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"Is it hard for the reader to believe that suicides are sometimes committed to forestall the committing of murder? There is no doubt of it." -- Karl Menninger
April 3, 2009 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Four Dead in High School Massacre "Mentor high school officials confirmed that a girl and two other boys" in addition to Eric Mohat, died. "'We don't believe it's a problem,'" Justin Maynor, communications director for the Mentor Public School District, told ABCNews.com.
According to Janet Klee, a counselor at Chrysalis, a suicide survivors support group, who counseled two of the surviving families, the suicides were connected to bullying.

"These kids," said Klee, "were extremely bright, and [the bullies] thought they were nerds. I say that not in a derogative but in a good sense. These were good kids who were easy targets for bullying."
. . . .

But school officials said that was an isolated incident. "Generally, there is a very low incidence of violence at the school," said Maynor. "Considering its population, it's a relatively serene place."

Maynor confirmed that there had been "several" student suicides in the "last couple of years," but he said that they had no connection to bullying. He said the school had "come a long way" in combating bullying and addressing "social sensitivities."
posted by orthogonality (139 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Four suicides in one high school in a year? And there is no problem? What do these people consider to be a norm?
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:02 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having actually read the article, this post is incredibly misleading. There was no "massacre," and Eric Mohat killed only himself, and no one else. That 3 other students killed themselves is certainly a problem, but it doesn't amount to a massacre, and the "above the fold" post is incredibly sensationalist and misleading.
posted by explosion at 5:03 AM on April 3, 2009 [49 favorites]


Four kids in a single class commit suicide and "Considering its population, it's a relatively serene place."

Only in a country where every person owns fifty-seven guns - and where one murder in a month *isn't* front page news - could that complete non-sequitur make sense.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:04 AM on April 3, 2009


Four kids at one school in one year is not a massacre but it is a fucking epidemic. Those school officials should seriously be looked at.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:06 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing about bullying that really does any justice is that the bullies usually end up worse than their victims. They're twice as likely to have a criminal conviction when they grow up.
posted by kldickson at 5:10 AM on April 3, 2009


Didn't NYU have 6 suicides in a pretty short period?
posted by Mach5 at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2009


The only thing about bullying that really does any justice is that the bullies usually end up worse than their victims. They're twice as likely to have a criminal conviction when they grow up.

Thugs who harass and assault in school are more likely to be convicted on criminal charges? Besides being obvious, it seems cold comfort compared to the notion of having better schools that will catch bullies and straighten them out and put them on the proper path to success, while also protecting those who would be their victims.
posted by explosion at 5:13 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


UbuRoivas wait, what? How does gun ownership even factor into this? There is nothing odd about owning guns.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:14 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


If bullying drove nerds to murder the bullies, that's a tragedy

If bullying drove nerds to kill themselves, "we don't believe it's a problem"
posted by crayz at 5:14 AM on April 3, 2009 [27 favorites]


the bullies never showed remorse

Remorse is for pussies. What are you, a pussy, pussy?

I would imagine that I am not alon on MeFi in saying that I could have very easily been Eric Mohat myself in my youth. Its a tragic story, even more tragic that its not that remarkable a story in this country.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:15 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


The only thing about bullying that really does any justice is that the bullies usually end up worse than their victims. They're twice as likely to have a criminal conviction when they grow up.

Do you have any statistics to back this up? I was under the impression that most bullies went on to bully people in their medical parctices, their financial institutions, and on the road in their BMW's, while the nerds scrapped for fellowship money to continue their research.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:17 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Interesting link. Maynor's comment about the low incidence of violence at Mentor is off base — in my experience, threats of direct physical violence, although bad enough, don't get under the target's skin as much as verbal and psychological abuse. Fortunately, I wasn't the target of much bullying at school, but the incidents that stick in my mind were all verbal.
posted by metaquarry at 5:17 AM on April 3, 2009


explo, I thought that the post title / above-the-fold wording were deliberately re-framing the incident to highlight something in the ABC article in the first link. The parents of Mohat are suing to have the school recognize his death as "bullicide," which raises a bunch of complicated ethical and legal questions about whether someone can be responsible for the suicide of another. The comparison to the (now, sadly, clichéd) "high-school shooting spree" seems to make the argument that the media, public, and school pay a lot of attention to teen deaths when there's one clear perpetrator and a well-recognized weapon, but not so much when the cause of death is distributed across a social network and the weapon is verbal abuse.

Legally, it's a difficult argument to make, but the comparison is useful if you want to argue for the importance preventing bullying and holding schools responsible for maintaining a safe environment.
posted by LMGM at 5:19 AM on April 3, 2009


"I wonder if I will ever get far enough away from my childhood to stop getting the fight-or-flight response when I read these stories." -- friend of mine.
posted by No-sword at 5:24 AM on April 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't believe the problem can be solved by handling the bullying issue. No matter what you do, the bullies aren't going anywhere, and school faculty certainly can't be everywhere at once. The underlying factor is the self-esteem of the kids. I honestly have no idea how to help boost the self-image these kids have of themselves in the school enviroment, but that should be the focus.
posted by boymilo at 5:25 AM on April 3, 2009


How does gun ownership even factor into this? There is nothing odd about owning guns.

From the article:

The teen took a legally registered gun from his father's bureau drawer, locked himself in his room and shot himself in the head.

It can be argued that Eric would have killed himself with some other method had the gun not been available, but having a gun available does make a very popular method of suicide an option. A gun kept in the home is more likely to be used in a suicide than to protect the owners from an intruder. Although it's a controversial claim, their are studies that back up the idea that gun ownership increases the risk of suicide.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


How does gun ownership even factor into this? There is nothing odd about owning guns.

Only in a country where every person owns fifty-seven guns - and where one murder in a month *isn't* front page news - could that complete non-sequitur make sense.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:34 AM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


How does gun ownership even factor into this?

Um, the kid killed himself with his dad's gun, which was kept in a drawer in the house.

There is nothing odd about owning guns.

If only there were something odd, in the USA, about owning guns. Tell you one thing, I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws. Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:35 AM on April 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


boymilo, I think the answer has to include making the bullies go away, not in the sense of expelling them en masse, but by making it clear that bullying will not be tolerated and by helping kids find better ways of resolving conflict. Trying to solve the problem only by increasing the self-esteem of the targets treats the bullies as a force of nature that cannot be changed, only endured, and I don't think that our options are that limited.
posted by metaquarry at 5:35 AM on April 3, 2009


Wouldn't it be much more productive to talk about what can be done in the context of school administration or in fixing kid's self-esteem issues than to go off down the gun ownership derail again?
posted by no1hatchling at 5:36 AM on April 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


I don't believe the problem can be solved by handling the bullying issue.

You could certainly do a better job of removing bullies from classes and even completely from schools. If you're old enough to leave school, you're old enough to be kicked out.
posted by pracowity at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't believe the problem can be solved by handling the bullying issue. No matter what you do, the bullies aren't going anywhere, and school faculty certainly can't be everywhere at once.

As someone who, in an international corporation's IT department, has been the target of high-school-bully class insults about my weight, all I can say is that even now, more than two decades after graduation?

I still sometimes wonder if a carefully placed wood chipper would be the best thing for the bullies to go into.
posted by mephron at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Four suicides in one high school in a year? And there is no problem? What do these people consider to be a norm?

My thoughts exactly. The post title is a bit over the top though.
When are the going to take a long hard look at the math teacher? Sounds like he should have been a bit more involved in the classroom on this one.

Exactly what does it take for the school officials to just declare a zero tolerance policy on bullying? Just go at it hard. Bullying = expulsion.
Sad story.
posted by a3matrix at 5:39 AM on April 3, 2009


I am/was probably bullying fodder but I suppose avoided such by going to magnet schools. Not sure if my life is better/worse for it. I really don't understand suicide/murder as a response to verbal/physical assault from a select group of people. To me, the very act of bullying de-legitimizes a person and so why would I care why they did? I guess I could understand if the bullies are also the apex members on the social status food chain, and therefore bullying from them might be interpreted as ostracization/rejection from the entire social community, but I thought bullies were generally mid or lower status popular-kid ass kissers? Anybody understand the social dynamics here?
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:40 AM on April 3, 2009


Um, the kid killed himself with his dad's gun, which was kept in a drawer in the house.

You know a gun is just a tool, there are other ways to kill yourself. It's not like the thing went off by accident. He had to load or verify the gun was loaded, put the gun to his head hand pull a trigger. He could have just as or more easily stepped in front of a train, or jumped off a bridge.
The issue isn't that he shot him self. The issue is something was so wrong that he decided to take his own life. I'd rather be in a world with plenty of ways to kill yourself and have healthy people who don't want to die, than a world where everything is covered in foam and rubber where people actively want to die.

If only there were something odd, in the USA, about owning guns. Tell you one thing, I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws. Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot.

No seriously, there is nothing odd about owning a gun. Trying to criminalize or marginalize it doesn't make it odd. It just makes a normal thing complicated. As for gun ownership restrictions reducing violence, it may make a small dent of course then you get the U.K.'s issue of knife violence. There is always another tool that can be used. Stop effectively treating a symptom and look at the cause.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:47 AM on April 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


This reads like a news story from CNN.

I don't watch CNN much anymore, because it only produces stories about fluff or how horrible the world is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


When asking why our economy is in the toilet, we might pause to wonder why, when there are teacher shortages and decreased per-pupil funds, a school district needs a full-time "communications director" (read: "PR flack).

We might also ask what it augurs for our future when four of the brightest kids at Mentor won't be going on to college, won't be getting jobs, won't be innovating, won't be working for or founding the next Google or the Twenty-first Century GM. And so won't be creating jobs for the ex-jocks and ex-cheerleaders who hounded them to suicide.

To be entirely selfish, how much in future taxes and school funds (albeit to be spent on football squads and coaches who pretend to discourage bullying while pretending to teach math) was extinguished when each of these four bright, promising, bullied kids took his or her life?

We might even ask that.
posted by orthogonality at 5:55 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


@Pollomacho :

The study in question is:

Olweus, D., Limber, S., and Mihalic, S. (1999). Bullying prevention program. In D. S. Elliot (Series editor) Blueprints for violence prevention: Book nine. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Can't find the exact report online, but as it happens I was reading a pamphlet from FightCrime.org about bullying, and they quote info from the study in it:

http://www.fightcrime.org/reports/BullyingReport.pdf


Specific studies of bullying also show that bullies' anti-social behavior is not limited to school, but continues in other settings and into adulthood. Approximately 60 percent of boys who researchers classified as bullies in grades six through nine were convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24, compared to only 23 percent of the boys who were not chracaterized as bullies or victims. Even more dramatic, 40 percent of the boys who were bullies--compared to 10% of those who were neither victims nor bullies--had three or more convictions by age 24.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:56 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


3.2 million for a dog collar

After reading this, which the school should seriously start doing something about!!!, I saw this and thought "wow! Some dog could pay off all my debts about several dozen times over...." OR they could have donated this money to the educational system so this crap doesn't have to happen. Mentor School board is an epic fail as well as rich idiots with more money than they know what to do with.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 5:56 AM on April 3, 2009


Tell you one thing, I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws. Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot.

So, by your awesome logic, Canada, which has 21.8% gun ownership, should be a hotbed of violence.

Yeah, Michael Moore, for all his personal faults, kind of destroyed that myth in Bowling for Columbine.

In fact, from the Wikipedia article on Gun politics:

"Japan is still a very safe country when it comes to guns, a reality that has less to do with laws than with prevailing attitudes."

I don't want to derail this thread too much, but I wanted to kind of deal with that false statement. Regardless, the parents of this school should seriously put some pressure on administrators for better counseling options for students.
posted by formless at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


If only there were something odd, in the USA, about owning guns. Tell you one thing, I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws. Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot.

There are a ridiculous number of suicides in Japan. The fact that this is true proves that gun ownership has nothing to do with it.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


The school uses the Olweus Anti-bullying program, but the Mohats said the program is ineffective for high school students. According to Olweus, which is based at Clemson University in Georgia, the program is designed for elementary and middle school children.

"The basic idea of Olweus is that a lot of kids are acting as bullies because they feel bad about themselves and it raises self-esteem," Mohat said. "But when a 200-pound linebacker hits a 100-pound kid, how can it help? He's already the alpha male in building."

posted by mediareport at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2009


--incredibly sensationalist and misleading.--

Indeed.
posted by peacay at 5:59 AM on April 3, 2009


There's an interesting article here about how on school dealt with bullies:

Fed up with the bullying, Hansen [the school principal] scoured the Internet for information and spoke with school officials across the state to come up with an innovative plan.

He started by conducting a "bully survey." Every student in the school was asked to write down the names of the bullies. Reading through the surveys, Hansen noticed the same eight names kept popping up.

Instead of outing the bullies, Hansen used the surveys to identify the problem kids and meet with them individually. During the meetings, he worked on solving their problems individually, which often stemmed from trouble at home.

He also got the bullies involved in extracurricular activities as a reward for good behavior.

"We knew it wasn't going to be effective to bully the bullies, so we used it as a teaching moment," Hansen said.

posted by magstheaxe at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2009 [38 favorites]


The only thing about bullying that really does any justice is that the bullies usually end up worse than their victims. They're twice as likely to have a criminal conviction when they grow up.

Wait, we should take comfort in the fact that the same a-holes that made our junior high and high school lives will be the folks that break into our cars, roll us for our iPhones and rob our corner store?

Yeah, that does make me feel a lot better. Sheesh.
posted by Gucky at 6:11 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really don't understand suicide/murder as a response to verbal/physical assault from a select group of people. To me, the very act of bullying de-legitimizes a person and so why would I care why they did?

Because for a lot of kids, being bullied pushes them to feel that their lives are worthless and/or intolerable - nothing to look forward to but an endless string of days being called faggot or slut, being pushed into lockers, having your complaints brushed off by teachers or administrators (if you tell anyone, that is). For some kids, being bullied creates profound feelings of helplessness with a good solid base of rage. Not a good combination.
posted by rtha at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


Olweus, D., Limber, S., and Mihalic, S. (1999). Bullying prevention program.

The very program that is failing to change the situation in the article!

You also have a number of variables in that study:

Boys, grade six through nine, and reported as bullies are more likely than boys, grade six through nine, not reported to be bullies to be later convicted of crimes.

That is diiferent from saying "victims do better than bullies." What about the unreported bullies? What happens when teachers or administrators don't see torturing nerds as a bullying problem and they let the quarterback or the rich kid go back to pushing other kids into lockers? What about the girls? What about people that are "convicted of crimes" but are successful? Do things like DUI's count as "convictions"?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:13 AM on April 3, 2009


Trying to make an equivalence between guns and knives is really not going to fly.

The first time I ever went to a bar in the US I got into an argument with a guy... too long ago to remember what it was about. In a British pub it wouldn't have been anything. I can still remember a friend pulling me back and hissing at me to cut it out. I asked why, and the friend said "because he probably has a gun".

If you look at the comparative murder rates in various countries you'll discover that the US has a per-capita murder rate three times that of the UK.

(Take a long look at that table, by the way)

The respective homicide-by-gun-per-100000-capita rates are 0.07 and 6.2. The best part of 100 times more homicides by gun.

The real point about knives and guns is that it's much, much harder to kill someone with a knife than a gun, and there are many more opportunities for others to intervene.

In terms of suicide, high rates of gun ownership are correlated with high rates of suicide.

I don't really have a dog in this fight. In Canada, 26% of households own guns but the gun homicide rate is only marginally higher than the UK's, probably statistically equivalent. But if gun advocates in the US really do think that guns aren't the problem, they need to do a much better job of explaining what the problem is*. Cos it sure looks like guns from the outside.

*Religious explanations will be returned unopened.
posted by unSane at 6:16 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


But school officials said that was an isolated incident.

I'll call bullshit on this.

School officials know, they just opt to ignore it under the mantra 'kids will be kids'.

If you are being bullied - create a paper trail with the officials of the school and THEIR bosses. (This is the part I did not do)

In the case of the crap I got from other students I made sure the school officials knew what they were doing and that if they didn't solve the problem, I would and that they would not like the solution. I let them know it was a 2 stage solution, the 1st and minor one would involve blood.

And it did.

Under my clothing I taped down some thumbtacks, points out. So when the bully did his arm punch - he got hurt. His dad (a math teacher in the same school) came by to talk to me, I told him that, no, his son would not have been hurt had he not been punching me and if anyone was going to tell someone about how sorry they were it would be him, not me.

Then I went back to the officials office, stuck my head in and said "Stage 1" and left. (The verbal trail, the books and then updating 'em as to the status made it look like I was far more in control and had a plan than I really did. Looking like you have a plan and the officials are behind changed the normal dynamic and is what changed it from 'kid squable' to 'oh shit, lets fix this')

Magically - the problem stopped. It took a few days (my guess is research and meetings) and the bulling did uptick for a day - but as one of the bullies buddies told me 'we were told to back off and not talk to you.'

Props are also important. Like a book. A self defense book. And with todays interconnected databases, checking out the 'proper' sets of books from your local library will also help the officials realize that, if they allow the bulling to continue, someone will get hurt bad enough, and they can be sued for not keeping the situation under control.

(and today with pens that can record, sub $500 hidden cameras, et la gathering the evidence is within the reach of many)

There is always another tool that can be used.

Any good self-defense book will tell you about how keys can be held in the hand to bring on da hurt. Same with a pen. Keys and pens strike me as things schools would have a hard time banning.


Oh and to those of you who are being bullied in school and reading this - good luck to ya. Remember that in a few years you'll be outta there and can even leave town and leave the bullies behind. Try not to do anything that will get you locked up for too long, m'kay?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:17 AM on April 3, 2009 [24 favorites]


I can still remember a friend pulling me back and hissing at me to cut it out. I asked why, and the friend said "because he probably has a gun".

Heh.
posted by smackfu at 6:19 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, by your awesome logic, Canada, which has 21.8% gun ownership, should be a hotbed of violence.

Thank you for correctly identifying my logic as awesome there, chuck-o. You might want to look a little closer at key distinguishing points about the kinds of guns we're talking about, though, if you yourself want to be as awesome as I am. Read this:

Most Canadian weapons are rifles or shotguns owned by rural property owners, hunters and target shooters, and are less likely to be used in crimes. Many types of weapons are banned or restricted in Canada. The two biggest provinces, Ontario and Quebec have had a long history of strict gun controls. Most of the users of these illegal firearms are youth in their teens and early 20s. from Wiki.

And on preview, what unSane said in his gun-related comment just above.

Some interesting stats here concerning relative US/Canadian gun numbers and so on.

No seriously, there is nothing odd about owning a gun.

No seriously, there IS, if you live in a country where guns are illegal, and I personally believe they should be illegal in the US. You don't agree. Fine. But I disagree with this point you made:

"He could have just as or more easily stepped in front of a train, or jumped off a bridge."

Not necessarily. Guns are far easier than those examples you mentioned. Sure, he could've done it some other way, but he might not have were it not for the ready availability of the gun right there in his own home, with its guarantee of a swift, painless death, at the very moment he decided to do it. On his way to jump in front of your hypothetical train, or while sitting there waiting for this hypothetical train to come by (in suburban Cleveland?), he might've already decided against killing himself. But in that all-important desperate moment, when his anxiety and depression reached the boiling point, there was, yep, you guessed it, dad's gun and bullets (speaking of which, you also don't know that he had to load the gun: it may well have been loaded already) right there in the desk drawer. That shouldn't have been the case. If it hadn't been the case, he might be alive today, and you cannot prove otherwise.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:23 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


unSane I really wish I had the time today to get more into this, hopefully I can read your links when I get home. The problem is not the guns however. The problem is the people using them. Yes it's easier to kill someone with a gun than a knife, and it's much easier to kill someone with a knife than with your hand.
However, if you decided to kill someone with a gun, a kinfe, a hammer or your hands. The problem isn't the weapon the problem is you and your decision to take someone's life. We need to look at the real source of these problems, people. Not the tools they use.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


My solution was just to further incite the bullies to the beat the crap out of me so much that it got them arrested.
posted by FuManchu at 6:24 AM on April 3, 2009


...Clemson University in Georgia...

Since when?
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 6:25 AM on April 3, 2009


I don't like that they list "name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting" in the same collection. The first two are minor offenses on a school campus, but human rights in general. The last three are assault and battery, and for multiple offenses ought to be treated that way.

The solutions differ too.

The first two problems can't be solved by "anti-bullying education". If anything the solution is "anti-victim-education". Most kids figure out on their own one of the most important lessons that public schools inadvertently teach: the world is full of all kinds of people, and some of their opinions should just be ignored. Kids shouldn't have to realize that on their own, though. An occasional lecture providing a little official outside perspective wouldn't hurt, although it ought to come long before high school.

The last three problems can't be solved by "anti-bullying education" either. Either there's a line a bully can cross which has negative consequences serious enough to deter or prevent repeat offenses, in which case they'll discover the line for themselves soon enough, or there is no such line, in which case "classroom meetings to increase empathy", "interventions", and the other ideas on the Olweus site are just a joke to high-schoolers.
posted by roystgnr at 6:25 AM on April 3, 2009


I really don't understand suicide/murder as a response to verbal/physical assault from a select group of people. To me, the very act of bullying de-legitimizes a person and so why would I care why they did?

Consider yourself lucky. The problem is that bullying is such a fact of life, and any intervention is likely to put a big fat red TARGET sign on the person being bullied. They can wait til after school, they can have friends who will take up the slack, if not bullying than at least a whispering campaign against the kid.

Think of an analogy where a prisoner who gets beaten up goes to the warden. That prisoner is as good as dead.

What is also not mentioned here, and as the youngest of four boys I know first hand, is the corrosive effect bullying by older siblings has, you can't transfer away from a family, even good parents aren't there all the time, and the warden analogy goes for here too. Tell on your older brother, you are just cruising for a shit-kicking.

There is a continuum between bullying and rape and well, Saddam Hussein, I believe.

I don't knwo what the answer is, but to say something like the very act of bullying de-legitimizes the person shows that lucky for you, you don't know what it is like being called a fat shit, a waste of space from the time you are 5 to the time you are 18 (When I was big enough to kick the crap out of my brother. A day I still call my liberation day.)
posted by xetere at 6:31 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


if they didn't solve the problem, I would and that they would not like the solution. I let them know it was a 2 stage solution, the 1st and minor one would involve blood.

How long ago did you attend this school? Nowadays, that kind of talk in a Zero Tolerance school would get you in serious trouble for making threats, and expelled after the thumbtack incident. The cops would probably get called in, too. I only wish this was a strawman argument with hyperbole for rhetoric advantage.
posted by Spatch at 6:46 AM on April 3, 2009


"Having actually read the article, this post is incredibly misleading. There was no 'massacre,'"

Call it what you will. Had one of the bullied students gone into school with a gun and killed four football players or cheerleaders, we'd be hearing it called a massacre in "Special Breaking News Reports" on every channel, there'd be politicians clamoring for hearing and legislation, there'd be studies and committees and compensation for the victims' families and TV movies and memorials and anniversary coverage of the event.

But when a group of bullies -- no doubt the same group of kids -- drive four kids in the same math class, "taught" by the same coach to suicide in two years, isn't that a massacre too?

Why, after the first suicide, the second, the third suicide, the kid who withdrew from school and almost killed himself, did Coach Horvath not realize that he'd enabled his Kleebolds in football jersies? Four suicides in his class and Coach Horvath still to thsi day doesn't think there's a problem? That must be one winning football team.

Isn't in a massacre when five kids fall victim to the same bullies and the same see-no-evil boys-will-be-boys Coach and school administrators?
posted by orthogonality at 6:49 AM on April 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't like that they list "name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting" in the same collection. The first two are minor offenses on a school campus, but human rights in general. The last three are assault and battery, and for multiple offenses ought to be treated that way.

WTF? Am I reading this right? Verbal abuse is not as big a deal as physical abuse? And kids should just learn to ignore it and suck it up? Is that what you're saying? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying. Verbal abuse is still abuse. Arguably, it's even worse than physical abuse. Broken bones tend to heal; there's far less of a guarantee that a person can recover from severe mental trauma.

I think you basically just said that it's the victim's fault if he is hurt by verbal abuse. Please tell me I'm misinterpreting.
posted by giraffe at 6:51 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Call it what you will.

The problem is that calling it what you will in this case has lead to a lot of people feeling like you intentionally fucked with them by posting a misleading headline on the front page.

I think this is a worthwhile post aside from that really questionable framing, and I'm gonna go ahead and clear out the pile of flags on that, but it was frankly a really questionable move to bait folks with a school-shooting fakeout tease.
posted by cortex at 6:58 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


You might want to look a little closer at key distinguishing points about the kinds of guns we're talking about

We weren't talking about about kinds of guns, I was just responding to your statement: "Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot." by pointing out that it's more complicated than simple gun ownership. It's about the culture. And American culture can be toxic, as the original article points out.

But if your point now is that it's the type of guns, well, I present Switzerland as a counterpoint.

I come from a state, Michigan, where gun ownership is high. People use them for hunting, or plain sport shooting. I used to go target shooting with my dad and Grandpa. As a kid, I was taught to respect guns, that they're not toys. I don't own a gun now, and I probably won't anytime in the near future, but there are many around here who do. I'm not going to consider them odd because of that.

Back to the article, thanks for that link magstheaxe. It's an novel approach to the issue, that kind of reminds me of epidemiological studies and treatment of disease outbreak and prevention. They're building a social network of bullying, and instead of treating everyone, they're treating the "hubs" or central actors, which is probably more effective.
posted by formless at 7:01 AM on April 3, 2009


This story really highlights the problem in reaching people that are being bullied and helping them figure out how to counter it. I can only speak from my own experience, but I believe that the only way to deal with bullies is to escalate. Most bullies are actually cowards, and I've never had a recurring problem with any of the bullies that I've punched in the face, shoved down a flight of stairs, or choked. Of course, doing that as an adult is a lot more likely to result in prosecution, so I'm not sure how one would go about bridging that particular gap. In any event, it sounds like most of the faculty and administration at this school need to be summarily fired.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:02 AM on April 3, 2009


How timely, with the 10 year anniversary of the columbine shootings coming up in the next month (April 20). Kinda shows how much we've learned.
posted by symbollocks at 7:03 AM on April 3, 2009


WTF? Am I reading this right? Verbal abuse is not as big a deal as physical abuse? And kids should just learn to ignore it and suck it up? Is that what you're saying?

Some people have similar opinions about sexual harassment, and I think looking at the solutions for keeping workplaces free of hostile sexual remarks bring up some methods that would be directly applicable to high school bullying. From the article it sounds like if the high school administrators and teachers had taken abusive insults as seriously as most companies take harassment cases seriously it would have greatly reduced the problem. Companies mainly do that to prevent lawsuits, so lawsuits like the one described in the article are probably a productive step towards pressuring schools to maintain a safe environment for everyone.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:03 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Exactly what does it take for the school officials to just declare a zero tolerance policy on bullying?

Community support, which they seldom have. I worked in a high school administrative office for four years, first as a clerical and ultimately as a database admin/general purpose tech person working in the same office as all the principals. I saw parents come in for mandatory meetings with administrators when their children were expelled for all manner of "zero tolerance" offenses.

My favorite meeting involved a woman who was brought in because her son ran out of the bleachers to join a fight at a basketball game. Because games were routinely taped, there was a very clear video record of her son running out of the bleachers, attacking players from the visiting team, striking an official who tried to get him off the court, then running back out once he'd been removed and fighting some more. The administrator showed her the footage. Her response?

"You doctored the footage."

Then she got really nasty and had to be led out screaming.

She was the worst, but a common refrain from many parents was simply, "there's no way my kid did this, you're [mistaken|crazy|stupid|out to get my kid]." If expulsion was on the table, lawyers invariably got involved, which meant the administrators had to deal with losing entire days to meetings filled with assorted attorneys and advocates, finding substitute teachers for the teachers who'd be pulled into the proceedings, etc.

The hell of it is, all that administrative misery was probably a necessary check on the times one principal, dean, teacher or the other had a bad day and trumped minor adolescent belligerence into a suspending or expelling offense. When they were right, they were never right enough to satisfy the angry parents and lawyers they had to face down. When they were wrong, it was a good thing they had to deal with such a combative system.
posted by mph at 7:03 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I had access to an easy way to check out in high school, this could very well have been me. Same story as everyone else. Vicious classmates uncaring adults. The only thing you can do for these kids is promise them that it does get better.

Cause it really does, if you can hold on till graduation.

High school is guantanamo every day for some kids.
posted by empath at 7:05 AM on April 3, 2009


But when a group of bullies -- no doubt the same group of kids -- drive four kids in the same math class, "taught" by the same coach to suicide in two years...

I think that would have been a strong and pertinent enough fact to make a compelling headline without going the bait-and-switch route. In many ways, what happened to those kids was far more horrible than just getting shot in the middle of a perfectly pleasant life, and I think going for the shock value may have diminished how potentially terrible the things happening at this school might be.
posted by Shepherd at 7:14 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Math teachers -- and especially sports coaches as math teachers -- have tacitly approved of a lot of bullying in their classrooms, in my experience. Some by athletes, some by the beautiful people. *shrug*

Years ago a friend moved out from the city to farm country. He was quiet, funny, whip-smart, and shy; we played a lot of D&D and Car Wars until he moved. Within a year he was gone. I really doubt his situation was much different from Eric Mohat's, and I still think about him often.

My kids are getting into elementary school now, and while I hope they will be among those who can ignore bullies' abuse, part of me wants to watch over them and ruthlessly punish anyone who hurts them that way. Bullies suck, and anyone who minimizes their effects sucks too.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:14 AM on April 3, 2009


I think you basically just said that it's the victim's fault if he is hurt by verbal abuse.

It's not the victim's fault, it's just in the victim's power to stop. I know, that "sticks and stones" stuff sounds simplistic, but kids actually do have the power to decide to ignore, pity, mock, etc. in response to verbal abuse. That's not some theory, that's how I and most of the other nerds I knew survived middle school.

Alternatively, we could teach kids that verbal abuse is something that can always hurt them, that we agree with their tormenters that they are victims, and that they're powerless to defend against it unless they can silence the abuser. That may even work for kids whose only interaction with bullies is in a totally controlled environment; kids who go to schools with strictly enforced discipline, who never socialize after school, and who grew up before the invention of the internet, for example. For other kids? Teaching them to become more thin-skinned can only backfire.

It's also not really helping them grow up. No matter how old you get, if you're a nerdy person there will always be people who think you "talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded", and for most of your life there will never be authorities who can prevent them from thinking so and telling you so. You're likely to have to deal with such people much less frequently, and ignoring them is easier with age and perspective, but that just means that the earlier you learn how to do so the more productive it will be.
posted by roystgnr at 7:16 AM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Honestly, my first thought was "...and in a town called Mentor, of all places?" Very sad tale.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:16 AM on April 3, 2009


and on the road in their BMW's

Hey, I resemble that remark!

In all seriousness, I wish I could find the guy who bullied me throughout junior high, but his name is so common (something like "Bob Smith") as to be unsearchable. I am really curious what happened to him. He was in honors classes like me, so he wasn't any drooling idiot. He's probably one of the Wall Street bankers that got us all into this mess.
posted by desjardins at 7:21 AM on April 3, 2009


I am really curious what happened to him.

When I was in college, I came home over one holiday break and met up with a few of my high school friends. We got pretty stoned around dinnertime and decided we would rent a movie to watch before we headed over to another friend's house for what would turn out to be a house party. We saw a guy that tried to be a bully in middle school outside the video store, wearing a felt Prada overcoat over a wifebeater in December. I think I know why he acted out so much back then...needless to say, we all had a hearty laugh.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:26 AM on April 3, 2009


@Pollomacho: Clearly your Google-fu is better than mine, since you've not only found the study, but read it and subjected it to rigorous analysis for flaws in the short time since my original post.


Could you post the link to the complete study, please? I'd like to take a look at it.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:27 AM on April 3, 2009


Why, after the first suicide, the second, the third suicide, the kid who withdrew from school and almost killed himself, did Coach Horvath not realize that he'd enabled his Kleebolds in football jersies?
posted by orthogonality at 9:49 AM on April 3 [+] [!]


If that was supposed to be a Columbine reference, you have the roles reversed. Klebold and Harris would not have murdered all those people if they were not the victims of bullying in the first place. You're making an apple-and-orange comparison.

I got pushed around a lot in middle school. It's perverse, but the fact that Klebold/Harris did what they did made high school a lot smoother for me. Once I started wearing KMFDM t-shirts and openly expressing a gun fetish, people made a lot of uneasy jokes but nobody messed with me.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 7:27 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


"frankly a really questionable move to bait folks with a school-shooting fakeout tease."

The FPP didn't say anything about a school-shooting. I admit it can be read that way, but I wanted to present the most salient point: four dead kids from the same class in the same school, and school district "communications director" calling it no big deal. The [more inside] made it clear that the kids died by suicide. If anyone read just the FPP and hurriedly turned on CNN, well I figured quoting the blase school district employee pretty well implied there was more to it than the typical shooting.

And yes, I did want to point out the the resulting deaths were the equivalent of a slow-motion massacre, and all the more horrible for it (like Guantanamo, as one person pointed out, though I'd point out that at least high schooler know it'll be over in four years, while the victims of Guantanamo are there indefinitely). But that unlike a school-shooting, no one seems to care about these deaths. I wanted to frame that contrast: we shriek and mourn (rightfully) over a shooting that's hard to predict or, given our gun laws, prevent, but a series of easily preventable suicides abetted by an at best indifferent school administration garners only shrugs and victim blaming.

Yes, I wanted to draw that contrast. But if it's that that has people angry, well, I think that's anger misplaced.
posted by orthogonality at 7:28 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing about bullying that really does any justice is that the bullies usually end up worse than their victims. They're twice as likely to have a criminal conviction when they grow up.

Wait, we should take comfort in the fact that the same a-holes that made our junior high and high school lives will be the folks that break into our cars, roll us for our iPhones and rob our corner store?


No, we should take little comfort in any of this. As long as bullies are allowed to continue and are not reprogrammed while they are young enough to be plastic, they will grow up and become the asshole bosses and troublesome shitheads who make working life miserable too.

Workplace bullying is just as common as schoolyard bullying, only it's never talked about.
posted by hippybear at 7:28 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with roystgnr that education of the victims is more likely to make an impact than education of the perpetrators. As painful as it was at the time, the bullying I experienced made me a stronger person because I had the support of my parents, teachers and counselors. They taught me that I didn't have to take it personally, I could ignore it, and the bully was a deeply troubled person. That attitude has served me very well in the rest of my life.

Then again, I'm a (very petite) girl and the (very strong) boy was at least smart enough not to physically threaten me, because the Hammer of God would have come down upon him. I think bullying is worse for boys because they're expected to fight back.
posted by desjardins at 7:30 AM on April 3, 2009


By the way, I meant to write "how ONE school dealt with bullies" in this post.

Sorry. I'm a lousy typist.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:32 AM on April 3, 2009


High school is guantanamo every day for some kids.
Truer words have never been spoken.
posted by SPUTNIK at 7:39 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not the victim's fault, it's just in the victim's power to stop. I know, that "sticks and stones" stuff sounds simplistic, but kids actually do have the power to decide to ignore, pity, mock, etc. in response to verbal abuse.

We'll have to agree to disagree. This was certainly not within my power when I was in high school and rumors were spread that would get me in trouble with the administration and ruin my reputation. I don't know many people in high school that would've handled that situation well and said "well, fuck it. I can't control it. I will let this roll off my back."

Not everyone grows up in a loving household and has good self-esteem. I wasn't taught to be thin-skinned by anyone, at least not consciously. Some people are just more sensitive than others. Also, women can be vicious towards each other. Remember Mean Girls?

When it comes down to it, it is not the victim's responsibility to stop the bullying. Huzzah for people who are well-adjusted individuals and all that, but I didn't know many people in high school that wouldn't turn into a complete wreck when bullied.
posted by giraffe at 7:41 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are a ridiculous number of suicides in Japan. The fact that this is true proves that gun ownership has nothing to do with it.

In Japan, anyway.
posted by emelenjr at 7:42 AM on April 3, 2009


I'm deeply conflicted about this issue. On the one hand, I don't want to perpetuate the cycle wherein the bullied becomes the bully.

On the other hand, as a kid who got bullied in junior high school, I was able to put a stop to it by, um, hospitalizing the main bully. (I wasn't a great scrapper -- I was just enraged and got in a very, very lucky shot that broke his nose in a satisfying and spectacularly bloody fashion.)

It probably wasn't the right thing to do. But the bullying stopped.

You can't reason with fools, and it does our kids a disservice to expect them to. Sometimes fighting back helps.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:44 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna side with orthogonality, against cortex (gasp!) on this one. The framing of this post was deceptive, underhanded, and fucking genius. I was fooled too, and the only flag I have for orthogonality is a fluttering banner that reads WELL PLAYED.

Also, just so this comment isn't totally pointless: I have a theory that bullying is what turns so many smart kids into insufferable Randian schmibertarians in their college years. They've never seen any evidence that the social contract exists, that anyone is looking out for them except for their friends, family, and paid-off allies — so why should they have to pay taxes to support the bullies and Good Germans? Just think of how much brainpower is wasted on survivalist schemes and hypothetical "pure capitalism" that could be going towards improving the reality we find ourselves actually faced with.
posted by No-sword at 7:44 AM on April 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


"What it boils down to is the football players, cheerleaders and kids with money have a different set of rules than everybody else," Hughes told ABCNews.com.

Oddly, you can hardly find anyone who will identify as having belonged to either of these groups as adults.
posted by mecran01 at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2009


Teaching them to become more thin-skinned can only backfire.

Backfire worse than driving kids to suicide? There are going to be negative aspects to any attempts to reduce the problem, but cases like this at least point out that there are very serious issues with the current methods.

It's also not really helping them grow up. No matter how old you get, if you're a nerdy person there will always be people who think you "talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded", and for most of your life there will never be authorities who can prevent them from thinking so and telling you so.

In a very real way, high school kids do not have a lot of the protections that adults do in these sorts of situations. If you're a nerdy adult you can spend the vast majority of your time with people who won't verbally and physically abuse you for being smart. If you're gay you can move to a city with a strong gay community and spend most of your time with people who don't judge you. Kids in school don't have the freedom to choose who they interact with, which is a major factor.

And really, the same argument that no one is really safe from harm can be made about any crime or bad behavior. If you're a woman, there will never be authorities that will completely protect you from sexual comments or even physical abuse. If you walk around with money in your wallet, there's always a chance that someone will mug you. But if a girl at school is sexually abused or a boy has his property stolen, should we just educate them in how to protect themselves and avoid calling them victims? In most schools those acts could easily get a student expelled and even brought up on criminal charges, and yet the bullies whose actions directly resulted in a fellow student committing suicide faced no consequences at all.

In my opinion, the attitude that bullying is normal or harmless is a pervasive and destructive one that we should actively try to get rid of.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:59 AM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yes, I wanted to draw that contrast. But if it's that that has people angry, well, I think that's anger misplaced.

School suicides are terrible. School shooting sprees are terrible. Maybe there are people who genuinely think the latter are terrible and the former are awesome, but I'm betting there aren't a lot of them hanging around on mefi.

But by framing this deceptively as a shooting spree instead of a disturbing string of suicides, you managed to take something legitimately terrible and present it with a bait-and-switch element, and part of the reaction you're getting is people wondering why the fuck you would do that instead of just presenting the awful situation clearly. Why the bait-and-switch? What's the benefit there, why fuck with people's expectations?

If your thesis was "nobody cares about school suicides, because people suck, so I'll trick them into thinking it's something 'important', ha!" than that'd be a supremely crappy use of the front page. Now, I don't think that is your thesis, and I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on this one which is why I cleared the flags and left it up, but the "misplaced anger" you're shrugging off is not at you daring to oversell suicide as shooting spree but at you pointlessly being deceptive about something that would be awful in either case, apparently just to make some thirdhand point about media coverage.

Just because you're (rightfully, I think) bothered by asymmetry in reportage on shootings vs. suicides doesn't mean you should take that out on Metafilter. Is my issue.
posted by cortex at 8:01 AM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


How about we do something to institutionally dismantle this bullshit 'survival of the fittest' / lauding absolutist alpha-male jocko-homo behavior as a strong and desirable trait in employment and desirability? How about not rewarding ruthlessness as the mark of success, and holding up borderline sociopaths, predators, and related human cancer as examples to aspire to in both academia and the business world? Isn't the public adulation of this Type A bullshit how we ended up with Enron, AIG, President Bush, Mystery, Donald Trump's television career, and countless sports figures and celebrities who've run afoul of the law and public decorum with barely a slap on the wrist? How about we do our part to cut that shit out and encourage others to do the same?

There's something to be said about teaching kids to not let bullies bring them down, and that highschool isn't the end of the world; Jello Biafra does an excellent piece about this very subject in his spoken word piece "Hellburbia" (long but worth the listen). But on the other, teaching victims to not be victims by pretending that bullying, read as, destructive words and actions deliberately perpetrated by their peers, is something that can't be prevented, an elemental force that must simply be endured, like the wind and the rain, is simply ludicrous.

Yes, kids should be taught to ignore that sort of thing, but they should also be taught that such bullshit is not OK. Self-esteem is important. So are hate crime laws. With out them, you're basically telling these niggers and faggots kids to "grow a pair and deal with it".

I was picked on some in High school (who wasn't?), not to any excessive stance, but it got to me. My older sister always reassured me "once you get out of high school, you never have to see these people again". Not every kid has that reassurance or capacity for foresight.

I admit I was a "goth" kid in high school, in the sense I wore black and boots and NIN/KMFDM/Tool/etc shirts (I also wore baggy JNCOs and a backwards NIN baseball cap, so I didn't really fit in anywhere, heh) and yes, a long black overcoat. I got in trouble for expressing anger about the de facto caste system in the school, but administrators swore up and down they never witnessed kids like me being picked on or messed with. I could handle myself, but the fact it took two kids who dressed like me gunning up their school before anyone even wanted to know how I felt is telling; Really, suddenly we all want to discuss tolerance?

For the record, Eric and Dylan were deplorable morons and hardly victims of anything but their own conceit; Eric Harris was a daunting 6' 2" and planned to enlist in the Marines after high school. Dylan Klebold was a known homophobe, racist, and generally a prick. Both of them were known to have made ominous threats about their grim plans and their cache of guns, even making a public list of people they wanted to kill on Eric's website. The fact that they, however briefly, came to represent myself or my peers was frankly embarrassing.

But even worse was the fact that only after the Columbine massacre did anyone want to talk about tolerance, or even see kids like me as worth leaving alone, not out of respect or understanding, but that we'd gone from weirdos into potential murderers. To me, this was a sad extension of the bully culture: People didn't want to understand me because picking on me is wrong, but because now I was a threat. Kids like me were still weirdos, but now their derision was held back by fear. That's an inherent problem in and of itself.

I realize this post got a bit rambly and off the rails, but I feel an either/or regarding bullying (Either suck it up, or grow a spine and hit them back) does nothing but perpetuate the root problem.

Let's evolve past this thinking, and try to teach our kids the same. Further, let's try and create an environment where we can.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:05 AM on April 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


The Olweus program is mistaken, according to what I've read, in maintaining that bullies have "low self-esteem." The opposite is true.

Anti-bullying programs CAN be effective, from what I've seen. Kids and teachers can both be made more aware of what bullying is (it takes many forms, some more subtle than others) and become proactive in stopping it before it escalates into the kind of nightmarish bullying that drives kids to kill themselves - and, sometimes, others, too. The "boys will be boys" attitude is different only in degree from saying "sociopathic murderers will be sociopathic murderers."
posted by kozad at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2009


Orthogonality, you're just going to have to admit that you're wrong. You're sensationalizing this story, and while it's definitely sad, it is no massacre, or even close to it.

A massacre is "the deliberate and intentional killing of a large number of human beings, under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty, or contrary to 'the usages established among civilized peoples'" (International Humanitarian Law term from the Martens Clause).

To use the word "massacre" to describe this is to water down the language, and blur the lines. This is not even close to a massacre, this is 4 children dead over a relatively long span of time. This is a failure of the school system, and their parents, to recognize the warning signs and problems, and take proper action. I hate to blame the parents because they must grieve terribly, but it is ultimately their responsibility to take care of their children, and remove them from a harmful situation if the school's administration cannot handle it.

While we're at it, can we please not glorify the dead? I don't mean to imply for a minute that these kids deserved to die or anything close to it, but where does the "best and brightest" labeling come from? The article didn't describe them as geniuses with glittering potential cut short, but merely "good kids" who were "likable." The tragedy is sufficient that 4 children died without the hyperbole and exaggeration that, again, turns this from good news/discussion to something offputting because honest discussion cannot take place.
posted by explosion at 8:10 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cause it really does, if you can hold on till graduation.

No, it doesn't. It's just that once kids are out of public school, they no longer have the incompetent, ineffectual umbrella known as school administration that they've grown to rely on to turn a blind eye and shield them from legal recourse.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:12 AM on April 3, 2009


Think of an analogy where a prisoner who gets beaten up goes to the warden. That prisoner is as good as dead.

as a substitute teacher, i can tell you that i don't think of it as an analogy, but as a reality. as a kid, i was angry that teachers didn't see what was going on. now, i recognize that with *so much* going on, and kids who are lifelong experts at hiding their activities from teachers, it is not as easy as you think to catch bullies in the act.

teachers are very much the same as prison guards. simply trying to keep the riots down.

my answer: release the children from prison. release your mind from seeing school as the only option. and teach your children that the crap they're putting up with in school is NOT "just the way the world works."

school is nothing like the real world. it is an exercise in extraordinary dehumanization and absurdity to a degree that makes most kids into fatalists in a way that kills my soul just a little bit every single day i'm forced to watch it in action.

god i wish i could afford to quit.
posted by RedEmma at 8:15 AM on April 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


MrBobaFett said "No seriously, there is nothing odd about owning a gun.

flapjax at midnite:
No seriously, there IS, if you live in a country where guns are illegal, and I personally believe they should be illegal in the US. You don't agree. Fine. But I disagree with this point you made:


No there is nothing wrong with that behavior. It is not psychologically unsound, it is not unstable etc. If you live in a country where playing hop scotch is illegal it doesn't make the behavior odd, just illegal. Laws do not determine psychological or social norms, they are supposed to reflect them.
It's peachy you think guns should be illegal, luckly we have a right notated in the constitution that protects us from people like you .

with its guarantee of a swift, painless death, at the very moment he decided to do it.

This is bullshit, shooting yourself can go horribly and irreparably wrong without killing you. Even if you take a head shot, which some people don't. I know a girl in high school who shot herself in a suicide attempt. She did not die, she was in the hospital for weeks, and by fluke alone managed to not do any major permanent damage. The problem was not that her dad owned a gun. Her problem was that shit was going very very badly and she did not feel she had anyone to turn to. We as her peers failed her by not being available to her or not appearing to be available to her. People, not the tool, were the problem.

On his way to jump in front of your hypothetical train, or while sitting there waiting for this hypothetical train to come by (in suburban Cleveland?), he might've already decided against killing himself. But in that all-important desperate moment, when his anxiety and depression reached the boiling point, there was, yep, you guessed it,

That hypothetical has just as many maybe's as mine. How about instead of waiting until a critical moment to help someone by making them use a tool that takes more time, we look at fixing the condition that led to this moment of crisis. Call me crazy but I would rather help the person and the people around them instead of just removing a tool that can be substituted with another tool.
This would be no less tragic if he had hung himself or taken a toaster in the bathtub. There are thousands of ways too kill yourself. The thing we need to stop is people getting to the point where they make the choice to take their life.

dad's gun and bullets (speaking of which, you also don't know that he had to load the gun: it may well have been loaded already)

That's why I said load or verify that it is loaded.

That shouldn't have been the case. If it hadn't been the case, he might be alive today, and you cannot prove otherwise.

nor can you prove that it not being there would have saved him. That is my point, you can guess all day long if he would have chosen a different tool or not. That is meaningless beside figuring out why he made the choice to end his life and what factors motivated it.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:22 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Olweus program is mistaken, according to what I've read, in maintaining that bullies have "low self-esteem." The opposite is true.

This recent study suggests that bullies are wired to enjoy watching others suffer. It doesn't explain why that wiring is there, however.
posted by hippybear at 8:27 AM on April 3, 2009


Mentor is very close to my hometown (Solon) where I was attending high school in 2007. More worrying to me that this happened to people I conceivably have met is that I don't recall ever hearing about it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:34 AM on April 3, 2009


There really should be some kind of national anti-bullying organization that exists just to take on the worst bullying cases and teach kids survival skills. I'm not talking 'self-defense', I'm just talking social skills and the ability to shrug off insults, and to find a support group among their peers.

The real problem with being a victim of extreme bullying is not the bullying, but the loneliness and isolation.
posted by empath at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There really should be some kind of national anti-bullying organization that exists just to take on the worst bullying cases and teach kids survival skills. I'm not talking 'self-defense', I'm just talking social skills and the ability to shrug off insults, and to find a support group among their peers.

I hope it's not what you meant, but this sounds perilously close to blaming the victim.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 AM on April 3, 2009


A lot of the bullied kids were also bullied at home before they even got to school, which makes things more difficult. That was the case for me, at least.
posted by empath at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2009


I hope it's not what you meant, but this sounds perilously close to blaming the victim.

Having been a victim of unrelenting bullying for my entire time in public school, in multiple schools, in totally different school districts, its almost impossible for me to believe that it was just bad luck. There is something victims do to attract bullying -- and I'm fairly sure that I know now what I was doing that was causing it. Which isn't to absolve the bullies, only to point out that if there is something they do to attract it, then there is something they can do to deflect it.
posted by empath at 8:58 AM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


The thing we need to stop is people getting to the point where they make the choice to take their life.

I would certainly not disagree with that one bit, and the fact that I was expressing my opinion about the gun issue (as it relates to this suicide) should in no way be interpreted as any sort of statement on my part that there shouldn't be serious examinations of the root causes of the problem of bullying, and that there shouldn't be policies and programs put into place to try, in every way possible, to prevent bullying. And to give meaningful counselling and support to anyone being bullied. Despite your attempt to distill my argument down to some sort of "it's guns and only guns that are the problem here", or "just get rid of the guns and everything will be OK", that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm simply acknowledging the role that easy access to a handgun at home had in this suicide. Your knee-jerk reaction to this acknowledgment is a predictable one: it's echoed by "gun rights" advocates all around the country: "guns don't kill, people kill", etc. Then you go around saying it's a good thing the constitution "protects" you against "people like me". The battle lines are already clearly drawn in your mind, and I am the enemy as soon as I've even suggested that it might not have been so great for this kid to just be able to waltz into dad's study and blow his brain's out with pop's constitutionally-protected gun.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:59 AM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


nor can you prove that it not being there would have saved him. That is my point, you can guess all day long if he would have chosen a different tool or not. That is meaningless beside figuring out why he made the choice to end his life and what factors motivated it.

Identifying and treating depression and other issues that can lead to suicide in teens is an extremely difficult task. Removing a gun from a home is significantly easier.

I agree that common sense would suggest that a suicidal person denied of a momentary easy option of suicide would probably end up finding some other way. But in reality studies have shown over and over again that suicide is a very impulsive act, and that preventing access to a common method can have a dramatic impact on suicide rates. One study showed that 94% of people who were stopped from jumping off of the Golden Gate bridge did not end up using a different method to commit suicide when they were tracked down later.

Here's an applicable quote from an excellent comment by kirkaracha on the issue (including links to many other interesting articles and studies):

According to statistics collected by the Injury Control Research Center on nearly 4,000 suicides across the United States, those who had killed themselves with firearms — by far the most lethal common method of suicide — had a markedly lower history of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, previous suicide attempts or drug or alcohol abuse than those who died by the least lethal methods...In a 1985 study of 30 people who had survived self-inflicted gunshot wounds, more than half reported having had suicidal thoughts for less than 24 hours, and none of the 30 had written suicide notes.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:00 AM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


The real problem with being a victim of extreme bullying is not the bullying, but the loneliness and isolation.

Repeated because it's so goddam true.
posted by RussHy at 9:06 AM on April 3, 2009


It's not the victim's fault, it's just in the victim's power to stop. I know, that "sticks and stones" stuff sounds simplistic, but kids actually do have the power to decide to ignore, pity, mock, etc. in response to verbal abuse. That's not some theory, that's how I and most of the other nerds I knew survived middle school.

This is crap. Simply put, it is unreasonable to expect kids who don't fit in to figure it out or suffer the consequences. They aren't adults yet. Adults exist to teach children the things they can't/don't/won't figure out for themselves.

There are good and effective ways to deal with bullies and assholes. There are very poor ways as well. It is up to the adults around those kids who are being victimized to teach them what they should and should not do. It is also up to the adults to address the behavior of the bullies as well.

Ultimately that is what these things represent - a failure on the part of the adults to understand and help these children deal with these situations.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Once I started wearing KMFDM t-shirts and openly expressing a gun fetish, people made a lot of uneasy jokes but nobody messed with me.

Hah, same thing happened to me my senior year. I was actually asked by one of the younger kids in the school to "bring some of my scary crew" to help defend another kid that was getting picked on. The ironic thing is that we all thought the Columbine shooters were total douches, what with the Nazi-fetish and the mass killing and all. We were all very welcoming and open-minded kids, and by god, if we ever snapped, we'd make damn sure to take out the ACTUAL bullies instead of a bunch of random bystanders.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't the weapon the problem is you and your decision to take someone's life. We need to look at the real source of these problems, people. Not the tools they use.

I think you need to look at both things.
posted by chococat at 9:31 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Call it what you will. Had one of the bullied students gone into school with a gun and killed four football players or cheerleaders, we'd be hearing it called a massacre in "Special Breaking News Reports" on every channel, there'd be politicians clamoring for hearing and legislation, there'd be studies and committees and compensation for the victims' families and TV movies and memorials and anniversary coverage of the event."

If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

It wasn't a massacre, it wasn't even an epidemic. While it's four-times tragic, I'm bright enough to get that on my own without the condescending hyperbole of your framing. It comes across as bullshit editorializing, something that you've been chided over in the past, so should well get by now.

Interesting article, crap post.

(Also, given a suicide rate of roughly 7.28/100000 teens, anyone wanna figure the probability of four suicides in a population of 2900? I've tried to, but I get the sense that my high school math is letting me down.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 AM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


boymilo: "I don't believe the problem can be solved by handling the bullying issue. No matter what you do, the bullies aren't going anywhere, and school faculty certainly can't be everywhere at once. The underlying factor is the self-esteem of the kids. I honestly have no idea how to help boost the self-image these kids have of themselves in the school enviroment, but that should be the focus."

Ah, yes, victim blaming. AWESOME!

Maybe, you could let the kids they're worth it by... I dunno... PROTECTING THEM FROM BULLYING!
posted by symbioid at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Japan is still a very safe country when it comes to guns, a reality that has less to do with laws than with prevailing attitudes."

This is why you don't support points by quoting wikipedia. This is totally untrue. Read section two on this page. No handguns, only shotguns for sport after a lengthy application process, etc.

Or maybe why, if you want to make a point, you don't cherry pick the piece of total bullshit out of a wikipedia article as your supporting data. Especially when the next sentences in that same article are:

"The weapons law begins by stating "No-one shall possess a fire-arm or fire-arms or a sword or swords", and very few exceptions are allowed.[19] The only types of firearms which a Japanese citizen may even contemplate acquiring is a rifle or shotgun. Sportsmen are permitted to possess shotguns or rifles for hunting and for skeet and trap shooting, but only after submitting to a lengthy licensing procedure.[21] Without a license, a person may not even hold a gun in his or her hands."
posted by snofoam at 10:28 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite: "Despite your attempt to distill my argument down to some sort of "it's guns and only guns that are the problem here", or "just get rid of the guns and everything will be OK", that's not what I'm saying at all.

That was not what I was attempting to do. I was attempting to remove guns from the discussion. This isn't a discussion about guns, not even tangentially. The debate has been had, I have a right to own a gun, all Americans until they show otherwise have a right to own guns. Guns are dangerous, guns are deadly. They need to be handled properly and with care. There are responsibilities that come with gun ownership. Should there have been a trigger lock on the gun? Should it be kept locked up? Maybe. That is for this family to decide.
The point is, guns are a given. They are part of the equation and will not be removed from it.

I'm simply acknowledging the role that easy access to a handgun at home had in this suicide.

The gun played a role. Given, it played the role of the tool he chose. It's tragic that he made the choice. However the gun was there, you don't get to remove it with legislation.

Your knee-jerk reaction

Yes it is knee jerk, again because the debate has been had. It is predictable because we've all been thru this. We rehash it and end up in the same place. Americans have the right to own guns. Until an individual has done something that causes us to have to revoke that right for that individual for some reason, or the individual is incapable of handling the responsibility associated with that right.
Gun ownership rights are a given.
Can we restrict the conversation to the topic at hand now? Bullying and suicide prevention?

Then you go around saying it's a good thing the constitution "protects" you against "people like me".

For the record, "me" being a free citizen and "you" being a person who wants to curtail my rights when I have not taken action that warrants forfeiture of those rights. Also for the record I do not own a gun, I however do have the right to.

The battle lines are already clearly drawn in your mind, and I am the enemy as soon as I've even suggested that it might not have been so great for this kid to just be able to waltz into dad's study and blow his brain's out with pop's constitutionally-protected gun."

You can suggest that maybe it would have been safer if his dad had put on a trigger lock, or kept it in a safe, etc. Those are possibly good. You can't suggest that law strip the man of his right to own the gun however without picking a fight, unless you are suggesting in this case that this individual did something to warrant the repeal of his individual right.

The original comment I was replying to directly addressed gun ownership, not gun safety. You want to discuss gun safety, fine. I think it is the least part of the discussion of the case at hand however. Gun ownership however, is a given. In America it is the right of all free citizens.

BTW Bullies suck. I'm real sorry for this kid and his family. I'm also concerned and curious about the people in his class who picked on this kid and wonder how this result is effecting them? Any follow ups?
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:32 AM on April 3, 2009


klangklangston: "(Also, given a suicide rate of roughly 7.28/100000 teens, anyone wanna figure the probability of four suicides in a population of 2900? I've tried to, but I get the sense that my high school math is letting me down.)"

By my math, that would put their suicide rate at almost 19x the national average. Assuming your numbers equal the national average.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:37 AM on April 3, 2009


(Also, given a suicide rate of roughly 7.28/100000 teens, anyone wanna figure the probability of four suicides in a population of 2900?

I get about 1/500-ish. Basically, .0000728*2900 gives about a 21% chance of one suicide occurring in that population in any given year. .21*.21*.21*.21 = roughly .00198.

This, of course, would ignore any social effects such as "copycats" or anything like the weather (I remember reading something about harsh winters increase suicides, could be wrong about that though)
posted by deadmessenger at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2009


I came in to throw my two cents into the gun control debate raging here...

Gun control, in this context, is treating the symptom, but it seems to me that banning handgun ownership might actually make a difference to people in the heat of the moment. They're a fantastically convenient way to kill anyone, yourself included, and removing that tool could probably save a few lives, at least in the context of suicide. It just doesn't make sense to me that we have tools explicitly designed to be handheld death laying around our houses. Hunting rifles, sure, but not everybody hunts.

Obviously, the real problem is doing something about bullies. If there's any lesson at all in my own experience as a weird, weird kid (I had 7 sets of the same gray T-shirt/jeans outfit from 10-14 because I thought Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, and Union Bay were for "popular idiots", and I was pretty loud about it), it's that support from the community works. God only knows why, but people in that town of 10,000 listened to me, included me, and seemed to think I was headed somewhere in life. I was a prime target, but nobody screwed with me, apart from the meth/poverty/Metallica/dog pee smell clique, and they only because I was friends with some of them. Teachers funneled me into their particular pet extracurricular. And then, when 10th grade came and I went AWOL, these guys picked me up, and I was in college by the time I was 17 (on their dime no less!). The other lesson is that alternative education works and really should be made available to people other than the at risk (PDF).
posted by saysthis at 11:16 AM on April 3, 2009


Yes, standing up to bullies is the best way, but you have to be ready to get your ass kicked, and of course it doesn't always work. The biggest bully in our class threatened to beat me up in class unless I let him cut in line or some such nonsense. We had quite the stand-off, and believe me he would have had quite the advantage we both knew that. Somehow he respected my decision to stand my ground and he never really bothered me again. Like BitterOldPunk I also beat one of my tormentors and that also stopped him for good. My main tormentor though, a kid both older and larger, basically continued to womp on me well into high school and no amount of standing up to him seemed to work.

As for this whole argument that the bullies go on to prosper, I am not buying it. In my experience they were mostly tormented souls in some fashion seeking to escape from their inadequacies by punishing someone physically weaker than themselves. Most of these guys did not go on to be successful in life. They were punks then and remain punks now. The nerds really do inherit the earth in the end, but the process of getting there is often filled with pain.

Oh, and orthogonality's trick was kind of a cheap shot, but I liked it.
posted by caddis at 11:17 AM on April 3, 2009


Verbal abuse is not as big a deal as physical abuse? And kids should just learn to ignore it and suck it up? Is that what you're saying? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying. Verbal abuse is still abuse. Arguably, it's even worse than physical abuse.

It seems strange, in a way, but I'd have to agree with this.

Due to my silly hobbies (martial arts, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc.) it's common for me to have some minor injury or the other -- maybe a gash on my leg, a bruised shin, tweaked shoulder, twisted ankle, even the occasional broken finger, black eye, or (currently) a dislocated rib. No big deal -- the injuries are inconvenient at times, but I do them to myself in the pursuit of fun, and I'm 100% happy with the trade-off. So I limp for a week. Or it hurts to sneeze. Big deal -- it's nothing permanent or life-threatening.

If I were a woman or a child or even a smaller guy, and people didn't know me, many would assume I was in an abusive relationship.

And it occurs to me that if somebody were doing this TO ME, AGAINST MY WILL, out of hate and anger, it would be a whole different deal. Like if my lover or parent or classmate was beating me, that would be a terrible, terrible thing.

So the crazy thing is: the actual injuries themselves are inconsequential -- it's the *intent* behind the injuries that really hurts. And verbal abuse conveys that intent just as well, if not BETTER, than say a black eye. Physical injuries kinda suck, don't get me wrong, but I believe that it's the injuries to self-esteem that are the most painful.
posted by LordSludge at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


(There's a dog pee smell clique?? Christ, why don't you people tell me these things!!!!)
posted by LordSludge at 11:49 AM on April 3, 2009


An actual massacre.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I get about 1/500-ish. Basically, .0000728*2900 gives about a 21% chance of one suicide occurring in that population in any given year. .21*.21*.21*.21 = roughly .00198."

Ah, I see what I did wrong.

Anyway, given that there are likely more than 500 schools in the country with 2900 students or more (in the smallish collegetown where I grew up, there were two schools with 2500 each, both designed for about 2000, and in the more rural areas around, the school populations tended to be much higher), we should expect at least one school to have four suicides in a year, assuming, of course, that the distribution is random.

None of this is to excuse bullying, just to tone down the bullshit editorializing. I wouldn't call four shootings at a school, spaced out over a year and perpetrated by different people, a massacre either.
posted by klangklangston at 11:56 AM on April 3, 2009


Shit like this is a reason why I'm not having kids.
posted by kldickson at 12:11 PM on April 3, 2009


Yes, standing up to bullies is the best way, but you have to be ready to get your ass kicked, and of course it doesn't always work.

When I was in the 7th grade, the biggest bully I had had a horrible haircut one day, and came in and everyone teased him so much that he cried and ran into the bathroom to hide.

I went in there to talk to him about it, and we ended up being really good friends for the last 2 years I was at the school.

I had tried standing up to him many times before, and got my ass kicked, multiple times, and got detention for it on top of that. So standing up to bullies isn't always the way to stop it.
posted by empath at 12:12 PM on April 3, 2009


actually I think the numbers are much worse than 1/500: let me see if I remember my probability correctly

d = P(suicide) = 0.0000728
a = P(not_suicide) = 1-d = 0.9999272000

(2900 choose 4) * d^4 * a^2896 = .000066902... or about a 0.067 PERCENT chance. So about one in 15 thousand.

Now if they were all in the same class and in one year, well the numbers get even crazier. I don't think you can just shrug and say "hey, statistics!"
posted by aspo at 12:38 PM on April 3, 2009


Especially considering once one kid kills themselves a reasonable principal would make an effort to stem the causes of that kids suicide. Once two deaths happen even an unreasonable principal is going to sit up and take notice. Letting 4 happen and the guy is still trying to downplay it? That's crazy talk.
posted by aspo at 12:44 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have so much to say on this subject I don't know where to begin.

First of all, guns are a problem, in general, but they're not really the source of the problem here. I agree that if the kid hadn't had access to a gun he would have found another way to kill himself so the gun discussion is beside the point.

Standing up to bullies is a lot easier said than done. I was bullied in a mostly sexual manner every day by a group of three boys in one of my junior high classes. I knew my teacher (a woman) knew what was going on but she never said a word. By not doing anything, she was condoning it and making me feel like I deserved it. I think those boys were and probably still are assholes but it's the teacher I really blame. She was the adult. She had the power to stop it and didn't. I contemplated suicide quite a bit in those days but luckily I had a good family and friends so I didn't suffer as much from isolation as some. At one point, after I no longer had to be in class with those little shitheads, something in my meek little self broke and I decided I was just never going to put up with anything like that again. And I didn't. Seriously, god help anyone who tries to fuck with me now.

As for this whole argument that the bullies go on to prosper, I am not buying it. In my experience they were mostly tormented souls in some fashion seeking to escape from their inadequacies by punishing someone physically weaker than themselves. Most of these guys did not go on to be successful in life. They were punks then and remain punks now.

I googled my former bullies. They are all now (unfortunately) upstanding Mormon fathers and husbands with well-respected jobs. But who knows, maybe they secretly beat their wives and children?

I do agree that for almost all of these kids being bullied, life will get appreciably better in a few years. However, I tried telling my 14 year old cousin this recently and it didn't seem to comfort her much.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:49 PM on April 3, 2009


Why is improving self-esteem and teaching kids survival skills and self defense considered to be "blaming the victim"?

Abused women who take self-defense are not blaming themselves. They are empowering themselves in case anyone tries to hurt them again.

Why can't we crack down on bullies (which as a substitute teacher (and a high-school student) in a past life, I would agree is not as simple as it may seem) and improve kids' self-esteem, self-defense, and self-adapting capabilities?

I can understand how it might be considering "giving up" on policing bullies by teaching the bullied kids how to manage better, but I don't understand how it could be considered blaming the victims. (Punishing maybe, but not blaming...)

my answer: release the children from prison. release your mind from seeing school as the only option. and teach your children that the crap they're putting up with in school is NOT "just the way the world works."

school is nothing like the real world. it is an exercise in extraordinary dehumanization and absurdity to a degree that makes most kids into fatalists in a way that kills my soul just a little bit every single day i'm forced to watch it in action.


I can empathize, RE. As mentioned, I've done a little substitute teaching, volunteer tutoring, and independent coaching, but I don't think I could stomach the day-in-day-out, prison-esque life that many students experience. It would break my heart.

The other lesson is that alternative education works and really should be made available to people other than the at risk (PDF).

Bolded for concurrence. It's amazing to me that the U.S. educational system is virtually unchanged from 100 years ago.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:52 PM on April 3, 2009


There actually is quite a lot of research suggesting that when schools, parents, teachers and the community decide that bullying will not be tolerated (and not with stupid zero tolerance bullshit), it declines.

the schools which have had school shootings *all* had an atmosphere where the teachers and administrators and coaches explicitly and implicitly condoned the bullying, where the teachers and administration glorified sports, competition, masculinity and wealth-- and saw women, girls, gay people, freaks and intellectuals as "soft" and unworthy of respect. Where they basically said "boys will be boys" "suck it up," rather than, that's not acceptable.

Research shows that when a school climate is warm, welcoming and nurturing, there is less bullying, less violence, less drug use, less drinking and better academic achievement. And it is stupid to think that a bullying prevention program for elementary/jr high would cause anything but derision and laughter if tried as a high school program.
posted by Maias at 1:18 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really don't understand suicide/murder as a response to verbal/physical assault from a select group of people. To me, the very act of bullying de-legitimizes a person and so why would I care why they did?

It's a lot easier to say that as an adult in retrospect than it is during your adolescence about the people around you. Still, bullies don't pick on everyone - they pick on the kids who are suffering internally already, questioning their own self-worth. They pick on the fat kid who is always looking at his shoes - obviously the kid doesn't like being fat and is on some level already hating himself for being fat, and the bully picks up on this and exploits it by pointing out that the kid is fat and making him feel worse about it. The overweight kid who is confident and happy and makes friends easily and jokes a lot wouldn't be nearly as easy prey, so he's less likely to be the target (though dynamics can change unexpectedly in high school, too.)

So, you might have been the type who would never have been bugged by it. Or, you might have discovered it would have got under your skin if a bully had kept pointing out whatever little thing you were self-conscious/ embarrassed about, and that it's a lot easier to think you wouldn't care than to actually go through constant negative comments about your particular shortcomings, in front of everyone.
posted by mdn at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


If only there were something odd, in the USA, about owning guns. Tell you one thing, I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws. Basically, no one has guns. It's, duh, safer. A lot.

Gun ownership is not illegal in Japan. It is merely much more regulated. There is civilian ownership of firearms. Japan requires registration. (And so does, and should, the US).

I suppose what you meant in your anti-gun rant was "hand guns." Which are very restricted in Japan. However there are suicides with shotguns in Japan. I'm sure you could find the reports if you look hard enough.

In fact there there quite a few illegal guns there in the hands of Yakusa. The Inagawa-kai in fact have been busted several times in recent years smuggling millions of dollars worth of firearms, automatic weapons among them, into Japan. And. In 2007 the Mayor of Nagasaki was gunned down by Yakusa outside his office. there is actually quite a bit of gun violence between organized crime in Japan.

The comparison between the US and Japan(or even Europe) in terms of gun violence is idiotic. We have a much more saturated and long-standing history of gun culture in this country. The fact is people in Europe and Japan have a much longer history of restrictions of weapons going back to feudal times. And frankly, culturally, are not all that interested in owning guns in the first place. Also there ar a couple of countries where per-capita gun ownership is HIGHER than the US and the gun violence rate is still lower. Is it the guns?

Some of you insist on making this argument every time a thread that even tangentially connects to guns comes up. Which speak more to your fear of guns that any actual facts you know.

And linking this suicide to your pet feelings about gun control is rather crass and transparently grand-standing. And. Well. Lame.
posted by tkchrist at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think it's important to send a strong message at the institutional level that bullying has no place in school. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. live in a society that sends a very visible and pervasive pro-violence message. The government invades other countries at will and uses violent tactics to get what it wants from individuals and groups in overt and covert ways. Arms manufacture and sales are considered reasonable industries and we'll send planes, guns and bombs to any old country we can regardless of their human rights record (Israel? Pakistan? Seriously?). The gun lobby is completely out of hand and won't cooperate in any sort of reasonable compromise level on gun control (I'm sorry, there's no need for assault weapons outside of a war). Unbelievable violence in movies, games, and other media is wildly popular. Men are pushed very hard to build an identity around physical strength and the willingness to use it and are derided for not being "masculine" in that or other ways. Domestic violence laws are weak and states won't pass anti-discrimination laws. We pit the poor and troubled and against the poor and troubled rather than try to eliminate the causes of poverty and trouble. We underpay teachers and overpay MBAs. Heck, even on this thread a number of bullying victims talk about how they have used violence or the threat of violence as an antidote for violence.

And to throw a political bomb in here, we've had a bunch of crap presidents (Reagan, Bush) who didn't give a rat's ass about science or academics and constantly portrayed scientists as a bunch of ivory tower nerds who are just trying to scare us. *That* was really helpful to the geeks and nerds. And now there are books about how great Reagan was. Huh?

We can try to "crack down" on bullies, but frankly I think that until we seriously address some of these bigger issues we're not going to see much improvement. We're all as a group setting a god-awful example for our kids. And as much as the nerd in me rubs his hands at a knee-jerk "expel all the bullies" solution, that isn't really going to work in the long run. Some of the creative interventions mentioned above like having a "who are the bullies" survey sound good to me. I don't think we should rely on the victims to solve the problem because a lot of the people who are bullied are socially clueless in their own way (I was) and would have no idea how to do it other than the typical fantasizing about killing the bullies.

I was in a gifted program within a bigger "regular" school for most of my education and it was a living hell because of all the abuse. When I finally went away to a math + science high school for 11th and 12th grades, it was like a veil was lifted. Few if any real bullies. Celebration of learning as a worthy life goal. Freedom to be a dork in public. If we can make this the norm, we'll be in good shape.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kids in a public school out of control.
And the gov't has any chance at regulating adults and guns?

That is a receipe for a mess.
posted by new and improved buzzman IV at 5:01 PM on April 3, 2009


I was severely bullied for a while when I was a kid.

Let me put it this way. I was a little scrawny nerd kid whose momma dressed him. Being a nerd was not cool. Judah Friedlander would not have been cool. Irony and vocabulary was for fags.

When my dad was in the service the base schools were very controlled. Nobody cared about how you dressed or your haircut or any of that shit. You always got in a fight the first couple of weeks while things shook themselves out. But after that everybody was in the same boat and rowed together.

But civilian schools? What a fucking nightmare. Kids were brutal to the new kid. And I was ALWAYS the new kid. So. Sure I would fight. Thinking that would settle things. But it didn't. You were outnumbered. To these kids it showed you didn't know your place. Once the dominant social group formed an option of you, you were doomed until summer break. I had learn to care about all the superficial shit kids cared about. I hated doing that. wearing all the right clothes an liking all the right popular stuff. But it was the only way to fit in. Eventually it worked until high school.

I wrestled at 108lbs as a freshman. I was tiny. At this point I had many friends. But still if I was caught alone it was guaranteed somebody would try to cheap-shot me, spit on me, throw piss in my locker. One time some kid lit all my clothes on fire in the locker while I was in the shower. All of them. Including gym clothes. Which meant I had to finish school in borrowed gym clothes. Yeah. Do that when you are 14.

So one day I got cheap shot'd. Walking down the hall alone. Some senior twice my size tapped me on the shoulder and punched me in the face when I turned. Split my lip against my braces knocked me the fuck out. I lay there bleeding out cold and people stepped over me on their way to class until a friend picked me up. Not one teacher said or did a fucking thing. You want to nurse burning resentment and hatred in a kid? Let something like that fester.

So. After that I pretty much snapped. I became a fascist bully right back at them. I vowed nobody would ever fuck with me again. I made a concerted effort to be friends with all the biggest wrestlers and disaffected hoods. I made sure anybody even looked at me funny I would essentially mount a campaign of terror against them. Pretty fucked up. But. By end of sophomore year nobody fucked with me anymore.

And you know? I had it easy compared to some kids. I remember one poor chick got pushed down the stairs and broke her collar bone all for the sin of having big tits - and when she lay there crying other girls walked up to her and spit in her face. Right in her face. And still not one teacher or counselor ever intervened. It was all kids will be kids.

I carry that around with me to this day. I'm pretty pathological about bullies.
posted by tkchrist at 5:19 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


A strong magnet program seems like the best solution, i.e. move the smart kids into high schools with more money. You'll get more "I didn't get into Yale" suicides though.

You might also compel habitual bullies to participate in minority-to-majority racial bussing programs, i.e. if you're a bully then we'll force you into being in the racial minority, but I'm not sure how much evidence you'd need.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:37 PM on April 3, 2009


Y'wanna know what helped me survive bullying in high school? Dropping the fuck out and getting a G.E. motherfucking D. There's a certain percentage of kids in school that are chimps. Like, the face and testicle eating, smaller monkey- spearing, poop-throwing chimps. When you lock other kids up with these chimps, they act like chimps, meaning they single out weaker members of the troop, kill them and eat them. This is a fact of life and will never change. The solution is to let the smart kids out, and get them into college early. Community college was a godsend for me, but it would have been better 3 years earlier.

The side-discussion on Japan is ironic, since bullying (see "ijime") is even worse there.
posted by fnerg at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't really have a dog in this fight. In Canada, 26% of households own guns but the gun homicide rate is only marginally higher than the UK's, probably statistically equivalent. But if gun advocates in the US really do think that guns aren't the problem, they need to do a much better job of explaining what the problem is*.

Cause there's nothing else different about the US and Canada. We are equally diverse, have equally good social welfare, the exact same culture, etc. So it MUST be the guns!

Or, it could be all that other stuff. I'm sure that, say, the difference between having health insurance or not is not a stressful factor in one's life.

Besides, why the fuck are we talking about homicide rates in this thread? Suicides are high in many places without guns (like Japan!). This thread is about suicide, not homicide.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:06 PM on April 3, 2009


I wrote: I really like living in a country (Japan) where there are very, very strict gun ownership laws.

tkchrist replied: Gun ownership is not illegal in Japan.

Can you read, tk? Or does "very, very strict gun ownership laws" mean "illegal" in the language you speak? Or, put another way, does "very, very strict gun ownership laws" not mean "much more regulated", in the language you speak? But that point bears repeating:

It is merely much more regulated.

That "merely" ain't actually "mere". And that "much"? That's a BIG much. A big fat much. And I'm real glad about that, you see, having a school age daughter and all. I've never heard of a single school shooting ("massacre", to use the now-infamous wording of this FPP) here in Japan. And it ain't because there are no troubled youth. There are plenty of troubled youth. They just can't get their hands on a gun.

The comparison between the US and Japan(or even Europe) in terms of gun violence is idiotic.

Sez you. But why shouldn't I compare? These are just countries we're talking about, and countries have laws. And laws can be changed, when there's a will to do so. Despite your talk of history and culture, and related suggestions that the culture of guns in the USA is therefore some sort of immutable, cast-iron fact, history also shows us that culture can be changed. There are plenty of historical aspects of US culture that have been dropped, abolished, cast off, etc., because they were wrong and harmful to society. Slavery* was once considered such a tradition. So was the idea that only men should vote in elections. These were but two societal bulwarks that, in their day, had a firmly embedded cultural and legal foundation, but which, thankfully, no longer exist in our society. I believe this insane culture of gun ownership (and jeezis h. christ, I'm NOT talking about taking away everyone's gaddam hunting rifles, OK?) needs to change. Obviously you and some others in this thread disagree.

And linking this suicide to your pet feelings about gun control is rather crass and transparently grand-standing. And. Well. Lame.

You can call my raising of these points "grandstanding", you can belittlingly call them "pet feelings" (though you'll be hard-pressed to locate any other comments I've ever made on this site concerning gun control) and you can call me Totally. Fucking. Lame all day long if you think you can score some cheap points like that, but... I ain't gonna be bullied by such tactics. I think this is a perfectly appropriate forum for discussing the related issue of guns in the home. He killed himself with an instantly available gun. In the home. You can scream "TANGENTIAL" till you're blue in the face! Go right ahead! And BTW, if you'll look upthread, you'll find that I wasn't the first commenter to address the issue.

*And before you go flying off the handle, no, the statement above is not equating slavery with gun ownership. It's merely an example of how laws and people change, often for the better. I'm just so sick of hearing, ad nauseum, about how US culture, indeed some sort of essential aspect of the US spirit is inextricably linked with owning semiautomatic weapons, handguns of all varieties, etc.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:17 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is also not mentioned here, and as the youngest of four boys I know first hand, is the corrosive effect bullying by older siblings has, you can't transfer away from a family, even good parents aren't there all the time, and the warden analogy goes for here too. Tell on your older brother, you are just cruising for a shit-kicking.

Thank you for mentioning this. I am female, two and a half years younger than my huge, strong, formerly rage-filled brother. Telling my mother only made me get beaten worse. He'd unplug the phone so I couldn't even call her. I had nowhere to hide. He'd beat down the door to my room and pummel me some more. I remember being seven years old and being crouched in a fetal position on the floor, pounding my head against the floor just wishing I was dead so the pain would stop.

They told me that I should ignore him, that I "should not let it get to [me]", "don't take it so seriously", and the smarmy grins they had while they told me all this made me know they condoned it and it even amused them. The physical wasn't nearly as bad as the emotional abuse. I despised myself for decades, thanks to my own personal tormentor. Every fucking day, he was there, with some new way to cut me down and destroy me. I learned to insult myself first, before he got a chance, because somehow that would make it sting less. What a terrible way for a child to try to cope.

And only slowly, over time, did it stop. I think it was a big improvement when he hit 14 and started football. He could get out his rage bashing his body into other boys.

Fast forward to now. I'm 36, and since I was about 18 things have been good. He eventually grew out of it, but boy it was sure as hell a long wait. (Do you remember how long a year was, when you were 8? It was an eternity). We get along well now, and I love my brother, and he is good to me and loves me too.

About four years ago on a family vacation we had a quiet moment mostly alone and I indicated to him, in a somewhat veiled way, just how much he had hurt and damaged me. I minimized it in my description, because I knew it would hurt him to know what he had done. He had no memory of it. He had no idea he had given me such a hard time. And he looked at me, and apologized. It was brief, and I had to lighten the mood and change the subject.

I still don't forgive my mother for letting that happen to me. She knew. She saw him punch me out on Easter when we argued over hidden baskets of candy. She heard him accuse me of faking as she revived me. And I can't bring it up to her, because she'd be hurt, and at the same time she'd have to tell herself that it didn't happen how I described, that I was an overly sensitive child, that it's the fault of my mental illness (gee, think anything might have contributed to that?).

Now I have a nine year old daughter. Thank god she doesn't have any siblings. She is happy and healthy and strong. Every day I see her grow up safe and without torment helps me forget.

But I will never really forget.

Sorry for the length and off-topic-ness. I just had to vent. For me, school was a refuge. I was lucky. It was the only place where I could show my worth in a way no one could assail.

And, for what it's worth, if there had been a gun in my house, I would be dead.
posted by marble at 6:25 PM on April 3, 2009 [11 favorites]


marble, I honestly hope that one day you can tell your mother that.
posted by agregoli at 6:46 PM on April 3, 2009


The kid did not kill himself because there was a gun inside the house, he killed himself because he was bullied. I'm sorry some of you missed that. The gun issue is an aside no matter how much you inflate it, it's still a red herring.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


boldface comment: The kid did not kill himself because there was a gun inside the house.

boldface reply: That's right! The kid killed himself WITH a gun in the house! Right! Perhaps you could now point to the commenter who SAID or even IMPLIED that the kid killed himself BECAUSE of a gun in the house! That would be helpful, cause otherwise it's you dangling the red herring around here.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:34 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


But really, this back-and-forth with some of you folks opposed to gun control in the US, hey, I know my opinions won't change your mind. The positions on this issue in particular always seem pretty carved in stone. I'm excusing myself, therefore, from any more fruitless dialogue concerning the issue, unless someone comes through with something worth responding to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:38 PM on April 3, 2009


So the whole argument about gun control is not a red herring?
posted by P.o.B. at 8:16 PM on April 3, 2009


Communism is a red herring.

And monkey's brains, while popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington D.C.
posted by hippybear at 9:51 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you know that movie quotes are responsible for eighty six percent of all drunken fights in frat houses when left unattended? I would personally much rather live in a country where there is no movie quoting, it is way safer because people don't fight over movie quoting. Although there are no frats in these countries that is beside the point, these movie quoting atrocities must end!

What were we talking about? Doesn't matter, it's your fault for not talking about what I wanted to discuss!
posted by P.o.B. at 2:09 AM on April 4, 2009


P.o.B.: I'm sorry. I thought you brought up the topic of red herrings. I was trying to play along, really I was.
posted by hippybear at 7:05 AM on April 4, 2009


hippybear: Not to worry. Of course I realize our most recent comments were in fun, but probably not the best of derails
posted by P.o.B. at 7:17 AM on April 4, 2009


Jesus Christ flapjax could you be more hysterical please. Nobody is bulling you. For fuck sake you sound like a lunatic up there. read you post again? That is a rational argument? What the fuck is wrong with you? You are better than that. Take a deep breath and calm down.

Not one person here said they were against gun control. Not one. In fact I said "There is civilian ownership of firearms. Japan requires registration. (And so does, and should, the US)."

As for me reiterating that Guns are not illegal in Japan. I was attempting to address your statement, which I suppose I should have linked to earlier:

...if you live in a country where guns are illegal, and I personally believe they should be illegal in the US. You don't agree. Fine.

Which is an odd thing to say. Since you don't live in a country where guns are illegal. And in fact you live in a country that has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.


But really, this back-and-forth with some of you folks opposed to gun control in the US, hey, I know my opinions won't change your mind. The positions on this issue in particular always seem pretty carved in stone. I'm excusing myself, therefore, from any more fruitless dialogue concerning the issue, unless someone comes through with something worth responding to.


You should have done that earlier. What ever strawman you're angry about I suggest you go to the NRA homepage and hash it out there with all the other people who fetishize guns to the level you apparently do. Or do it in a thread about actual gun violence.
posted by tkchrist at 12:14 PM on April 4, 2009


Red herring killed my uncle. Fish oil good for you?!? IT'S A LIE!
posted by tkchrist at 12:19 PM on April 4, 2009


The real problem with being a victim of extreme bullying is not the bullying, but the loneliness and isolation.

No, the real problem is the bullying.

Having friends and family who will support you can help you deal with the problem. It doesn't make the problem disappear. Bullying still hurts kids who have someone that they can talk to about being hurt.

And of course, for some kids, support isn't possible. For example, me. I went to a rural high school where I was simply too different. I had no peers for my hypothetical peer support group. Luckily, the few times someone tried to bully me, it backfired on them, but that place could have easily been a hell on earth for someone like me.

Support for bullying victims is a good idea, but it's not a solution, and it's not the victim's responsibility to solve the problem in the first place.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:33 PM on April 4, 2009


So I'm coming late to this discussion, but I do feel I have to add my two cents. I was bullied in elementary school. By 7th grade, I had figured out how to deflect it, to get the bullies to target other kids. That's what victim education does, it simply exposes the most vulnerable, as the peripheral targets manage to escape. I'm not proud of what I did, but it did make my life easier.

So while victim education is great, it cannot be the only thing done. Work needs to be done to stop the bullies also.

As an aside- this discussion made me remember Ian McDonald's book Sacrifice of Fools, about aliens landing and living on the earth. The alien race held one thing sacred- their children. A mother reacted to her children being bullied by first talking to the bullies parents, and when that didn't work, pouring gasoline on the bully and lighting him on fire.
posted by Hactar at 3:54 PM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Kutsuwamushi, for putting into words what I was so clumsily expressing earlier about this exact concept.

I was bullied, although not horribly so, pretty much all the way through school, although by tenth grade onward it had receded to background noise rather than the full-on terror of junior high. Never at any time during the process did I feel that I was somehow deserving of the terror, or that it was up to me to find a way to solve the problem (outside of basic day-to-day "survival"). People were being horrid to me, and internalizing that would never help solve the problem.

That said, I certainly internalized enough of the awfulness that I find I'm still working through it today, many MANY years later. Adolescents are horrible people. I've long heard that the reason we haven't tamed zebras or other creatures is because they are just fucking MEAN. Our species isn't too different, if you ask me.
posted by hippybear at 4:19 PM on April 4, 2009


Hey, tkchrist... later for you, knucklehead.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:46 AM on April 5, 2009


How long ago did you attend this school? Nowadays, that kind of talk in a Zero Tolerance school would get you in serious trouble for making threats,

Long time ago. But back then I could not have hidden a recording device and captured their physical/verbal crap to have taken to the administration.

and expelled after the thumbtack incident. The cops would probably get called in, too.

Now that would have been fun, the resulting lawsuit. The cameras of todays schools showing them punching, the alerting the administration to the issue, followed up with the bully hurting himself because of his action? Yea - lawsuit. Don't have to win, just put up a good fight to cost the admins their jobs.

Follow it up with a Micheal Moore-style run for the school board - yup good times.

I only wish this was a strawman argument with hyperbole for rhetoric advantage.

What part, the crap they pulled or my response? In a zero tolerance school they'd not gotten away with what they were doing and so I would not have had to 'up the ante'. Low level harassment/physical hitting by bullies is what brought about zero tolerance.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:53 AM on April 7, 2009


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