Maybe it’s because I’ve been the fat kid. Maybe I simply lack the requisite zero-tolerance school administrator sensibility that somehow must rationalize the winner of any fight into the bad guy. Maybe I'm a creature of another, simpler age. But I am damned if I can see how Casey Heynes did a thing wrong.
You probably have seen the video by now, despite the fact YouTube keeps taking it down. Casey Heynes, a 16-year-old high school student in Australia, is being tormented by a gang of nasty little bullies. They are taunting him for his weight while the lead cur in the pack steps in and punches Heynes in the face. He capers around Heynes, laughing and trying to hit him again, while Heynes fends off the blows. Then Heynes has had enough. As I have described here before, Heynes reacts violently enough to end the threat.
As it stands, both students are suspended from Chifley College where, the school says, they provide “a safe, supportive and productive learning environment to promote individual achievement and self-responsibility.” An official there has stated that both boys will face consequences because the school "does not tolerate any violence.” But that is clearly a lie.
The only explanation for these events is that violence has been tolerated there for quite some time. How else to explain the fact that the vicious little snot who gets his comeuppance 41 seconds into the video clearly believed he could attack Casey Heynes with impunity? If similar assaults hadn’t happened before this – and often – how to explain that anyone that size thought he could hit someone Heynes’ size and get away with it? And how else to explain that the vicious, tech-savvy tormentors were ready to record Heynes latest humiliation?
I don’t know what’s going to become of Heynes and his academic career. I hope all this publicity will end up being good for him, but I have to doubt it will. I'm not sure if Australian authorities and parents have more sense than American ones, who -- if the events occurred here and now -- certainly would expel Heynes, then arrest him for assault and try him as an adult, while the scrawny little "victim's" family sued in civil court.
Happily, 35 years ago, when I was the fat kid and a freshman at St. Ignatius High School, similar events only earned me six weeks of Saturday detention,* awarded by an assistant principal who privately gave me a pat on the back for standing up for myself. Most importantly, they earned me a subsequently peaceful three and half years of high school, free from further taunts or bullying of any sort. (Whack a guy in the belly with a locker room stool, then kick him while he writhes on the ground, and word tends to get around.)
Unless the miserable little weasel Heynes put on the ground is stupid, as well as cruel, I suspect Heynes' actions will have at least that same effect.
* Despite having copied out all of the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" several times over those Saturdays, I find I remember almost none of it, except that it contained a recipe for albatross. Truth to tell, I still have a lingering grudge against Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
UPDATE: When the school says it does not tolerate "any violence," I wonder if they know what the words "any" and "violence" mean exactly. Consider this incident at the same school from about a year ago.