Laura Stone, a blogger at Hey, Don’t Judge Me (well known for her Game of Thrones recaps), recently contacted us with some sad news. Her teenage son Austin has been dealing with bullies at school and she wanted to write a post about it.

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My son was recently hospitalized after his third suicide attempt. Contrary to the knee-jerk reaction of armchair parental authorities online, we are a tight-knit, supportive family with active aunts, uncles, and grandparents as well as an extended network of family friends. My kids do well in school, don’t eat junk, are required to show me their computer history on surprise inspections, and when asked, say they’re sure that their parents love them. (We do.)

So what would drive my son to such a horrific end? It’s simple: bullying.

I’ve heard that I’m a terrible mother for leaving my child in a situation where he’s being brutalized. That he needs to pull himself up by his bootstraps and beat the hell out of his attackers. That he needs more Jesus in his life. That if he only smiles back at the bullies, why, their hearts will grow three sizes that day and they’ll all be BFFs.

There are a few problems with those suggestions. First, I haven’t left my child anywhere. Every single administrator, counselor, and teacher from his 3rd grade in elementary school to this year in high school knows my face and my name. I’m always assured that they’re looking into things. They’re getting to the bottom of it. If they can only catch these punks in the act, life will be better. (And if my son could only remember their names. Or not be terrified about turning them in, because that hasn’t worked out well either. Retaliation is the name of that game.)

Second, my son is on the Autism Spectrum. To think that he would be capable of beating up on someone is ridiculous. (Not to mention that he weighs a buck o’five at almost seventeen years old.) He approaches things from logic. To him, it’s illogical to hit a person in order to make them stop hitting him. Frankly, it tells me a lot about a person if they think that contradictory mindset works, like biting back a toddler to make him stop biting.

Third, my son is an atheist (see: logic) and happens to be gay. Getting good with Jesus, prayer circles, etc., none of that works since he’s seen as The Enemy. He is gay, you can’t pray that away (not to mention that he doesn’t believe in prayer anyway), so he fails on both counts for the “compassionate” Christians, reinforcing his Enemy status. His attackers are all active, vocal Christians–-mostly the Southern Evangelical sort–-so that goes back to that logic loop of his.

Pick any one of those three traits, and in his attackers’ minds it’s the reason for his “undesirable” qualities. He’s gay because he’s an atheist. He’s an atheist because he’s gay. He’s a gay atheist because he’s “retarded.” These are all things that have actually been said to him.

Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean that I want to go into your house and stop your prayers, remove your Bible, and walk out with the cross hanging over your mantelpiece. It means that I don’t want you telling me that I need your prayers, cross, or Bible in my house.

Just because I’m an ally of the LGBTQ community doesn’t mean that I will come into your living room and force you to watch The L Word, Ciao, or Queer as Folk. Nor do I want to force you into watching a queer couple make love in front of you on your matrimonial sheets. I also don’t want to drag you to a Gay Pride parade and dress you in gold hot pants and a rainbow flag. (Although I bet it would look fabulous on you; seriously, are you working out?)

Being an ally means that I wouldn’t mind if you did. It means that I want to be able to let my gay teen son turn on the TV, switch to LOGO, watch the high school episode of 1 Girl 5 Gays, and see himself represented on television like your straight kids get to see themselves every single day on every single channel. I want him to watch Glee and see Kurt and Blaine navigate the waters of dating with supportive friends and parents, just like other teen couples enjoy. I want the opportunity for him to see how kids his age deal with the challenges he faces every day as a young gay man.

Finally, just because my son has Asperger’s doesn’t mean that I want him to have special treatment. I don’t expect people to understand automatically that my son doesn’t get body language. (He expects people to say what they actually mean and not hint at what they mean nonverbally.) I would like people to not call him an R-word and diminish him as a human just because he communicates differently. It’s not like they would have to learn a new language, just learn how to treat people with respect, even if they’re different.

Tolerance doesn’t mean that you have to change your fundamental self, thoughts, or beliefs. It means that you have to be flexible, that’s it. Be less reactionary. It means that you really should go through life expecting that everyone isn’t just exactly like you. After all, there are eight billion people on the planet. Every Christian doesn’t think exactly the same way. Every Muslim. Every Atheist. Every Jew. (In fact, I think it’s a requirement of the Jewish faith to have your own thoughts and opinions. Mazel
tov!)

What it means to be tolerant is not that you have to love and welcome each and every difference in the world into your heart. (That would be amazing if you did, though!) It means that you intellectually accept that people are different and you won’t actively seek to change them by force of your beliefs to become something else. That’s it. If you’re smart, you’ll realize that it means a hell of a lot less work on your part. No more time-wasting rallies to stop gay marriage, no more anti-choice/pro-birth-and-
no-services-past-birth sit-ins. Having tolerance means more time for your family, your hobbies, and yourself. (And of course, tolerance is a two-way street.)

Someone being different than you doesn’t actually affect your life, if that’s what you’ve been worried about. Goodness, there have been gay people (and atheists, red-haired step-children, hot dog enthusiasts, left-handed people…) for ages. And hey! You’re still you. You’re still everything you believe yourself to be. You still breathe, ambulate, go to work or school, stay at home, love your spouse–or hate your spouse, hey, I don’t want to judge! Whatever your daily routine is, it has stayed
the same, even though there are different people in the world. Even though that nice black family moved in a few blocks away. Even though a gay Latina woman was voted in as Sheriff of Fort Worth, TX. You still got your paycheck, the game still came on last Sunday, and the Cowboys still lost, and seriously, Romo, get your head in the game and get that arm in condition.

You aren’t affected by their lives in other homes, in other cities, or in other states. Your children aren’t affected by it either. They really, really aren’t. Well, I’ll amend that. They’re now aware that differences exist. Is that the problem? You didn’t want them to know that black people are successful beyond sports and music? That gay people don’t want their parents and other married couples to stop being married because they can’t get legally married in all 50 states? That atheists don’t care that you’re
in church on Sunday (because seriously, it is so blissfully quiet on Sunday morning when I go run…. Please go to church!).

What does affect your children is your hate. Your intolerance. Your snide comments at the dinner table about how “that one isn’t giving his parents grandchildren.” Your limp-wristed, high-voiced impression of the teenage boy that loves fashion, not footballs. The dirty face you make at the young woman that prefers overalls and short hair to tight dresses and ornate accessories. Every time you use the phrase “short bus.” Each instance of you grabbing your bag tighter as a black man walks towards
you on the street or a person of Middle Eastern descent gets in line at the airport.

My son is autistic, atheist, and gay, and your assumption that he is one or all of those things because he’s “retarded” or “doesn’t have Jesus” is a continuing lesson in hatred that you’re teaching your children. And you have got to stop using the R-word word as an insult. Wow, does it make you look stupid and mean. My son isn’t looking for “special” treatment or “special” attention. He gets it because it’s the result of nice little Christian boys that jam his head in the toilet at school to “clean him” of his
sins, and that’s just the stuff they do that I can print here. Trust me when I say he would really prefer to not get that kind of “special” attention ever again in his life.

He wants to get the same treatment, as do I and millions of other people around the world. No fingers pointed at him for being different. No one telling him he’s wrong for liking what he likes, being who he is, and for loving whom he loves. No one hissing slurs at him every damn day in the halls at school. No one telling him that he can’t have basic services that every straight white person in the U.S. enjoys. (Did you even realize that? How un-American it is to deny a fellow American of these things?)

He would absolutely go bananas for a full day of nothing “special” happening to him at all. He’d love to turn on the television and see himself, just like other kids do. He’d love to hold his boyfriend’s hand in the hallway and make plans to go to the burger joint with their group of friends just like the other kids. He’d love to be able to ask his teacher to clarify what she meant without people telling him angrily to shut up because they don’t care about the lesson and he’s being “irritating.” His friend would
love to wear her head scarf and not be called a terrorist, when all she’s trying to do is be modest and honor her beliefs.

So if you’re so damn sick and tired of all of these “special interest groups” getting special treatment, I actually have a very simple solution for you: stop isolating them. Stop denying them basic human dignity. They’ll be just like you because they are just like you. Minus a lot of the hate.

Those folks you don’t like and who go against everything you want for yourself and your family? You don’t have to kiss them on the mouth. You just have to stop punching them there. See? Easy. All of that “special treatment” that people continually bestow upon my sweet boy-–a boy who cries over animals being harmed, works at an elder care facility every day, loves hearing stories from our abandoned grandparents while caring for them, who wants to reach out to anyone else hurting and offer comfort-–all of this “special treatment” is what has driven him to a rope, a knife, and a bottle of pills, even though he has support from people who care deeply about him.

That’s how “special” that attention is-–it trumps all others. How can a mother’s kiss soothe when there’s a gash on his cheek from someone’s boot? How can his father’s “atta boy!” override a teacher at his school telling him to just shut up, already? (Or be heard over the ringing derisive laughter of his classmates?) He can’t remember his sister laughing at a joke earlier when his head is underwater in a toilet and a group of four boys are pulling his clothes off to toss down the hallway.

So if you weren’t aware that you could stop all of this “special attention” for someone that doesn’t fit into your definition of “normal,” then you have it from me that you absolutely can. Please. Just stop.

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Laura Stone is a writer, mama bear, and fluffy curmudgeon living in Texas as proof that LGBT allies and feminists do exist in the Lone Star State. She is the owner and head writer for heydontjudgeme.com, a media fansite, and soon will be hosting a TV show on DIY that teaches homeowners how to garden. She promises to end every episode with a glass of wine, as is the custom of her people.

 

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Mary Brock is a scientist who works on drugs you've hopefully never heard of. She enjoys cooking to Blue Grass music, messing with her cats, and hosting the Boston Skeptics' Book Club. She was born in the South but loves living in New England (despite the lack of chocolate chip pizza). Mary does not use Twitter and don't even try to follow her, because she is always looking over her shoulder.

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39 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Grand Lunar
    November 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm —

    I thank Laura Stone for sharing her story here.

    I do hope her son can be helped in dealing with those assholes in some way.

    Maybe someone should ask those bullies “Since when was hate a christian value?”

  2. Profile photo of Peter the Mediocre
    November 7, 2012 at 8:22 pm —

    Hate obviously IS a christian value. I know all those good christians live their values, so it must be. The christians who aren’t loaded with hate should ask themselves what they’re doing wrong.

    • Profile photo of antoinettemarie
      December 4, 2012 at 8:12 am —

      Christianity (like most religions) depends on an “other” and by definition being an other means being separate and often results in exclusion and maltreatment. Unfortunate, but true.

  3. Profile photo of Jack99
    November 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm —

    A well articulated and heartmoving story from Laura Stone.

    Unfortunately from many years of personal experience as an army brat in many different schools in different States and countries, I don’t think her final appeal will work with those bullies.

    To put it bluntly, these types of people are ignorant pigfuckers who are sons of ignorant pigfuckers.

    Whilst I agree that hate can be a “christian” value, I don’t think that is the real fundamental problem here.

    To me, from experience, the real problem is likely to be a piss weak school staff and above all headmaster who fails to take effective measures against this unacceptable behaviour.

    If all aproaches to the school staff and hierarchy have failed, maybe also appeals to outside authority, including police and the legal system, the ultimate solution is to change schools.

  4. Profile photo of ihatemusic
    November 8, 2012 at 1:35 am —

    powerful.

    i have found, though, the only solution against constant bullying is getting away from the bullies :/

  5. Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
    November 8, 2012 at 4:26 am —

    Oh, you just need to grow thicker skin. That’s just the way the world is, deal with it! If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. By writing this, it is actually you who are bullying them. It’s “religious liberty”, and you are trying to “suppress” it. It’s “free speech”, and what you are advocating is “censorship”. It’s “part of their culture”, and by criticizing it you are the one who’s being intolerant. It’s “humor”, and you are just looking for an excuse to be offended. Stop being such a professional victim! Somewhere out there somebody else has it worse – *cough*dearmuslima*cough*, – so your petty “first world problems” don’t matter at all. Now can we talk about my problems for a change?

    Oh, wait, that’s just wrong. It’s actually pathological, sociopathic sadism and evil. Nevermind.

  6. Profile photo of Melissa Bramble
    November 8, 2012 at 8:41 am —

    How heartbreaking. Laura, wishing your son and your whole family well.

  7. Profile photo of Wilson
    November 8, 2012 at 10:27 am —

    I’m hesitant to even offer solutions, because it seems like you’ve tried everything, and to do so would seem like suggesting you haven’t. My heart is just breaking because 10 years ago I was that gay atheist kid with – at least very least – Asperger’s-like tendencies, who also contemplated suicide. My impulse now is just to fly down to Texas and do… something. Anything.

    I guess the one thing your article didn’t mention is whether any of those family friends are people like your son – people your son can see himself in. The “It Gets Better” videos are wonderful, but sometimes it’s hard for kids to see that it will get better for them specifically – especially when they are marginalized in multiple ways like your son has been. Especially when they feel different even from other gay people.

    Today I am surrounded by gay friends who love me for being hyper-literal, for zoning out, and for being blunt. I wish I could share that feeling with your son and let him know that it does get better – even for gay, atheist, autistic kids.

    • Profile photo of Wilson
      November 8, 2012 at 10:41 am —

      Reading the article again, I guess I just shouldn’t be offering solutions. It’s just so hard to think there’s nothing you can do. I can’t imagine how you must feel Laura.

    • Profile photo of Laura Stone
      November 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm —

      Please don’t apologize for reaching out in such a compassionate way, especially considering how connected to the topic you are! If anything, it’s heartening to know that someone else has been through this and has been able to make a life for themselves that is fulfilling.

      Thank you for that and for your compassion.

  8. Profile photo of nomaduk
    November 8, 2012 at 11:16 am —

    My suggestion would be to pull him out and homeschool him; I’m surprised that option hasn’t been mentioned yet. We did that with our son, whom we discovered far later in life was suffering Asperger’s and probably bipolar as well, and while it wasn’t a perfect solution, it is a hell of a lot better than having him get beaten up by creeps and possibly eventually succeeding in one of those suicide attempts.

    • Profile photo of Luna
      November 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm —

      I am backing you up on this NOMADUK, in addition to the bullying, how is anyone supposed to learn in this environment? I hear about all these social issues going on in schools. What the hell ever happened to academics?

  9. Profile photo of Victor Bogado da Silva Lins
    November 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm —

    “Tolerance doesn’t mean that you have to change your fundamental self, thoughts, or beliefs.”

    Unless, of course, you’re an intolerant, selfish and horrible human being.

    • Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
      November 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm —

      …or if your “fundamental thoughts, or beliefs” tell you that that’s the only kind of person worth being.

      • Profile photo of Laura Stone
        November 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm —

        (Hopping in to say that I got your sarcasm/satirical humor here, no worries. I’m actually a pretty dark-humor type, and don’t take offense easily.

        I just didn’t want to clog up the screen by telling everyone here thank you, even though I really REALLY mean that.)

  10. Profile photo of Cathy Jenks
    November 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm —

    Could this not be posted to the parent/guardian of every child in the school? I cannot see how they could fail to be moved by such a moving appeal.

  11. Profile photo of Jennifer Evans
    November 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm —

    I’m so sorry your boy is going through this. I’m also from Texas, further south than you are, and, well. I’m gay, my ex has two kids, and should any bully ever say or do anything to them, near them, around them, about them… I think I’d rather they come after me than my kids.

    Middle and high school wasn’t pretty for me; it has become a daily orision to any god or goddess that cares to listen that things get better by the time my precious ones are that old.

    The children who are bullies learn to behave that way from the adults around them. They seek power and authority over others, they try to raise themselves up by pushing others down. I can know, intellectually, that bullying isn’t about the bullied, it’s more about the one doing the bullying. I still find myself acting durn near irrationally over the mere idea of someone hurting my babies, intellectual understanding be damned.

    Please let your son know that while I won’t be praying for him, I will be thinking of him. And I’ll help raise awareness, and I’ll raise my own voice in opposition to the voices that advocate violence toward people who are different. Also, for however much it may help, there is the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention helpline for gay teens. 866 488 7386.

  12. Profile photo of Heidi McClure
    November 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm —

    I think Austin sounds like a pretty great person. I wish I knew what to say, or how to help him. My message to him, if it would help in any way, is “please don’t leave us. It’s so hard to live in this world with a sensitive soul, but keep fighting. The world needs more people like you, who understand love, kindness, and gentleness. You make the world better just by being here.”

    As a society, we need to realize that those little shits aren’t just doing this to him. They’re doing it to every one of us. When Austin or any other bullied child hurts, we all hurt. This is unacceptable, and we need to stop it.

  13. Profile photo of Luna
    November 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm —

    I also hesitate to offer advice but I have experience with bullying from grade school. Three boys in particular would follow me home, beat me up at school and I ended up in the hospital twice. Finally my mom sent me to a private school. I think homeschooling or other alternative school options are the best bet. I have no idea what’s realistic for you but my heart goes out to your son.

    Two of the three boys who beat me up in grade school are now in jail for assault as adults. Treat your son’s aggressors as violent criminals. That is what they are. As a youbg adult I felt better when I heard the violent kids who brutalized me were in prison. I felt better realizing that it was not me who was sick and abnormal, it was them.

    My private school was great. The academic work was so hard everyone was focused on getting good grades. Kids in school should be working their asses off, not sitting around with all that time on their hands to screw around and get in trouble.

  14. Profile photo of Luna
    November 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm —

    (ps the Kids who beat me up did not go to jail for assaulting me, but rather for gun violence years later. Just goes to show they were sick).

  15. Profile photo of Kevin Hengehold
    November 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm —

    That is terrible. How can folks without kids, who don’t live in the south, work against this?

    My friend’s daughter is gay & she’s going to a virtual high school – it was the best way to deal with the harassment. Maybe an option?

  16. Profile photo of Shawna Burt
    November 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm —

    Oh my Ceiling Cat — go, give your son a hug for me. Wishing him the best.

  17. Profile photo of ethandavid
    November 9, 2012 at 8:19 am —

    Hi Laura. Your story and that of your son, made a deep impact on me. I am the legal guardian to my wife’s nephew, who is on the Autism Spectrum. I home school him due to the inability of the local school district to keep him safe (he attempted suicide in the middle of the lunch room in 2nd grade). He was bullied daily and sadly, due to an inability to know how to handle that bullying, sometimes bullied other kids as well. Since he has started doing school at home, his academics have vastly improved and he is a much happier kid. I don’t recommend the same thing for everyone, as not everyone has the same circumstances that allow it to be possible.

    As for me, I have Bipolar Disorder. I cannot work full time, have to rely on government assistance of various sorts, and am, in a different way, bullied because of it. I have attempted suicide before and, while everyone is unique, know the depths of despair that can bring someone to that point.

    You have my support for speaking out and, as much as some stranger on the Internet can do so, your son has my support as well. Please let him know that there are many people who want the best for him, as we can see here.

    Thanks for your post.

  18. Profile photo of Ms. Daisy Cutter
    November 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm —

    Sincere sympathies for your son, and overall a good post, but this rubbed me the wrong way:

    “Contrary to the knee-jerk reaction of armchair parental authorities online…”

    Why do parents always assume that the people criticizing them don’t have children? As far as I can tell, y’all are much harsher on one another than childfree people are on you. I bet a lot of the flak you’ve gotten are from parents who are raising little bullies, just like Mom and Dad.

    “Frankly, it tells me a lot about a person if they think that contradictory mindset works, like biting back a toddler to make him stop biting.”

    That’s how my mother got my brother to stop biting when nothing else worked. I’m not a pacifist, so I’m not impressed with the truism “Violence is never the answer.”

    “In fact, I think it’s a requirement of the Jewish faith to have your own thoughts and opinions.”

    Unfamiliar with the black hats, are you?

    • Profile photo of Laura Stone
      November 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm —

      Well, I guess I’m just at a loss as to what your purpose in commenting to my plea for people to stop being hateful to one anther is, here.

      When this situation I presently find myself in happened, people online spoke out against what they assumed was my negligence as a parent, and did so from a position of authority on parenting. That’s what that sentence means. You are shading it with your own perceptions. That’s your right to do so, but you’re putting a bent on it that wasn’t intended (and honestly, after 158 “shares” on FB with comments, 300 and counting messages to my personal blog, you are the first to take umbrage with me as if I’m going after child-free people.

      I’ll just take away from this that you and I aren’t on the same page of thinking, be it communication, humor, or the ultimate point here. Fair enough.

      • Profile photo of Ms. Daisy Cutter
        November 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm —

        Sorry you’re none too good at accepting criticism or a different point of view.

        • Profile photo of Mary
          November 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm —

          Nice non-pology. Maybe you should offer more constructive criticism. I didn’t read Laura’s post as criticizing people without children at all, but I do know parents who think that having a kid entitles them to tell other parents how to act.

          Good thing the biting worked for your mom, but that is an n of 1.

          • Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
            November 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm

            I don’t see how you get from “armchair parental authorities” to “childless” either. Quite apart from that, I just want to say that if what you find most in need of criticism after reading Laura’s post is Laura herself, there’s something wrong with you.

            BTW, Laura, sorry if my satirical comment further up came off as insensitive. To be 100 crystal % clear, my point was to mock the favorite rationalizations of psychos and bullies, not to endorse them.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          November 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm —

          Nice concern trolling, asshole.

  19. Profile photo of daedalus2u
    November 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm —

    I was bullied as a child, by my 3 older brothers until I was suicidal too. The “conventional wisdom” at the time was “ignore them and they will stop”. They didn’t, but I have become fabulously good at ignoring things.

    I suggest legal action. If the bullies do the slightest things that is illegal, such as assault or battery, file criminal complaints against them. Each and every time they do it. The local police will come to hate you, but if they were doing their job this wouldn’t happen.

    You will probably need legal help to do this, I am pretty sure you could get pro bono help if you just ask for it.

    If criminal action doesn’t make them stop, then you will have documentation for civil actions against the parents. Put their parents into bankruptcy and they will stop, or they will have to move someplace else.

    You need to see this as a fight to the death. The bullies will continue to bully your son until he does kill himself. Let the parents of the bullies know that if that happens you will sue them for wrongful death and take every single bit of property they own. Not a threat, a promise.

    • Profile photo of daedalus2u
      November 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm —

      I thought to add something, or bankrupt them with legal fees trying to defend their indefensible behavior.

      Start to document everything. Videos, pictures, logs, witness statements. The more documentation, the better. Stuff that will pull on the heartstrings of the jury.

      Let the school know you are doing this and that they will be included.

  20. Profile photo of The Wise Serpent
    November 10, 2012 at 4:43 am —

    I taught eighth grade for a year at a poor urban middle school in Texas, and one of the things that haunts me to this day was seeing the monstrous way that bullies treat vulnerable kids. I had a student in my advanced class who sounds a lot like your son–he was mildly on the Autism spectrum, and while he never told me he was gay, other kids teased him about it. I documented every incident I witnessed or heard about, referred him to the counselor, frequently spoke to his Special Ed teacher, and even called his mother to talk about the bullying (his older brother was bullying him as well). I’d like to hope it helped him, but honestly, I don’t know if I made much difference. By the end of the year, I was begging his mother to apply to send him to a charter school.

    The school system is huge and unresponsive, and overwhelmed. The only thing I can tell you, is if there is any way, any at all, that you can get your son out of this nightmarish environment, do it. Change schools, demand he go to a charter school that suits his interests, send him to a private school if you can afford it, or home school.

    Also, I had to leave my job because the environment at the school was so toxic and destructive that even as a teacher I felt constantly threatened and harassed. I had students scream curse words at me, throw things at me, and threaten me with violence. Not one of these kids was expelled, and after a few days in ISS they sent them right back to my class. One student hit me in the face with a chunk of plastic he’d ripped from a desk. He was in ISS for one day. Then he was sent to an alternative school for two weeks after I wrote him up for beating a girl in my class with his belt. He ended up going to the alternative school three times that semester, but he always came back to terrify my entire class.

  21. Profile photo of Maura Hart
    November 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm —

    that is deeply sad. wish I could make it all better. hard enough to be in school these days, add all this child’s issues. wow. so sorry to hear all these stories.

  22. Profile photo of punchdrunk
    November 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm —

    I don’t know if you’re still reading, Ms. Stone, or if you want suggestions, but I’m facing my son’s entry into high school next year, and I feel like I need to be prepared to use alternate schooling.
    We’re both on the spectrum, he’s struggled outside the mainstream, and I barely survived public school, myself.
    There are many ways for teens to earn a diploma (or equivalency) without public school. I don’t know your son’s academic goals, but community college is so much more bearable than the tightly packed, loud, overwhelming sensory input of a high school. That’s before the impact of the abuse and torture he’s being subjected to.
    Can he earn his diploma online? Can he earn a GED and move on to an associate’s?
    I’m looking at these alternate paths for my son, even though it’s not necessary at the moment. I’m bracing, I remember.
    If I could tell your son one thing, it’s that he will have more control of his own life and the people he has to spend his days with once he’s out of the nightmare of public school. Not complete control, but enough to get out from under.
    He’s lucky to have a parent who cares and advocates. It might not be comfort now, but it will be later.
    Don’t give up, either of you.

    • Profile photo of Laura Stone
      November 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm —

      Big ol’ hugs to you – and I just had a meeting with the school board about alternative options. On their dime, of course. :) I’ve come up with a solution that I think is the best in the situation we’re in, even though it rankles that the lion’s share of work is on our shoulders, and not the bullies.

      But your words of encouragement (and everyone’s really) is so tremendously uplifting. It’s sad on one hand that so many people identify with this situation, but I’m grateful for those that keep reminding us that it does get better. (I really think it will, too.) Thank you.

    • Profile photo of Jennifer Brunton
      February 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm —

      BEAUTIFUL, Punchdrunk. And SUPER beautiful, Laura Stone. Count me in with you in heart and in reality as I shepherd my 11-year old into middle school both of us spectrum-y and flailing.

  23. Profile photo of Anne Orsi
    November 24, 2012 at 9:32 am —

    |So if you’re so damn sick and tired of all of these “special interest groups” getting special treatment, I actually have a very simple solution for you: stop isolating them. Stop denying them basic human dignity. They’ll be just like you because they are just like you. Minus a lot of the hate.|

    This. If an intolerant Reader takes only one thing away from this essay, I hope he or she takes this, savors it, understands it fully, and implements it in daily life and practice. I can’t help but think that the formerly-intolerant reader’s entire life experience will be the better for it.

    This piece is beautifully written, Laura. I wish Austin the very, very best.

  24. Profile photo of efratmama
    November 29, 2012 at 9:18 am —

    Dear Laura: I have long been an admirer of your fanfiction, esp. “Where There’s Smoke…” I didn’t realize until recently that you had family issues w/ bullying. As the mom of 3 now-grown children who were
    CHALLENGING, I would suggest that you take your son out of that school and do home schooling. My older daughter got thrown out of school in both 6th and 8th grade and never went to HS because she “didn’t feel like going to that boring place”. She finally got her GED at 20 and is now in college studying criminal justice. She wants to be an ME because she doesn’t want a job wherein she has to work with “live people”. She is living a gay life in NYC. You can also get a GED online which is good for Autism/spec and ADHD children because the computer doesn’t get bogged down with emotions or get tired. My baby girl took up TaeKwonDo and after I moved with her to Israel, she became a 3x Israeli Heavyweight champ. She is now a commando in the IDF. So much for gender stereotyping. My son, who has OCD, just like me and my daughters, got his GED after going to an alternative/ADHD HS and is now living and working in NYState. You might want to consider legal action against the school district. They have a legal obligation to provide a safe school environment for every student. You could probably get GLAAD (or Chris Colfer’s charity group) to help you with the $$$. I hope that you and your son can work this out. Know that you have supporters and friends and that it can get better. efratmama aka OldLadyKlainer

  25. Profile photo of Ryan Megan
    December 6, 2012 at 10:00 am —

    I’d like to bring up one thing (at my peril) that is often left out of these bully discussions.

    Let me preface by saying I come from a family with a deep history of bipolar and clinic depression. My mother is gay, my uncle is gay as well. I’ve suffered through several suicide attempts by family members and just last year one of my teenage cousins took his own life as a result of bullying.

    At risk of being mistaken for a blaming the victim, I want stress how important it is to communicate that suicide and threats of it are an act of bullying in and of themselves. The amount of harm inflicted upon the surviving family members is immeasurable. and while I’m not advocating a heavy handed guilt trip as a remedy for clinical depression, it is still very important to communicate this fact.

    That as much pain as they are going through, they need to be aware of the ramifications of their own actions as well. As someone who has struggled himself in his youth with these issues – it was knowing this that really saved my life on several occasions. Keeping in mind what it would do to my mother in particular for the rest of her life, stopped me from carrying through.

    All cases are different, but for some – just knowing that could be the key to them holding on to the rational world enough to know how irrational suicide is.

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