Friday, February 15, 2013

Bullies: An Rx for Safe Schools

By Nicholas Stix
March 27, 2001

Democratic state legislators in Washington have responded to the March 5 school shooting in Santee, California -- and those elsewhere -- by drafting an anti-bullying statute.

Some cynics have asked, 'How will an anti-bullying law prevent school shootings?' Some have even been so insensitive as to ask, 'How will an anti-bullying law stop bullying?'

The fact of the matter is, it was only a few years ago, that professional educators discovered the problem of bullying. Through close observation, reflection, and most importantly, the application of the pedagogical theory of power relations, professional pedagogues determined that some kids pick on other kids.

These intrepid educators dropped the project they had been working on, of inventing a device for moving people and things -- with the working title of "wheel" -- and applied all their intellectual energies to the problem at hand.

One connection between the anti-bullying law and the Santee shooting, was that the Santee shooter, Charles "Andy" Williams, was not a neo-Nazi, and WAS the victim of bullying. That's right, THE SHOOTER WAS A VICTIM,TOO, even if he was white, male, and apparently failed to present any markedly same-sex orientation.

A few years ago, progressive, certified, professional educators made another epochal dicovery: GUNS KILL PEOPLE. They discovered too that EVERYTHING'S CONNECTED. Hence, bullying and homicidal guns are connected.

On St. Patrick's Day, while I was briefly at a local beverage provider, Murphy, the beverage person, argued that school shootings were the result of a feminized, medicalized, disarmed society, in which often heavily-medicated boys had no socially acceptable outlets for the aggression that the testosterone in their bodies produced, and where a few boys in need of release knew that in a gun-free zone, the lad that carries is king.

Well, I'm paraphrasing.

Summoning up all my courage, I challenged my adversary.

"Mr. Murphy, are you a progressive, certified, professional educator?"

He was not.

I continued, "Then I'll thank you to leave this matter to the professionals, or I'll have no choice but to report you to the Beverage Provider Licensing Bureau, for making insensitive remarks, which could result in your beverage provider and driver's licenses being revoked, and your children being placed in foster care.

I recall the worst bully I ever faced in school: John Ryan.

I was in the seventh grade in Long Beach Junior High School. It was spring, and so far I'd managed to more or less keep my nose clean. I was about to drink from the water fountain, when Gene Squitieri decided to try and push me out of the way. Although Gene and I got along both before and after that day, he was bigger than me, and decided to use his height advantage. I felt otherwise. And so, we waited, and deliberated.

This was just outside the principal's office. Suddenly, the door opened and there appeared the vice-principal, who immediately decided that I was guilty. I would have to appear the next morning with my mother, and apologize to him -- the vice-principal, that is -- though he never said for what. And so, I said I was sorry, though for nothing in particular.

While we were with the vice-principal, I had to bite my lower lip almost bloody, in order to keep from laughing. In addition to the many anti-social behaviors I presented during my junior high school years, I felt a barely repressible urge, whenever I was in the vice-principal's presence, to burst into hysterical laughter.

One year later, the vice-principal sat me down for an educational and therapeutic moment. "You know what you are, Stix? A pebble; a pebble, trying to be a rock."

My school attendance became a matter of cameo appearances. The vice-principal resolved that I would attend the Berkshire School for Boys, but somehow I managed to be truant from reform school.

It seemed that whenever I did appear at Long Beach Junior High, the vice-principal would either suspend me, or I would be sentenced to serve detention after school.

I always knew when the vice-principal was about to suspend me, because he would spend time in the outer office, laughing, and telling the secretary jokes, while I sat and waited. If he remained calm, then I knew I was safe.

During one of my cameo appearances, a much larger boy named Kevin Hough, with whom I had earlier quaffed many a beverage while truant, became displeased with me. As he too was making a cameo appearance that day, he came into my class, and commenced to making his displeasure known. I responded in kind.

Due to an early zero-tolerance ordinance, we were both suspended.

During my cameo appearances at school, I spent quite a bit of time between classes outside the school building, with Irish Catholic males, engaging in the illegal ingestion of deadly substances using a drug-delivery system.

Many of the males had until recently attended Catholic schools where the teachers uniformly engaged in abusive, anti-social behavior. And yet, my comrades all waxed nostalgic for "Sister Katherine, and her ruler." The unambiguously masculine males were obviously in dire need of counseling, and most likely, medication.

I have heard that the Catholic schools have since been reformed, having hired lay teachers, and adopted a much more progressive, non-abusive, pedagogical approach.

My classmate Mike Delury and I were sentenced to pass one afternoon in detention. We complied, but the teacher, Miss Winnie Moroney, fibbed, and told the vice-principal that we had missed the pleasure of her company.

The vice-principal then sentenced us to a "school detention." Missing that would result in our being suspended. I had often been suspended; however, as Mike's father, Richard, owned the most popular beverage provider service in town, "Shine's," Mike had missed out on certain therapeutic, educational experiences.

And so, we sat for an hour or two under Miss Moroney's professional gaze, writing "Silence is golden."

Afterwards, Mike and I had some time on our hands, before the detention bus would leave. We found the vice-principal's Pontiac, and a couple of flimsy plastic bags. As L.B.J.H.S. was by the water, the parking area had an abundance of sand. I don't know why we left Miss Moroney's car alone -- perhaps some unexpurgated sexism.

With the OPEC oil embargo a few months away, gas tank locks were then unheard of. We removed the cap, and commenced to pour sack after sack of sand into the vice-principal's gas tank. He never drove that car again.

The vice-principal's name: John Ryan.

But I don't want my younger readers to get the wrong idea. I have since foresworn all such behavior as inappropriate, unhealthy, and anti-social. Now, I leave all educational and therapeutic judgments to certified professionals. And I always take my Ritalin.

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