UPDATE: The administrators at Grayon Bruce’s school have had a change of heart (hooray!). According to a post on the school’s Facebook page, Bruce may resume carrying his My Little Pony backpack to school, without limits: “We sincerely regret that the issue of being told to leave the bookbag at home was perceived as blaming Grayson. While that was not the intent, the perception became reality. We support Grayson bringing the bookbag to school . . . Every situation with young children is a teachable moment and we will use this example in our efforts to address a wider issue of bullying. The Bruce family has committed to working with us to improve and enhance our anti-bullying programs.”
I’m having one of those months where it seems as if every other time I watch the news or pick up a paper I read a story that causes me to pause, look around, and see if I’m on a hidden-camera show that’s some new spinoff of The Twilight Zone.
Just recently, Live Oak High School near San Jose, Calif., banned American-flag t-shirts every May 5th, which is the date of the annual celebration Cinco de Mayo, commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla — a day that currently has come to represent the very best of Mexican culture, heritage and pride (although it’s mostly just recognized in the United States, not Mexico).
Over the past few years, some jerky kids at Live Oak High School purposefully wore American-flag t-shirts on May 5th just to rile up their classmates of Mexican descent. Violence was threatened, and ultimately the school prevailed in the ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that instead of mandating lessons on tolerance and respect for all students and cultures, claimed the solution was to outright ban the shirts. (Because surely that will make all the tension disappear.)
Now comes a story out of North Carolina in which a mom is alleging that school officials are prohibiting her nine-year-old son from wearing his My Little Pony bag to school. According to Fox10TV.com, Grayson Bruce says he’s been shoved around by bullies who think his favorite toy is only for girls.
“They’re taking it a little too far — punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names, stuff that really shouldn’t happen,” Bruce told the TV station.
Still, he stands by his affinity towards My Little Pony saying, along with his mother, that they like that My Little Pony promotes “friendship, no bad words, and no violence.”
It’s hard to argue with their reasoning, and yet Bruce’s school has found a way. Last week school officials asked him to leave his My Little Pony bag at home because it had become a trigger for bullying.
The school sent a message to one media outlet, saying:
“An initial step was taken to immediately address a situation that had created a disruption in the classroom. Buncombe County Schools takes bullying very seriously, and we will continue to take steps to resolve this issue.”
Hopefully those steps will include:
1) Telling Bruce immediately how very sorry they are for wrongly telling him he needed to leave his bag at home, and invite him to bring it back to school, wearing it as often as he chooses.
2) Suspending all students who physically or emotionally harm another child for benign beliefs that affect no one but themselves.
3) Mandate lessons in tolerance and respect, and institute a zero-tolerance policy for anything that falls short of either or both.
As Bruce’s mom said to the press, blaming her son for being a bully target is like blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt. It’s avoiding the real problem by putting a Band-Aid on a b00-b00 to heal a wound that requires nothing less than total amputation.
Let’s stop this Twilight Zone protection of bullies, and further victimization of innocent kids, by getting to the root of the problem instead of thinking scratching the surface will suffice. We all know that it never, ever does.
Image credit: Hasbro
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