A Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Sees Irony And Hope Re: Bullying And Assaults

You know, even a Boston criminal defense attorney can start to lose faith. I mean, it has been great seeing my quotes in the paper and watching myself on TV again, don’t get me wrong. But, I really believe in the issues I write about in this blog and the subject of “bullying” and what to do about it has really raised my ire. And, as I suspected, the governor lost no time in signing into the law the new bullying bill, giving us the new holiday of “No Name Calling Day” in January and a host of other non-solutions.

And so, with nothing solved but a feel-good attitude that is likely to blow up in everyone’s face come September, if not before, I sit back to transfer the recorded Fox25 video (that can still be seen here) for my folks who are in town.

While awaiting my portion, I rewatch one of the bullying-related stories that was also shown. Although not in the Commonwealth, it presented a new extreme in the bullying issue.

Nope, it wasn’t yet another story of one kid torturing another, either physically, emotionally or verbally.

This time, the assailant was a teacher who was the villain of the piece!

The science teacher was fired after this video became public. The video appears to depict the teacher backing the 13-year-old student into a corner and assaulting him while his classmates watched.

At the beginning of the video, one can hear laughter and applause from the students as the student is backed into a corner by the teacher after the child reportedly teased a female classmate
But then, the laughter stopped. It was no longer funny when the Defendant “snapped” and started beating the 13-year-old according to the young camera-person. The teacher “just started beating him up,” the media was told. “His behavior may have been bad but he didn’t deserve that” .

The child’s family says the 13-year-old boy suffered a black eye and other bruises. The family has filed a lawsuit against both the teacher and the school as responsible parties.

A spokeswoman for the school said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but that school officials feel they handled the situation appropriately after learning of it.

And so, I turn from the television, noticing the irony that I will discuss further below, wondering if there is any hope here.

Yet then, I see a news story which makes me think again. Could it be that, rather than simply relying on crusading district attorneys and other politicians , that there could be actions taken by citizens to actually work on the problem?

I read the announcement of a bullying and suicide prevention forum, scheduled for Wednesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the MassMutual Center on Main Street in Springfield.

Mary Pat McMahon, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the impetus for the forum is the deaths of the Springfield and South Hadley adolescents who took their own lives after being bullied.

“We need to bring the issue of suicide out of the closet,” McMahon said. She said the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also offers outreach to families dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide and education as to the causes and signs that a person is at risk of committing suicide.

There is still a stigma surrounding the subject of suicide, McMahon said. She added that young people who must deal with a host of social issues need to be educated about suicide.

A parent who is concerned that his or her child is at risk should ask the child if he is considering hurting himself “and be prepared for the answer he doesn’t want to hear,” McMahon said.

Parents also need to have an action plan and to seek help, whether it be through their child’s school, doctor, church or family friends.

Keynote speakers at the Bullying & Suicide Prevention Forum are Bill Corbett, author of “Love, Limits and Lessons” and Dr. Barry Sarvet, vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center and president of the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. One of the subjects will be raising a bully-proof child, and another will be talking about preventing suicide.

You see, these people understand that the problems which led to the tragic suicides are not simply the subject of the bullies. The other part of the equation is the bullied. No amount of prosecution of the bullies, even should one impose the death penalty, will aid the victims of bullies when the inevitable occurs.

Strengthening them and giving them options, however, will. Now, if we could just get such a grass roots effort to work on the other side, the bullies, we might actually move towards fixing this problem!

Bravo to Springfield!

Attorney Sam’s Take:

“Sam, what gives? What does this have to do about the subject of bullying?”

Plenty. As mentioned, it is the other side of the equation. Most bullying victims do not commit suicide, but many are driven, through peer pressure, if nothing else, to other foolish and harmful things. This is why the shoring up of students’ self-esteem and knowing they have places to which to turn can go a long way toward helping them when confronted by a bully.

By the way, would it shock you to hear that such an approach might also help prevent some of the actual bullying? Bring in some options, give some self-esteem and maybe sprinkle in a bit of empathy and who knows…you might just prevent some bullies in training from finishing the avocation.

And the irony? If the story of the teacher turned bully had taken place in Massachusetts, and handled under what is likely to be the result of the new bullying statute…the school would be sued and the 10-year-old child, who had apparently been bullying previously, might be hauled into juvenile court.

We are a long way from solving this issue. Victims will continue to face confused, and now scared, school personnel and bullies, or alleged bullies, will be making their ways more and more into the hallowed halls of justice. And when they leave…well, wait and see the scars appearing then.

Either way, you want to have an attorney who is experienced in dealing with the issue, especially if it involves criminal or juvenile prosecution. If you wish to discuss such a matter with me, please feel free to contact me at (617) 206-1942.

To view the stories upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20005021-504083.html and http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/bullying_suicide_prevention_fo.html

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