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Story of Texas Teen Shows How Schools Systems Get It Wrong When It Comes to Bullying

One of the best things I ever learned was from observing a highly successful, self-made friend of mine deal with situations where he was starting to feel upset, angry or frustrated. When a situation like that came up, he would smile and start to giggle. It was his way of handling the pressure and stress that comes from wanting to choke someone out for being a knucklehead or dealing with an exasperating situation.

This was EXACTLY my reaction when I saw this story about a teen who was suspended for standing up for himself when he was bullied and attacked.

13-year old Max Duke was suspended after a paper airplane he had made and given to a special needs student was taken away by a bully and then stomped upon. When he asked the bully why he did it, the bully shoved Max. Max had been avoiding the bully, as the bully had been taunting and picking on Max in the past, using racial slurs and more. When the bully pushed Max, Max decided he wasn't taking it anymore and shoved him back. A fight started, which was broken up shortly after it started with both boys getting their shots in.

In compliance with school policy, both boys were suspended an equal amount of time and then placed in a secondary school for problem children, where there were pat-downs, metal detectors and more. Max was also banned from participating in the only activity that according to his parents, ever got him to come out of his shell, marching band. Max's father, a trainer of police forces in Afghanistan, lodged several complaints, had meetings with school officials and had several phone calls go unreturned in an effort to get his son reinstated back in school. When none of this work, he resorted to wearing street signs and standing on the corner of the school to protest his son's suspension.

Mr. Drake's point of contention? The situation was treated as "fighting", which in his opinion, it was not; his son was protecting and defending himself. Mr. Drake feels as if an in-school suspension is "more appropriate".

Critics could argue that this sort of position becomes a "Slippery Slope", where you end up having to deal with every case of bullying on a case-by-case basis. There is some merit to that argument, which I am going to take a pass on – for the moment.

This story demonstrates a couple of things. The first is that, as I state repeatedly in the book, "Bullies Suck", the Ultimate Bullying Solution Society Newsletter and on this website, public or government entities are not the answer to solving or stopping bullying. Teachers, administrators and school systems have much larger issues on their plates then bullying, the don't have the time or the funding to properly address bullying and, quite frankly, they have no tolerance for the liability that comes along with bullying.

One of the reasons that you have this ridiculous, void-of-any-common-sense policies is because of liability. We all know (I hope) that we live in a litigious society, right? Did you know that seventy percent (70%) of teachers are threatened with lawsuits annually? One of my closest friends in the world worked in the public school system for over a decade as a counselor and he told me that there specific sections in the school policy handbook regarding bullying that were specifically written to safeguard against liability. I do not blame the school system for this; they don't have the time and resources to deal with bullying AND take care of everything else that is required. Couple that with cases where a bully victimizes someone, the bully gets suspended and then the bully's parents sue the school for violating their child's civil rights (true story), and you can see why school systems would create a zero-tolerance, no-matter-what policy.

The problem, as this story demonstrates, is that these policies can be void of common sense and unfairly punish someone for valuing himself enough to stand up to a bully and protect himself. The question then becomes, "Well, what are we as parents and/or adults supposed to do?"

I believe you do what Mr. Drake did – you back your child up 100%.

What is uber-important to realize here is the message being sent to young Max by being suspended. I know as a parent that I never, ever want my daughter and soon-to-be-born son to get the message that it is NOT okay to stand up for yourself. I never want them to get the message that it is okay to allow someone to bully or assault you and to just take it. I want them to know the difference between right and wrong and to have the confidence to make decisions based upon what they know to be right and wrong and act upon those decisions. If one of my kids were bullied, stood up to the bully and got suspended, I would NOT want them to think they did something wrong or they aren't worth standing up for.

That is my major bellyache with "Zero Tolerance" policies when it comes to bullying; the message it sends to the victims of bullying is "Don't stand up for yourself. Don't fight back. Be a victim and just tell someone and let them take care of it." What about the physical harm of being victimized? What about the mental damage? What about their self confidence and self esteem? What message are kids who are watching a victim get bullied receiving?

In the book, "Bullies Suck" I go in-depth into the science behind how "combat stress" – which could loosely be defined as any stress that triggers the flight-or-fight response in the body – if not properly channeled can literally cause anxiety, depression and more. Is it any wonder that kids and adults who are trapped in a long-term situation where they feel as if they have no control, can't stop the bullying and feel worthless decide to commit suicide?

I believe it was a good thing for Max to stand up for himself – it is the sign of a confident, secure young man. I am also in 100% agreement with his father in support of his son. While standing on the street corner with a sign is not my style, being doggedly determined to bring attention to something and get it fixed is right up my alley. By standing up for his son, Mr. Drake sent a strong message to Max that he did the right thing, he has good judgment and it is always okay to stand up for yourself, no matter the consequences.

Maybe if more of us parents teach this to our children – and have their backs 100% of the way – we will raise stronger, healthier, more resilient kids…

Stay strong,


P.S. – I go into much more detail about the effects of combat stress, how to deal with it and more in the book, "Bullies Suck". It is also covered frequently in the Ultimate Bullying Solution Society Newsletter. If you haven't gotten either one, now is a good time. Bullying is not going away and if you are like me, you want to make sure you have the best, most effective information and tools available for yourself and your kids. Check them out today.


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