A failure of parenting

On the part of the parents of the bullies and the bullied alike:

Brimming with outrage and incredulity, the sheriff said in a news conference on Tuesday that he was stunned by the older girl’s Saturday Facebook posting. But he reserved his harshest words for the girl’s parents for failing to monitor her behavior, after she had been questioned by the police, and for allowing her to keep her cellphone.

“I’m aggravated that the parents are not doing what parents should do: after she is questioned and involved in this, why does she even have a device?” Sheriff Judd said. “Parents, who instead of taking that device and smashing it into a thousand pieces in front of that child, say her account was hacked.”

The police said the dispute with Rebecca began over a boy. The older girl was upset that Rebecca had once dated her boyfriend, they said.

“She began to harass and ultimately torment Rebecca,” said the sheriff, describing the 14-year-old as a girl with a long history of bullying behavior.

The police said the older girl began to turn Rebecca’s friends against her, including her former best friend, the 12-year-old who was charged. She told anyone who tried to befriend Rebecca that they also would be bullied, the affidavit said.

The bullying leapt into the virtual world, Sheriff Judd said, and Rebecca began receiving sordid messages instructing her to “go kill yourself.” The police said Rebecca’s mother was reluctant to take her cellphone away because she did not want to alienate her daughter and wanted her to be able to communicate with her friends. Ms. Norman tried, she has said, to monitor Rebecca’s cellphone activity.

In December, the bullying grew so intense that Rebecca began cutting herself and was sent to a hospital by her mother to receive psychiatric care. Ultimately, her mother pulled her out of Crystal Lake Middle School. She home schooled her for a while and then enrolled her in a new school in August.

But the bullying did not stop.

Like the sheriff, a lot of people will be upset with the parents of the female bully. The sheriff was right, the mother shouldn’t have worried about preserving either her relationship with her daughter or her daughter’s ability to communicate – that was half the problem, as it happens.

But parents of children who are bullied also have to learn to stand up for their children where necessary. If any of my kids was being plagued in such an insidious manner, I’d not only warn the parents it had better stop, I’d speak to the bully and let them know in no uncertain terms that they had better pray to whatever deity or scientific process they believe in that nothing happened to my child, because neither they nor their family would survive the day it did. The one thing bullies always understand is hard targets; if your child is simply too soft to be one, then you have a responsibility to step into the incoming fire as a parent.

Of course everyone will throw a complete fit if you threaten consequences, especially the women. So what? The point isn’t your reputation among the wicked and the foolish, it is the protection of your children. And the best defense is a strong offense.

Society has become far too soft and tolerant of the wicked. On an old episode of QI the other night, Stephen Fry mentioned Dangerous Dan, a sheriff who cleaned up a town called Shakespeare. One of the men he hanged was executed for the crime of “being a damned nuisance”. If the sheriff in this case had been more like Dangerous Dan, the bullies would be the dead ones rather than their victim. That being said, I’m glad he had the stones to charge the girls with felony offenses. The bullies and the parents deserve to be put through years of legal hell; perhaps that will encourage parents to shut down such behavior on the part of their children in the future.

Ender got in trouble about two weeks ago after a huge younger kid – he’s six feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds – who has bullied his fellow students for years decided to start testing his ability to push the older kids around. Ender couldn’t manage to flip the kid or put him in a judo hold because he was too big and strong, so as the kid tried to force him down to the ground, he switched tactics and threw a pair of hard uppercuts that split the kid’s lip and bloodied his nose. That sent the kid reeling, at which point the adult team players broke them up.  Lesson: mixed martial arts training works. It’s always good to have multiple tools in the toolbox.

The problem is that the idiot first-year coach, who has no sons, no experience, and less sense, overreacted, suspended both boys for three games apiece for fighting, (which will almost surely cost the team all three games since they are two of the four starting defenders), and warned them that they’d be kicked off the team if they got into it again. When Ender asked SB and me what he should do if the kid is dumb enough to try it again, we told him to simply take care of business and let me sort it out with the club, to which we both belong. I’ve already written a letter asking the governing committee to specifically endorse the right of the players to defend themselves without consequence and spoken to two of my teammates who are on the committee. Both of them were incredulous that the coach would suspend someone who was simply defending himself.

Meanwhile, Ender is a hero to the entire younger half of the team, who have been victimized by this kid for nearly their entire school lives. And, perhaps more importantly, he knows his parents have his back no matter what happens.

On a weirdly related note, the Utah Supreme Court is about to decide if an employer has the right to fire an employee on the basis of the employee’s legal exercise of his right to self-defense.

Now, the federal district court in Ray v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (D. Utah Oct. 9, 2013) has just certified this question as to Utah state law to the Utah Supreme Court. The Utah Supreme Court may either issue an opinion answering the question, in which case the federal judge will follow it (since federal judges are supposed to follow state court decisions about state law), or the Utah Supreme Court may decline to do so, in which case the federal judge will decide the matter for himself, drawing inferences from more general Utah state cases. And if the state supreme court does answer the question, then the result should prove quite influential.

I think it is unwise to work or play anywhere you do not have the right to freely defend yourself against an attacker.