The endlessly compelling Casey Heynes story confirms for me something I'd been thinking about for a long time: The traditional picture of the big kid bullying the runty kid is wrong -- or at least not completely right. Being big is no protection against being bullied. In fact, it may make you a prime candidate.
And it's true whether we're talking about someone a little chubby like Casey or tall and gawky like Eric Mohat, who didn't get the same satisfying ending. His 2009 suicide got me thinking about size-and-bullying in the first place.
Bullies most of all seek those who stand out. And how can you possibly stand out more than if you're literally standing above everyone else?
I'm going by just a few anecdotal experiences and stories. With a little Googling, I couldn't find any scientific studies on the exact subject. If anyone knows of any or has more experience with this, please chime in in comments.
But there are several things it seems that put a target on the back of bigger kids.
Awkwardness: Oversized teens, even if they're football offensive linemen with fabulous footwork, can often have a discomfort with their newly huge bodies that leap out at potential bullies.
Big kid = early bloomer: If a kid is sprouting several inches above his classmates, he's probably sprouting hair on his pits and pubes, too. And rocking a squeaky voice and some strange smells from his glands, and maybe even a dirt 'stache. While it's better than being the last one to go through puberty, being first can be plenty brutal, too. I'm speaking from experience on this one.
Picking on a big kid looks more impressive: Smaller bullies, like the one in Casey's video, often have something to prove. The one true bully I ever dealt with was a tiny little point guard on the basketball team. If he didn't like you, he'd pee on you in the shower. Ah, high school. The glory days.
The strength that comes with size isn't always helpful even if it's there. Most bullied kids won't fight back even if they know they can. They're often outnumbered anyway -- making size irrelevant.
And I'm mostly talking about boys here, but big girls can get it worse. I can think of a pair of towering girls who were relentlessly teased in grade school for no other reason than their size. The cruel schoolyard thinks it's even less acceptable in them. Six-foot-tall 13-year-old girl Morgan Musson killed herself in Britain last week because, her mom said, of relentless bullying over her height.
Of course it sucks to be small. But small can at times also mean inconspicuous. It sucks that you have to, but it's a little easier to go unnoticed.
In the long run, if you're going to get bullied, it's better to be big than small. Most who get teased, shoved, and punched don't have a big body-slam waiting in their back pocket for the day when they've finally had enough. Which is what Casey Heynes' bully got. (Seen above.)
And for what it's worth -- since everyone apparently needs to have their take on the Casey story -- I think he both did the right thing and should have been punished. Schools can't be in the business of condoning violence even in retaliation -- and usually there's no video evidence to show whose story's true anyway. But kids -- and hopefully their parents -- can decide that sometimes you have to take your detention or suspension and accept it as the price you pay for justice.
Are you worried about bullies or bullying with your child?
Image via BradleyPJohnson/Flickr