Target: Principle Brian Mangan
Goal: Allow students to intervene in bullying incidents without punishment
A Florida high school student was suspended after intervening in an attack against a gay student. While the 18-year-old offender was arrested for battery, it is crucial that students across the nation be commended and not punished for intervening on bullying.
Victim Jonathan Colon was attacked and called derogatory names during lunch. Cell phone footage from the incident shows Mark Betterson defending him. Betterson claimed the gay student was not fighting back and the attack could have been more serious. A bystander noted that Colon already had a welt from being hit by the bully, who was reported at 6’2″ and 305 lbs.
Colon has since asked students from the school to petition the suspension of Betterson. While the high school has been understanding, they claim to have a zero tolerance policy for fighting. Students who defend others from bullies should not be given the same punishment as students who initiate bullying.
If schools really want to combat bullying, punishing the few who have the courage to stop it is not the way. Homosexual students face constant scrutiny and blatant harassment in many schools, and this issue will not go away on its own. Ask the school to apologize to Betterson and create a better plan for handling future harassment incidents.
Dear Principle Mangan,
While it is understandable that Lee County High School maintains a zero tolerance policy on fighting, the recent incident of violent bullying is different from mere fighting. The school’s zero tolerance policy on fighting must be supplemented with a policy that allows students to defend themselves and others from vicious homophobic attacks without punishment. This student could have been seriously injured as the attacker was much larger than him.
Gay students are fighting a war in schools across the country. This was not a typical school fight and this kind of harassment will never end without widespread intervention.
There is a direct message being sent, and it is that students should not help bullying victims because they will be suspended. No student should have to choose between having this on their record or defending someone from attack. Many students have committed suicide because of constant torment at school. If Mark Betterson had not physically intervened, this torment may have continued on a regular basis.
Lee County High School has the opportunity to set a good example for other schools across the nation. Please apologize to this student and create a better protocol for these situations in the future.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: CraigRJD via iStockphoto