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11-Year-Old Faces Assault Charges for Bullying

By Hannah Tennant-Moore |

bullyingPolice in Waltham, Massachusetts have deemed one child’s bullying serious enough to warrant criminal charges. An 11-year-old girl from Fitzergerald Elementary School was charged with two charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a foot and a locker door) and another charge of assault with a dangerous weapon (scissors).

The charges come in the wake of the suicide of another Massachusetts student, who was the victim of incessant bullying. That tragedy may have contributed to community willingness to prosecute this latest spate of bullying. After the Mayor of Waltham learned that numerous parents were complaining of bullying at Fitzgerald, she called the police and asked them to investigate.

I applaud the mayor and school officials for taking these bullying incidents seriously. But criminalizing the misdeeds of children who are so young does make me nervous.It’s impossible to know whether or not this fifth grader was the only serial bully in the school, or is simply being made into a scapegoat. And it’s equally impossible to know what situation she faces at home that may have contributed to her violence against her peers.

Naturally, the ideal solution would be for the parents, teachers, and school guidance counselor to work together to address the bullying in a way that made a lasting impact on the child. But the ideal is, well, just that. In reality, if a child is endangering other students and it seems unlikely that her parents are willing or able to work on changing her behavior, perhaps police intervention is the only way to get kids to take bullying seriously.

Would you support police intervention if you learned your child had been the victim of violent bullying?

Photo: Virginia Youth Violence Project

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0 thoughts on “11-Year-Old Faces Assault Charges for Bullying

  1. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I would. Eleven is old enough to know better and bullies continue when there aren’t any real consequences to their actions.

  2. Lisa says:

    Perhaps this was the only way to get this child into behavioral therapy or other counseling.

  3. Citizen Mom says:

    As a former teacher, I can tell you that schools engage in avoidance behavior, then overcompensate – we won’t do anything until it’s a problem and then do ridiculous things that don’t solve the problem of bullying in their schools.
    Just because this girl was arrested isn’t going to make any other kid stop and say, “Gee I better not do this.” That’s just not how kids at that age think. Generations of children have witnessed and/or heard about their peers getting caught and punished for transgressions and yet, they continue to make poor choices.
    Dealing with bullying in a proactive way – by identifying bullies followed with counseling and intervention – costs money and there are also laws that must be followed. Much easier to have it paid for by the legal and law enforcement system. I’m not saying there are conscious decisions made by schools to behave this way, but that is what happens.
    Finally, we as parents need to teach our children to be tattlers – you see something wrong, tell someone. Someone is doing something wrong to you, tell someone. It is only by having records of some kid’s behavior that anything will get done. The code of the playground must be broken.

  4. Adam says:

    Citizen Mom has a point… the pendulum swings. Liberal to conservative, libertine to Puritan, permissive to restrictive. Its the way of the world… trading one set of problems for another.

    In this particular case, we aren’t talking about sticking gum in someones hair or giving them a wedgie (not that either of those are acceptable) – we’ve got an 11 year old accused of attacking another kid with a scissors. And apparently she has a history of violence. There needs to be some kind of intervention.

    As far as teaching kids to tattle? That’s absurd. The “code of silence” has been the rule among kids in every culture, throughout history.

    Bottom line: its a PARENT’S responsibility to prepare their kid to deal with conflict. The problem is that most parents are replaying the psychological tapes they heard from their parents (or following advice of equally clueless “experts”).

    I’ve bully-proofed hundreds of kids in my professional career. 70% of the time, a kid can deal with bullies using very simple psychological tactics. 25% of the time, they have to use force (overwhelming fire-power is often the key to peace). 5% of the time, adults need to get involved.

    http://emergingcenter.wordpress.com/
    http://www.totalbullysolution.info

  5. Sara says:

    As a last resort I would support it. However, I agree with Citizen Mom that we often avoid then overcompensate.

    Although I can’t say I agree with teaching kids to be tattlers… That would be great for grades 5+, but when you are dealing with elementary, boy do they already know how to tattle!

  6. One of The Guys says:

    I’m a former third grader teacher and currently a parent of a third grader, first grader and kindergartner. What I’ve found over the years is parents react differently when teachers contact them about their child’s behavior. Some parents want to work with the school to correct the behavior and others deny that their child could ever be exhibiting such behavior, whether it’s bullying, swearing, being mean or not cooperating in class. So a lot of how we deal with children depends on their parents.
    In this day and age most school systems have a no tolerance policy for bullying and harassment. I think that’s a good thing. But….how much is an 11 yr. old girl going to really learn from being prosecuted? Isn’t there another way?

  7. Lanniekins says:

    I would support it as a last resort – wans’t the Venables boy eleven? Although it might not work as a deterrent for other bullies, it might teach THIS one that they have crossed a line.

  8. Marj says:

    If you’re reporting being terrorized by your peers, is that considered tattling? I’ve never understood how it gets villianized. “Josie said a BAD word!” maybe that’s tattling, but “Chuck forces me into my locker and punches me in the gut every day” should not be considered tattling. Also, if it’s assault at age 30, why wouldn’t it be assault at age 11? Maybe how you deal with the crime should be different, but it should still be a crime.

  9. Teach a Lesson says:

    Unfortunately at least one very hash lesson will need to be taught to set an example for others.

  10. denise says:

    I think 10 and 11 year olds should be held accountable for their actions, especially if they have been bullying for many years and their parents deny or don’t care if their kids are bullying. My 9 year old was bullied by four first cousins, 11,9,7,and 6. The younger ones started hitting him as hard as they could and throwing rocks the size of golf balls at him. The olders ones egged the younger ones on, and were waiting to jump on my son as well if he fought back. They have done this before. Before I could make it over to where they were a lady jumped on the cousins and made them stop. I tried to determine what was going on and the dad to three of these kids (and the older ones)told me to not discipline his kids! He didn’t even ask what they were doing or what was going on! He turned around and walked off, and the bullies grinned at me because they got away with it! I am now afraid for my son’s safety, and I called the police and filed a complaint agaisnt the children and the dad. I didn’t think I could do anything else with the dad being a jerk and not caring if his kids bullied…..

  11. trisha says:

    An 11 year old girl broke my daughters arm 2 bones and she is 2x her size and weight she attacked her and police say there is nothing i can do, this is improper behaivor and somethng needs to be done about it. Had the situation been reversed I would hold my child accountable for his or her actions towards another person.

  12. jen says:

    absolutely children should be jailed for harming another human being! i DO NOT care if they have a rough home life or if there are extenuating circumstances. there is something to be said for REAL punishment. i’m confused with why this is even an issue. someone had commented on this post that a child broke her child’s arm in 2 places and the police refused to do anything… the less accountable we make each generation for their actions the closer to collapse our society comes. complete and total BS!!

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