I hate bullies. I have since I was a victim of bullying when I was a kid. Some people are shocked when I tell them that. In my heyday, I was a 6’1″ 220-pound college football player, and despite certain part of me shrinking because of my advancing age, my bald head and my goatee still cast a rough exterior. My daughters tell me that teenage boys are intimidated by me. And the problem with that is?
But when I was around 7- or 8-years old, we moved to a new neighborhood, and I was the new kid on the block. The unusual aspect of my bullying experience was that I was bigger than everyone else my age. By a lot! I grew so fast when I was a kid that my Mom used to tell me that instead of buying me new shoes every 6 months, she was just going to buy me the boxes instead. I was 5’10″ by 8th grade.
I think that’s why I got bullied, though. I was ‘different’ than all of the other kids on the block who were my age. There was a little runt on the block who thought he owned the joint. His father was a military man and raised his sons with strict discipline.
Fortunately, in the old days, we kids were allowed to resolve our bully dilemmas the old fashioned way. One Saturday, the ring leader and three or four of his friends surrounded me and were planning to gang up on me. I knew I was screwed because there was no escape. My Dad was in the driveway of our house, a couple of doors down, with the family car up on blocks changing the break shoes. He saw what was about to transpire, dropped his tools and sprinted across three front yards to where I was surrounded. I never saw my old man move so fast. But he was also really smart.
He didn’t stop the altercation. Instead, he said, “okay, if you want a piece of Dave, that’s fine. But you’re going to have to go one at a time. Who’s first?”
Of course the little military brat stepped up without hesitation. I was a little awkward and a little inexperienced, but I bloodied that little sucker pretty good, and he ran home with his tail between his legs. My Dad was physically standing between the line of boys and me. After the ring leader scurried away, my Dad turned around and said, “who’s next?” They scattered like flies too close to a fire.
My three daughters hate bullies, too. I’m not sure why or how, because I don’t tell that story very often. Maybe it’s because of how my daughters have observed the way I’ve treated all the little girls I’ve been blessed to coach for the past 15 years in youth sports. Maybe it’s something else I’ve done or said over the years. I don’t know.
So suffice it to say that I was pretty honked off earlier this week when my youngest daughter was slapped with eight days of detention, essentially for defending herself and her friends to a group of girls who’ve been bullying kids at her school for the past two years. Isn’t it always the second person into the fracass that gets caught?
When presented with the evidence by the vice principal, my wife and I agreed that our daughter, indeed, did deserve to be punished. We are proud of her that she stood up for herself and for her friends. But the manner in which she responded was inappropriate. We have no problem with the school holding her to the school guidelines, and we also have held her accountable for her actions.
The problem is, bullying policies that have no teeth, or are difficult to enforce, or are not specific enough to prevent the bullies from continuing their destructive behavior are useless.
When we asked the vice principal why the bullying instigators weren’t also being punished, he said he had no proof. I asked him how much proof he required? There are 500 kids at the school who can testify to the bullying behavior of these six girls. There’s Twitter messages and Facebook posts, and again, like 500 witnesses. He said it wasn’t enough. In a court of law, it would be easy to convict. In my daughter’s high school, you need, at the minimum, OJ Simpson’s legal team.
Rest assured, within 24 hours, the vice principal had more than enough evience to punish the perpetrators. I don’t know from where it came. But true to his word, he dispensed the appropriate discipline. Well, I think he went a little easy if you ask me.
There is a parental component to this saga, but I’ve gone on too long already. That will be a Part II next week.
What kind of anti-bullying policy requires paper, hard-copy evidence? Why isn’t eye-witness testimony of both physical and verbal assaults, as well as hundreds of eye balls monitoring various social media traffic enough to prompt administrators to take action? Does a student have to show up in the office with a black eye or a broken arm as proof before the bullies can be punished?
I like my Dad’s method better.
P.S. Don’t forget to tell your daughter that you love her.
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