I was picked on a fair amount as child. “Bullying” wasn’t part of the popular lexicon back then.
I probably deserved some of the grief I took. I had a big mouth and didn’t hesitate to criticize other kids. In some bizarre way, I thought I might fit in—be one of the guys—if I talked a little smack now and then.
Didn’t work out that way.
My problems occurred at school as a small group of guys made it their mission to give me a hard time. I did nothing about it and that’s when other classmates—kids who never would initiate trouble—decided to pile on. Typical group mentality.
Somewhere along the way, it was deemed that I had a big head. Thus, the nickname “Head” was created.
It was brutal.
Guys would walk past me in the school hallways with their palms open and extended several inches from their heads—the universal symbol for big head, I guess. I remember several classmates gathering around me on the day that we were measured for graduation caps and gowns. For the first time, the true size of my gargantuan cranium would be revealed.
The truth is, I have a pretty big head.
I got to thinking about the taunting I received after seeing a news report about the parents of a fourth-grade-boy in Mt. Prospect who have sued a classmate, his parents, the principal of the school and the school district because their son was bullied during third grade.
The suit claims the boy was the victim of almost weekly attacks, ranging from hitting, punching and kicking, to more violent threats, NBC Chicago reported. He was choked and threatened, and would wake up at night screaming and crying and saying he didn’t want to go to school, the suit said. His parents filed numerous police reports and met with the school, to no avail.
I could only imagine my parents filing a police report during my elementary school years. They had the same mindset that most parents of that era possessed: If you had a problem at school, settle it. Stand up for yourself.
Sadly, that thinking has gone the way of the Dodo bird. Students who resort to physical violence—no matter how minor, even if in retaliation—are looking at suspensions or worse.
Times have changed since I was in school. At that time, boys fought. They settled their differences, accepted the consequences and moved on. If they didn’t fight, everyone knew it. Trust me, I know.
I remember throwing hands with a guy by the name of Bob Jones in the office of the Hayes Park gym on Chicago’s Southwest Side. It’s one of the rare times I stuck around to fight. But the interesting part was, the park superintendent sat by and watched the whole thing. If that happened today, he’d be fired. He understood that two guys were scraping—not the end of the world.
“Joner” landed a fist right below my ear and I took off. But I had the satisfaction of knowing I hung in there with him for a while.
I also recall hitting a classmate after gym class at Brother Rice. I never would have considered it, but another student convinced me that I had to take action to get the other guy off my back.
I hit the guy, and the locker room erupted. I served a Saturday detention for that misdeed. But my gym coach, George Sedlacek (God rest his soul), later told me that while he had no choice but to issue the detention, he was happy to see me throw a punch.
Sedlacek was old school. He understood that the punch sent a message to the class that I was willing to defend myself.
Anyway, back to the litigious family in Mt. Prospect. This story gets better.
Their attorney, Joel Handler, is seeking monetary damages from all of the named defendants, including the boy who allegedly perpetrated the attacks, NBC reported.
“He has committed multiple assaults, multiple batteries, on my client,” Handler said. “Since the school’s not going to address it, and the parents presumably are not going to address it, then we are going to have to address it.”
Handler said if he is successful recovering monetary damages from the young defendant, he would go so far as to garnish any of the boy’s future earnings, NBC reported.
He’d better get the lemonade stand up and running post haste.
For their part, the victim’s parents said they hope the lawsuit sends a message.
“Kids, all kids, need to be in a safe and healthy environment to learn in, because learning fuels the rest of your life,” the boy’s father told NBC.
And watching mom and dad handle your problems in the courts sends a great message as well.
The boy’s mother went on to say that the suit might actually help the alleged assailant.
“This isn’t just about our son anymore,” she said. “This is about the child that’s been bullying our son, that he gets the help that he needs, and that the school provides it for him.”
Don’t believe a word. This became about money and revenge the moment the family filed a lawsuit seeking monetary damages from a fourth grader. The rest sounds great, but is absolutely disingenuous.