Sunday, June 24, 2012

the bullying of billy

NY Times: Bullying is everywhere, including here in Fayetteville, a city of 60,000 with one of the country’s better school systems. A decade ago a Fayetteville student was mercilessly harassed and beaten for being gay. After a complaint was filed with the Office of Civil Rights, the district adopted procedures to promote tolerance and respect none of which seems to have been of much comfort to Billy Wolfe. It remains unclear why Billy became a target at age 12; schoolyard anthropology can be so nuanced. Maybe because he was so tall, or wore glasses then, or has a learning disability that affects his reading comprehension. Or maybe some kids were just bored. Or angry. Whatever the reason, addressing the bullying of Billy has become a second job for his parents: Curt, a senior data analyst, and Penney, the owner of an office-supply company. They have binders of school records and police reports, along with photos documenting the bruises and black eyes. They are well known to school officials, perhaps even too well known, but they make no apologies for being vigilant. They also reject any suggestion that they should move out of the district because of this. The many incidents seem to blur together into one protracted assault. When Billy attaches a bully’s name to one beating, his mother corrects him. “That was Benny, sweetie,” she says. “That was in the eighth grade.” 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. 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 (A Boy the Bullies Love to Beat Up, Repeatedly).

Today MSNBC MSN: “They get away with it, so they think they can just keep doing it,” Billy told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer. “I don’t really know what started it. Maybe ’cause I moved here in elementary school and it followed me all the way to high school.” His mother echoes his words. “I honestly don’t know,” she said. “From the first assault when the kids didn’t get in trouble, they thought it was okay. They thought, ‘He’s a good target, he’s an easy target, and it’s okay to hit him because we’re not going to get in trouble.’ ”In addition to physical assaults, there has been cyber bullying that has ranged from an Internet posting that said, “Everyone hates Billy Wolfe,” to another accusing him of being gay. His parents have pursued the normal avenues of redress, from talking to the parents of Billy’s tormentors to appealing to school officials. As the assaults have continued, they’ve finally resorted to hiring an attorney and suing at least one of the bullies. They’ve also gone public, telling Billy’s story to The New York Times, which played it on the front page of the newspaper (Parents sue son’s bully, threaten school district).

Billy Wolfe - Fayetteville, Arkansas high school sophomore Billy Wolfe has been a target of school bullies for years. He and his parents have filed a lawsuit against one such bully, Ian Teeters, along with several other unnamed "John Doe" bullies. They are also considering a suit against the school district. Among the incidents described by a New York Times article on Wolfe are prank calls made to his home, beatings that caused the boy to lose consciousness and a Facebook group set up to ridicule him entitled "Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe." Wolfe's school has received over 300 phone calls and e-mails since the story broke, including at least one that was threatening. The school district is now working with the FBI to determine the source of these threats (

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Bullying is an abusive treatment, the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when habitual and involving an imbalance of power. It may involve verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed persistently towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. The "imbalance of power" may be social power and/or physical power. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a "targeted individual" (Wikipedia).