Monday, March 24, 2008

School is hell

Growing up, I grew to hate --yes, that's the correct word-- the social aspects of being in junior high (i.e. middle school) and high school. The cliques, the weird rules that we were supposed to abide by to get along but which changed without notice etc. As I knew I was homosexual, "different", around the age of six, I was always on guard about people finding that out because I knew other boys were bullied for being effeminate. It helped that I loved sports from an early age, that provided an easy smokescreen.

So, when I read stories like this one from the New York Times (via Towleroad), I want to hit things. This poor lad --straight, it seems-- has become the object of bullying in his school and there doesn't seem any way out of it, short of his parents moving 2,000 miles away. What's especially galling is the attitude of school administrators and their subtle "blame the victim" mentality: their job is to ensure a safe space for all students, full stop, even if the object of the bullying is difficult or has learning challenges.

When I was in 8th grade, my family moved --again-- in the middle of the school year, due to my dad being transferred to a new Air Force base. I dreaded these moments: being paraded in front of the class as "the new boy", having to start all over socially, getting the feeling that it was pointless to develop strong friendships because one would just leave in a few years anyway.

As is typical in bullying cases, my mere existence seemed to infuriate one kid in particular. We had an art class together and he would punch me when the teacher wasn't looking, trip me if I walked too close to his working area etc. I was painfully shy, had glasses and braces, just hated being around other people other than to play sports. One day, this kid threw a piece of clay at me. It hit my glasses, driving the metal bridge in to the bridge of my nose. I snapped: I went over to him, pushed him against the wall (I was taller than he was, fortunately) and started to choke him. Seriously choke him, as in: cause him to die by asphyxiation choke him. I'll never forget as long as I live the look of utter panic in his eyes as I squeezed his throat harder. I was pulled off of him by some other classmates and I caused a near heart-attack in the lovely lady who taught us; I have no doubt that if I hadn't been stopped, I would have killed him. Guess what?

I was never bullied again at that school.

Is that what it's going to take for the bullying of Billy Wolfe to stop, for him to snap like I did and, given this is 2008 and not 1975, put a bullet in the head of a tormentor?

Update (3/26/08): Here's a video of Billy Wolfe and his mom's appearance on the Today Show.

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