Bullying Victim or Hero. Thoughts?

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I’m a little behind on this topic, but as it often happens, school got in the way (it was a very special full-moon week).

In the last few days an Australian boy has rocketed to YouTube fame after a classmate recorded a cell phone video of him body-slamming a smaller boy who’d been picking on him at school.

The clip which was hard for me to watch shows the altercation (although neither boy was hurt in the confrontation).

Both boys got suspended.  The smaller student for 21 days and the young man who fought back, 4 days.

Public support seems to be overwhelmingly on the side of the original victim, whose father said he’d been bullied for years without fighting back (hopefully he won’t have this problem going forward).

This incident seems to have drawn more attention to the problem of childhood bullying.

As an educator, bullying can be one of the most challenging issues we face.

Take a look and share your thoughts on the video or bullying in general.



If this issue wasn’t complex enough, an added layer is a student videotaping the incident on his cell phone.  If the bullying issue was challenging enough, think about dealing with it once it goes viral on YouTube.

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35 Responses to “Bullying Victim or Hero. Thoughts?”

  1. Angie
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 1:05 pm

    I can’t blame the kid for fighting back; we all have our breaking points. The main problem I see is why the smaller boy could bully him over a period of time with no one ever knowing anything about it or doing anything.

  2. Rhoadzie
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 1:24 pm

    Unfortunately, videos like these usually don’t tell the whole story. I am nat endorsing what either kid did. But, as an administrator, I have seen that these things usually are two way. More often than not, both deserve some type of consequences. Bullying is such a problem to diagnose blame and to identify before it goes viral!

  3. Alfred Thompson
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 1:27 pm

    Interesting that the video showed me a trailer for the Karate Kid as a tale of a bullied boy who learns to fight back. :-)

    Anyway, fighting back worked for me in high school after I was bullied as a freshman. It doesn’t work in all cases but in some I think it does. Bullies get by because there are no consequences for their actions. Changing the risk benefit ratio is key. But it is hard to do.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Alfred Thompson, Thanks for sharing.

    Sorry about the Karate Kid trailer.

    The original was better.

  4. Jay Childs
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 3:08 pm

    I read this post to my middle-schoolers. Instead of asking them the obvious questions, I asked them about the video itself. Did they approve of the schoolmate who filmed the video? Was the fact that the video appeared on YouTube a good thing or a bad thing? My students overwhelmingly approved of the fact that the video was posted.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Jay Childs, I think you showing this to your students is absolutely great.

    It may well be the highlight of my blogging career (not that it’s really a career).

  5. Erin
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 5:22 pm

    The video can’t possibly tell the whole story and there is likely more going on here.

    But I’m inclined to believe that it’s possible that the larger of the two boys was in fact a bullying victim. Smaller boys learn quickly that they can get away with it because nobody believes that a larger boy could be the victim of bullying. He’s larger, after all, right? So he’s got the stature and therefore the power? Right? Anything the larger boy does to fight back will be punished, and the smaller boy can claim he was the victim, not the bully, and nobody will doubt that.

    I’m not saying it doesn’t go both ways. It absolutely does go both ways. Size doesn’t determine whether one is a bully or a bullying victim.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Erin, I’m with you. There’s almost always more to the story.

    It makes me wonder what we will find out about both boys 3 weeks from now.

  6. Debbie
    on Mar 21st, 2011
    @ 6:17 pm

    To say that the smaller kid wasn’t hurt doesn’t seem accurate to me. How hard was he punching the bigger kid? Doesn’t seem that hard. Body slamming in retaliation hardly seems right. I am not saying that the bigger kid wasn’t being bullied. I am saying that his response to it is… overkill. Picking a smaller kid up and slamming him on the ground is not an acceptable response.

    I know what it’s like to be bullied. scroll down when I talk about how I finally stood up to my bullies What would I have done if those boys had closed in on me instead of letting me walk the rest of the way home? And how much do we let things escalate? Does anyone know if the smaller kid hadn’t been abused first by the larger kid? Is the larger kid considered a victim…why… because he is fat? Without knowing the entire story, we have no idea if the short, skinny kid had a history of just plain “taking it” from the larger kid or if it was mutual. What makes the larger boy a hero? I was horrified watching him pick up and hurl the much smaller kid. This was not carpet. This was cement. This smaller boy could have been badly hurt. And, as it was, he could barely walk afterwards. So the solution is to tell kids it’s OK to bully back? Really? Am I in the minority in thinking this is unacceptable? There’s a huge difference between standing up for oneself and bullying back. I hope the smaller kid didn’t need medical attention. To me it’s like watching a puppy messing with a larger dog, and, finally the larger dog swats the puppy with its paw. I doubt the smaller kid really hurt the larger one. Doesn’t make it right, either, but the comparison is very stark to me.

  7. Raquel
    on Mar 22nd, 2011
    @ 8:49 am

    Well, I blogged about this immediately once I saw it on the news. I am annoyed at Debbie who commented before me:

    “To say that the smaller kid wasn’t hurt doesn’t seem accurate to me. How hard was he punching the bigger kid? Doesn’t seem that hard. Body slamming in retaliation hardly seems right”

    Debbie, Oh my god have you ever been bullied or worse had a child that was bullied? It is irrelevant how hard that boy was punching him. The point is he taunted and taunted and punched and punched and picked at the boy for quite some time. He totally deserved getting slammed even worse. I think your nonchalant attitude towards the bullying is part of the problem. To dissect the hits from the bully is just insane to me. Ugghh I am just so annoyed at that.

  8. Christine Ontko "Miss Christie"
    on Mar 22nd, 2011
    @ 10:08 am

    When I saw this video at home a few days ago I was shocked. The kid who was slammed to the pavement could’ve been killed. What if that had happened? Would we be having a different discussion?

    We MUST change the way we have been doing things.

    In order to change the world, we must start one child at a time. (RIGHT????) In the public school system, we sometimes get these children when they are as young as 3 (in my school.) When I taught preschool 14 years ago, I taught them it was NEVER okay to hit back. As a third grade teacher, I still teach this.

    I know, I know, we can’t change what goes on at home. However, we can change how we as teachers react. We can confront those children who are bullies. By confronting, I mean discussions, talking, getting them help with the school counselor…

    So many teachers ignore this behavior because they feel they have too much other things going on…like testing, teaching, planning, grading.

    I understand this, but in order to get the best test scores, we must first reach the child inside the bully.

    Just my thoughts.

  9. Raquel
    on Mar 23rd, 2011
    @ 10:26 am

    ALthough I was all for the “bullied kid” fighting back, AFter reading Christine’s comment I agree more with her approach. That is the best approach but it may not be realistic?

  10. Alicia Kessler
    on Mar 23rd, 2011
    @ 1:27 pm

    I believe, from first hand experience, that children who bully grow up to be adults who bully. If a bully has a short attention span, ignoring them works. If it doesn’t, the victim is in for the long haul.

    Until some one, somewhere as the….um guts (not my first word choice) to stand up to them. And stand up to them every single time. I’m not talking about kids who do the usual teasing. I’m talking about the kid whose very presence makes other kids sweat and their hearts pound. Guess, what they do the same thing in adult hood.

    In my class of 36 there were about 3-5 hard core bullies. At one time or another they have each worn an orange jumpsuit. Someone finally stood up to them.

  11. Anneke Delport
    on Mar 26th, 2011
    @ 2:37 pm

    I was really shocked after watching this video. Both of these boys’ behaviors were wrong and they should not go as far as physically fighting. I do agree with most of the people that have posted here that the smaller kid is the one that is the bully here and he had to know that the taller kid can stand up for himself. I still believe in turning the other cheek though and feel that he could have gone to a teacher, social worker, or the principal before retaliating by body slamming the smaller child. That way only one boy would’ve gotten suspended instead of both of them. Violence is never good and the boy could have been hurt really bad, but the taller boy is probably feeling a lot more pain emotionally because of the bullying that has been going on. Teachers need to spend more time in classes talking about the problem of bullies. It might be good to have a rule in class where the students have to report to the teacher whenever they see any bullying going on, even if it is only verbal. Teachers might be able to have the two students talk out their problems and prevent any fights in the future.

  12. Elizabeth Kunz
    on Mar 27th, 2011
    @ 2:46 pm

    I was also late hearing about this incident until there was a news interview with the boy who was bullied. I am a student studying to become a teacher and one thing us future teachers have to think about is what we will do in the situation of bullying in and out of the classroom. I want to think that the boy who was defending himself was in the right but the way he picked up the boy and body slammed him to the ground makes me think that he could have protected himself in a much less violent way.
    In response to the comment on how this was recorded by a cell phone, it is true that videos can go completely viral online and this causes another mess. In this case it brought media to the case and everyone else around the world putting in their opinion. There are many ugly comments about the boy who was punching the kid first. In my opinion the bullying situation becomes even worse because there are a million people saying things about the two boys. Some of the comments I have read about the boys have been awful.
    In this situation I guess a cell phone camera created an even bigger ordeal.

  13. Anna
    on Mar 27th, 2011
    @ 11:53 pm

    Mr. Smith,

    I am a pre-service teacher and am interested in the issue of bulleying. As an administrator, if this had happened at your school, would you have delt with this incident differently in terms of punishment?

  14. Vanessa Noonan
    on Mar 28th, 2011
    @ 3:41 pm

    As terrible as bullying is, unfortunately it is a part of our schools. I feel that bullying is a very touchy topic among people, but it is something that needs to be addressed. After watching this video, I can very well understand why the young man who was being hit retaliated. Yes, it was wrong of him to respond violently against the smaller boy, but I’m pretty sure he did not know what else to do. I feel that it is mandatory that schools be open about violence and bullying. If students are better informed about the negative impact that violence has on other students, I think they would be more willing to know one another and get along. Also, I did not see any supervising teachers in the video. Teachers need to be present at all times, especially in the hallways during free periods or passing periods, otherwise students will take advantage of the freedom and do what they please.

  15. Shurouq Abdallah
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 11:05 am

    I think that bullying is a terrible thing that is still going on in our schools today. Schools need to take a stand on trying to stop the bullying that is going on in their schools. After watching the video I think the two young men are at fault because they both were being violence to each other. Although one was the bully and was picking at the other student, the young men had to retaliate because he did not know else to do at that point in time. I think that we need to stop the violence towards each other. I also did not see any teachers in the video. I think that the teachers need to be present at all times and see what the students are doing during hall way time, eating lunch and ect.

  16. Chelsea Konyndyk
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 3:43 pm

    This is an incredible video. amazing how things like this can happen. I’ve never dealt with violent bullying but by watching this video it really makes me think about how to prevent things like this from happening. I do not like violence so I believe there definitely could have been an alternative solution to the bullying.
    The other day in one of my classes we watched a video on a 13 year old student who committed suicide. This student’s father was going to schools and raising awareness of bullying. The most powerful thing that he said was about the bystander, the people who are laughing and not being bullied or bullying. These people, the bystanders, are the most powerful people in this situation. If at any school this group of people could stick together and stand up for the bullied I believe that we would see less of this sort of violent bullying. Schools really should address this issue as it is really important. If the school is about the whole student than the school needs to make sure that students are aware of things that could happen if bullying continues.

  17. Lisa Trepton
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 3:55 pm

    This video completely shocked me! How could such behavior be going on with no one even noticing? I’m surprised that a student hadn’t reported the bullying, or that a teacher wasn’t aware of the ongoing problem. The father of the one boy claims that his son had been bullied for years. This father should have notified someone at the school so that the teachers were aware of the problem. Teachers should be on the look out for this sort of behavior, but often times students get away with it when teachers aren’t around. I think there needs to be more communication between parents and teachers, as well as teachers and students so that bullying and other questionable situations can be prevented in the future.

  18. Neil
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 6:20 pm

    This video is shocking when first seen, but also a result of bullying. If a bullying situation isn’t addressed immediately, it can escalate quickly to an issue of injury or assault and will present many problems to the school. It is no surprise that the student retaliated in this way because eventually enough is enough and the student feels like there is no other option. If an issue like this is addressed quickly, avoidance of an injury or other problems for the school will happen. As bullying increases in schools, it is now more important than ever to make the classroom and school in general as inclusive as possible. Having an inclusive and comfortable environment at school that doesn’t tolerate bullying will benefit all students.

  19. John Baty
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 7:53 pm

    This video was somewhat of a shock to me. To see kids of that age being so violent, I remember bullying in my school being as much as name calling, no actual violence. I think that both kids are in the wrong on this one. The first kid obviously because he has been bullying the larger child for a couple years, there is just no excuse for that. The second kid I’m having some trouble finding a reason to suspend him. I know and understand that violence is wrong, which is why his actions were wrong. However if he was doing it in self-defense then I can’t find a reason to punish him. He is getting hit in the face! Even if the dad reports it teachers can’t keep an eye on the students all the time, and the bully isn’t going to stop completely. So I actually think that the child was ok to defend himself, I would never tell a child to do that in self-defense but I wouldn’t punish the child in this incidence.

  20. Lindsay
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 8:01 pm

    Bullying, though not always visible to teachers and staff, is harmful to all involved. As mentioned in the video above, the student being bullied is faced with daily criticism, cruelty, and downright violence. Teachers need to find strategies and means of stepping in before the situation spirals out of control. Talking to all students is a good place to start. Also, teachers should watch students closely during recess, lunch, and other free times in order to avoid these types of encounters. Many students feel vulnerable and helpless and rely solely on their teachers for safety. If nothing else, awareness is a good place to start with this issue.

  21. Danielle
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 9:07 pm

    Having seen this video clip before, I still got chills after watching it again. Bullying is definitely an issue in schools and sadly it is also an issue that does not get as much attention as it should. After reading some of the comments already given, I have to acknowledge what a great point Christine made. If schools work hard to teach that bullying is wrong at a young age, then it should not be as big of a problem when the kids get older. As Christine noted, it would greatly benefit students to be taught that bullying/fighting/hitting is wrong in grades as young as kindergarten. Perhaps this whole incident could have been avoided then—the bully would not have been picking on Casey; Casey would not have fought back; and the bystanders would not have just watched the situation. The more schools address bullying, the less it should happen in the schools.

  22. Todd Greer
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 9:55 pm

    To those who express surprise that the bullied didn’t tell teachers and have the situation resolved by them, I sincerely hope that you’re right that that’s a viable approach now. When I was in the relevant grades of school (a couple of decades ago), it wasn’t. I’ve known several who were bullied worse than I was, but I’ve yet to hear of any bullying victims being helped by their teachers. Kids that age simply don’t have the maturity to effectively get help, and, unless things have changed, teachers aren’t equipped to help.

    To those who feel that the bullied shouldn’t have met violence with violence, sometimes nonviolent approaches just don’t work. Can another approach work? Sometimes, sometimes not. I wonder whether this bullying was repeated any more. If the bullied kid has to use violence, he should use just the amount of force necessary to control the situation, and to keep it from happening again. Can you say how much force is required? It would still be a tough call even if we knew the context, and I think it’s pretty unrealistic to expect a kid to manage to find just the right level.

    That the situation happens is abhorrent, but the victim should not be judged too harshly if his response, in your estimation, is imperfect.

  23. Elizabeth Holman
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 9:58 pm

    This video was certainly not easy to watch. It pains me to see that such hostility exists between students of such young ages and that some think it is okay to bully fellow students verbally, mentally, or physically. Bullying is a reality of schools today and needs to be dealt with at several levels. I think it is important that school-wide policies are in effect about the consequences of bullying. In addition to that, teachers should be educated on the signs of multiple types of bullying so that they can, hopefully, pick up on it early enough to intervene before it goes this far. Educating teachers on helping children through a bullying issue would also be a valuable tool in fighting this problem because teachers would be equipped to help victims overcome it and bullies to stop. I think it is also important that students understand the serious consequences of bullying someone. They need to know that it is not tolerable and can have lasting and very negative impacts on people. Along with this understanding of the effects of bullying, we should give children the tools to deal with bullying and avenues to take to seek help if they are being bullied or know of someone who is. I think that by creating unity against it, educating teachers, and educating students bullying can, at the very least, be minimized if not eliminated.

  24. Allison Bouma
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 10:08 pm

    Bullying is something that definitely needs to be addressed. The hard thing is that it is not something that just occurs at school during school hours. It is important for both teachers and parents to set good examples and teach their children good ways to deal with people who are difficult to get along with. It is not something that any law of rule can stop. We must take action against bullying, but we should do so in a way that provides support for children and gives them room to change and grow.

  25. Holli Moote
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 10:20 pm

    I first saw this video when it was posted to a social networking site by a middle school aged student applauding the boy who finally fought back. Bullying is such a hard issue to deal with because it does not center around one issue. One kid may be bullied for being too big, another for being too small, etc. I think that as educators it is important to be aware of how what is happening in the classroom relates to what is going on outside of the classroom.
    I think that the young man in this video who fought back is definitely a victim. He was caught up in a cycle where he felt that if he could just bear the bullying for a while longer things would change. However, being bullied for so long grew to be too much and he fought back, but no matter the circumstances, I would be extremely reluctant to call him a hero. Fighting in response to bullying may bring about a quick result, but it harms the progress toward stopping bullying in the long run. Schools need to focus on teaching students strategies for dealing with bullying (whether it is happening to them or another student) that do not involve more violence.

  26. Nate Hill
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 11:16 pm

    This video is intense! You can tell that the bully has seen plenty of WWF to know how to body slam like that. It is scary to think of what could have happened to that smaller student. I haven’t seen too much bullying throughout my schooling, especially nothing of this magnitude. These types of situations and bullying in general should not have a place in our schools. As teachers and educators we need to step up and try to put an end to situations such as these. It’s sad to think that some kids are scared to go to school each day because they know they will get made fun of or even beat up. Our schools need to be a place of comfort and security. Where students can be open and willing to talk to teachers about these types of things so that these situations can be prevented.

  27. Carly Lerner
    on Mar 30th, 2011
    @ 11:40 pm

    The saddest part of this video for me is the fact that violence was the only way for the bully to stop. There are other childern around and even one with a video phone, but no one is helping or getting help. There are no teachers or adults around, so the only way for the victim to stop the bullier is to fight back. I’m glad the victim defended himself, but the violent way he did it will lead to other victims watching this video think that violence is the best way to defend yourself. Children need to know the proper way to deal with bullying, becasue like it or not, it happens. So teachers should be informing students about the results of bullying as well as what to do about it.

  28. Joshua Pollema
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 12:21 am

    I agree that bullying is one of the most challenging issues that educators face. Bullying will always be a problem in schools. This video is proof that it goes on. It is shocking that the kid being bullied had never reported the other kid. Sometimes that is how it goes though. The one being picked on is almost too scared to report the bully in fear of more bullying happening. Bullying needs to be addressed in every school. Not addressed once, but addressed often. In my grade school and high school, we were constantly reminded that bullying was a harmful thing. I know that this issue is a hard one to deal with, but the answer to making it better is not ignoring it.

  29. Andrew Blok
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 12:33 am

    The scary thing about this video is that someone could have been seriously hurt, which would create more problems for everyone involved. This situation should not have progressed this far. Someone should have realized that the student had been “bullied for years.” I realize that teachers can’t see everything but it must have come up at least once throughout the course of those “years.” This bullying should be stopped before it culminates to this. I hope the suspensions are not the end of the school’s dealings with this problem. If they are, the problem won’t be resolved.

  30. Adam P
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 1:04 am

    If only these issues were cut-and-dry, huh? I think one of the main things people forget about when they see or hear about altercations like this is the fact that the students involved have a more deeply rooted emotional disturbance of some sort. In some cases, the is bully having issues in the home or they may have their own bully, so they feel the need to express that frustration in a similar way. Bullies are more than people who manipulate what other people say and do, it is primarily directed making others _feel_ a certain way. For example, the Bully doesn’t just push some one around, they also talk to that person in order to intimidate them socially or emotionally. On the other end of it, sure the person being bullied may get bumps and bruises, but being embarrassed – that’s not something you can work off with a few laps around the block, being bullied can make deep emotional scars. I would be curious to see if the two have any different attitudes upon their return to school to see whether the method of punishment is really valuable or not in situations like this.

  31. Andrew H.
    on Mar 31st, 2011
    @ 12:42 pm

    I agree with Adam on this one. After watching this video, I am reminded of situations that I have seen before in a school where I was teacher aiding. I saw some kids picking on a student and this student finally just outright right hooked one of them in the face. I thought well good for you for standing up for yourself, but when this kid was the only one punished I reported back to the teacher that there was more going on behind this and that the student that was doing most of the bullying had some issues too. Things like this happen a lot and we as teachers should be aware of what’s all going on or we will have lots of black eyes and angry students and parents.

  32. Kim Dolce
    on Apr 4th, 2011
    @ 10:34 am

    First and foremost bullying is something that is very serious and needs to be addressed to all the students about how wrong and hurtful it can be. After I saw this video, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Both of the boys were wrong with what they were doing. There are other ways to handle a situation and fighting is not it; fighting will not accomplish anything and will only hurt someone in the end, and from my observation of the video it looked like both boys were hurt; both mentally and physically. I wish students would stop bullying and come to realize that there is no point to bullying. As I grew up, I saw a lot of bullying in middle schools and when I went to high school it got even worse. My question is, where was the assigned teacher or aide monitoring the hall? why wasn’t there anyone around while this happened? usually there are teachers outside of their classrooms making sure there isn’t any horse play while students are passing between classes.

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.