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Monday, March 24, 2008

What the fuck is wrong with parents in Arkansas?
Posted by Jill | 6:44 AM
I'll bet the parents of the kids who are bullying Billy Wolfe fancy themselves to be good Christians who go to church on Sunday. But whatever they are, there is something profoundly wrong with a society in which beating up a kid for being different -- whether "different" is gay, short, tall, glasses, fat, skinny, or whatever. There's something profoundly fucked-up about parents who allow this to happen:

All lank and bone, the boy stands at the corner with his younger sister, waiting for the yellow bus that takes them to their respective schools. He is Billy Wolfe, high school sophomore, struggling.

Moments earlier he left the sanctuary that is his home, passing those framed photographs of himself as a carefree child, back when he was 5. And now he is at the bus stop, wearing a baseball cap, vulnerable at 15.

A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he’s going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.

The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.

The aggressor heads to school, to show friends the video of his Billy moment, while Billy heads home, again. It’s not yet 8 in the morning.


It remains unclear why Billy became a target at age 12; schoolyard anthropology can be so nuanced. Maybe because he was so tall, or wore glasses then, or has a learning disability that affects his reading comprehension. Or maybe some kids were just bored. Or angry.

Whatever the reason, addressing the bullying of Billy has become a second job for his parents: Curt, a senior data analyst, and Penney, the owner of an office-supply company. They have binders of school records and police reports, along with photos documenting the bruises and black eyes. They are well known to school officials, perhaps even too well known, but they make no apologies for being vigilant. They also reject any suggestion that they should move out of the district because of this.

The many incidents seem to blur together into one protracted assault. When Billy attaches a bully’s name to one beating, his mother corrects him. “That was Benny, sweetie,” she says. “That was in the eighth grade.”


Ms. Wolfe remembers the family dentist sewing up the inside of Billy’s cheek, and a school official refusing to call the police, saying it looked like Billy got what he deserved. Most of all, she remembers the sight of her son.

“He kept spitting blood out,” she says, the memory strong enough still to break her voice.

By now Billy feared school. Sometimes he was doubled over with stress, asking his parents why. But it kept on coming.


In ninth grade, a couple of the same boys started 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.”


According to Alan Wilbourn, a spokesman for the school district, the principal notified the parents of the students involved after Ms. Wolfe complained, and the parents — whom he described as “horrified” — took steps to have the page taken down.

Not long afterward, a student in Spanish class punched Billy so hard that when he came to, his braces were caught on the inside of his cheek.

So who is Billy Wolfe? Now 16, he likes the outdoors, racquetball and girls. For whatever reason — bullying, learning disabilities or lack of interest — his grades are poor. Some teachers think he’s a sweet kid; others think he is easily distracted, occasionally disruptive, even disrespectful. He has received a few suspensions for misbehavior, though none for bullying.

Judging by school records, at least one official seems to think Billy contributes to the trouble that swirls around him. For example, Billy and the boy who punched him at the bus stop had exchanged words and shoves a few days earlier.

But Ms. Wolfe scoffs at the notion that her son causes or deserves the beatings he receives. She wonders why Billy is the only one getting beaten up, and why school officials are so reluctant to punish bullies and report assaults to the police.

This just breaks my heart. As someone who endured my share of bullying when I was a kid, from being psychologically tormented by a troubled kid who was Catholic and delighted in telling me I would go to hell when I died to the boy in fourth grade who used to hit me every day to the time I was asked by a high school principal what I did to make so-and-so angry, I'm appalled that more than thirty years after I finished high school, nothing has changed.

That schools are still blaming the victim because they don't know what else to do is reprehensible. And the prevalence of social networking web sites make tormenting misfits an even more efficient operation.

I think back to the recent case of Megan Meier, who committed suicide at the age of thirteen after a boy she liked had turned on her, and the boy turned out to be a fake MySpace account set up by the parents of a girl with whom she'd had a falling out. And I wonder what on earth parents and schools in this country are doing when they want to put every kid whose brain functions differently on medication, but when you have actual cases of kids being tortured by their classmates, the schools blame the kid being victimized and the parents look the other way.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer to your question is right here:
“... There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES. ...”. [And no! I have no idea what his real sexual orientation is. He's probably just socially a bit inept! But it doesn't take much.]

Those "good Christian [parent]s who go to church on Sunday" view Billy -- and ALL homosexuals [didn't we use to have a much less polite name for them!? Something beginning with "f"?] -- as the personification of EVIL! He is a contaminant on the souls of their children -- particularly their MALE children. [Why do I have the impression that those "good parents" are Evangelicals? Possibly Baptists! Not that I'd smear all Baptists with the same brush....]

The idea probably also scares the school administration. They can't allow any of THOSE kind to sit next to the "good" children. The disease might rub off! The contamination might spread.

Consider also that MySpace is the "accepted" soapbox these days for such "anonymous" taunts. Had they not been caught, I'm sure the parents would have left the pages up, and probably continued to enhance them. However, I'm equally sure that "lawyers" are right up there on their short list of things wrong with America, and the last thing they want is to be sued. So...
They'll find some other venue for their statements. Maybe even another MySpace page not as easily traced.

I wonder what the biology curriculum is in Arkansas. Why do I suspect it has a heavy dose of "Intelligent design"? By whatever name!

There is a reason why Arkansas is always in the lower 10 states in terms of intellectual achievement....

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I am so glad somebody else greeted this article with a hearty WTF???. And for *any* adult to have said "it looked like Billy got what he deserved"? Is this school official honestly saying that some kids deserve to be beaten into unconsciousness in a school? How the flying f*** is this person still employed by a school???

When parents send their children to school, it is with the understanding that they will be kept safe and educated while they are there. Neither is happening in this case. Every adult who allowed this to happen deserves to receive the same treatment this young man has endured.

Blogger dguzman said...
No wonder some people homeschool their kids. Public schools seem to be out of control, both in big cities and in small towns--and administrators and teachers with the "blame the victim" mindset are a big part of the problem.

Blogger Citizen Carrie said...
The whole story makes me sick. How can people condone that behavior and still call themselves human beings? These "Christians" probably don't believe in evolution, but they sure seem to understand the "survival of the fittest" part.

I agree with the comment about home schooling. If that ever happened to any of my children, I'd yank them out of school right away.

Blogger The Siren said...
Oh this post breaks my heart. I have three small children myself and if they faced something like this I think I might go thermonuclear. Here's something I have found invariably true throughout my life:

People who make excuses for bullies were bullies themselves.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
That is just so fucking heartbreaking, I want to cry. This shit all arises right out of the sad sick patriarchal mess we have been saddled with for millenia. Fuck.