Dec 21, 2018

Quick admission: I deliberately refuse to see the series of viral videos showing an eighth grader, said to be a taekwondo champion, beating up other boys.

The furor online is enough. The fact that television stations have taken notice and netizen-friends are discussing details about his grisly videos are sufficient to convince me of how terrible he has behaved. (Heck, I even joked in a moment of outrage that perhaps the school should have used the boy as kindling for its victory bonfire.)

I have three children and I understand the hysteria these videos have triggered among parents. We love and nurture our children, dream of a rosy future for them and enroll them in the best schools we can afford. All the while believing this is the no-fail method for them to have it all.

Imagine leaving your child at the campus gate, confident that each school day is a step inching toward that dream. Now visualize your child’s bloodied face as a young boy with a really unfair advantage beats him to a pulp.

Some laugh at stories of parents experiencing separation anxiety more intense than their child’s when it’s time to leave the kid in the classroom for the first time.

We don’t like leaving children in strange environments.  It’s part of our protective instinct. Anything bad happens and we never forgive ourselves. Your mom will probably not admit it but the scraped knee you got at nine years old while she was not looking haunts her to this day.

That’s why we take great pains to ensure that a child grows up in a place we know is safe. We keep our doors locked at night, we take pains to check the yaya’s history. So why won’t a parent choose a school that, based on popular perception, is a cradle of critical learning and by conjecture, rational behavior?

Seeing a video supposedly taken inside a campus of an elite school showing a young boy turning school mates into hash pushes all our buttons. I don’t need to see the videos to ask, what does a child do to deserve assault? How long has this really been going on? (On hindsight, the move to record the beatings has boomeranged.)

And the beatings never registered a blip in the administration’s radar? Really?

Other parents wonder how the attacker was raised at home.  Is that issue too personal? I don’t think so.  After all, a child learns behavior by mimicking his adults. I also ask myself the same thing now.  How are the dynamics at home? How does he interact with his parents? His older brother? Can you blame me if the word “enabler” comes to mind?

One concerned mother suggests suing the boy’s parents and the school. A senator who sponsored the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 pointed out the school’s possible liability since it is entrusted with the safety of children it charges tuition.

It brings some sort of relief to know that the school has begun an investigation and promised it is “not treating this matter lightly.” I pray the probe is done objectively, given the rumors of “closeness” between the bully’s father and at least one high-ranking official in the school.

No one can blame parents of the other students, especially those whose boys were hurt, if they demand accountability. It’s only fair that those responsible are made to answer for their lapses. The school owes them that.

Obviously, our hearts go out to the bullied boys and their parents.

A story always hits a parent in the gut (figuratively here) when a defenseless child is involved. The parade of child abuse cases in the news will never desensitize us to the fact that children, whether ours or not, deserve to grow in a loving environment.

And when a story is this brutal, we might ignore that the perpetrator in this case is also a child, is someone’s child. Thus we need to remind ourselves at times, despite our just indignation, that it is very likely that the bully is a victim, too.


Header image courtesy of Philippine Canadian Inquirer

TAGS: ateneo bullying viral video ateneo de manila bullying