read it again, your mileage may vary, i s’pose.

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  19. beb said on March 24, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Jeff (The mild-mannered one says:
    Detroit is in the news for non-murder related events, so life is good, right?

    Actually there is a dead hooker in there.

    Alex says: …you pulled the first punch.”

    No, that should be “threw” the first punch. A pulled punch is one that doesn’t land. Compliments of your local grammar nazi…

    What Danny says:
    The technology aspect of the bullying story is very disturbing. Between cell phones and the social networking sites, there is no breathing room or escape for kids today. They can’t simply sneak out the back door of the school and run home to safety and rest.

    Dingus Day — It’s a pancake breakfast, with sausages but pancakes first. It’s a big day for Democratic politicians to schmoov with their district.

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  20. Mindy said on March 24, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Saw only part of Sex in the City once upon a time. Just long enough to recognize one of the actresses from the movie Amadeus, she was the housekeeper.

    Ah, Dyngus Day. I grew up near South Bend and thought everyone everywhere celebrated the day with too much beer until I left the state and learned otherwise. Pat’s Pub in South Bend was the watering hole for big shots back in the day. Dear old Mum was there Dyngusing once upon a time and had had a few too many when she told a guy a table that his posture was awful and to sit up straight. It was Dick Lugar.

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  21. nancy said on March 24, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    What bugs me, Jeff, is how we’ve managed to make our schools into these battle zones where the one thing that is truly maintained at the zero-tolerance level is common sense.

    Example: A few years ago, an exchange student at a FW high school took a camera into the locker room after an athletic practice. He walked up on a bunch of his classmates in the shower and said, “Smile!” The pictures were typical — a few over-the-shoulder O-faces, a couple of clowns facing the camera with their hands over the naughty bits, etc. This being perhaps the last year before digital photography took over the world, the kid developed a few prints in the school’s photo lab. Whereupon all hell broke loose.

    The school either suspended or expelled every kid involved, and “involved” included “in the picture.” So kids who were doing nothing more than taking a shower when the Ukrainian exchange student came through with a camera were booted, too.

    When all this came to light, the reaction was by the book: The school refused to admit any wrongdoing whatsoever, and quoted some chapter-and-verse boilerplate about lewdness and cameras in a locker room and blah blah blah. They justified suspending the photographed kids on grounds they didn’t immediately go to an adult to report the felonious misbehavior in the locker room.

    But here’s what struck me: One set of parents who objected to this absurd neutron bomb of a punishment brought a recorder to their meeting with the principal. That tower of educational excellence, his voice dripping with condescension, asked the kid, “Do you enjoy having your picture taken in the shower, Jason? Is this something you do often?” When any fool who saw the pictures could see the mood was one of pranking your friends, not capturing erotic trophies. The kid’s father showed admirable restraint in not overturning the principal’s desk and strangling the stupid asshole. And the most bewildered of all was the Ukrainian kid, who must have felt like he’d tried to shake a left hand in one of those countries where you wipe your ass with it. He hadn’t gone into the girls’ locker room. No penises were shown, although a few bare bums were. He was just having fun. He was printing the pictures so everyone could have a copy. And he gets kicked out of school over it.

    Throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking, “Does anybody ever consider that this is a high school, and high schools contain adolescents, and adolescents AREN’T ADULTS, and hence will make mistakes, and act impulsively, and sometimes you have to use judgment when you’re assembling a firing squad?” These principals, in a place like Indiana, make salaries that almost certainly nudge six figures. Is it asking so much to expect them to act like a highly paid, highly educated person with a brain? Apparently so.

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  22. Danny said on March 24, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Alex, I truly empathize with you.

    Back in junior high, I saw this flamboyant kid, who normally deflected a lot of ridicule with self-deprecating humor, finally get exasperated and defend himself against another kid in the hall one day. Even though I had certainly had to deal with my share of bullies, I never really appreciated what he must have endured until then. Looking back, I realize I must have had a mini-epiphany that day, or at least as much of one as a 14-year old is capable of.

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  23. sue said on March 24, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Nancy, I am so with you on this. My son, who spent four years in high school keeping his head down, was threatened with expulsion two weeks before graduation because he was at the same lunch table with two kids who started fighting. Zero tolerance, you know. Unless you’re a jock. MMJeff, with all kinds of respect to your credentials, I must disagree with some of your points. I really think you can put bullies and victims into categories and deal with them as such. The lesson I learned from my years dealing with bullies is this: You do not have to like everyone, but you sure as hell don’t have to make their life a living hell because of it. I taught that to my children right along with Love One Another. I never won against the bullies, and I never had any help. But by God no one was going to get my kids if I could help it.

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  24. del said on March 24, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Yeah, zero tolerance for school kids defies logic. And my guess is that school administrators’ fears of lawsuits are overblown. Not much real liability for school adminstrators, I think. The generic legal standard should apply; administrators should act with “reason and prudence.” And if the administrators screw up, are jerks, etc., by all means get another read from a judge. That’s what they’re there for and what all “free” societies allow. And if you want to minimize cost and get to a good result, let Jeff mediate it. But let’s not get down on going to court; some people are so unreasonable they’ve gotta be told what to do by a higher power, uh, the courts, I mean. In Macomb County a prosecutor, I think, brought a case based on schoolyard bullying in Centerline a couple of years back. The public dialogue struck me. Most folks disapproved. Why not resort to court, criminal or civil? That’s what it’s there for, right?

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  25. Julie Robinson said on March 24, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Our church has a small K-8 school, and we often get the kids like this, that are beaten and abused at other schools. Our teachers have performed some amazing miracles along the way. Who knows what early intervention can prevent later in life? But it’s really expensive to run a school with tiny class sizes, and we feel the pinch.

    Sue, I know what you mean about the Coach bag. Many years ago we drove a friend’s Mercedes for about a week. We were thinking of buying it to replace our wreck, even though it was 15 years old with lots of rust. What an eye opener–everyone reacted to the car, not us. They automatically assumed we were rich snobs when nothing had changed.

    So give me my Caravan anyday as well as a purse from Penney’s or Kohl’s. Nothing fancier needed or wanted.

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Sue, you’re right . . . but. 😉

    There are bullies, and there are victims. Absolutely — sometimes. Most of the time, there’s in between. Dozens, hundreds of them. That’s the bulk of the student fighting cases, of which there are many, most of which were not that long ago broken up by the burly asst. principal (the one with the paddle hanging on his office door that banged when he slammed it shut), and they were told “shake hands, shut up, and don’t do it again.” The good old days? No, but . . .

    Nancy, the administrators are so often hamstrung by myriad state guidelines and mandates (written by the clods in the Statehouse) they don’t know what they’re allowed to do, except that they’re supposed to keep everyone in the building and moving towards graduation, even the juniors with one earned credit and six months to their 18th birthday. I do think a dangerous percentage of the principal-ocracy are more interested in keeping their jobs than helping marginal kids, which i tend to condemn under my breath, but hey, i’m a kept man and can afford to speak my mind. The average principal has been in their school two-and-a-half years around Ohio, which is an insane turnover rate for that job if you ask me, but it shows that the number of ex-coaches parked in an office hitting on the Four Roses bottle afternoons isn’t what it was (my mom’s principal in 1950’s Illinois had one, and if he offered you a shot, it meant the next words were — you’re fired).

    [For those worried about Ohio’s taxpayers — this is spring break week, and i work part-time on w-f-h invoice, with very few hours this week since the schools are shut and kids don’t answer phones at home during the day. Well, their cell phones, but they don’t give me those numbers, worse luck. So i’m at home with my son not doing paid freelance writing by commenting too much online. Not on the public nickle today.]

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  27. whitebeard said on March 24, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I was bullied as a teenager because I was a skinny, bookworm nerd and a teacher’s pet and did not know how to fight back. Until one day when the class bully attacked me and I purposely fell to the ground and brought my bony knee up swiftly into his tender parts. He writhed on the ground howling in pain for 20 minutes and no one, especially him, ever bothered me again in school.
    Now at 70, I am more than six feet tall, have shrunk to 245 pounds, look as mean as hell and when I walk near Times Square, (with care, mind you) the bad dudes cross to the other side of the street.
    I do not need to teach the knee-in-the-groin move to my grandson, just 13. who lives with us permanently, because he is very athletic and taller and superior, physically and mentally, than most kids in his school.
    But he is African-American and Canadian Indian in a basically lily-white school and we pounce on principals and teachers alike at even the slightest hint of racism, either in words or looks.
    At summer camp when one blonde boy, echoing his parents, said our grandson would be nowhere if his ancestors had not freed the slaves, I gently told the boy that my grandson’s ancestors had been standing on shore watching as the first Europeans landed.
    Not only did the blonde boy apologize but he became a staunch defender of my grandson when other bigots and racist piglets surfaced.

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  28. Harl Delos said on March 24, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    At the same time I think physical beatings get too much a bad rap vis-a-vis psychological beatings.

    At Columbine, kids exploded into violence because they felt they were being abused. After the killing, the school’s policy changed: they increased the abuse level.

    Something like 93% of all school administrators are former coaches; they mostly seem to have learned their management skills from the likes of Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes.

    It’s not nearly so bad that coaches hit the Four Roses so much as they hit the Four Jones and the Four Smiths, and the Four Jacksons….

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  29. del said on March 24, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    At the risk of sounding like a neanderthal I recall fondly the whispered remarks of a genteel federal prosecutor whose private school education included a stint at Michael J’s high school alma mater (a few years before him). While standing in line near some particularly obnoxious people he waxed poetical in longing for a two-by-four to mete out swift justice upon the Rude. Quoted the gospel of John, I think. The juxtaposition of elequoence, violence and justice . . . always riveting. Standing up to bullies, fighting the good fight, always fun. That I don’t always know what the good fight is is a problem though.
    I occasionally suffered at the hands of bullies as a kid. It’s a function of having a quick tongue. Yes, if I had it to do all over again I don’t think I would have refused as a freshman football player the request of a senior player to remove my cleats before entering the lockerroom.

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  30. Linda said on March 24, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    As a middle-aged Polish-American lady, I remember Dyngus day as Switch Day, when the ancient Polish custom of dousing girls with water and hitting them with switches (I’m betting it was a pre-Christian based fertility ritual) meant that if a girl showed her face in public, she would get water or rotten eggs thrown at her. It might be a good day for Buffalo politicians to hustle votes, but I hated it.

    Re: the Kilpatrick charges. I watched the prosecutor, and she sounded like an angry lady. His office, apparently, was stonewalling her, saying documents were destroyed, not handing them over, etc. Two people you never want to piss off are cops and prosecutors.

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  31. Lance Mannion said on March 24, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    “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.”

    Asperger’s, borderline autistic, Tourette, ADD…something! And despite everything we know about all the various learning disabilities and emotional and mental handicaps so many kids have to deal with, our schools are still staffed by morons who do not come to the obvious conclusions when they have to deal with such a kid. All they see is a behavior problem. To them the Billys of this world aren’t victims, they are simply problems or causes of problems and they want to be rid of them as quickly as possible.

    Billy’s parents may think they’re teaching him important lessons about courage and standing up for principle (against principals) but what they’re doing is sacrificing the kid to their own vanities. Five’ll get you ten it hasn’t crossed their minds that Billy might have special needs either.

    One question though. If the assaults have been recorded and the parents know all the names, why haven’t they called the cops themselves?

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  32. Kevin Knuth said on March 25, 2008 at 6:44 am

    One day, this kid will snap…….and it will be a tragedy.

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  33. LaRoy Clark said on March 26, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I cannot believe that so many people are blaming the parents. Coming from the poorest family in our town, I was picked on from about 3rd grade till my freshman year. Moving was not feasible, hell, we just bought the house, let alone try to sell it and move. Busing was not an option either. My father tried to work things out with the school as much as possible but seemed much in the position that Billy’s family finds themselves in now. By the end of my 8th grade year, my father was pretty sick and tired of having one of his girls hit and shoved by not only other girls, but guys as well. That summer was the turning point in my life, the year my father taught me how to ball my fists up and fight back. Guess what? the school finally did something… they suspended me over and over again for fighting. Had they taken this stance in the begining with the bullies, then the school would control the situation and my father would not have had to step in. The only parents to blame here are the parents of the bullies, why are Billy’s parents on trial here? If they attempt to teach Billy courage, they are crititiqued for their parenting skills, if they tell him to fight back, they will most definately find Billy in trouble with the school.

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  34. del said on March 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    You’re right LaRoy, moving’s not really a feasible option for most — glad things worked out for you.

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