Friday, May 30, 2014

Dealing with Bullies

A chilling story played out in a Maryland courtroom this week.

Two girls, 15 and 17, pleaded guilty to bullying a 16-year-old autistic boy.  They were caught because they made and shared videos of what they did, including the following:

Trying to run the boy over in a car as he scrambled to get out of the way.

Forcing him to walk out on a frozen pond and giggling when he crashed into the water.

Kicking him in the stomach and the groin.

Putting a knife to his throat.

Sitting in a car, headlights trained on the boy, and offering him $300 to expose his private parts.

Prodding him to have sex with his family's dog.


We can only imagine what other, unfilmed tortures they inflicted.  There were suggestions that the girls had bullied at least two other students, including a disabled one.

When caught, the 17-year-old, pictured above, said, "We should have erased the video.  We were stupid.  We'll be smarter after this, or locked behind bars."

The judge in the case was suitably horrified.  He said, "If the conduct isn't outrageous enough, the comments afterward make it worse.  This is not an empathic or remorseful person from the totality of the evidence."

Both girls were sentenced to juvenile detention, possibly until they turn 21.  The judge reasoned that sending the older one to prison (if tried as an adult, she could have faced 80 years) would not accomplish anything good in the formation of her character.

This is almost certainly true.



After reading several newspaper articles about the case, I turned to comments made by readers.  A couple of them raised what I thought were good questions.

What, one writer mused, would have happened if it had been two teenage boys tormenting an autistic teenage girl?  Would the boys be sent to a juvenile facility or tried as adults?  Would their names not end up on a registry of sexual predators?

Another noted that the autistic boy who was the victim was black.  What, asked the commenter, would have happened if the races had been reversed?  Would two black tormenters who expressed no remorse have been treated so lightly?

I am not so much opposed to the effective second chance -- a juvenile record that may be expunged at age 21 -- as wondering whether it would be available to other teenagers who aren't white girls. 

Was justice served? 


  1. Unfortunately, I think we all can guess what the answers to the questions posed would most likely be!