Reminded again of the brutal cowardice behind these attacks
It was with horror that I read Elizabeth Koh’s article “In Wellesley, an attack spurs outrage, protest over school bullying” (Metro, Oct. 20). While it is encouraging that there is outrage on the part of some members of that community, I am reminded yet again of how cowardly bullies are. The premeditated assault on Sean Ade was nothing less than the kind of gang violence we hear so much about in cities across this country. That it took place in the woods near Bates Elementary School, an idyllic place I remember as a fifth-grader 67 years ago, affected me personally.
Bates was new then. Our teacher received permission for us to carve a nature trail behind the school. I remember how we all collaborated, compromised, and created an organic exhibit. The superintendent, our parents, and our schoolmates all listened to our presentations (I was chair of the snake committee).
That treasured memory has been desecrated by what these teenagers have done.
In my decades of being a school principal of young children, I have never witnessed a bully who simply grows out of the deeply flawed character that drove him or her to perpetrate such a heinous act. I have often wondered what could cause such cruelty. Were they victims, or were they raised to feel entitled, and was their arrogance rewarded as a signal of their superiority? Did nature simply deprive them of the ability to feel empathy for another human being?
Whatever the reason, this anonymous gang needs to be accountable so that they can be saved from themselves and society can be protected from them.
Sean Ade is the hero in this sordid story. He overcame his assault and stood up regardless of the personal cost. Nothing can diminish the strength and integrity of him and his parents.
Paula A. Sline
The writer is a retired school principal.
This was more than ‘bullying’ — it was an act of violence
The outrage and struggle following the egregious victimization of a high school student in Wellesley must be examined to avoid future conflict and better recovery from traumatic incidents (“Student’s supporters rally in Wellesley,” Metro, Oct. 21).
First, the aggression perpetrated on the victim is possibly mischaracterized as “bullying.” This is not an uncommon error. While I have no inside knowledge of the case, from all reports, it appears to be a violent assault. Bullying today is predominantly psychological in nature (although it can be physical) and is identified by a repeated campaign against a victim. Calling assaults “bullying” risks minimizing the seriousness of the attack and may trigger policy-dictated responses that aren’t appropriate to the circumstances.
Second, violence in a community affects the entire community, and it is the effect of violence upon a victim and upon a community that should be addressed first and foremost. How can schools and communities support victims of violence and help them heal? How can an act of violence remind a school community and students to commit themselves to nonviolence? Of course, when the perpetrators are juveniles, everything about their cases remains confidential by law; however, even that fact affects parents, students, and school communities and should be acknowledged.
Third, the community should be invited to help a school move forward from an act of violence in a positive way. How can the students promote nonviolence in their school? How can parents support these actions? How can the schools invite parents and students to offer suggestions and input? What would the victim prefer to happen?
Sometimes, in the wake of violence and trauma, we over-focus on punishment. Our research has found that victims usually don’t want an exclusive focus on punishment. Still, it’s critical for all adults to learn how to help youth move forward from violent acts, and that includes their appropriate characterization and an emphasis (though not exclusive focus) on the needs of the victim and the community.
Elizabeth K. Englander
Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center
Bridgewater State University
Educators must be better guides
With increasing regularity we read about students being bullied. Today’s bully is tomorrow’s dictator. Why are teachers not better educated to see this damaging behavior before it begins? Shouldn’t we blame principals and teachers for a lack of guidance regarding respect for each other? Where are the codes of civility being taught?
Claire S. Cabot