All Articles Tagged "bully"
The case of Kiera Wilmot, the 16-year-old student at Bartow High School expelled and charged with a felony count for a bottle bomb/unauthorized science experiment, has inspired a number of petitions on Change.org from concerned citizens who are demanding that the charges be dropped and she be admitted back into school.
Despite what could have transpired around this ill-advised “science experiment” of hers, Wilmot is by most accounts, an above-average teenager, who gets good grades and is generally well-behaved in school. That’s why many folks have expressed outrage over the severity of her charges from the local district attorney. Even her principal, who because of the district’s zero tolerance policy, reported the incident to police, has come to Wilmot’s defense. And as one of the petition creators suggested, Women make up only 20% of computer science jobs, 23% of graduate students in engineering, and only 25% of the STEM workforce. We are not going to resolve the gender gap in science and math fields by punishing girls for pursuing the fields.
I will co-sign that her inquisitive mind should be encouraged – perhaps in more controlled environments – however, I wouldn’t go as far as to christen her the next Marie Curie. By most accounts, she heard about a bottle bomb (also known as a work bomb) from a friend and wanted to try it for herself. She ended up scaring the crap out of a bunch of people, which is not a smart thing to do, especially not after the school shootings and recent bombing in Boston. However, I don’t exactly go around expecting 16 year olds to always do smart things. And that is why I am so happy that there has been public push back in this case. For me, Wilmot’s story gets at the heart of the problem with zero tolerance, which is not only an attitude, but as we see, a firm policy in some towns and school districts.
Ironically, the night before I read about the Wilmot case, I started watching on Neflix Lee Hirsch’s documentary, Bully. This is the controversial documentary about the often unforeseen effects of schoolyard bullying on the lives of young people. The documentary was controversial because it initially received an “R” rating, which meant it couldn’t be shown to young audiences who might need to see it most, but after some public nudging by Harvey Weinstein, the film was re-rated to a more teen-friendly PG-13. I’ve been avoiding this documentary because I just knew that it was going to make me upset. And as suspected, I was right. One of the stories, about 14-year-old Ja’Meya Jackson from Yazoo County, Mississippi, is the one that really got to me. She was an honor role student, who was facing heavy time for brandishing a gun on a school bus. According to Ja’Meya, she decided to get the gun, which belonged to her mother, after growing tired of being picked on by a few students on the school bus. Among her tormentors was a boy, who bragged about how he was not scared to fight girls. The whole incident was caught on the bus camera, and seeing the video and hearing her account provided some context to how this could happen. And yet, with this context, the local district attorney felt that there were “no excuses” for her bringing a gun on a bus, and he felt justified in charging her with 45 felony counts, including 22 felony kidnapping charges.
I turned the film off at that point so I can’t tell you her fate. I was just too angry to even finish watching after listening to the district attorney justify why this level of prosecution was needed against this child. Did she act recklessly? No doubt. Could she have seriously hurt someone and herself? Yes. Are there consequences to be had for her actions? Yuppers. But who says that those consequences have to be jail? And what value does it serve society in throwing an otherwise straight-arrowed child in prison for years? I can’t think of any.
There is a discussion to be had here about how this heavy-handedness towards our children contributes to the school to prison pipeline. Neither Kiera or Ja’Meya fit the stereotype of youth, who most folks would associate with felony crimes. As far as we know, they are not vicious and cruel. They don’t have a bunch of tattoos or baby daddies. They were not beating girls up and then uploading videos of it to WorldStar. They were, for all intents and purposes, what most people would describe as good kids, who deviated off from a pretty good path. Rehabilitation and the proper guidance to show them the error of their ways could probably have more results than a lengthy prison sentence. But that’s if producing well-rounded citizens is the motivation…
I think what is most unnerving about these stories is that I can recall about several incidences from my youth, which could have landed me in the same position as Kiera or Ja’Meya. I would name them but they were pretty boneheaded and by today’s zero tolerance standards, likely criminal. And it wasn’t like I was a bad kid; I just did stupid things at times. I didn’t always think about how my actions would effect other people. And that is at the core of what’s wrong with zero tolerance as a practice. It doesn’t recognize what is an essential part in growing up human; and that is making mistakes – even intentional ones. It provides no room for differences and nuances; that since you have the same outcome as someone else, how you both got there is the same. And that’s not true in any respects in life, and it is certainly not true for teenagers.
When I first learned that I was going to be in New York the summer after my college graduation, I told myself that I wasn’t going to be a “Mary Tyler Moore” or a “Carrie Bradshaw.” I was not one of those small-town girls who made it out of the country, only to be seduced by the big city. I’d been to New York before…it didn’t impress me all that much.
Well, turns out visiting New York, experiencing the city in between conferences and plush hotel rooms is completely different from working in the city and living in Brooklyn. First I fell in love with Brooklyn and then I noticed that Manhattan, where I worked, had an energy that literally and figuratively propelled me to succeed. By the second month, of my three month internship, I was making plans to have a New York address before the year was out. Moving to New York, meant I would need to open a bank account somewhere in the city. Being that there was a Chase on every corner, that was the obvious choice. So one day, after work I walked a block or so to the nearest Chase to open up an account.
As a black woman, you always notice the other black people in the room. This person, I honestly can’t even remember his name at this point, was working at one of the desks. When he saw my “I need assistance” look, he jumped up to help me. I told him I needed to open up an account. We headed back to his desk where he set me up. In between the paperwork and the questions, there was small talk. What do you do for a living? I told him, so he knew my office was literally a block from his own. What do you do for fun? He told me that he was into racing cars. And that’s what he did on the weekend. He told me he knew Nicole Scherzinger’s boyfriend Lewis Hamilton. At the time I was looking for a story about black people to pitch to a black publication and this seemed ideal.I mentioned that I would like to speak to he and Hamilton if possible. So when he suggested he and I grab lunch next week, I just knew it was because he wanted to talk to me about the racing. I wasn’t really opposed to going on a date with him, but he was too short and not attractive enough for it to be my first thought. Aside from the fact that he tried to tell me that the login I’d chosen for my bank account, should have been different, I didn’t get any seriously bad vibes from him, so I figured going out to lunch, wouldn’t be too bad. Still the day of the date, I gave my mom the address of the Chipotle we were going to just in case she needed to provide the authorities with the address of the last place I’d been seen alive.
He took me to the Chipotle, where his uncle, who worked there, hooked us up.
As soon as I sat down, he says, “Well, what do you want to talk about?” Hmm…nice way to break the ice there pal. I thought it was weird but I just assumed he meant, what questions did I have about racing. I turned away to get my notepad out. Yes, I’d prepared questions. He must have been looking at me funny or something because in the midst of my search, I asked him, “You mean about racing right?”
“No, about anything.”
That’s when it hit me, he thought this was a date. I was immediately disgusted. At him for bamboozling me and at myself for falling for it. But I was already there, so I just needed to make the best of the situation.
Unfortunately, it was easier thought than done. Before our date ended, homeboy told me that he didn’t really get down with his family members and he didn’t believe in God. Now, I’d like to think I’m tolerate of religious beliefs and what not; but as someone who’s super close to their family and someone whose relationship with God is vitally important, I would never fool myself into believing that I could date someone who didn’t share my faith, or at least believe in a higher power. I had pretty much checked out. It was all just too much: the bamboozlement, the lack of faith and the struggle to converse were the three strikes I needed to be done. Thank God I had to get back to work.
I told him we had better be going. As he was walking back to my job, we saw some man, who looked the part of a stereotypical gay man. He was impeccably dressed, with vibrant colors, a man bag and a fresh fade. He looked good. My date didn’t seem to agree though. As soon as the man crossed his line of vision, he started clowning him. “Look at this dude. Walking around looking like a nerd!” I was silent. What was this high school? I told him I liked the brotha’s ensemble. That’s when my date said one of the saddest, most pathetic things I’d ever heard. “Well, you know sometimes you have to talk about people first before they can get a chance to talk about you.”
I scoffed, before I dropped just a little bit of knowledge on him, “I’m sure people aren’t looking at you as much as you think they are.”
It was at this point that I knew that this was the last time I would see dude. He was tragically insecure. Probably one of those kids who was a bully to his peers in high school. I was officially disgusted.
I thought that was the last time I’d see him; but lo and behold as I was walking down the stairs into the subway station, who do I see but my date. I tried to make myself small and take another staircase; but before I could turn and walk the other way, he’d spotted me.
I walked down the stairs slowly. He was with one of his coworkers so I didn’t have to be too accommodating. Thankfully, my date wasn’t going too far on the train and I could get by with fake, close lipped smiles and “umm hmms.” Before he jumped off he said, “Veronica, have you ever been to Coney Island?” I hadn’t and, instead of lying, I told the truth.
“I should take you sometime.”
I just said “Hmm…”
Why in the world does the city of Los Angeles keep allowing Frick and Frack to run aimlessly around with no supervision?
Okay, so we just reported this morning that Katt Williams was arrested Friday on child endangerment charges. Well, hours after he was released – hours – it appears he was a primary witness in a huge brawl involving his friend and tour manager, Suge Knight.
There are no details as to what exactly started the fight but someone sent a video in to TMZ where you clearly see him in some type of heated “situation” with a group of people. After a few security people are able to break things up (with one young man ending up on the ground), Suge walks a few feet away and ends up punching someone else in the face. We can only assume that the person must have said something Suge didn’t like because Suge landed the first punch.
Katt Williams was hiding between dumpsters during the exchange and once blows were thrown, he was ordered by someone who looks to have been part of his security team into a black truck. They immediately sped off.
As the video continues, other security guys are urging Suge to get into a white truck in order to leave the scene. Without giving notice to the packed parking lot of onlookers, Suge sped off and almost hit quite a few people.
How do these two find so much trouble? Suge is almost 50 years old and Katt is knocking on the door of 40 – when does this end? If you can’t figure out how to avoid having a fight at those ages, you don’t ever need to go out. I would say “grow up” but somehow, that doesn’t seem applicable.
While President Obama was solidifying his support of the LGBT community’s quest for equal rights including the right to marry, his opponent was raising eyebrows over allegations of aggressive behavior with a former gay classmate.
Mormon millionaire and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, has been accused of bullying a former classmate, who just so happened to be gay. The incident allegedly took place at the prestigious boarding Cranbrook School, where Romney attended high school.
According to the Washington Post, Romney, then a senior, spotted: “something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it. “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” an incensed Romney said.
A few days later, Romney allegedly lead a briefcase-carrying posse into Lauber’s room, tackled and pinned him to the ground and cut his hair with a pair of scissors as Lauber, cried and screamed for help. While originally thought as an isolated incident, another former (and anonymous) high-school classmate of Romney’s has stepped forward to claim that other fellow students have “really negative memories” of the Republican presidential candidate, and that his behavior during those years bordered on the lines of “Lord of the Flies.”
This has set off a firestorm of controversy in which many folks are questioning whether or not this story is an indication of the man Romney is today. And in an interview with Fox Radio, Romney laughed off the incident saying that he didn’t remember it happening and didn’t know the kid was gay. He did admit to participating in a lot of “hijinks and pranks” during his time at the boarding school. He also apologized, well he kind of apologized: “…and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by it, obviously I apologize.” Obviously.
Yet it was the ’60′s and a half-century later, we can all assume that he has grown beyond his formative years. I mean, he went on graduate college, recommitted himself to his Mormon faith, got married and raised a boatload of children. He also founded a successful business and ran a state. Lots of people are pretty horrible as teenagers. And surely a mistake we made when we were young – when we are still trying to decipher between what’s right and what’s wrong – should not have any bearing on what kind of person we are today.
I think that as long as people have gone to school, bullies have been a problem. However, it seems that today, kids are dealing with a whole new kind of bully. Almost like a super bully. One whose parents are blind to an issue, or better yet, in denial, and one whose violent and reckless behavior slides past school administrators far too easily. So how are you supposed to watch out for your kids in the hours that make up a school day (and they’re out of your hands) when everyone who is supposed to is not?
I remember when I first heard that my nephew had a bully. He’s one of my youngest nephews, and for his age, he’s a bit small (which makes him a prime target). This bully wasn’t just one of those a**holes I dealt with every once and a while as a kid who would poke fun at you and try and embarrass you in front of your peers. This snot-nosed kid had already put his hands on my nephew. In fact, he pushed my nephew down so hard in the bathroom that he hit his head on the ground and came home with a big knot. I was enraged, and of course, so was his mother–my sister-in-law.
You see, I’ve had nieces and nephews since I was a 4-year-old, and the oldest ones I have are, and have always been major athletes (it’s in our genes actually). Because they could bounce a basketball and get recognition from their peers for swinging a bat, they were deemed pretty popular. Therefore, they didn’t seem to have the burden of dealing with bullies too often (except for a niece who beat up a girl who tried to push her around…). But to finally hear that my little nephew was dealing with one, especially in a time when bullies are, as I stated earlier, super bullies (and more and more kids are committing suicide because of the harassment), I was worried. But my sister-in-law wasn’t having it. After not being able to get through to the mother of my nephew’s bully after telling the school, she went up to the young’n during lunch time, caught him while he was eating and let him know the real deal: “If you put your hands on my son again, you’re going to have to deal with me!” When I heard that she did this, I was kind of embarrassed for my nephew and thought she made the wrong move (what if his mother started coming around throwing threats?)…but that was until I saw the documentary Bully.
The recently released and much talked about film was so jarring because it put faces and names to the issue of bullying, aside from what we already know through school shootings, suicides, and our own personal experiences. They followed every kind of child, from a gay teenager struggling to get an education in peace, a boy with Asperger’s who was literally getting terrorized on the bus every day, to the families of young men who committed suicide, and even a teen who pulled a gun on her bullies while riding the school bus. While their experiences were haunting, nothing was probably more scary than watching a school administrator in the documentary blow off a family’s claim of abuse on their son (“They’re really just angels”), and try to solve a bully-victim issue by having two students shake hands. SHAKE HANDS!? I wanted to shake her. I realized that she was part of the problem and that in schools all across the country, there are many administrators just like her. Blind as bats and living like the society we’re living is a scene from “Happy Days.”
As much as I wanted to say that my sister-in-law had acted crazy a few months ago, while watching the documentary, I realized that there really isn’t a right move to keeping your kids safe when others aren’t stepping up and doing so when it’s their job–as both an administrator and parent. Was she supposed to wait until the bully broke my nephew’s nose or beat him like a mule? The boy’s mother clearly wasn’t going to wake up and smell the coffee (that her child is a heathen), so while I don’t agree with my sister-in-law’s actions 100 percent, sometimes a parent has to do what a parent has to do. Seriously, when you have people turning a blind eye to the bullying, saying it’s kids being kids and thinking things will be solved by having the bully and victim shake hands, it seems as though you really don’t have a choice.
In the end, if you were wondering, beef between my nephew and his bully seemed to calm down; not because my sister-in-law intervened, but because my nephew found a way to put him in his place. While in school minding his business, the bully pushed my nephew and called him a “baby.” Much to the bully’s surprise, my nephew must have downed his Wheaties in the morning, because he pushed him back pretty hard and said, “I’m not a baby!” That troublemaker somehow received the message, and for the most part, he isn’t terrorizing my nephew anymore (or sadly, maybe my nephew just isn’t saying anything anymore…).
In this day and age, it seems that the best way to get a bully off your back is to just stand up to them on your own; but it’s pretty sad to think that it’s left to a cornered kid by his or herself to deal with a bully situation these days.
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While Dharun Ravi, now 20, thought he was just playing an innocent practical joke on his roommate, Tyler Clementi, it was decided today in court that it was not a joke, but indeed a hate crime. Ravi captured Clementi’s sexual encounter with an older man and showed it on a webcam to countless classmates in 2010. Devastated by the fact that he was displayed by his roommate to so many strangers, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge soon after finding out. Now this childish act could possibly cost Rhavi his freedom, as well as the opportunity to stay in the United States.
The jury came down with the verdict after 12 hours of deliberation, and Ravi will be sentenced on May 21, facing up to 10 years in prison, as well as possible deportation. Ravi is an Indian citizen who spent the majority of his life in the U.S. He is currently free on bail, but had to turn over his passport. And while Rhavi and his attorney were hoping to push the idea that it was just a misguided prank by an immature freshman, Ravi’s own instant messages and emails around the time of the crime were the nail in the coffin: “Roommate asked for room till midnight. Went into Molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” Those type of statements, along with the fact that Ravi tried to tape Clementi’s sexual encounters with the same man not just once, but twice–but he was stopped when Clementi found out what was going on–didn’t help him at all.
Ravi was convicted on ALL 15 counts, including two counts of bias intimidation based on sexual orientation (a hate crime), invasion of privacy and tampering with evidence and witnesses. Last year, Clementi’s family said they didn’t want the punishment for Rhavi to be too harsh. They spoke out today after the verdict was read.
“The trial was painful for us, as it would be for any parent who must sit through and listen to people talk about bad things that were done to their child.”
While I hope they don’t deport Ravi, and that in the end, he doesn’t wind up with all 10 possible years in prison, I can understand why someone would think that sort of punishment would be necessary for him. We clearly live in a time now where bullies are pushing young people way too far (to other acts of violence or suicide), and not much is being done about it. Therefore, if this can open some young person’s eyes to the consequences of their own actions…then sadly, so be it.
Do you think he should have been found guilty? Was it a childish prank gone wrong, or was he acting out of hate?
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