Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Girls charged as juveniles in Florida bullying case

In a case of bullying that stands out because, as some experts note, of the length of time and the number of students involved in the bullying of a 12-year old girl who killed herself last month, criminal charges have been filed against two of the alleged perpetrators.
The details of the case are not particularly unusual (we have certainly heard worse) and seem to involve a boy who was a romantic interest of the victim and one of the alleged bullies who was the apparent mastermind of the constant verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of the victim.
What I found interesting about the reporting of the case. First, just how unusual this case is in terms of length of bullying and the number of students involved is probably up for debate. Given the long-held beliefs that bullying is just part of growing up, the ineffectiveness of many schools in intervening, the prevalence of cyberbullying that goes unchecked by parents and school administrators I would guess that there have been other (unreported/underreported) cases of long-term, mob-like bullying that have not made national news.
Second, I was very surprised by the lack of discussion about the role of school administrators in this case. The victim did switch schools at some point to physically get away from the bullying, but it continued online (this cyber trail was what alerted authorities). The victim's mother only said that the school district did not do enough to stop the bullying. The original school did change the schedules of the victim and the primary bully because of the prevalence of physical fights between the two.
But the lack of school involvement and discussion of the apparent laissez-faire attitude is surprising. While the two girls who have been arrested should be held accountable if they are found guilty, some additional attention needs to be placed on the school, its teachers and administrators. Florida, as a state, has not ignored the issue of bullying. They have an anti-bullying law, which the legislature even updated this past summer to include cyberbullying. And so it is surprising that the school did not intervene more.
Though the focus now remains on the two main bullies and their pending trial in juvenile court, I hope that attention is turned to the role the school played--or should have played--in this case.