From the moment I became a parent there has rested an underlying fear that my child would walk through life without ease. That fear was enhanced on his first day of school. Yes, up until I passed him off to a stranger for a half day of learning he was protected by me in our own little cocoon. Then the angst that everyone else would like him to the same degree that I loved him set in. I worried that other kids would be mean to him. I worried that he would be bullied and have no friends. Thankfully those fears have proven to be unfounded with Gage. He was and still is well liked by all.
Growing up he was taught to defend himself at the hands and words of others. I also expressed to him how important it was to defend his friends if he ever found them to be victims of bullying. I taught him to use his words first, and when and if that failed, then he was equipped (by his father) to use his hands. I refused to leave my son as a sitting duck. He knew that as long as he was defending himself or a friend that I would defend him to the end even if it found me in a Principal's office. He's had very few minor run ins through the years, thank goodness. But this past month he found himself in a position that has left me feeling very proud of his actions.
Since he's started at this particular high school (three years ago) there have been a minimum of 2 teenage suicides as a result of bullying. A couple of weeks ago a casual friend, but more of a friendly acquaintance, who isn't too popular and pretty quiet was being targeted on Facebook by another student. It was a pretty harsh attack by someone who clearly believed they were a lot tougher on line than I gather they would be face to face. After a barrage of insults directed at this victim who refused to respond the bully upped the ante and started targeting homosexuals that ended with a lot of hateful words and death threats about gay people. At this point Gage (who has gay friends) stepped in. After the bully turned on Gage, Gage responded with a promise to finish that conversation in person at school the following day. So he did, but only after taking screen shots of the entire Facebook conversation.
He approached the bully at school and threatened him with bodily harm if this kid ever spoke to the victim, himself or about homosexuals like that again. He then walked away with nothing physical happening, just a warning. Yet he was summoned to the principals office the next morning after the bully tattled on Gage for threatening him while 'surrounded' by his group of friends (which wasn't entirely true). Unbeknownst to the bully and the principal who was prepare to dole out harsh punishment, Gage produced a slew of pictures depicting the bullying and hateful comments this kid made about homosexuals as an explanation to why he threatened this kid. Needless to say the tune of the principal changed, Gage received a "lecture" about reporting him instead of threatening him (but over all received praise for stepping in and defending a friend) and was requested to email all the photos to the principal.
Later that day Gage wandered past the office to see this 'kid' and his father walking in to meet with the principal and two uniformed police officers. I'm not sure what sort of punishment this kid got or if the police presence was merely a scare tactic but these ideals and opinions are learned somewhere. I'm not sure his father will follow through with any sort of punishment. I myself am so grateful that the ideals and opinions that my son learned were tolerance and respect for everyone regardless of their race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. I'm so glad he was quick thinking enough to take screen shots because of course by the next day this kid had deleted everything he had written. My kid made me proud and I still would have been proud had it come down to fisticuffs while defending the rights of homosexuals and the right for a student to go to school without fear.
Is the right answer to bully the bully? I don't know... that's such a difficult, multi-faceted question with probably varying opinions on what is the best way to handle it. But I do know this: the victim knew he wasn't alone. Someone had his back. And sometimes that's all the victim needs to know to keep waking up every day and venturing into the abyss that high school can be. I'm glad for someone, my kid was kind of a hero.