Police 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