Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vicious Little Monsters

In the wake of a teenaged girl's suicide, prosecutors are now bringing criminal charges against the kids who tormented and bullied her. Some of the young men who had sex with her (she was 15) are facing charges of statutory rape as well. This happened of course in Massachusetts (AKA the New Jersey of New England) just further proving that Masshole kids can be as rotten as New Yorkers any day of the week.

I've got my own problems with the criminal charges being filed--after all, if bullying and tormenting other kids (it's not clear from the article that the kids here physically attacked the girl) can be a criminal offense that would be a serious clamp on free speech. And statutory rape laws are pretty stupid anyway when applied to people only a few years apart in age. It's awful that a suicide resulted, but this looks like prosecutorial overreach.

What to do about bullying though? It's easy when you're a guy, after all a little introduction to Mr. Fist and His Twin Brother usually can do the trick, unless the kid picking on you is a member of the Latin Dragons in which case you might just need to learn to run fast and invest in some sneakers. Boys can't really mentally torment each other very well because we tend to be pretty dull-headed, especially in high school. Girls, on the other hand, have an intense depth of cruelty born of insecurity and tend to turn on each other with such Machiavellian genius that I am just glad I never had to go through high school as one. How should we handle these young monsters?

Well, the various school boards I've written to have not been responsive to my suggestions to bring back whippings. (My theory being if the kids are all being repeatedly whipped they have little time to torment one another, since they're so busy asking each other how long until the next whipping). But parents have a direct responsibility to keep their kid on the straight and narrow. If by the time your kid is 15 the back of your hand isn't sore from smacking them, you're doing something wrong.

Also, just in case your kid is an evil crazy Hitler psycho, you might want to keep a gun handy.



  2. The kids involved repeatedly violated the school's code of conduct by harassing and tormenting the girl (on the day she died, the girls had followed her in a vehicle and thrown a soda at her head). And their behavior was far beyond standard 'mean girl' stuff - this was a case of constant torment and harassment that should be prosecuted.

    Moreover, this campaign of harassment was carried out in full view of school personnel, who let it carry on for months and did not intervene. They fell down on the job, and I hope Phoebe's parents sue the hell out of every last one of them.

  3. Shannon--I wasn't aware of the physical attacks. Charges for assault I'd certainly be fine with, for things like that. I just don't think there should be criminal charges filed for things like name calling or internet harassment, as vile as such bullying may be it's very hard to draw the line between saying something mean and verbally tormenting.

    Mind you, of course, there are numerous avenues for civil actions to be filed--including intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc.--and which can also be filed against a school for abdicating their responsibilities.

  4. Prosecuting the hell out of these kids for bullying is ridiculous. Prosecuting them for other things might make way, way more sense. Prosecuting them for other things *because* of bullying isn't justice.

    Millions of kids get bullied. It's wrong, it sucks, and it's awful. But if two kids do similar bullying, and the victim of one commits suicide, should that bully get in more trouble? Both bullies did the same thing. Should we prosecute crimes based on actions, or reactions?

  5. J--that's correct. Even under civil tort law the question of culpability (not damages) isn't what the effect was on the victim, but whether the actions of the perpetrator went beyond the pale. It's sad that some kids are in an emotional state where bullying can drive them to suicide, but that doesn't make garden-variety bullying (nasty words, etc.) into criminal behavior.