Think Your Kid May Be a Victim of Bullying? Please Do Not Buy My Book on the Topic.

Categories: Schutze

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Jim Schutze
This is NOT the book, repeat, NOT the book to buy for the kid who's a victim of bullying.
Oh, wow. Maybe I'm an expert on bullying. Or supposed to be. I just got the royalty statement for a book I wrote 15 years ago called Bully. My check for the six-month period is double what it was the previous period. It went up from a quarter pittance to half a pittance. I wouldn't say sales have gone crazy, but they do seem to have become mildly disturbed.

Yeah, it's a mistake. People may have bought it because they assumed a book called Bully would be about the phenomenon of youth bullying that is such a big story these days in the news. It's not really. My book is about a bunch of horrible spoiled brat suburban kids who murdered one of their friends because he was a bully. They were all sent to the pen. If your child is the victim of bullying, do not ... I repeat, DO NOT give the kid a copy of my book.

But this week when I saw a story in The Dallas Morning News about anti-bullying policies in a suburban school district, I thought of my recent undeserved pittance of a windfall and it occurred to me maybe I ought to bone up a bit on all these bully laws that have come into existence since I wrote my book. Had such laws existed back then, would they have made a difference in the case I wrote about?

See, here's the problem with that case. The kid who got killed was an asshole. But the kids who killed him were all douchebags. So I was curious: Does Texas law make a distinction between assholes and douchebags? Look it up, right? Exactly. That's what I did.

The main law on bullying is Texas Education Code Section 37.0832. It defines bullying as "written or verbal expression at a school-sponsored or school-related activity" that will "have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student's property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student's person or of damage to the student's property."

To trigger the law, the bullying behavior has to be "sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student" and also "exploits an imbalance of power between the student perpetrator and the student victim."

Yup. That would be my guy. One of his after-school pastimes was following special ed kids home and bouncing a football off their heads. He was an unlovely person. But none of that is what he got killed for.

He was killed by his own posse, his assistant bullies, the ones who helped him stalk the special ed kids, not because they felt any remorse for that but because he made the mistake of picking on them, too. They were angry.

A few of these kids were from tough backgrounds, but most were middle class church-raised kids -- boys who played Little League, girls who took ballet. They slit their victim's throat, disemboweled him, crushed his skull with a bat and tossed him in a swamp still alive where he was nibbled by crabs until he drowned.

So, I take it back. Maybe I am an expert on bullying. On one narrow aspect of it. That is this: Bullies are performers. They do stand-up. A bully does not bully alone or for his own enjoyment only. A bully plays to the house. He does it for applause. And he gets applause. My guy, the dead guy, was the hero and leader of his group until they decided to turn on him.

On a scale that is small but not trivial, we're talking about the phenomenon of Hitler's willing executioners -- the people who serve as the bully's accomplices and claque. Show me a bully, I'll show you some willing helpers.

I don't mean to over-complicate things. If you've got a kid who's bouncing footballs off the heads of the special ed kids, grab him, round him up and put him in some kind of lock-up or lock-out as fast as you can to make sure it stops happening to the special ed kids. That comes first.

But the Texas law and laws like it elsewhere do worry me to the extent they treat the social evil of bullying as an anomalous one-off behavior by an aberrant individual. Dig just a little deeper, and we will always find some level of explicit complicity or at the very least passive tacit permission given by a supporting group. The douchebags.

Obviously when we're talking about elementary school kids it's difficult to think of any of them as douchebags. But isn't elementary school where children learn the pre-douchebag behaviors that can blossom into full-blown douchebaggery just a few years later?

How many kids are taught early on to stand apart, to speak out against the group dynamic, to be non-conformists ... well, troublemakers, of a sort, but the kind who make trouble for the bully? Isn't it a mistake to drop the matter as soon as the main bully is gone from the scene? Won't another one show up?

In fact, how do we know that some of the bullying we see in schools today may not even be an inevitable product of extreme pressure on kids to conform and perform? Nobody admires meanness more than a bunch of little Nazis.

Seriously, still don't buy my book for your kid. Very bad idea. I know giving people this advice may take me back down to three-eighths of a pittance on the next semi-annual statement, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice just to see your kid not get shipped off to the pen.

But do think about it. If you hear there's a bully in the kid's class, maybe you should ask your kid what he or she thinks of the bully, what your kid has done to speak up or stick up for the victims. If you hear a series of fawning anecdotes that make the bully sound cool, well, then, you've got a whole 'nuther problem, don't you?


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26 comments
bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

"The de masculization of america continues."

Yeah, upyours. Pretty soon we won't be able to find a man with enough testosterone left to bugger farm animals, set a puppy on fire, or even beat up his own wife and kids. What's the world coming to?

stickupyours
stickupyours

The de masculization of america continues.  I look forward to the future race of pan sexual identidroids will surely evolve into.

stickupyours
stickupyours

all the kid has to is find someone that he can beat up and then the other kids will back off.  the only loser is that last kid who cant beat anyone up

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I'm glad to see the Dolphins suspended that big fat meat head Incognito for over-the-top bullying and harassment.  It doesn't rise to the level of the Sandusky atrocities, but tolerance for sadistic behavior from athletes must end.

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

I actually thought that there book was a pretty good read.

Daniel
Daniel

I'm not sure it's true that bullies categorically "play to the house." A certain kind of bully does. The Florida Fuckwad (wasn't it Bobby something?), for example. Others are simply sadists.

But anyway. As I recall my school days lo these many decades ago (and here, the reader may pause to cue up some Joan Jett or Cheap Trick), bullying existed on a continuum. There was an unmistakable bully or two. There was an unmistakable dishrag or two. Most of us experienced bullying to some degree or another; shamefully, in retrospect, most of us dished out a little, too. We were kids, all asses and elbows and jostling egos eking out our places in the pecking order.

The question is, what is it that's changed? Has it changed? Has it really? And if so, how? Social media is the off-the-rack answer. But I'm only partially convinced that this changes the contours of growing up all that much. I think our current focus on bullying  has elements of a moral panic (eg., rampant Satanic rituals) and elements of a worthy campaign long overdue (e.g., date rape). 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

 How many kids are taught early on to stand apart, to speak out against the group dynamic, to be non-conformists ... well, troublemakers, of a sort, but the kind who make trouble for the bully?

I would say that it is a significant subset of the kids that we are suspending or expelling from school.  The only thing our system hates more than a bully is someone who stands up to a bully.  

if6were9
if6were9

If being a douchebag were a crime, a major portion of the population of Dallas would be sitting behind bars as we speak! 

unreadablecrap
unreadablecrap

Your "folksy curmudgeon" hackneyed style of writing makes your crap almost unreadable.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Wow. Didn't even have to wade through the comments to invoke Godwin's Law.

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Yeah boy, what an aberrant bunch of sadists those athletes are. Must be all that money and adulation that we give them to beat the hell out of people that are, for the most part, their own size. I see bullies almost every day, and most of them are far from athletic. Just hang out around the handicap parking spots in front of Wal-Mart.

stickupyours
stickupyours

@Daniel nowadays parents are all up in their kids shit.  Let the kids make mistakes,. theyll either learn or fail.  The real world is a cruel motherfucker and you are doing your kids a huge disservice by helicoptering and protecting them from that fact.

Unless your rich then bail outs are ALWAYS possible.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@Daniel "I'm not sure it's true that bullies categorically "play to the house."

Sure they do. They don't exist in a vacuum. If they didn't play to the house, they'd be what we categorically call sociopaths, or psychopaths, people who don't necessarily need attention to carry out their various torture methods. Bouncing footballs of the short-bus kids heads is one thing; pouring gas on a puppy and setting it afire is another. One will grow up to be an entitled asshole who cuts you off in traffic and then flips you off and fucks with you when you  honk at him; The other will grow up to be a serial killer.   

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

Yeah, all of us readers just hate Mr. Schutze's writing. I, for one, skip the articles and go straight to the erudite comments of the blogheads. By the way, Mr. Schutze, if you expect us to ignore a perfectly good solution to the bully problem as presented in your book, you must give us another idea that we formerly bullied folks will find equally satisfying.

Daniel
Daniel

@casiepierce @Daniel Distinction noted. I seem to recall encountering both, however. And not all sociopaths grow up to be "killers," BTW.

unreadablecrap
unreadablecrap

Nice try but I feel the same way about Steve Blow. Schutze and Blow remind me of each other's crap all the time.

tdkisok
tdkisok

@unreadablecrap 


Either way it's pretty pathetic that you actually made up a new account just to comment on this. Jealous much?

Daniel
Daniel

@unreadablecrap Now let's play nice. It's like Grammy Blow used to say -- " goose the hog's anus, and you'll surely get shitfinger." 

Shitfinger. Lordy, how that makes me smile.

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