Winnie was upset. At the end of lunch, a few boys asked to sit next to her; she agreed. Then they asked her about her opinions on abortion. Upon hearing that she was not inclined to limit a woman's ability to make that choice, they then asked "so could we just stick a gun up her vagina and shoot?" "How about using a machete?" "Oh, I know, a bazooka!" Stunned, she told them to go away. Thankfully, the bell rang and she got up and headed for class.
What could she do? The boys were being dumb, and they had not directly threatened to harm her. A friend in the next class diagnosed the boys as idiots and shrugged his shoulders. Winnie tried to forget it.
The next night it still bothered her, so she told her mother. Together, they decided that there was no reasonable reason for the boys to talk to her that way, and that the boys' decision to use such violent imagery was deeply disturbing and inappropriate. So they went online and filled out a "bullying" report of the incident, including details about the time, place, specific words, and a request that the boys be schooled on appropriate conversation in school hallways.
Two days later the school dean called Winnie's mom to thank Winnie for her report. The details allowed the school officials to find videotape of the incident, discover that the boys were actively bothering other students immediately after Winnie's encounter, and determine their identities. The boys had then been schooled by the deans, by their athletic coaches, and by their parents. They are new freshmen who the school officials now know require additional supervision and support to ensure that they gain better social skills for their own benefit and for the sake of a safe school environment. The dean is hopeful that this early intervention will increase the boys' chance of maturing into fine young men.
Winnie is looking forward to receiving written apologies from these boys in the near future. The experience has taught her that sometimes, the institutional response packs a better "punch" than retaliating with her own fists. The boys have learned that there are consequences to their behaviors, and with luck are on their way to learning better behaviors that will serve them well throughout the rest of their high school years and beyond.
Weird things happen in high school. But the weird events can be opportunities to teach children the lessons they need. The boys are being schooled on more socially appropriate behaviors toward their schoolmates. Winnie was also schooled on the importance of sorting out the facts and standing up for herself by enlisting the school administration to manage and maintain the peace. May you be similarly satisfied with how your school handles the weird events that are part of every high school career.
Mari Franklin is a counselor at law who specializes in helping students secure accommodations at school.