Monday, May 21, 2007

Threatened student gets no help

WSB-TV Atlanta, May 18 2007

A Henry County high school student said he was the victim of persistent threats that were reported to the school administration. But now he's the one being punished.

"I'm just outraged and appalled that something like this could happen," said father Rob Sims.

"It's not an uncommon concern for parents to be upset and concerned about their child being disciplined," said Tony Pickett with Henry County schools.

"I'm a good student, I just want to make friends," said student Bryan Sims. Bryan Sims said he is a member of the wrestling team and film club at Luella High.

He said for two weeks he thought about what to do after repeated threats from a fellow sophomore. He said friends told him about numerous threats from the other student to kill him.

"When I did approach him and said, 'Why do you want to shoot me, are you really saying this,' he just looked at me and smiled," said Sims.

He said he told his dad and his father went to the school administration about the threats.

"I said, 'I expect this to be resolved, if it's not resolved, I'll have to be back here in a couple weeks and we'll have to have a different conversation, up to and including, if I have to withdraw my son from school because I feel he's not safe," said Rob Sims.

Rob Sims said he heard nothing back and days passed. Finally, Bryan said the other student shoved him and made menacing remarks so Bryan waited until after his next class and then he retaliated.

"I threw a punch and I nicked him really, in the back left corner of his head. I wrapped my arms around him and I brought us both to the ground. I put him in a painless submission hold and said, 'Okay, now that you're down there, listen to me," said Bryan Sims.

Lawyer Scott Key said Bryan Sims was charged with four administrative charges and a school tribunal found him guilty of one -- physical abuse. In a hearing Friday they suspended him for the rest of the year.

"I understand that there should be some sort of punishment," said Bryan Sims. "Our responsibility everyday is to keep students and staff safe and secure," said Pickett.

Bryan Sims said he is the victim. The mother of the other student called Channel 2's Mark Winne and said her son has been picked on all year. She said the principal told her there was no evidence that her son did any of the things Bryan Sims accused him of, but she also said she's not happy with the school's handling of the situation either. She said her son had to go to the emergency room.

Incidents like this one happen all the time, everywhere... it's happened to almost all my friends. It's not just the nerds, geeks, dweebs and dorks that get picked on, it's pretty much anyone who isn't in the 'popular' cliques. That includes all the brightest and best minds and personalities and future leaders who will go on to earn twenty times as much as the bullies after high school; an economic vengeance. But this is little consolation to the student going about their day to day lives trying to make it through the school day without being harassed.
Marge Simpson: 'I thought you said, 'The law was powerless!'
Officer Wiggum: 'Yeah. Powerless to help you, not punish you.'
Administrators need to take these issues seriously, because they seriously affect their students. When, regrettably, school shootings do occur, it's when the students are tired of being victimized, tired of having no relief, tired of dealing with school officials and parents and trying every option open to them to fix their problems, and they resort to violence.

Resorting to violence to solve a problem represents a breakdown of communications between parties involved; in this case Bryan Sims took whatever action was necessary, went through proper channels, talked to his father, talked to school officials, and in despair took matters into his own hands. This is vigilante justice and it takes place when corruption, bureaucracy, incompetence or apathy halt the systems in place to administer legal justice. It represents a failure of the system.

I can't make blanket recommendations of how school officials should have handled this situation, but it is clear they had opportunities to head off the confrontation. It takes a lot of courage for students to not take things into their own hands and to share their feelings and experiences with parents and teachers, and if a parent expresses as much concern as Mr. Sims had the school has an obligation to their charges to look into it. These are rarely trivial matters; scientific consensus is that they affect children deeply and permanently and shape their future outlook and personalities. Let's make sure our school officials do their job properly, in loco parentis.

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