November 26, 2013

Bullying in Iowa

Posted in AMT's Faves, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , at 11:42 am by autismmommytherapist


Last week a reader of mine sent me a link to this story here about a teen-aged boy with Aspergers in Iowa who was being bullied by his peers. She very politely asked me for my commentary on the situation, and the first chance I got when the kids were asleep I clicked on the link, and read the article with an ever-growing pit in my stomach.

It appears that a local Iowa TV station,, posted a story about a boy named Levi Null, the victim of both bullying and cyber-bullying by his classmates. The story refers to a video where Null is punched, teased and mocked by his peers (I have not seen the clip), and teachers do absolutely nothing to stop it. After airing the story said it received over 100 emails from parents at Melcher-Dallas High School which defended the actions of the bullies, saying “the child brings it on himself.”

Let’s just say the pit grew exponentially at that point.

I won’t go into the article in great depth, but in my opinion the school personnel took a pass on responsibility, with principal Josh Ehn stating “We try our best to educate staff, to educate our students to react to the cases, to investigage the cases we have. But ultimately, it’s got to come down to the kids to take ownership for this and to stand up for the kids who can’t stand up for themselves.”

I’ll state here that as a former elementary school teacher myself that he’s partially correct here. School personnel do need the cooperation of students to eradicate bullying. Teachers and aides can’t possibly be witness to every act that transpires, and trust me, kids are sneaky with their jibes and taunts, and become very sophisticated in their delivery of them. We need our students’ help both to stymie bullying before it transpires, and to stand up for students who are on the receiving end of it.

But the responsibility does not end with our charges. It’s up to Josh Ehn to enforce a “no tolerance” policy, to educate his students about disabilities, to encourage them to celebrate difference, to make it clear both to students and parents that bullying is unacceptable behavior and won’t be tolerated. Instead, Mr. Ehn, whose decisions are backed by his school board, sent an email to Levi Null’s mother stating the behavior in the video did not equate to bullying, even though ultimately two students were disciplined and the video was reportedly deleted.

I’m quite certain he could do more.

I send my sympathies out to Levi Null, his mother and his sibling, who said “she felt she’d failed him as a sister,” which made my heart break. Unfortunately these situations will continue to occur unless parents and teachers take action, and refuse to rest until every student is treated with the dignity they deserve. I don’t believe in just teaching tolerance- we can transcend that, and teach celebration of differences instead. Parents and teachers must come together and instill in every child and student their inviolable right not to be tormented, to be respected, to feel safe. Even with the advent of the relentless common core schools need to incorporate programs into their curriculum which strive to counteract bullying, programs which teach kids how to stand up for themselves and others safely.

All children have the right to feel safe.

There was one glimmer of hope in the article. Dawn Simmons, Levi’s mother, told the station that since the incident two students have since apologized to her son, telling him they didn’t realize how their actions had affected him. My hope is their realization spreads to their classmates; that these two children will not participate in further taunting, and will be willing to stand up for their classmate in the future. I strongly hope this will occur, as I once again hear Levi’s words in my head, saying “It hurts; it just doesn’t feel right.”

It isn’t right Levi. You and every other person with autism who is being tormented by the scourge of bullying deserves more. And it’s up to us adults to do better.




  1. Gede Prama said,

    Amazing and thank you friend… @ ^_^
    kindness blossoms in your heart

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