Thursday, March 27, 2008

NY Times Profiles School Bullies' Victim

In Monday's New York Times, columnist Dan Barry published this profile of Billy Wolfe, an Arkansas tenth-grader who is constantly bullied by his classmates. He's been knocked out in shop class, decked in Spanish class, prank-called, presented with a list of 20 potential assailants, encountered anti-Billy graffiti scrawled in his textbooks, and was once the subject of a Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.”
It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”
We've noted in the past that Title IX is often limited in its capacity to address peer-on-peer violence, both because it is difficult to establish a school's deliberate indifference to ongoing bullying and because some courts don't construe sex discrimination statutes like Title IX to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Judging by the description of the anti-Billy Facebook page, Billy may be a target because his peers perceive him as gay or otherwise not masculine.

The article notes that Billy's parents have sued the bullies themselves, though that's not a likely to be a lucrative suit. They may also sue the school district, which would give a court the opportunity to construe the applicability of Title IX to this case. Meanwhile, however, stories like this one underscore the need for strengthening anti-bully legislation at the federal and state level.