Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Hard Truth From Orlando

HEADLINE: Dad arrested in Seminole County, Florida, for
going on a bus and threatening the kids who bullied his 6th
grade disabled daughter...

As I've previously ranted at length about the criminal
behavior of students toward other students...

Mr. James Jones had the motivation and the right idea, but
he chose the wrong venue. In order to effect a change, he
needs his daughter to identify one or more of her
tormentors by name, go immediately with his daughter
to the State Attorney's Office and file a sworn complaint
against that child or children by name. He would have to
assist his daughter in the wording, being specific as to the
times, dates, places, what exactly was done (including things
that were thrown at her as evidence if she kept any of them),
what was said and by whom, and lists of any children or adults
she might know (including the bus driver) present during any
of these events. If his daughter only knew one of the assailants,
that's fine. She can name that one specifically in the sworn

A lot of parents make the mistake of thinking that if they
report the bullying to the school, the school administrators
are going to do something about it -- after all, almost every
school now has a zero-tolerance of bullying policy. But
administrators have to report any incidences of violence,
disciplinary actions against students and the like to the
school board and this creates negative statistics against
the school, weighed against the job performance reviews
of the administration staff and in the school "fitness"
reports. Negative reports can cost funding to a particular
school. So despite the zero-tolerance policy, the
administrators are very reluctant to take any action
against the bullies. They'll move the child who's being victimized
if the parent insists, but basically, they won't do anything to stop
the behavior unless the victim's parent ups the ante to a lawsuit
against the perpetrating students, their parents, the school
and/or the administrators themselves.

A civil lawsuit is an expensive proposition. The sworn
criminal complaint is free; however, it needs to be made
at the State Attorney's Office to be effective. Parents who
make a criminal complaint to the school administration are
referred to the School Resource Officer, who is officially a
law enforcement officer but he answers to the school
administration -- and they can and often do put the kibosh
on any investigation. If the matter goes to the local sheriff's
office, it just gets referred directly back to the school resource
officer and then to the school administration.

But if the complaint originates in the State Attorney's Office,
there's an agency the school administration can't deflect
directly. They can make it more difficult to investigate,
but the State Attorney's Office has the power to issue
subpoenas for witnesses and records of administrative staff.
Mr. Jones would need to be proactive, calling periodically and
showing up in court to make sure the criminal case is not
being sidelined, but chances are excellent that the criminal
charges would be enough to "tag" the kids perpetrating the
harassment and threats of his daughter and get her and
other victimized children some relief from the bullies.

And Mr. Jones should definitely talk to a civil litigator about
suing the bullies' parents, the school administrators and/or
the bus driver. While I abhor the constant state of sue-happy
silliness in our country, a lawsuit is a real attention-getter for
effecting policy. Sadly, no one in any organization anymore
does something automatically because it's the right thing to
do -- they do it because they don't want to get sued. And rest
assured, if your child is the bully and you're one of these
useless, ineffective parents which are epidemic nowadays,
there's nothing like the threat of losing a substantial portion
of your income or having to go to court over and over because
of your kid's behavior to wake you up and get you involved.

I wish Mr. Jones and all the parents of bullied kids luck and
the intestinal fortitude to make the legal system work for
them against the inaction of school administration
everywhere. Having fought the fight twice on behalf of
children in my family, I know how draining and
frustrating the process is. But if you stay with it and
don't take "no" or "we can't" for an answer, your
children will be greatly comforted knowing that they're
not battling the bullies alone; they have someone in their
corner fighting effectively and making changes. And you
can make our schools a positive environment for productive
academic learning instead of a daily dose of hell for children
ill-prepared for this kind of unrelenting brutality.

Meantime, Mr. Jones' daughter is in the hospital on suicide
watch. Mr. Jones is facing criminal charges and the bullies
are laughing their butts off at how much trouble they've
caused -- but with this much media attention, the school
administrators aren't going to be able to duck and dodge.
They're going to have outside scrutiny of how they handle
these aggressive, nasty little freaks and they're going to have
to be prepared to answer in court for their failure to step in
at the beginning and protect the girl. And I hope the bullies
parents get a strong dose of wake-up, but I won't hold my
breath. We'll see the bullies again -- maybe not with this
victim, but we'll see them down the line in criminal court.
Bullies don't change anything but their targets.

Good luck, Mr. Jones, to you and yours. Yell for help. There's
a lot of families and teachers out there who want to get these
little creeps out of the schools and preferably, out of the
community altogether -- them and their dead-beat,
worthless parents.

Florida Cracker

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