TARGETED TEENS AND 20s: How do you handle a high school bully?

Lovefraud recently received a letter from a 17-year-old high school student–we’ll call him Brandon. He wrote that another boy at school was using manipulation to bully him.

When Brandon resisted, the bully asked what he had done wrong, and why Brandon was being so mean—I can almost hear the false concern and sincerity dripping from his voice. The bully told Brandon to apologize.

What happened next was classic sociopathic behavior. Here’s what Brandon wrote:

When I moved away from him, he came and found me and was aggressive and wouldn’t leave me alone. And kept getting other people involved by asking them to ask me why I wouldn’t talk to him.

He then punched me and blamed me for punching me saying, “you made me do it.”

When I went to teachers to tell them they said that they can only talk to him not discipline him.

However, after I spoke with teachers about the incident he came back and wanted to know why I’d complained and then swore at me.

He is very good with words and can make himself look like the victim all the time.

My school isn’t doing anything about it and whenever I see teachers they say that he doesn’t mean anything by it all and didn’t know he was doing anything wrong.

So I’ve seen a very sinister side to this kid, which the teachers haven’t seen themselves.

Because he punched me… should I go to the Police? Would that work?

I wasn’t sure how to advise Brandon. Generally, of course, we tell people to have no contact with the person who has targeted them. But how do you have no contact in high school? Brandon already moved away from the bully, and the bully continued to follow him.

So I discussed this case with a good friend, who is a high school supervisor. She advised that Brandon file a complaint with the school’s guidance counselors.

Because of the legal concept of in loco parentis, or “in the place of a parent,” schools are legally responsible to act in the best interests of students. School officials are representatives of the state, and have authority over incidents that happen at school, or during school functions. If the bully assaulted Brandon outside of school, his only option would be to go to the police.

This happens. My friend told me that there are several cases at her high school in which students have restraining orders against each other.

The importance of reporting the incident to the guidance counselor, or whatever the procedures are at this student’s high school, is to establish a paper trail. School officials can’t do anything without documentation of an individual’s transgressions.

I imagine that Brandon needs to be very strong to take these steps, especially when bully is conning the teachers with the pity ploy, and the clueless teachers term his behavior a “communications problem.” Brandon didn’t mention his parents—I hope they are supporting him.

But still, for practical purposes, what works in this situation? Will reporting the bully enrage him, and cause even more bullying? Or is it important for Brandon to take a stand, file a report with the cops, and let the bully know that at least one student is not taking his crap?

If you have any advice for this young man, please post it.

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44 Comments on "TARGETED TEENS AND 20s: How do you handle a high school bully?"

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There are a lot of great insights here.

OxDrover says: “Brandon is getting an opportunity to learn about psychopaths [firsthand] at a young age.” This is absolutely true. The problem is that Brandon may also be learning that he cannot depend on his community to give him any significant help in dealing with psychopaths. This is hardly an acceptable civics lesson for any of us, I would hope.

ForelornNlost advises Brandon to “arm yourself with information…. Handle this like an adult. The law is in your favor….” Also valid, along with the advice that Brandon form a coalition of like-minded students to agitate against bullying in their school. Meanwhile, Wini’s tactic was/is brilliant. But a problem with these solutions is that they don’t speak to a very primal reality for young adults. These kids are at that vital stage of developing their SENSE OF SELF, as well as their life strategies. Again, in a community that doesn’t stand up for them, are they likely to develop a strong foundation of either individuality or citizenship? And if they don’t, what is the cost to themselves, their society, or their own kids?

GentlePath seems to agree, saying that “it’s unreasonable to expect a high school student to be able to deal effectively and safely with a person who exhibits psychopathic and or sociopathic traits. Look at all the stories on this website that show how difficult that is for adults. WHEN THE ADULTS AT SCHOOL ARE POWERLESS (BALONEY, BUT AS LONG AS THEY DON’T INTERVENE, THE NET EFFECT IS THE SAME) THERE ISN’T MUCH BRANDON CAN DO BUT AVOID THIS BULLY OR LEAVE THE SCHOOL.” A pathetic set of alternatives, indeed! Is this really the best that our school leaders can do??

Elizabeth Conley also places the responsibility on our school leaders: “The schools are definitely enablers here. In fact, they foster the subculture that bullies thrive in.’ But then OxDrover goes further, putting the onus on ALL adult members of our society: “Remember the book ‘Lord of the Flies?’ I think that book clearly indicates what happens with kids if there are no adults to teach them civilization.”

I believe OxDrover is onto something here. Bullying is nothing new. But according to many observers, it has become more widespread, and much more brutal, than it used to be. Why is that? Are our nation’s kids possibly reflecting our own failure to demand—and model—civilized, socially-responsible behavior? Think Jerry Springer Think “High School Reunion.” Think Bebe Fashions and Bratz dolls. Think steroid-taking athletes. Think Enron, and then think AIG.

At this time, I would direct all concerned parents to the website of Dr. Donald Gallinger:

Donald Gallinger is a critically-acclaimed novelist AND a high school English teacher of 24 years. He’s currently working on his next fiction, entitled “Stupid School,” which will apparently be a blistering illustration of daily life for American students. He’s posted the book’s prologue on his site. It’s both hilarious and absolutely chilling—mostly because (as he claims) ALMOST EVERYTHING IN THE PROLOGUE HAS HAPPENED AT HIS SCHOOL, OR AT A SCHOOL HE PERSONALLY KNOWS OF.

Thus far, many who have read the prologue find it disturbing in both content and language (“Over the top,” one remarked). But, interestingly enough, those de facto school teachers who’ve read it call it “powerful,” “true to life” “sad,” “intriguing,” and “hopeful”! So I think it’s worth a read to all parents and/or teachers who truly want to know the WHY of the more disturbing trends within our schools.

There are thousands of teachers throughout the country who will tell us (off the record) what’s really going on in our schools. Some can even tell us why the problems exist. This will change nothing in the short run. But we all have children, and grandchildren, and so we can keep working on specific symptoms of the problems. Yes, once we understand the magnitude of the problem we may well conclude we won’t solve it in our lifetime. But better to know how big the problem really is. Getting the truth ONTO the record is no small feat, and worth doing. It’s a good start. Truly, knowledge is everything!

I’d be interested to hear what people think of the wrenching insights of this American author and teacher.

A friend of mine is a teacher in a high school. He jumped in the middle of a fight with a 320 pound 10th grader who was pounding the heck out of a female teacher who weighed in at 110 pounds. The student hit my friend at the base of the neck with his elbow, paralyzing him from the neck down. He has recovered enough to walk now. The student was given NO suspension or punishment AT ALL because he qualified as “Minimally retarded” (IQ of 74) Personally I think that student is NOT RETARDED AT ALL, he GETS IT that he can bully and beat and injure others and that the SCHOOL AND THE LAW WILL DO NOTHING….he may be minimally and legally MR but he is NOT STUPID.

My friend is now a permanent “cripple” but that actually allows him to carry a walking cane to school, which in fact is a cudgle and he swears he will use it the next time he or another teacher is physically attacked….and damn the consequences because he is not “MR.” Personally I agree with him.

When I worked in an inpatient psych unit, the adolescent unit was populated by budding Ps who knew that the WORST thing we could do to them was to lock them in the “quiet room” (READ: solitary) for two hours NO MATTER WHAT THEY HAD DONE. They would throw that into our faces, knowing it was true. What we were teaching them at great expense was that there really are NO consequences for what you do until you turn 18. THEN you go to jail, at least for a little while. But even that doesn’t stop them from repeating the same violence as soon as they get out.

After I was almost stabbed by an “inmate” (I won’t call them patients) I figured it was God’s way of telling me it was time to look for a less dangerous job.

Out of all the “inmates” we had there, there was only one who was actually in need of psych treatment, and she didn’t get it because the need just to keep safe order in that group of budding Ps deprived her of what she might indeed have benefitted from and they sure didn’t benefit from their incarceration in the name of “therapy.” If that sounds pretty harsh, I am pretty harsh in my condemnation of the “system” in how these children(?) are handled, as well as how the adult Ps are also handled when they cross over into violence and mayhem.

I was never so shocked as when I was told by a teacher that a kid had been allowed to attend his school after being incarcerated for physical assault, and the administrators didn’t even warn the teachers about his record of violence. I don’t understand how these decision-makers think. They really do create an insane world, and, as such, YES, I think they create Ps.

Of course, according to my teacher friends, they do this at least partly out of fear of the parents. Apparently schools are terrified of lawsuits from parents who feel their little angels are being persecuted for youthful, high-spirited shenanegans.

When did we become such a nation? More to the point, how do we become a different one?

Oprah is doing a show today on bully’s. I hope Brandon & his mom see it, in my area it repeats at midnight, or maybe they could request transcripts.

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