Schoolboy being bullied by his classmates in school, Bavaria, Germany

Photo: MITO images

Pittsford Sutherland is the most elite public high school in the Rochester region, with its only rival being crosstown Pittsford Mendon where, believe it or not, folks have even more money.


               Being able to send your kids to Sutherland is why you went to medical school.


               And yet, early in the morning of January 17, in what looks like the cafeteria, Pittsford Sutherland crossed into the sad land of American reality – it got its first beat-down video. Actually, it got two. Same beat down, different cell phones.


               It was two freshman girls, both 14. One doing the beating, the other taking the beating.


               Not a fight, like back in the day, but a beating. The kind that can put you in a wheelchair or a coffin. The kind that shows the American face to the Internet world. It was one of those. One girl on the ground, curled in defense, the other stomping her, the head and the neck, like they do. Grabbing her hair with one fist and pummeling her defenseless head with the other. Over and over and over some more.


               This is in the county’s best high school. Upstate’s best school district for nine years in a row. Top 5% in the state, even when you include the good districts down in Westchester and on the island.


               There was one adult in a lackadaisical and ineffective way pretending to be restraining the attacker. Clearly not ready for the WWE. While she’s pulling on a sweater sleeve or something, the attacker is undeterred in her unrelenting assault. Then, in one of the videos, somebody who gives a damn shows up. An adult woman, of more dynamic build and demeanor, who comes on the run, engulfs the attacker in her arms, and uses her strength and momentum to push her away and detain her, giving the victim some relief. Thank God for that woman.


               But there was something else in the video, beyond the assault and the adults.


               There were the other students.


               What they did was interesting.


               And what they did was nothing.


               Literally, nothing. They sat there, looked like there could have been dozens of them, they sat there and watched. Some seemed to smile and snicker. Including young men. Looked like there could have been some athlete boys there. A 14-year-old girl, a classmate, someone from their school, someone probably known by most of them, was having the living hell beaten out of her, was the victim of an ongoing likely felonious assault, was facing violence that literally could have handicapped or killed her, and everybody just sat and watched. A roomful of people intimidated into motionless by one rampaging girl. Or worse, a roomful of people desensitized into not caring about the horror before them.


               That’s a little bit more of that face we’re showing to the world.


               Seems like somebody ought to talk to those lads about what’s expected of them in life. And maybe they could see one of those doctors who can check if their nuts came in yet.


               That’s the story of the video.


               Now, what’s the follow up?


               According to people associated with the situation, the victim got a concussion and was bruised and in pain for weeks. According to those same people, the attacker was suspended for a while.


               And “a while” is about to be over.


               The understanding among parents is that the attacker will be returning to school next week. That has them worried. Worried for the safety of the victim, and worried about the possibility of there being more victims in the future.


               Which brings us to another wrinkle. While the victim is a resident of the Pittsford Central School District, the attacker is not. She is a resident of the Rochester City School District. She ends up at Pittsford Sutherland through her participation in the Urban-Suburban program, which is intended to help at least a few students escape the living hell which is the city school district. Honestly. What Sutherland is to good, city schools are to bad. Each year the incompetent monsters who run that district destroy the futures of untold youngsters who will be deprived of anything resembling a decent education.


               But that’s another story. This story is about whether or not the attacker should come back to Sutherland.


               The administration says yes. The parents say no.


               And, with this being an American school, what the parents say is irrelevant.


               Which leaves the victim girl feeling unsafe and threatened in her own school, and the protagonist of the beat-down video walking down the halls of a school far from her home and community. In the odd world of equity, the interests of the attacker get precedence over the interests of the victim. One girl lives here and this is her school. The other girl can be in any one of 15 suburban high schools participating in the Urban Suburban program, including another excellent high school in the Pittsford district.


               And that’s what parents are asking for. The attacker’s actions – virally witnessed by the whole wide world – should cost her the privilege of attending this school. There are plenty of other schools available to her, including at least one of the same academic caliber. Why must the innocent girl be emotionally re-victimized in order to accommodate the interests of the guilty girl? Why must she go to school in fear, or uproot her life and transfer to a private school?


               That’s what parents can’t understand.


               And that’s what the administration won’t explain.


               And that’s yet another showing of the American face to a puzzled world.

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