Forty-two years later, a new high school yearbook and some closure from bullying
October 23, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

In 1970, Robin Tomlin opened his Argyle Secondary School yearbook to his graduation picture. Next to his picture, instead of the quote he had submitted about his future plans, there was one word: "FAG." The classmates who had tormented him with homophobic bullying for years had managed to get their final shot immortalized in print. After Tomlin's daughter found her father's yearbook in 1999 and broke down in tears over the bullying her father had experienced, Tomlin asked the North Vancouver school district to apologize and replace the original yearbook copies still held in the Argyle school library. Frustrated by a lack of response, Tomlin shared his story on an alumni message board and a lawyer offered to represent Tomlin pro bono. The school district originally balked, stating its "regret" over what had happened but declining to offer an apology. After a recent suicide of a bullied BC student and increased public pressure, yesterday Tomlin finally received an apology from the school district and a new yearbook with the slur replaced by the inscription he had wanted all along. Tomlin, who has terminal liver disease, said "now he can put behind him the slur that has bothered him his entire adult life....Tomlin also said he hopes the apology will give other victims of bullying hope."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (69 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yearbooks are edited and the content managed by high school students, with minimal oversight from some sponsor, true, but what I can't fathom is how in 1970 some yearbook company let this get through their typesetting process. I think they owe him an apology too.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Clearly, this is a particularly Canadian thing.
posted by markkraft at 12:09 PM on October 23, 2012


Hope? It took 42 years to do what should have been done as soon as an editor set eyes on the first proofs. This goes in my "burn the world" file, not the "optimism" one.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [26 favorites]


Why in the blue hell DIDN'T the school apologize when he asked first?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


Because letting other people suffer is preferable to admitting that you might have done something wrong? World's fulla lawyers, you can't just go around admitting that you did something wrong.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


Clearly, an apology would be admitting responsibility.

Not admitting that they were responsible for the incident, mind you. Merely that they are capable of behaving in a responsible way.

(They did show regret for their complete lack of responsibility, however.)
posted by markkraft at 12:16 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


To apologize is to admit fault, which opens you up to liability. It's sick and wrong, but it's true. It's why conventional wisdom says you should never apologize after a fender bender.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


That is just so retracted
posted by hal9k at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are apologies, and then there are apologies prompted by the threat of legal action and after risk/benefit analyses by committees.

The high school got a chance to do the former, but went instead for door #2. God bless Mr. Tomlin for having the grace to accept it and declaring the matter closed.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:23 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The kids who did this should have been punished - there's no way they should have gotten away with putting hate speech into their own yearbook.

I also blame his parents for not standing up to them and not insisting that they fix the yearbook - or at least apologize and punish the culprits.

A year or two later than this, I was systematically bullied in a Canadian school - I was a lot younger than the other students and had an accent. My father literally reduced my fourth grade teacher to tears when she said that she couldn't do anything about it (and let me tell you, they were harsh - deliberately breaking my thermos and destroying my books, knocking me over almost every day) - and I assume, knowing my father, it was nothing but relentless and scathing criticism and probably a final promise to go right to the schoolboard if things didn't get better.

You'd better believe that things were quite different from then on.

(And really - I was not looking for trouble, I wanted nothing more than to be left alone. It would have cost them nothing to do that...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:27 PM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hope? It took 42 years to do what should have been done as soon as an editor set eyes on the first proofs. This goes in my "burn the world" file, not the "optimism" one.

Burn the world now, or build a time machine so that you can go back 42 years and burn it then?
posted by The World Famous at 12:30 PM on October 23, 2012


So, was the original yearbook dropped down the memory hole? Because I find that possibility even more disturbing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:31 PM on October 23, 2012


No, the Yearbook was still in the school library, and pages from it (including Tomlin's) were used to decorate the walls at his 40 year reunion. It just wouldn't go away.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:36 PM on October 23, 2012


What is wrong with people? Seriously.
posted by newdaddy at 12:38 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree that it was very wrong for the school district to wait until now to apologize--I'm cynical enough to believe yesterday's apology was motivated by a fear of bad PR if they continued to balk, though Mr. Tomlin states that he felt it was sincere. I also think their original refusal to issue an apology was from fear of being held liable for having allowed the original yearbook to run. That should NEVER have happened, and it shows either someone was asleep at the switch, or that the faculty supervising the yearbook was in on the bullying.

School yearbooks always need approval by a faculty member. There had to have been at least one teacher who saw the slur and approved it. If they want to claim they didn't see it and didn't know it was in there, then they weren't doing their job and it is still their fault. It should NEVER have gone to print.

That said, I am really glad that Mr. Tomlin has received a public and a face-to-face apology. He has repeatedly said this has meant a lot to him, and if it means he gets closure, then I am glad it has happened. I just hope the students and the teacher responsible for letting it get in the yearbook also apologize to him. (They have not, so far.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:41 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Back in the '70s yearbooks were essentially hand made by the students with some faculty oversite. By hand made I am talking glue and rubylith. Type was , well typed on a typewriter and temporarily pasted in place, proof-read, and then was sent off to the typesetter, and then back to be proofed, changed, and reset, and reproofed. Only then was it sent off to the printer. So the act of printing "Fag" had to go through many hands and many proof-reading steps. Anyone in the process could have caught the "error". This must have been a far-reaching conspiracy. No wonder the school wouldn't apologise.
posted by Gungho at 12:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am blown away by the fact that it was blown up, and posted on the walls at his 40th reunion. Apparently the people who did this are still total assholes to this day.
posted by whm at 12:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


What is wrong with people? Seriously.

Kids - especially high school kids - have a staggering capacity for cruelty. Many people grow out of it, or at least grow into other, less-obvious forms of cruelty. But what almost nobody grows out of is the desire to defend or at least refuse to confront the cruel things they did when they were young. We fire a lot of shots at others without thinking about the consequences, and then we are so ashamed by our act of having fired those shots that we refuse to go back and make things right because we don't want to live in the world where we fired them. That's not an excuse, but an explanation. As a young man, I was more often the tormented kid than the tormentor. Or at least that's how I saw myself and how I remember things. I got called "fag" and other slurs more times than I can count. But when I think of the times when I did succumb to the temptation to be cruel, to say something hurtful to someone, I feel an overwhelming sense of shame and a desire to plead forgiveness from those whom I hurt. I have to think that some people either refuse to accept that they did something so hurtful or that they refuse to revisit those acts because the recognition of their wrong and their shame is just too much. And then there are certainly some people who are just still rotten. But I don't like thinking that.
posted by The World Famous at 12:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


I also find it reprehensible that there is no mention of this on the North Vancouver School District's website. I have sent them a note to suggest that they put the story up to indicate that they are actually committed to righting past wrongs.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, was the original yearbook dropped down the memory hole? Because I find that possibility even more disturbing.

From the "received an apology" article:
The district initially balked at issuing an in-person apology, instead offering to reprint the page with a revised entry of Tomlin’s choice, insert it into any copies of the annual it possessed and even provide a copy to the North Vancouver museum and archives.

It would also provide Tomlin with 20 copies of the changed page for his own use.
Not sure how one high school annual being "memory holed" could be more disturbing than having your memories of bullying be officially recorded in the school's yearbook, and looking at that single hateful word for decades. At least they finally gave a face-to-face apology instead of just sticking an amended photocopy into the book and calling it done. Total respect for him for accepting this apology and declaring everything settled at this point.
posted by King, in the hall of the mountain at 12:50 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


markkraft said Clearly, this is a particularly Canadian thing

I wish candians had the market cornered on this, but i felt these effects as an american youth too, although i live up north now. here a few samples from the comments on the link to the toronto star's website... all really proud stuff that douche's like these teachers and administrators tacitly thought and allowed then and still do now like:

"toughen up" or

"getting bullied makes you stronger" or

"its been 40 years, get over it"

all timeless classics and every one of them platitudes that clearly demonstrate that the speaker has NEVER EVER experienced bullying. I lived in terror for 8 years through grade school and given the opportunity to speak to a child being bullied i would NEVER spout this crap.

Glad he got his moment, hope the bullies that pulled it off have terribly high cholesterol.
posted by chasles at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I WANNA BE A COWBOY
???
posted by MangyCarface at 12:55 PM on October 23, 2012


Argyle, was it? I knew about this story, but didn't know which high school it was... I knew a group of kids from Argyle back in the mid-70s, and this story doesn't surprise me, horrific as it is.
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 PM on October 23, 2012


High school is hell. And, living in St. Louis for over 10 years, I'm still surprised that the most popular question asked when meeting someone new is "what high school did you go to?" I was bullied (things written on my car about me being gay) and would much rather forget where I went than answer that question over and over.
posted by stltony at 12:56 PM on October 23, 2012


High school, grammar school, it doesn't matter, if you have a bully---any age is miserable.

Glad he finally got an apology. "Chip on his shoulder". No it was deserved respect for something not only students (bullies) and adults thought was funny instead of realizing personal and future hurt and ramifications. Sickening that this went to print.

I refuse to go to my grammar school reunions because of three bullies and the rest of the class who were on their side and still chime in "get over it". Yea well, if the three bullies got hit by an oncoming train, I would be the first to "woo hoo" at the funeral and tell the crying people to "get over it".
posted by stormpooper at 1:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Burn the world now, or build a time machine so that you can go back 42 years and burn it then?

"Now" has a school district that kept a yearbook that called a student "FAG" in circulation for four decades, and refused to behave with any kind of simple decency until litigation entered the picture. So yeah, now works too.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:05 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I WANNA BE A COWBOY"
???
!!!
posted by gilrain at 1:09 PM on October 23, 2012


what I can't fathom is how in 1970 some yearbook company let this get through their typesetting process

A racial slur, against a teacher no less, got into my yearbook in 1984.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:15 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know.. I was thinking about how bullying has become such a major issue in this day and age.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as I can remember bullying was never a headline issue. Asking people of past generations, and generally looking upon television and news media, bullying was more or less just something people regretted happening but saw as an unavoidable fact of childhood. So why has it now become such a major concern? It certainly could be because of the online, always-connected culture never letting people escape from bullying in the form of online menacing means that kids have gone from at least being able to be at peace while at home to.. well, never being able to be at peace ever.

Then I thought about how in the last 10 years or so, the word/insult Nerd has entirely become toothless as a pejorative because of the omnipresence of Nerd culture in todays media landscape. When I was growing up, I was one of the classically taunted Nerds, Geeks, and Spazzoids, and one of the constant refrains I would hear from the likes of guidance counselors was "One day, people like you will be in control."

I never really took that as any consolation. Who cares if people like me will be in control if we're fucking damaged from a decade of institutionalized humiliation and shaming? But looking at the culture now, the Nerds certainly have ascended to the top of the pecking order. And as such, are acutely aware of the effects that bullying has. And so as the Nerds and tortured ones came to prominence in the "real world", suddenly bullying stated getting covered more and more. Because of the fact that the freaks went on to better things, they brought attention to the likes of the torture they endured as children when it is visited upon their own children. Magazine covers, feature news stories, etc followed.

Interestingly, this whole "brogrammer" culture that has started becoming a thing seems to be the result of the classic jock archetype forcing its way into the classically "nerd" territory.

Just a theory..
posted by mediocre at 1:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


I WANNA BE A COWBOY
???


Ah, the 80's. Boys Don't Cry.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:18 PM on October 23, 2012


I have a hard time getting in line behind the notion that today's school budget should be spent to pay for a wrong thing 42 years ago.
posted by dgran at 1:31 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope the perpetrators are miserable in their small trailers littered with empty beer cans and decorated with NASCAR posters and black velvet Elvis paintings. Or maybe they're like this guy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2012


I have a hard time getting in line behind the notion that today's school budget should be spent to pay for a wrong thing 42 years ago.

Indeed. The money should come directly from the pockets of the assholes who put the slur in the yearbook in the first place.
posted by The World Famous at 1:38 PM on October 23, 2012 [20 favorites]


I have a hard time getting in line behind the notion that today's school budget should be spent to pay for a wrong thing 42 years ago.

I have a hard time getting in line behind the notion that the school budget 42 years ago should have been spent to commit this wrong in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


I have a hard time getting in line behind the notion that today's school budget should be spent to pay for a wrong thing 42 years ago.

I agree. It should definitely come from the 1970 budget, or at least '71.
posted by Legomancer at 1:47 PM on October 23, 2012


I went to Argyle (L'ecole secondaire Argyle secondary high school) and an old friend and I crunched the numbers a couple of nights ago over dinner and determined that his mom was also at co-temporally at Argyle.

She doesn't remember this fellow.
posted by porpoise at 1:52 PM on October 23, 2012


Legomancer, if you disagree with my point just come out and say so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2012


Surely the yearbook staff credited themselves in the book. It shouldn't be hard to find them and ask, "What the hell?" Where the fuck are they?
posted by Legomancer at 1:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


How much would it even cost, anyways? It would have cost alot 42 years ago but today it would be trivial to send one old copy of the yearbook to a service to get scanned, alter that one page, and then publish full bound volumes at lulu.com or some other print-on-demand service. But they aren't even doing that, are they? They're reprinting the single page by itself.

As far as the in-person apology, yeah that's expensive but it isn't just making up for something that happened 42 years ago, it's also making up for them being colossal jerks reacting to him today.
posted by XMLicious at 1:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to Argyle (L'ecole secondaire Argyle secondary high school) and an old friend and I crunched the numbers a couple of nights ago over dinner and determined that his mom was also at co-temporally at Argyle.

She doesn't remember this fellow.


Ok, thanks.
posted by Cosine at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos I think Legomancer was saying the same thing you did.
posted by XMLicious at 2:00 PM on October 23, 2012


I went to high school in the 90s and I'm very nearly certain there was more than one 'fag' printed in the text in the yearbooks I saw. Not that it's okay, but just to all of the people shocked that in the 70s this could have made it through editing.
posted by Jairus at 2:27 PM on October 23, 2012


Surely the yearbook staff credited themselves in the book. It shouldn't be hard to find them and ask, "What the hell?" Where the fuck are they?

posted by Legomancer at 4:56 PM on October 23


For reals. They've probably all got social media accounts. It should be trivial to find them.

This is one instance when I'm all about naming-and-shaming. If I had a copy of that yearbook, you're darn-tootin' that the names of the yearbook staffers and the faculty advisors who let this happen would scanned and uploaded to Facebook.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


The school let this through? Why was no legal action taken 40+ years ago? Why is this an issue only now?

This story seems very, very odd. There's something more going on here.
posted by Yakuman at 3:04 PM on October 23, 2012


I graduated in the late '90s. My classmates on the yearbook committee made me "most likely to force the NY Times to publish his manifesto." I was, and remain, unamused. My parents-at-law wanted to intervene, but I just let it go as it was more ludicrous than hurtful and the cat was already out of the bag when I saw it. Still, it left a bitter taste that has not gone away.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:09 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I went to Handsworth, a neighbouring and sometimes-rival school. Some Argyle students decided to show their school pride by spray-painting their school name on the wall above the front entrance. Unfortunately, it didn't work out too well and they ended up writing "ARGLE RULES".

So anyway, I don't know what I mean to imply with that anecdote, beyond that perhaps those responsible had their progeny attend Argyle as well.

Also, the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruled my school was negligent in not doing a thing to stop this case of homophobic bullying.

It seems people get branded with their first impressions at high school. I was "Ghengis Khan", which could be a lot worse, all told.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:13 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


God, I hate bullies.

When I was in junior high at Fisherville in North York, Ontario, in 1983/4 there was this fucking asshole named Rob. I don't remember his surname--if I did, I'd probably try and find him.

We had this other kid named Vasana. Sweetest, quietest, shyest kid.

We used to wait in the halls for our classes to start and Rob would torment Vasana. He'd walk up to him and scream as loud as he could in his face--like a drill sergeant. He would usually just scream the boy's name but his face would be centimeters from his victim's. Occasionally spit would fly out of his mouth when he yelled.

Vasana never moved. Never reacted. English not being his first language and him essentially being friendless, he was terrified.

I told Rob off a few times but him and his friends would just make fun of me or ignore me. To this day I regret not punching that bully in his smug little face.

Rob, if you're out there, I have no doubt you spend each day the same way you did back then: making the world around you a worse place. Fuck you and all the cunts like you.
posted by dobbs at 3:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The kids who did this should have been punished - there's no way they should have gotten away with putting hate speech into their own yearbook.

FWIW, in the 90s, a surprisingly large percentage of schools only published their yearbooks after graduation (in order to get grad photos etc in) -- even ours only came out midway through the final exam period (June), and they were sent to the printers in March or April. So I'd bet the kids who did it weren't punished because the editors were already gone.

Not to say that the school actually did anything right in this case, or even that they would have been punished had it been possible.
posted by jeather at 3:53 PM on October 23, 2012


I was bullied in high school, and junior high too. I was called "fag" on a daily basis. I was rarely physically touched, probably because I was big enough to be intimidating. I was, however, threatened. I was on one occasion subjected to something that would now definitely be called sexual assault (but frankly it's an abuse of the language to do so, no matter how desperately some people want to expand the scope of the phrase). I had maybe one friend at school, and few acquaintances.

I tested out after the 11th grade, so I'm not sure what, if anything, was written about me in any yearbooks. I never bought or read one, so I really don't know what goes into them.

My experience made me intensely contemptuous of my peers, something I still may not have gotten over.

I myself did a few rotten things to others in my teens, but nothing remotely on the scale of what I received.

So I think I have enough net victim points to say that if you're still worrying about what somebody printed in a book 42 years ago, at least some of the problem is on your end.

Seriously, things in the past need to be gotten over. The idea that you need some sort of mystical "closure" event to do that is not helpful. That kind of obsession is a bar to just, you know, getting over it and getting on with your life. Even if "closure" is as harmless (and meaningless) as extracting an apology from people who probably weren't even in high school themselves when this happened, over a book they've never read sitting on a largely forgotten shelf.

And, of course, when "closure" takes the form of revenge (also known as "justice"-- a distinction without a difference), it just makes matters worse.
posted by Hizonner at 4:27 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't get over how, after the threat of litigation, all they would do is reprint a single page. They still don't get it.
posted by EnterTheStory at 4:29 PM on October 23, 2012


"So I think I have enough net victim points to say that if you're still worrying about what somebody printed in a book 42 years ago, at least some of the problem is on your end.
posted by Hizonner at 4:27 PM on October 23 [+] [!]


Um, I don't think there's such a thing as "net victim points" that allow you to judge people. I say that as someone who could tally up way more victim points than you (based on your description). Once you start playing that game (my victimhood is bigger than yours, and therefore your problem is invalid), it almost starts to look like bullying. Hmmm....
posted by smartypantz at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The school let this through? Why was no legal action taken 40+ years ago? Why is this an issue only now?

I hate to keep making this point, but the past is another country. In my experience a decade later, a lot of shit just got shrugged off as the victim not being tough enough. One of my worst incidents was having creamed corn dumped on me in the cafeteria by a gang of toughs who stood around and mocked me. I didn't even know their names, I was so beaten down and socially isolated. The vice principal (you know, the guy who handles the vice...) even thought I should have thrown a punch or two to "make them stop" -- but if I and THEN I could have been put in detention myself. (Did they think we would make friends there??) Typically they would brush off anything short of actual violence as pranks, and treat a glandular-blessed (or held back) ogre and his one-ineffectual-punch victim equally as borderline delinquents. Below that line was an iceberg of ignored ("inured"?) behavior.
posted by dhartung at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


... and if I didn't describe some victim points, somebody, like an actual person earlier in this very thread, would tell me that I'd "obviously never been bullied". You're right, it's dumb, but, well, I didn't start it, and it's a well-established pattern on Metafilter and elsewhere.

And I didn't say anybody's problem was "invalid". That doesn't even mean anything. I said that nursing a problem for a long time was not a good idea; it's something to avoid. People, again in this very thread as well as in many other places, habitually gush about how important it is to get that apology, find that closure, or whatever. That is not helpful. What that does is to contribute to the nursing of the problem, instead of helping to solve it.
posted by Hizonner at 4:54 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


When some of his tormentors told him he'd get hurt if he showed up to grad, he chose not to go. He gave his parents an excuse, and instead passed the night in a friend's basement, drinking.....

Tomlin, now retired in the Kootenays and suffering from terminal liver disease...
Coincidence, I hope.
posted by edheil at 5:21 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In these days of crowd-sourced reddit vigilantism, I would expect it's just a matter of time before the original student yearbook staff are identified.
posted by jetsetsc at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2012


Hizonner, your comments made it sound like because you suffered some bullying you were qualified to say this man should be "over it" by now (which in a way is saying his current concerns aren't valid). This man continues to be bullied by these same people (as mentioned above) and I think the only way for this kind of behavior to stop is for people to call it out and not let it go until it is resolved- otherwise we are all complicit. There's no statute of limitations on trauma, and clearly this man needed this exact form of closure. You are in no position to judge whether he should still be suffering for something that happened 42 years ago (but also survives in print form to this day on the shelves of the school and in all those former student's homes). Just because you were able to "get over" your bullying does not mean that he is wrong to not be "over it" by now.

It's unfortunate that the current administration of the school balked at all, as now they have negative publicity over this when they could have used this as a positive learning situation for the current students.
posted by smartypantz at 5:48 PM on October 23, 2012


I've talked about my experience with bullies during my high school years in the past. Kids can be so cruel to one another, high school seems to be more like Lord of the Flies than learning establishments. He has my sympathy; I hope the school board and the perpetrators carry this shame with them every day to remind them that they had the opportunity to be decent human beings and they failed.
posted by arcticseal at 6:54 PM on October 23, 2012


> FWIW, in the 90s, a surprisingly large percentage of schools only published their yearbooks after graduation (in order to get grad photos etc in) -- even ours only came out midway through the final exam period (June), and they were sent to the printers in March or April. So I'd bet the kids who did it weren't punished because the editors were already gone.

Perhaps this is a new phenomenon? Our senior pictures in the 80s were taken in December, and the yearbook went to print early enough to be distributed before regular classes ended. Sometimes an addendum was published with corrections and some coverage of later spring events.
posted by desuetude at 8:05 PM on October 23, 2012


I did an end run on those bastards. I quit before finishing 9th grade. PSYCHE! Oh, but I then pulled the greatest stunt of them all: I started college when my "peers" were starting 10th grade.

Bullies be damned. My parents were bullies as well as the shits at school. Life was hell.
posted by Goofyy at 3:28 AM on October 24, 2012


> FWIW, in the 90s, a surprisingly large percentage of schools only published their yearbooks after graduation (in order to get grad photos etc in) -- even ours only came out midway through the final exam period (June), and they were sent to the printers in March or April. So I'd bet the kids who did it weren't punished because the editors were already gone.

Perhaps this is a new phenomenon? Our senior pictures in the 80s were taken in December, and the yearbook went to print early enough to be distributed before regular classes ended. Sometimes an addendum was published with corrections and some coverage of later spring events.

Maybe so. By the end of the 90s I think my school's yearbook company had switched from physical paste-ups on templates to digital prepress, trailing the school's internal publications by quite a few years. My recollection is that it went to press about a month before the end of classes. Maybe even a little less.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:47 AM on October 24, 2012


So I think I have enough net victim points to say that if you're still worrying about what somebody printed in a book 42 years ago, at least some of the problem is on your end.

You don't get to decide that.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:37 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, it helps to look at the context before you decide somebody is inappropriately nursing a fortytwo year old grudge: at the time it was more than just a random slur, but the culmination of a years long campaign of bullying, including assault and threats of assault. Which, in the seventies in Canada for people percieved to be homosexual, is not an idle threat.

So he moved away and build up a new life and got reminded of it when his daughter found his yearbook, then found out it is still available at the school, then found out the school wasn't interested in making amends and in fact his fortyyear reunion had the slur projected on the walls...

Oh, and, he's dying of cancer and you know, once you're dying, closure becomes more important and I can full well understand why he now wanted to set the record straight and get some excuse for the woeful failure of the school to stop the bullying and its implicit consent for the treatment he received.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:50 AM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have to wonder what it says about me that I appear in the pages of my applicable yearbooks as a name listed under the heading "photograph not available."

Hell, even my girlfriend Lurleen made it in, and she was even more unpopular than I was. Stupid yearbooks.
posted by sonascope at 4:51 AM on October 24, 2012


So I think I have enough net victim points to say that if you're still worrying about what somebody printed in a book 42 years ago, at least some of the problem is on your end.

You don't get to judge me. You're not me. You don't know what I went through. And you don't get to tell me that I need to toughen up, or get therapy to help myself.

You went through a shitty experience. You recognize that it may negatively affect you to this day. And you're still willing to blame the victim?

The school district needs to step up. They need to pay whatever it costs to fix this problem to show current and future students that they will not tolerate bullying. And maybe other powerless kids won't have to endure what you and I did.
posted by disconnect at 6:34 AM on October 24, 2012


Bullying on MeFi by people who were bullied on a thread about bullying. It's Bully Inception.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:39 AM on October 24, 2012


I said that nursing a problem for a long time was not a good idea; it's something to avoid.

A more moderate response - you're right that dwelling on and nursing a problem for a long time isn't necessarily good.

However, the kind of closing up and moving on can be very, very difficult. Also, some find that finally confronting their attackers and naming them for what they are is the only thing that can help them close the page and move on.

Not denying you your own past; I'm only questioning the notion that what this person did is "doing it wrong", because there are plenty of ways to do this "right". You chose one; he chose another. That's all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:35 AM on October 24, 2012


Now correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as I can remember bullying was never a headline issue. Asking people of past generations, and generally looking upon television and news media, bullying was more or less just something people regretted happening but saw as an unavoidable fact of childhood. So why has it now become such a major concern? It certainly could be because of the online, always-connected culture never letting people escape from bullying in the form of online menacing means that kids have gone from at least being able to be at peace while at home to.. well, never being able to be at peace ever.

Bullying wasn't a headline issue for the longest time, in fact it was tolerated by some segments, encouraged by others, and seen as something to be endured by yet another group.

But... perhaps it is the online thing, but maybe we've finally decided to grow up a bit as a culture (and by this I mean "general homogenized Western culture even with all the fiddly little differences between regions") and to STOP saying that one of those things which has been universally accepted as existing yet also universally acknowledged as being one of the most horrible things to endure should just STOP.

One of the facts about childhood, written and talked about for generations, has been the hypocrisy of adults. I mean, about a lot of things, but specifically how adults say the world should be one way and then allow the world to be something else entirely, sometimes by turning a blind eye, often through direct encouragement. Bullying has been one of those things. Any number of books, television shows, and movies touch on the subject -- I'd be surprised if anyone hasn't encountered depictions of bullying being enacted in some form of media across the past few generations, often with one subset of adults encouraging it and another subset saying it's "just one of those things you have to endure" to the victims.

If we're finally collectively as a very broad culture across many countries finally moving beyond that, I think it's overwhelmingly a Good Thing.

I heard more than a bit about this on PRI's As It Happens driving some long evening delivery routes a while ago. I'm glad to hear it's reached a resolution. I would like to think that some amount of the public shaming which the school district received through media attention helped with that.

Here's hoping that future generations of children going through that school district will discover that the adults around them actually are taking a public and firm stance against bullying in all forms and that they can trust adults when they say the world should be a friendly place and all become better world citizens as a result.
posted by hippybear at 12:50 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The person who replied to my note directed me to the post on the superintendent's own blog:

A Statement of Apology to Mr. Tomlin

I find the post lukewarm at best:
This incident should not reflect badly upon the entire student body, the school and its community. Not the community of 1970, nor today’s. Our staff and students – both past and present deserve to be extremely proud of many qualities of their school and its history.
Actually, I think this does reflect badly on the school and community of the 1970s. It did nothing to stop the bullying and harassment of students like Mr. Tomlin. I'm sure the school has many things to be proud of, but that doesn't negate the fact that this situation happened because of a community culture that gave tacit permission to the bullies.
I hope that the School District’s apology will bring some peace and long overdue closure for Mr. Tomlin and his family.
Perhaps the "long overdue" is an indirect reference to the school district's foot-dragging over the last decade. I would have been more impressed with a direct acknowledgement of their poor handling of the whole situation.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:19 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, and I thought I was hard done-by when my yearbook editors managed to introduce several spelling and grammatical errors to my quote when transcribing it.
posted by Lucien Dark at 1:09 PM on October 25, 2012


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