There was a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois, this week. This became a front page story because it was all caught on video, and it’s a jaw-dropper. As a TV news story, it doesn’t get much better, since it involves violence, public schools, racism, and children. It’s such a juicy story that the local newspaper had to shut down the comments section of their internet site because they were getting so many comments, most of which were so hateful.
You can see the story and the video for yourself (click here). It’s not pretty.
There isn’t anything shocking about a fight on a school bus. But the thing that is so awful is that most of the students cheered the bully as he unloaded heavy closed-fist punches to the boy’s face, one after another after another. It was bloodlust. It was not a fight; it was a beating. The victim was unable to defend himself or flee, so he got thoroughly abused by two violent bullies, who were cheered on by all the kids surrounding the victim. In fact, many of them took pictures of the victim’s bloody face while laughing at him.
There are many problems with this scene. Aside from the obvious guilt of the two attackers, there is one person who is partially responsible. The bus driver did not even stop the bus, when clearly the sights, sounds, and movements indicated an assault and battery. He just drove down the road, doing nothing to stop the abuse.
But the larger problem, which I want to focus on, is that nobody had the courage to do anything to stop the beating. They just let the bigger, faster, stronger students beat in the face of the student who was unable to stop it. Now, it’s to be expected that some students on the bus would be so shocked and afraid that they would not know what to do. But surely somebody could have done something.
If my son or daughter had been on that bus, I would have asked him or her something, which might seem harsh to some. “Where were you when that boy was getting his face beaten in?” Followed by, “What could you have done to help that boy?”
You see, there were many options that these kids failed to do:
– Tell the bus driver to stop the bus and to stop the fight.
– Scream “Somebody stop him!” or ask a bigger kid to step in.
– Use a cell phone to call 911.
– Get a group of friends to stand in between the attackers and the victim.
– Pull the abuser back by his shirt or waistband, grab his arm, or wrap him up in a bear hug. Get some help to do so if needed.
Bullies can be stopped. Our kids don’t have to submit to injustice. Edmund Burke once said: “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.”
I want my son to be the one who is willing to stand up for, and to defend the victim. If he’s on that bus, I want him to do something to slow down or stop that beating. I want him to use his head first, but in an extreme case he might need to get physical.
I am not a proponent of violence, unless it is necessary to stop violent injustice. It’s why we have soldiers and policemen who are trained and armed to stand up for the rights of the oppressed (among other purposes). But the police are not going to be there on the school bus, or on the schoolyard, or wherever bullies or criminals lurk.
What we need are more kids who are raised by their parents and trained by their schools and churches to stand up to the bullies of the world. We need to give them the green light to stop the abuse. There just aren’t enough kids or adults who are willing to fight for what’s right, and so these news stories abound.
I have given my son the green light to fight, but only if there is no other non-violent, effective solution. I want him to be good, not just safe.
*** Follow-up ***
My sister’s children attend a middle school which uses this well-respected program, and she says that it is outstanding. It certainly seems like an excellent program to me. http://www.olweus.org/public/bullying.page