Dear Annie: I work in the summer at an art college, with a program for high schoolers who want to take classes for college credit. During the most recent summer, one of the cliques bullied a kid who has Asperger's syndrome, to the point that he left the program early and the parents sued the school. Because I was one of the witnesses to their behavior, I had to give testimony at the deposition. The three boys who did the bullying have been barred from ever enrolling at the college. The boy they bullied had to leave before finishing the program and couldn't receive full college credit, and part of his summer was wasted as a result. His parents told us we should let the bullies stay and finish the program. All they wanted was a financial settlement.
We're not sure exactly why the constant harassment occurred. The boy with Asperger's stutters, has awkward movement, sounds weird and doesn't flirt with the girls. The bullies would throw things at him, ram their chairs into him, shove him away from his computer terminal so they could make "corrections," get in his face and bark at him.
Here's my dilemma. Should I contact the bullies' high schools and tell them that these students are bullies and we were sued because of them? The next question is: Should I contact other colleges with which I have connections and tell them about these boys? Going to art college is, in my view, a privilege, not an entitlement. If these boys want to go to college that badly, let them go to community college. Of course, there's no fine arts program at most community colleges, so they'd have to join America's 99 percent and major in something more practical. On one hand, they may mature and change for the better, but on the other hand, they weren't kicked out of my school's program, so they really didn't pay any price. — Witness
Dear Witness: I have no witty quips about this subject. There should be no tolerance for bullying. Your school was correct not to allow the bullies to go there after they graduate, and your school should inform their high schools and seek to have the incident included on their academic records. More is caught than taught, and somewhere in these children's lives, there has been a gap in lessons about tolerance and acceptance. Given the seriousness of the incident and the severity of the reaction, I hope that these boys, their families and their schools will become more aware. Parents must model appropriate behavior for their children, and schools must support it.
I believe that as long as your school doesn't let these boys back and has informed their schools, it has taken the appropriate steps. That said, readers with more academic experience may have more informed recommendations.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]