Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Mark Shea would probably call this something like "Reason number 3.14159265358979323...etc. to Homeschool:"

SANFORD, Fla. -- A father furious because his 13-year-old daughter who suffers from cerebral palsy had been bullied stormed onto a school bus and threatened the children who teased her, deputies in Florida said.

The girl had to be hospitalized because of stress from the confrontation. The father, James Willie Jones, was arrested Thursday after he stormed onto the bus two weeks ago and later released on bail. He hopes to apologize to the children, said his attorney, Natalie Jackson.

"The little girl was scared to go to school. There has to be something done about school bullying," Jackson said.

Jones boarded the school bus on Sept. 3 because several boys were allegedly bullying his daughter, according to the sheriff's office report. He told deputies the boys placed an open condom on his daughter's head, smacked her on the back of her head, twisted her ear and shouted rude comments at her, the report said.

Video surveillance from the bus shows Jones asking his daughter to point out the students accused of harassing her. Jones is heard threatening those who bully his daughter, and he also threatens the bus driver.

Jones then steps off the bus. Some children are heard laughing. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Of course, this being America, Mr. Jones has now apologized to the bullies:

A Florida father wept as he apologized at a news conference for storming onto a school bus and threatening children onboard because his 13-year-old disabled daughter had been bullied.

James Willie Jones' voice cracked during the appearance Tuesday. He said he himself was acting as a bully and no parent should copy his behavior.

He says his daughter suffers from cerebral palsy and he "could not stand by and helplessly watch her suffer." Standing by his wife, who also wept, Jones apologized for how he handled the situation.

Of course, the truth is that the bullies should be apologizing to Mr. Jones. From behind bars.

No, I'm serious about this.

We act like bullying is just harmless kid stuff, like it's nothing but one of those things that Kids Will Do. We act as though several boys surrounding a disabled girl and hitting her, assaulting her, sexually harassing her, and otherwise tormenting her is something to shrug over, something for the kids themselves to laugh about, something normal and ordinary and a part of the life of children.

We act as though parents should be blameless in these situations, that they and their little darling monsters should be exempt from all consequences, that it is the victim, who is usually called the "crybaby" or the "tattletale" or the "whiner" for complaining about this thuggish, violent, horrific behavior who has the problem. School administrators and teachers learn early on that bullying is one of those things where siding with the victim will get them nothing but heartache and trouble--much easier to blame the victim for inviting the so-called "teasing" which is somehow inevitably his or her fault, than to expect the atrocious behavior of the spoiled, ugly, ignoble and dangerous mob to change one iota. Parents who show up time and time again to meet with teachers or principals in the naive, mistaken belief that these entities actually care about their child and do not wish for him or her to be bullied will learn their mistake--what the teachers and principals really want is for the victim of bullying to go away, either to be silent and allow himself or herself to be a human punching bag for the duration of his or her twelve-year sentence of educational incarceration or to leave the school altogether in the hopes of finding another school somewhere where the child will not be mentally, psychologically, and sometimes physically damaged by a pack of slavering brutes who exist to torment, and who thrive on human suffering.

The reason these drooling werewolves can get away with this is simple: there are no consequences. Carrying a weapon, even a toy gun, to school has consequences. Having aspirin in your backpack has consequences; sharing it with a classmate has dire ones. But beating up on a disabled girl as a way of asserting your superiority won't even get you time in detention, most of the time, let alone a suspension or expulsion.

I keep imagining a fictional 911 call that goes something like this:

Girl: Police, please. I'm being attacked.

911 Operator: What's happening?

Girl: There are three of them. They hit me, they've twisted my ear...

911 Operator: Where are you?

Girl: Riverside High.

911 Operator: Where...

Girl: Riverside High School.

911 Operator. Oh. Oh, okay. Listen, honey, I can't call the police, you know that.

Girl: I know. Should...should I try to get away from them, or...

911 Operator: No. No, you have to stay in school.

Girl: Oh. Well, can I hit them back?

911 Operator: No, of course you can't. Listen, here's what you do...

Girl: Yes? Please hurry...they're coming back.

911 Operator: Okay. Okay, you need to just...just put up with it.

Girl: Excuse me?

911 Operator: You can't run, you can't fight back, and you can't expect any grown-ups to help you. Not right now, anyway. What you do is, when it's over, you report it.

Girl: I what?

911 Operator: You report it, honey. You tell your teacher, and your parents.

Girl: But I've done that before.

911 Operator: Mmm-hmm.

Girl: And it doesn't help.

911 Operator: I know.

Girl: The bullies just keep...they just keep...

911 Operator: Listen, that's just how it works. It's a normal part of growing up. You see...

Girl: (interrupting) I have to go. The teacher is confiscating my cell phone.

So long as we think of bullying as some harmless little kids' game, something that children will do, something that doesn't need to be taken seriously, children are going to continue to be victimized by the mindless, cruel, brutish werewolves who prey on their fears and their pain. And all we're teaching children is that brutality works, and that there are no consequences for it, and that when they suffer from bullying, they should suffer alone and in silence--because that's the way the grown-ups want it.


Anonymous said...

The father has nothing to apologize for. Nothing at all. That poor girl.

You are so right about the school attitude towards bullying. I distinctly remember being lectured by a teacher in 5th grade for being anti-social. She told me it was my fault that I didn't have any friends. The reason? I had finally had enough of being mocked all through lunch time and had decided to go off and sit by myself. And yes, I was the one who got in trouble for that.

--Elizabeth B.

Red Cardigan said...

Elizabeth, I'm sorry. I had similar experiences, as you could probably guess from how I wrote this post. The excuses for bullying have been going on for generations, and the children are still suffering. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

Here's a story from 1980ish, when I was in early grade school. I was being teased by other boys, and poked somewhat severely with a metal screw. I complained to our (student) teacher. The rest of the day I got to wear a "tattletale" sign around my neck.

Bitch. I'm still pissed. And I'll be f***ed if I ever send my kids anywhere near a public school.


L. said...

What that father did was inexcusable -- I am appalled at his actions, and that anyone could possibly condone it.

What the bullies did was equally inexcusable, but that doesn't make the father's actions correct.

And I speak as a mother who walked her 8-year old son to school this morning, because he is being tormented by some older boys and the teachers won't believe me or take it seriously (and my husband is against homeschooling for language and cultural reasons, so it is out for us).

You don't fight violence with more threats. You fight it with vigilance and persistence.

Red Cardigan said...

Stl, I'm appalled and horrified by your story--but, sadly, not surprised.

L., the father yelled at the bullies. The bullies hit, pinched, and assaulted his *disabled* daughter. You'll forgive me for not wringing my hands over the father's quite pardonable lapse of temper--especially since, just as in the case of your son, the teachers were refusing to help at all.

L. said...

The article said the daughter was hospitalized as a result of the stress of the confrontation. I am not saying what the bullies did was acceptable, or that the school system handled it well. It sounds as if they were grossly negligent.

The father's anger itself was pardonable, but the way he expressed it was not (or at least it doesn't sound as if it was, from what it written in the article, which might have left information out).

L. said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I should also say that a father in our neighborhood is convinced that our son did something horrible to his daughter, and I am afraid of his anger -- although I believe it is rooted in a genuine desire to protect his child. This father, so far, has gone to the police, which, while drastic (and unwarranted), is a better way to handle it than threatening my son.

Carrie said...

I agree that the bullies are the ones who should be apologizing, behind bars. Bullying, especially in recent years, has gotten way out of control, and NO ONE does anything to stop it, even those who have the authority to do something. So the father lost his temper, ok - but what about the kids who bullied his daughter? What happens to them? The article goes on and on about what happens to the father, but they don't say anything about the bullies being reprimanded. And you know what? I bet they won't be. I watched my younger brother come home in tears from being bullied everyday at his high school, and when it was brought to the teachers' attention, they pooh-poohed it, or even worse, some justified the fact that they did nothing. Thankfully, he is being homeschooled again and isn't in that situation anymore. But I am sick of hearing stories of kids being bullied while the TEACHERS sit back and do nothing to stop it. It's situations like these that make me wish corporal punishment were permitted again - I bet a nice paddle to a bullies' rear end (done by the teacher, not the parent of the victim) might make them think twice about bullying!

David said...

"The truth is that the bullies should be apologizing to Mr. Jones."


I don't believe the father owed any apology whatsoever to those children. Those who had direct authority over the situation were not stepping up to correct their misbehavior or protect the little girl. It is the father's job to protect his family - especially with such a vulnerable child as this young lady who has cerebral palsy. He was not acting like a bully, he was acting like a man who loves his daughter and will fight to protect her, and who was infuriated that those who should have been on his side were not.

If I were this girl's older brother, I absolutely would have beaten the living crap out of these kids. And believe me, I'd have issued no apology for it. Those snot-nosed little brats wouldn't have been snickering when I was through with them.

An apology. Please.

Brian said...

I read stories like this and I cannot fathom how people can stand to send their kids to public schools. I saw a lot of this even at a "Catholic" school. But public schools? Brutal, from what I have heard many times.

There are so many arguments I find persuasive against homeschooling (any future children I might have). I really think daily interaction with lots of other children is helpful for social development.

It was for me, at least. But when I read these stories and think about the average cost of a Catholic school education these days, it doesn't surprise me that so many people are opting for homeschooling.

c matt said...

I am impressed with the restraint the father showed. I would not have just yelled at them.

L. - bullies only understand one thing - force. I am afraid your well intentioned but naive prescription for vigilance and persistence (meaning what, exactly?) won't prevent it.

JMB said...

My school district is obsessed with bullying. The kids have to sit through lecture upon lecture, workshops, presentations on cyber bullying, etc. It is the cause celebre in upper middle class school districts in my area. I don't really know if it's had a positive impact or not. My son had some issues during elementary school with a bully but he handled it himself. I find most parents to be very proactive about calling other parents about alleged bullying incidents and getting the school involved. I guess that's an improvement, but it does seem that parents are stepping in and trying to control so much more of their children's lives than my parents did for my siblings.

Aaron said...

I'm convinced that when people have children, it triggers a change in their brains to suppress many memories from childhood. That's the only way I can explain adults actually being excited and happy about putting their kids on the school bus. While we didn't have anything this extreme happen on my school bus 30 years ago (no one provided us with condoms for bullying tools, after all), there was bullying, stealing, and a general Lord of the Flies atmosphere as far as the bus driver would allow. (And back then a bus driver could still spank a kid, so it has to be worse today.) I don't recall any kid who enjoyed the experience, but the same people who hated getting on the bus back then put their own kids on the bus today with a big smile. Gotta be selective memory.

The father didn't handle this very well: he should have known he'd end up being painted as the villain, and once he went with the scorched earth policy, he should have stuck to it. (Although his apology might be an attempt to keep the school from punishing his daughter.) But teenage boys, especially the kind that haven't seen much discipline, really do only understand one thing, as another commenter said. Talking to the school wouldn't have accomplished anything. It would have been better if he could have gone to their homes and dealt with them and their parents in person, out of the school's jurisdiction, but that has its own dangers.

Mostly, it comes down to your first sentence: if it's at all possible, homeschool. You don't have to be great at it; you just have to be better than horrible.

David said...

Aaron said, "If it's at all possible, homeschool. You don't have to be great at it; you just have to be better than horrible."

The perfect argument for homeschooling.

Tom said...

Where I live (Maryland, suburban DC), therapists say all the children who come to them traumatized by bullies are from private schools. Public schools are all over it; private schools -- well, it depends on whether the school's part-time counselor decided to attend the bullying workshop or the service-to-the-community workshop at the conference last year.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Funny, Tom--when I was a 6th grader in Montgomery county MD the bullying was merciless.. I had kids poking me with sharp objects and drawing blood because I wouldn't help them cheat on tests... and the psychological stuff was worse, but I won't even go there....

And the teacher's reply? That I was asking for it and I should just let them copy my answers. My mom got NOWHERE with her, either. I spent most of that year hoping I'd get hit by a car and put in traction so I could just stay in the hospital and not go to school.

If there are no referrals to counselors from the public schools, I'm willing to bet it's because the public schools don't REFER to the counselors.. they just blame the victim.

JMB said...

I hate getting sucked into the all public schools are evil vortex, but here I go again. I was never bullied in school, I attended both parochial & public schools. Neither were any of my seven siblings. Other than my son punching a kid on the playground after school who repeatedly kicked him in class (which I didn't know about because my son did not tell me), we've never had any issues with any of our children in school.

And a side note, the all boys private Catholic high school that has the best football program in the country (according to Parade Magazine) is in my area. You can bet that if you had a sensitive, intelligent, artistic boy you would not send him to school there. He'd be better off at the public school where there is more acceptance of non-jocks, and a entire nerd hurd to hang with. Even though a school is Catholic, doesn't mean it has any values, or will protect the child.

Anonymous said...

The only bullying my son experienced in his school years was in Catholic School. A bunch of 5th grade boys followed him around the playground calling him gay after he transferred in to the school mid year.

Public schools - no problems at all.


L. said...

" I am afraid your well intentioned but naive prescription for vigilance and persistence (meaning what, exactly?) won't prevent it."

My son is frequently attacked on his way to his tough public school, and has been beaten up at recess. I have begun walking him there and picking him up. It is not an ideal situation.

But what lesson would I be teaching him if I went in there and threatened his tormenters?

Charlotte said...

I'd like to ask here, though, what about all the public schools training kids to think anything and everything qualifies as bullying? That bothers me.

"That kid looked at me the wrong way! Now that kid is a bully. There has to be sanity in this argument.

Beth said...

Red and all the others who are glad to have another reason to call public schools evil: The news reports I listened to stated the father NEVER told the school or the sheriff's office about the bullying before he entered the bus and threatened to KILL the kids and also threatened the bus driver.

It would have helped if he had gone thru the right lines of communication. I know you were all bullied as public school kids and are scarred but try to realize today that more is done to prevent bullying and actions are taken. Our district has a zero tolerance policy and it is consistently followed thru. I understand not all districts are like this. But at the very least a parent needs to report the abuse first before taking further action. In our neighborhood we all know each other and phone calls to parents abruptly stop budding issues.

And if you can find some evidence that it was reported to the school before --I humby apologize but otherwise please do your research before you go on and on about something.

Of course I completely agree that this shoud not happen in the first place but we do live in world that is fallen.

MightyMighty said...

"I'd like to ask here, though, what about all the public schools training kids to think anything and everything qualifies as bullying? That bothers me."-Charlotte

I think you have a point. Because we live in a culture where being a "victim" makes one untouchable in an argument, we risk teaching children to call "victim" in place of standing up for themselves.

That being said, I think we can quote Chesterton here. "When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws."

When we don't teach children about overarching morality, we end up with 400 petty rules about how they are allowed to interact with each other.

Trust me, kids will find a loophole around every specific anti-cruelty rule, and many of those rules were prohibit acceptable behavior, like hugging, or friendly sarcasm amongst friends.

If schools taught to the good, they could easily identify and punish the bad. But we're left with "Everything's relative," and "What matters is how I feel."

Bullying isn't just a matter of perception, it's a matter of intention, and any adult worth their salt should be able to tell the difference between genuine bullying and childish animosity. The real problem for teachers and schools is how little discretion they are given to deal with problems. Toy gun on a five year old? Expulsion. Condom on a disabled girl's head? An apology to the tormentors.

Aaron said...

"I know you were all bullied as public school kids and are scarred [...]" -- Beth

Nope, I was never bullied, so can't blame it on that. I was one of those quiet, tough farm kids no one would mess with. But I saw other kids getting bullied, and at times tried to defend them or defuse the situation. You don't have to be a 'scarred' victim to have an opinion about something.

I know a couple of people have specifically mentioned public schools, but I think most comments here have shown that it's not about public versus private. Having attended both, I see very little difference between them, though one may be less horrible than the other in a particular town.

"My son is frequently attacked on his way to his tough public school, and has been beaten up at recess. I have begun walking him there and picking him up. It is not an ideal situation." -- L.

In that case, I understand why you want so much to stand up for the schools.

I look at it this way: if a parent dropped a kid off at an arcade every day, and the kid got beat up and bullied, and the parent knew about it but kept taking the kid there because he needed to go to work, people would accuse the parent of child abuse. But when it happens at a school, we wring our hands and try a dozen different organizational and educational tactics to decrease it, but never consider the obvious answer: stop sending them there. I've even heard people rationalize it by saying it helps kids toughen up. (That might have been true when they were allowed to fight back, but it's not now.)

I don't say that to pick on people who honestly can't keep their kids home; I know they exist and I feel for them. But most school parents I know aren't in that situation; they choose to send their kids to school, and accept abuse there that they would never accept from any other institution.

Red Cardigan said...

Amen, Aaron. You said it better than I could have.

JMB said...

Aaron, not all children are bullied at school. I only know of a few cases in our town and that involved the Catholic school, and in each case, the parents moved the children to the public school. I have been and will continue to be, very impressed with the way my school district handles bullying and conflict among students. No, it's not perfect, nothing is, but it works.

Anonymous said...

I still really can't understand why the father getting on the bus and yelling at the kids is considered inappropriate! He's a parent. He has authority. And these are not little kids who don't know any better. They are old enough to know better and deserved to be yelled at. Those boys should know that a real man stands up for his little girl. If I saw actual bullying going on, I'd deal with it first, and then call the school.

--Elizabeth B.

Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) said...


Did you even read the article Erin linked to?

QUOTE: Jones told deputies he complained to Seminole County school administrators in the past, but nothing had been done to help the girl, Jackson said. A phone message left Friday afternoon for the school district's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

And now... the dad has been invited to speak at the National School Bus Conference...

QUOTE: [Michael] Martin explained that school bus drivers are responsible for driving the bus safely; they are not chaperones or law enforcement officers. Most school buses now have cameras aboard that document incidents of bullying, and this helps schools identify those responsible.

"We all know that because of legal liability concerns and bureaucracy getting action is not always easy and can be frustrating. But the answer can't be to board a school bus and threaten children," Martin said. "The flip side is that school systems need to take bullying complaints seriously and respond quickly and effectively." [emphasis added]

Which indicates to me that the National Association for Pupil Transportation Executive Director is even slyly pointing the finger at the school for dropping the ball!

L. said...

"I look at it this way: if a parent dropped a kid off at an arcade every day, and the kid got beat up and bullied, and the parent knew about it but kept taking the kid there because he needed to go to work, people would accuse the parent of child abuse."


But we're in a foreign country and my husband wants him schooled in his native language, so I hand him over ever day to the care of people I don't trust. As I said, not an ideal situation -- praying for a solution to it.

But going into the school and threatening to kill his tormenters is not one I would ever consider.

Beth said...

Charlotte--This time however he just got on the bus and told the kids he would KILL them--apparently NOT a good move. Further humiliating his daughter. He did NOT go to the school--Did you read that story? I would like to hear the schools side of the story and their response. Phone call not immediately returned means they did not give the school much time to respond.

I find it hard to believe if this had been going on for awhile that he did not even know the kids names and that his complaints were completely ignored. Bus routes are published online and names can be easily looked up. Did he demand to sit down with the school and talk with them about it? Who specifically did he complain to? Did he ask for a review of the tapes on the bus? He knowingly kept sending his child on the bus with no action being taken--I'm sorry this does not add up. I'd be crazy before I kept sending my child on a bus to get beat up and I would be sure to keep going until someone heard me. That anyone justifies him going on a bus and threatening to kill kids is completely out of line. (But that is ok here because you seem to do public school bashing so well)

I am hoping that you are all equally as angry about the abuse that went on in the Catholic Church for decades. Nothing done for decades--children raped, molested and abused. Please don't forget the mess in your own house. A house that is suppose to represent Jesus.

Red Cardigan said...

Beth, this is not about public school bashing. It's about insisting on zero tolerance for bullies and predators. And, yes, that applies to the Church, to Catholic schools, to public schools, and anywhere else that bullies and predators hurt children.

Why do you feel the need to defend the school, here? Is it the father's job to identify the bullies, learn their names, get video surveillance, etc.--or is that the school's job?

The school dropped the ball on this one, and a disabled girl has been through hell because of it. Let's focus on her, here.

L. said...

Focusing on the disabled girl -- she was hospitalized not after the bullying, but after the confrontation. I would say, her dad's actions weren't helpful for her. They were meant to help her, but it sounds as if they harmed her.

I don't want to imply I am defending the bullies or the school. The bullying was unacceptable and the school (and bus driver) should have been on top of it, and they clearly failed. The father's anger was justified -- his threats of violence were not.

Charlotte said...

I'm wondering why you're directing comments at me, since I haven't been dialoguing with you at all about this?

I simply came in and asked about schools that get into this anti-bullying thing to the point where children are accused of bullying for everything. I think you might have been talking to someone else?

Red Cardigan said...

Charlotte, I think Beth was talking to the other Charlotte (Waltzing Matilda) who is commenting on this post.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

It seems there is a wide variety of experiences in different school districts, public and private, and in different parts of the country, or even different counties or decades. This suggests that bullying is a frequent but not universal problem, which is sometimes dealt with effectively and sometimes not.

I'm not sure that national coverage is helpful, because it is not by nature a national problem. It is by nature a person by person, classroom by classroom, teacher by teacher, district by district, policy by policy problem. Its like everything else about teaching - there is no "program" that will "solve" any given problem. It takes one real live human being, preferably backed up by e.g., principles and parents, to get things under control.

I would agree that some school districts can become obsessed with bullying, like the ones who arrest a kid who playfully makes a fun with his hand during recess. Remember when we all brought toy pistols to school and shot at each other all during recess? Were we psychopathic potential serial killers? Not that I'd allow a toy gun into a school in New York just now...