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Monday, March 24, 2008

This Story Made Me Furious

posted by on March 24 at 9:20 AM

Want to share in my Monday morning fury? Click here.

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This was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. I have never seen a situation that screams "lawsuit" like this one. Continuously beaten for years? The local government fails so miserably on this one that it seems they should also be party.

Posted by PJ | March 24, 2008 9:24 AM

This story makes me want to writes stuff I could get in big trouble for. So I'll just say: Poor Billy. He has my sympathies.

Posted by subwlf | March 24, 2008 9:27 AM

fayetteville. arkansas.

dad, get your son the fuck out of there. its scarring him. literally.

Posted by max solomon | March 24, 2008 9:29 AM

This truly is infuriating. Are they waiting for someone to kill him before they do something?

Posted by Suz | March 24, 2008 9:31 AM

This is awful, and it happens all the time, everywhere. It sucks. When you're being bullied, the worst part is the feeling that the only way anyone will care is if you kill all your tormentors. Trust me, for every school shooter, there is 100 kids like this (and me) that suffered through it and somehow managed not to lose their minds.

You would think that the fucking adults would take this shit more seriously.

Posted by Mike in MO | March 24, 2008 9:33 AM

Getting his son out of there, while saving that particular son, will only nominate another unknown to step into his place. An unknown who's parents don't care as much, don't have the resources to deal with it, or perhaps who is already inculcated to it by violence at home.

Posted by et al | March 24, 2008 9:33 AM

I think this is borderline neglect/abuse from his parents. Geez, just how much longer are they going to allow him to be subjected to this crap? They should take the money they're spending on the lawyer to sue the bullies and get their son into a private school and find a good therapist.

I actually want to smack his parents.

Posted by ahava | March 24, 2008 9:36 AM

It's funny how "thinking of the children" stops when bullying is involved.

Yeah, been there, done that (although, thankfully, not nearly as badly as this poor kid has it) and I still can't read about this sort of thing dispassionately.

Posted by Chris B | March 24, 2008 9:37 AM

I feel his pain.

Posted by monkey | March 24, 2008 9:37 AM

eli, isnt it about time you took a trip to Fayetteville with a cricket bat and a list of names?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 24, 2008 9:38 AM

As a public school teacher, I really don't get this. With that long history of abuse the parents have enough evidence to pull their child out of public schools into a private one...and have the district pay the cost.

I agree with Max - the parents need to be much more proactive and get the kid OUT of this situation, now.

Posted by Karen Hussein Lee | March 24, 2008 9:38 AM

Did you read the article, ahava? The parents are doing everything they possibly can. The school district and the police are to blame; these actions, like the punch delivered in the opening scene, are criminal assaults, not "bullying".

But yeah, they've got to move their son the hell out of there. Billy doesn't have a prayer in that town. They don't have much time left; he's 15, and he's basically not a student anymore, by the sound of it. He needs to graduate with grades and college prospects if he wants to get the hell away from there. By the sound of it, he's not going to.

Posted by Fnarf | March 24, 2008 9:41 AM

Et al: Then so be it. Every parent's first priority should be protecting their own child; Do what you can for the rest, but NEVER at the expense of your own. Fight the good fight, stand up for principles, make the world a better place, etc. etc., but job No. 1 for every parent is ALWAYS to get your kid out of harm's way. Granted, you can't protect your kid from every danger, but when you can, you do. Get out of Fayetteville!

Posted by Mary F. | March 24, 2008 9:42 AM

Something is obviously fucked up here. I'm sure school officials generally look the other way when it comes to general bullying, but in this age of hypersensitive parents and officials, I don't understand why this is being left to pass. Are the parents of the bullies in question well connected or something? I don't get why the kid would be subject to such 'out to get you' persecution while officials just look the other way.

Posted by Gomez | March 24, 2008 9:47 AM

This is one of the reasons I'm never sending my kid to school. Teachers seem to think there is a level of bullying and sexual harassment that is acceptable in schools. Which is just one example of their general incompetence, I suppose. It's very hard to imagine meaningful reform of our schools becoming possible.

Posted by elenchos | March 24, 2008 9:49 AM

If any school administrator told me that my kid "got what he deserved" in a case like that, I'd lunge across the fucking table at him and rip his head off.

It's insulting that shit like this still happens, and that people don't notice until the bullied kid brings a gun to school. I'm just glad that these assholes are going to get inundated with hate mail from readers of the New York Times.

Posted by bma | March 24, 2008 9:49 AM

elenchos wins with the hilarious over reaction.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 24, 2008 9:50 AM

Fayetteville Board of Education:

Steve Percival

Howard R. Hamilton

Susan W. Heil

John Delap

Tim Hudson

Tim Kring

Becky Purcell

Home numbers on a public website? Lulz.

Posted by Be polite, now! | March 24, 2008 9:50 AM

Backwoods, Arkansas is area code 479. Who puts 7 digit numbers on a website?

Posted by Hicks | March 24, 2008 9:53 AM

Also, folks, 501 is fayetteville's area code

Posted by lol | March 24, 2008 9:54 AM

Fnarf (@12), I did read the article. I know the parents are documenting everything, going to the school, etc., but it seems to me that documentation and lawsuits aren't really doing the trick in stopping the bullying. Their kid, for some reason, has a big bullseye on him and he's being damaged daily. It doesn't matter to me that they can say it was Benji who did that in the 8th grade or whatever -- this kids is being damaged and they need to get him out of the line of constant fire. Parents can hold onto principles, but at what cost?

Posted by ahava | March 24, 2008 9:57 AM

I think it's telling that in 14 comments, 5 choose to blame the parents first and foremost. According to the article, the parents are taking responsibility for this by doing the right thing -- trying to stop the bullies, and trying to get the school and local government to stop the bullies. Running doesn't deal with the problem, only shifts the responsibility of fixing the society -- the school district, the government, the classmates -- to another person, another time. Kudos to them for supporting their kid AND teaching by example how to deal with problems.

Posted by et al | March 24, 2008 10:01 AM

when i was fifteen some kid sucker punched me across the jaw because someone had been picking on his younger sister and somehow he thought it was me.

because it happened in the open near school (not even on school grounds), the police were called. i was taken into the school office and gave a statement to a cop, and the kid got sent to juvenile court on an assault charge.

and that was with me saying the whole time that it wasn't really necessary--the school administrators and the cops were the ones pushing the whole legal angle.

night and day from this story, but it goes to show that my school district certainly didn't follow the same philosophy as the one in the NYT article.

Posted by some dude | March 24, 2008 10:02 AM

One thing that's bound to stop the bullying is a big article in the highfalutin' New York Times - that's the kind of thing bullies in Arkansas really respect, right?

Not saying they shouldn't have written the article, just . . . they really need to get their kids out of there, as has been said.

Posted by Levislade | March 24, 2008 10:03 AM

What's keeping the parents and kid from going to the police directly? Have they ever tried or are they just leaving it up to school officials?

Throwing the punks in jail will be a hell of a lot more effective than suing them.

Posted by keshmeshi | March 24, 2008 10:05 AM

Jeebus lives in Flyover Country, and feels his pain.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | March 24, 2008 10:09 AM

read this earlier. it's so upsetting, but i am surprised that the mom won't move the kid out of the district-granted, she wants to make a point, but it seems like she should give that fight up for her son.

Posted by jayme | March 24, 2008 10:13 AM

This is a two level problem. First, this school system is fucked.

Second, YES, get the kid out. Send him to live with Grand Parents for a year, Uncle and Auntie - or - a private school.

I went to Bellevue schools and once or twice this was a problem and the school shut it down at once. I was a fem., sickly, geek - and fit no slot at all. Queer to boot, so of course I was a target of sorts. But I had a big sister to protect me and a mean mouth, and a furious temper when pushed too far.

My niece a few years back, living in Pasco, Washington, encountered exactly the same shit. She just got picked on constantly in the 6 th grade, FOR no reason. Just a target. When my sissy intervened and had several bad sessions with the school offices, she took her child out of school, and paid to have her go to a small Christian academy. My niece thrived.... after there was an end to all the bull shit from the uncontrolled public school bullies.


Posted by John | March 24, 2008 10:15 AM

While I applaud Billy's parents for sticking with their principles, I agree they need to get out of that town ASAP. From his perspective, I'm sure he doesn't care about principles, lawsuits or any such things, he just wants to be safe. At this point he might be just as angry as them as he is with the bullies.

That said, it's not their fault that kids are assholes. If I were advising them, I would pursue the lawsuit and make the district responsible for paying to place him out of district until he finishes high school, pay for therapy, and for all the damage they have caused him. I hope they get millions.

Posted by Ace | March 24, 2008 10:15 AM

do kids still get into punk rock when they get bullied?

Posted by chicago | March 24, 2008 10:22 AM

Elenchos @15: As a teacher, I'm glad that I'll never have to teach your child, because the parents who bring an attitude like yours to the table are the bane of my existence.

What's happening to this poor kid is indefensible. Using a bunch of ass-backwards assholes in Arkansas to write off the whole profession, though, is shameful.

Posted by Ryan | March 24, 2008 10:27 AM

Where's Don Corleone when we need him?

Posted by ivan | March 24, 2008 10:29 AM

When I was 5, my dad was transfered to rural southern Idaho for about 18 months. My family was from California and non-religious, while the rest of the area was xenophobic and mostly Mormon. Our outsider-ness and heathen-ness made us unpopular there. At school the teachers and principal would dispassionately watch bullies punch me, pelt me with rocks, shove me to the ground, hit me with classroom chairs, and so on. If I lifted a hand to defend myself, though, they'd pounce on me and write me up. Since we were all 5 and 6 years old, people couldn't do nearly as much damage as the teenage bullies described in this article. But I shudder to think what would have happened in my family hadn't moved back to California before we all got older.

So, I feel a lot for this kid. Societies of children are nasty and brutish and, under the right circumstances, will go to huge lengths to enable the dominant members to act out their violent impulses on weaker members. That will not change before this kid graduates. His parents have made their point and assembled plenty of evidence to pursue a lawsuit. Now get him out of there and let him have a chance at a normal life for the last 2.5 years of high school.

Posted by Kerry | March 24, 2008 10:33 AM

@31 - I'm sure you may take your profession very seriously, but elenchos is more right than is pleasant to admit. Teachers tacitly accepting, or actually indirectly encouraging, bullying is a systemic problem. It was a problem when I was in middle school, it's a problem now, and it will likely continue to be a problem, no matter how many of these bullied kids come back to shoot up their school one day.

Posted by tsm | March 24, 2008 10:34 AM

#31: I went to public school in Olympia in the 80's and 90's and experienced much worse than what was mentioned in the article. Teachers and school officials never lifted a finger to help. It's not just Arkansas.

Posted by bitter | March 24, 2008 10:35 AM


Your poor reading comprehension is one of the reasons I think your profession should be written off.

Posted by elenchos | March 24, 2008 10:40 AM

I kept wondering why they keep sending the kid to school. What is the point of that? "Just keep going there every day and we'll keep a list of every time you get knocked out." Stupid.

Also stupid is the fact that the bus stop assault in the article happened on a public street, so why didn't they call the police immediately?

Posted by pox | March 24, 2008 10:41 AM

For heaven's sake, get the kid into a martial arts class, one that focuses on defensive techniques... I've been in a couple of close calls when I didn't even need to punch the guy, I just put him into a few locks that if I moved a hair trigger to the left would break his arm but otherwise left no mark. They gave me a wide breadth after that. Or do what scores of lank "nerds" have done for ions-bulk up.

Posted by Marty | March 24, 2008 10:41 AM

Sure, this reminds me of grade school. An aside: As far as junior high, I took some shit, think I had my lunch money swiped from my hands once, got targeted and cheap shotted during football in P.E. class a few times, a few incidents that comes with being a skinny geek, an easy target in a school of assbags, but nothing especially horrid.

But in high school, it stopped. I never once got bullied (well, okay, other than the playful post-practice hockey checks and tosses into the trash can from the Quiz team, but we were all willing participants). And my Vegas school had as many assholes and gangsta fights as the next, school security wasn't any different, plus it was the same crowd and I was still the same malnourished geek, so nothing physically had changed other than the venue. I'm still not sure to this day why I suddenly became untouchable. I had a group of friends but we were all honor student kids, and I wasn't with the in crowd or anything, so I'm not sure I was on anyone's protection list or anything. If I could bottle whatever catalyst layered me from the requisite bullying in HS and distribute it to kids across America, I would.

Anyway, back to our revilement of this fractured Arkansas school district.

Posted by Gomez | March 24, 2008 10:43 AM

Also: teachers are often quite lazy. When a kid is teased, taunted, and shoved around mercilessly for weeks on end and one day responds by fighting back, they'll punish both kids because they can't be bothered to identify the aggressor. Rather than recognize that a kid has become everyone's favorite punching bag and doing something about it, they'll just pretend it's kids being kids.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Posted by tsm | March 24, 2008 10:46 AM

than they wonder why some of these kids wind up shooting up the school.

Posted by SeMe | March 24, 2008 10:47 AM

this is why you need 2 leaders in each class. 1 to teach and 1 to maintain order.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | March 24, 2008 11:17 AM

In case anybody is interested in more particulars, the bully named in the lawsuit is Ian Twitters. See the Northwest Arkansas Times here:

The principal of Fayetteville High School is Jim Price, and his email is The superintendent is Dr. Bobby C. New and his email is

School board:
Steve Percival:,
Susan W. Heil:
John Delap:,
Tim Hudson:,
Tim Kring:
Becky Purcell:

There is no email address for Howard R. Hamilton.

- concerned human being

Posted by h | March 24, 2008 11:19 AM

He just needs to stop being such a wuss.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 24, 2008 11:23 AM

Yes, the parents should get Billy the hell out of there. But do you know if they're capable of getting him out? Is there a set of grandparents or other relatives able to take him in? Can they afford a private school? Can they afford to uproot the family and their careers? We can all say yes and yes and yes, their child should be their priority, but it's possible that suing is the only thing they can do with the resources they have.

Also, let's hope Fayetteville high school, the Fayetteville School District, and maybe even that town's mayor (Dan Coody, who charmingly, keeps a blog and can be reached by email through the town's website.) get destroyed by the NYT publicity. (Although, how on earth did they find Billy in the first place? Did Dan Berry actively look for something terrible like this?)

Posted by squidoo | March 24, 2008 11:28 AM

So what will the "good" people there think in a few years when Billy finally has enough of it, brings a gun to school and starts putting bullets into the heads of those who have spend so much time bullying him?

I, for one, wouldn't shed a single tear. As at least one of the school officials said about Billy: I guess they got what they deserved.

Posted by Jonathon | March 24, 2008 11:29 AM

If that kid shows up for school in a year or so and shoots up the place, the teachers and school administration will have no one to blame but themselves.

Posted by Hernandez | March 24, 2008 11:30 AM

"If any school administrator told me that my kid "got what he deserved" in a case like that, I'd lunge across the fucking table at him and rip his head off."

I really hope this comment was supposed to be ironic.

"this is why you need 2 leaders in each class. 1 to teach and 1 to maintain order."

New business opportunity for Blackwater!

Posted by Citizen Gregg | March 24, 2008 11:35 AM

Wow, I thought I had it shitty in school. I was teased mercilessly, for no reason whatsoever, and kind of threatened with physical violence once or twice but it never actually came to that. But I definitely had several days in jr. high where I broke down in class because of the teasing and teachers ignored it. The fact that the school district hasn't expelled all of these kids and the fact that they're not in jail for assault is reprehensible.

Posted by Jo | March 24, 2008 11:44 AM

@42, i had that same thought.

Posted by infrequent | March 24, 2008 11:52 AM

I was teased mercilessly from 12 years old onward, my mother's useless advice was "Ignore them and they'll get bored when they don't get a reaction." Guess what? DIDN'T WORK AT ALL. They didn't get bored, they got worse. Know what stopped, or at least slowed the abuse to a trickle? I fought back. I didn't care who was harrassing me, how large, or how many, or what teacher was watching. I went psychodelic on their asses. That's what bullies understand-- violence. That's why there are school shootings. Violence makes parents, teachers, and admin PAY ATTENTION.

Posted by Y.F. | March 24, 2008 12:08 PM

No one asked me, but I'm going to give advice anyway. Direct parental experience with this situation.
1. Try to meet with the other parents and strategize on how to disrupt the pattern of behavior. The other parents may not want to meet, but it is worth a try. This worked well in one situation where the other parents were equally concerned.
2. Give the boy permission and skills to fight back. Set parameters of when it is ok to fight (i.e. do not instigate, only defend and hurt back). Don't punish him if/when he fights back. (But do if he instigates fighting.) This was a hard one for me to do, but it helped in disrupting the patterns and it increased the respect he received. Didn't take long.
3. Change schools. Sometimes group perception is so firm you can't change it. At the end of the day, first priority is the well-being of your own child. Sometimes starting fresh with a new group of peers is the only way to grow a child's self-confidence and the only way to influence environmental/social factors that are so important in teen and young adult years. The parents can continue to fight the battle of bullying, just don't have their own child in the middle of it and paying the price. They have enough examples, they don't need to keep collecting more to make a case. It isn't giving up if they keep fighting for the cause while removing their child from the center of it.

Heartbreaking situation.

Posted by J9 | March 24, 2008 12:33 PM

51. That's the Mother's Copout. I got it too when I used to bitch about it in junior high. They know bullying exists, and they figure it's killed nobody before (little do they know), so they hope their kids grow a thick enough skin to deal with it. It's really just lazy parenting.

But ohhhhh, watch them lose their shit if you finally respond to it by defending yourself, getting in a fight and getting suspended.

Posted by Gomez | March 24, 2008 12:36 PM

I guess that's the one place where being the youngest of 13 is an advantage. I was used to being beat up by kids much older than I was (my fucking siblings) so I learned to fight like a psychotic. Kids my own age were no particular challenge until they attacked three or more at a time. Going completely whacko in a fight saved my butt in school as a tiny, peculiar, big-mouthed weirdo child. I think the last fight I got in on my way home from school, I hit the guy in the throat with the metal tip of my umbrella. He never came near me again.

I haven't quite lost those reflexes, either; a guy at work a few years ago thought it would be funny to come up behind me and put his HANDS around my THROAT. I bloodied his nose before I even registered who it was. I felt kind of bad, but what the hell was he thinking?

In this case, it's edging almighty close to child abuse to keep him in that school system to prove some kind of a point; they'll kill him sooner or later. The caged monkeys that are schoolkids do not like monkeys who do not fit in; once they've identified the kid who is the lowest in the pecking order, nearly everyone feels compelled to take a swipe at him. It's too late to hope they'll all have a change of heart and apologize to him for singling him out. Get him the hell out of there, whatever it takes.

Posted by Geni | March 24, 2008 1:06 PM

In Fayetteville you have a major university (at least for Arkansas). I'd hate to think what it would be like in a "more" conservative area.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 24, 2008 1:10 PM

@ 51: "I went psychodelic [sic] on their asses." You're saying you forced 'em to listen to the 13th Floor Elevators or that you slipped 'em some acid? Or both? Either way, that's my kind of punishment!

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | March 24, 2008 1:20 PM

As a long victim of bullying I've got 2 things to say.
1) That's really fucked up and that school deserves to be sued.
2) Is a kid getting bullied really big enough news to get that much space in the NY Times? Must be a slow news day.

Posted by Colin | March 24, 2008 1:41 PM

This is nothing new. This is the same reason I dropped out of Middle School in 1979. I still managed to get a four year college degree, but it would have been nice to go through school without having my ass kicked everyday. The vice principal of my school was so unsympathetic, he said the kids wouldn't pick on me so much if I wasn't such a pussy.

Posted by elswinger | March 24, 2008 2:09 PM

If it was my kid, I'd not only bring charges against each and everyone of the little brats that assaulted my son, I'd also demand orders of protection against them? Oh, I'm sorry, you can't attend class because the restraining order keeps you out in the hall while my son learns? Should have thought of that earlier, dickweed.

Second, I'd ask for charges to be brought against the school administrators. By not doing anything to stop the assaults, they're telling the bullies that they're not doing anything wrong, and encouraging them to continue it. That makes them complicit in the crime.

And, I'd go after the parents of the bullies. Clearly, they are unfit if they're not doing anything to teach their children respect for others and law. This shit is inexcusable.

Taking the poor kid out of school sends him the message that he's a victim and can't protect himself, and it tells the criminals attacking him that they can do it scot free. Go after every one with every tool in the law, and maybe some justice would finally come of it.

Posted by paulette | March 24, 2008 2:11 PM

High School is brutal. The Dad should enroll his son in martial arts classes. They could go together. Don't expect the authorities- judges, teachers, cops- to solve your problems. Teach your kids to be strong.

Posted by Big Sven | March 24, 2008 6:41 PM

I grew up in this town and am really surprised by the high school administration's lack of attention to the matter - perhaps things have changed. Fayetteville is a progressive town, and the public school system is excellent (I say this with the perspective of now having lived in Missouri, Michigan, and California over the last 15 years, and observed varying qualities of several school systems). I'm not surprised that this happened at Woodland junior high, however. It's full of spoiled mean rich kids whose parents will sue at the drop of a hat if their kids are disciplined - this would likely not have happened to this poor kid across town at the other junior high (Ramay), where the school administration actually is able to hold order among the students. I went to Ramay and we had several "refugees" who transferred from Woodland - kids just like this one who were mercilessly teased and beaten. The high school administration should be ashamed of itself.

Posted by from Fayetteville | March 24, 2008 7:18 PM

I cannot help but think that this is the result of the current trend against self defense- Give the attacker what they want, don't resist, the authorities will protect you.

Thing is the authorities AREN'T always there. They aren't there for this poor kid. As much as I hate to say it, this kid needs to beat the bullies ass. It couldn't go any worse. The only other option is to wait for another Columbine.

Posted by Rev. George | March 24, 2008 10:09 PM

I disagree. Vigilantism is just as bad as bullying. Teaching the kid to fight only teaches him that violence is the way to resolve issues when crimes are committed against you.

When the parents start using the law to defend their kid--when the principal is brought up on charges of inciting a felony, then he's going to start doing something about it.

The last thing we need is a bunch of people running around with weapons and a bad attitude. The police and the courts are a much more appropriate arena for this fight to play out. Teach this kid that the answer is to cause physical harm to others, rather than have the law protect him, and you can almost guarantee he's going to wind up in jail for assault or worse at some point. Or get himself killed trying.

Posted by paulette | March 25, 2008 10:16 AM

"Teaching the kid to fight only teaches him that violence is the way to resolve issues when crimes are committed against you."

You have a legal right to defend yourself against physical violence.

Posted by Toby | March 25, 2008 2:18 PM

My prayers go out to Billy. And I hope he will learn that these bullies will live a hateful life, and although their anger and fear are directed at him but not caused by him. For whatever reason these bullies (who need immediate intervention or become the future murderers and rapists and thieves of the world) chose Billy as their scapegoat. Saddest is the horrific manner in which the school did nothing. I am a teacher, and I guarentee you no child would ever be punched in my classroom, or some serious sh*t would go down. No way. That is one positive thing I will say about Northern California schools, we don't tolerate bullying and have teachers monitoring areas of the school at all times, and any physical attack is immediate suspension, and possible expulsion to the alternative school (the one for losers like the bullies...sorry not nice but mostly true). The District should fire the Principal and prepare for court, because if it were me, I would sue the daylights out of them.

Posted by YouSaIDiT | March 25, 2008 3:56 PM

The fact that there are so many teenagers out there who feel no remorse after physically harming another human being is frightening! These are the future of our country? We're in big trouble. I certainly hope that Billy finds a way to move forward during this most difficult time. I've read on other blogs discussion by teenagers who claim to go to school with Billy. Most of them jumped on to say that he "asks for it". Who is raising today's youth to believe that violence is the answer? I know that bullying is going on in many cities accross our beautiful country and I can only hope that this story will wake some of these adults and children up to the pain of the victim. It doesn't hurt to hope.

Posted by Lisa | March 26, 2008 1:51 PM

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