Jerry Davich: Social media bullying, how far is too far?
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org October 6, 2012 11:32PM
Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 8, 2012 11:59AM
Brian Bolin was disgusted when his 14-year-old son revealed to him that a fellow high school band student licked his face during a recent out-of-town bus trip.
Bolin’s disgust turned to outrage when he later found out the same band student also posted a video via Facebook filled with graphic and sexual threats against his son, a freshman at Chesterton High School.
Bolin videotaped the social media video, burned it on a DVD, and took it directly to CHS officials. He also gave me a copy of it to watch.
In the video, a CHS student (whose name I am not publishing) talks into the camera with a profanity-laced diatribe against several CHS students, including Bolin’s son, Brian Jr.
“What’s up, dawgs? I’m doing a free-style video,” he says in his laughable gangsta-wannabe street-cred voice from a white kid in Porter County.
“Brian, you dad’s a pedophile ... he likes touching little boys’ (expletives) ... Brian, you’re just his bitch.”
To other teens, he threatens, “I’ll make your rectum a bloody mess ... how about if you suck my (expletive).”
The video is vile, vulgar and graphic, with sexual references to anal rape and other violent acts.
“When I showed the videos to Brian, he was outraged,” said Bolin, who lives on the border of Chesterton and Porter. “I asked him if he was friends with this punk, and he said no. He is in his section in band, the CHS Trojan Guard.”
“My son is pretty easy-going, and kind of an easy target for bullies and the butt of most jokes and teasing,” Bolin told me.
With that said, Bolin now has concerns for the safety of his son by sending him away for long hours to band competitions, bus rides or changing clothes in band class or on the bus. Not to mention overnight band competitions.
“Freedom of speech is one thing. But threatening to hit someone over the head with a bottle until they are dead, and (anal) raping someone until their rectum bled is not what freedom of speech is intended for,” Bolin said.
A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear about a bullying incident in a Northwest Indiana school, and I could honestly write one column a week about this growing issue.
‘I have some concerns’
With October being National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Month, this is an opportune time to again spread awareness, especially about social-media bullying. With its high-tech capabilities, and “going viral” possibilities, it takes old-school bullying to a whole new — and dangerous — level.
We, as a society, simply can’t ignore such online threats, rambling or not, with other such threats that have materialized into violence.
CHS officials know this, too, of course, but CHS Principle Jim Goetz told me he can’t get into specifics about his students.
“We are aware of this situation and are dealing with the individuals accordingly,” he told me.
What that means exactly, I don’t know. Discipline? Detention? Expulsion from the Trojan Guard? From the school?
On Sept. 28, the school’s band director, Michael Scheiber, wrote a letter to parents.
“I have some concerns, and for a variety of reasons, I believe it’s important that I get in touch to make you aware of them,” he wrote.
“First, there’s a matter of improper use of what I’ll politely refer to as the ‘social media’ of the digital age. We have a few students, who for whatever reasons, now consider it appropriate to vent their emotions by verbally abusing other members of our program through the outlet of the Internet, particularly through the use of Facebook.
“Much of what’s being printed is not only rude and hurtful, it’s shockingly vulgar.”
So it’s obvious that CHS officials knew about this before Sept. 28. Was anything done beyond this letter? I don’t know.
Scheiber offered parents a “few suggestions based on past experience” to deal with the issue, including this one: “If you’re not doing so already, please take a more active role in monitoring your student’s computer time, especially where social media is concerned. They probably have more than one site/group that they communicate online with, and if you can’t have their password to a site .... RED FLAG!! ...you might have a problem.”
Bolin already has a problem, through no fault of his own. Or his son.
“Mr. Scheiber asked me what I wanted to have happen, and I said I wanted this kid out of band,” Bolin told me. “He said it would not happen because of legal stipulations, and because there would be a hole in the band and everyone would have to learn new drill.
“I informed him that his band was not more important than any child’s safety or life.”
Police and attorney, too
Because of this problem, Bolin said he drove his son to and from a recent band competition in Elkhart. That’s a shame. Period.
“I am torn because me driving Brian separates him, excludes him and somewhat punishes him in order for me to know he is safe. It’s all very compromising,” he said.
Bolin also shared a DVD copy of the teen’s video with Porter Police and the Porter County Sheriff’s Department, asking if any charges can be filed. It’s unlikely, he was told.
Porter County Sheriff David Lain told me he watched the video with Capt. Larry Sheets and, to them, it appeared the teen bully was “wasted.”
“We ultimately decided that if no action had been taken by the school or Porter PD we could have a couple of our most intimidating officers stop by the young man’s house and introduce his parent(s) to the video,” Lain said.
Lain would also suggest that if the teen and his family “liked having police at their house,” then keep posting online threats.
“This is a perfect illustration of the dark side of social media,” Lain said. “It showcases both stupidity and the malevolence of some teens.”
Bolin even retained an attorney to contact CHS on his behalf.
“We find this completely unacceptable as my client’s son and (teen bully’s name) are members of the school band, have performances and practices together, and ride together on the same bus to various band functions,” attorney Jaime L. Turley Perz wrote to CHS officials on Oct. 1.
“My client has a very real and legitimate concern for his son’s safety and well-being, yet he walked away from the meeting with school officials feeling as though they did not care to address or resolve this very serious issue.
“Considering the recent multitude of school violence incidents across this nation, we cannot fathom that the Duneland School Corporation would not take immediate steps to prevent a potential disaster from occurring when it has been presented with credible evidence of threats from one student to other students.”
This issue may not seem like such a big deal to casual onlookers, but it’s a different story when it’s your kid being bullied. I’m told this again and again by parents.
Near the end of the bully’s video, he laughs and says, “We’re too good to do the time ... we’re awesome and sublime.”
But keep in mind, that’s only a band geek bully saying that.
Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.