Hijinks and Bullying
I don’t remember leading a pack of friends to hold down another kid who struggled and cried while I cut off his blond hair. I don’t remember it because I never did it. If I had, the memory would have stayed with me for the rest of my life as it did for six of the seven students who were involved in this incident almost 50 years ago. The seventh, Mitt Romney, the leader of the group, says he doesn’t remember it.
Romney admits to “hijinks” and “pranks” as a student in prep school. At my large public high school we didn’t use the word “hijinks,” but if we did, it would probably be defined as painting the statue on the lawn of our rival high school in our school colors. A “prank” might have been coughing every time the math teacher said, “Howlever” instead of “however.” What Romney did as a senior in high school was neither of these. It was bullying, plain and simple.
Here’s the thing, before I get accused of rampant partisanship. Everybody has done something stupid, even shameful as a youngster. People change and they mature. But the candidate’s characterizing this particular incident as “hijinks” that he can’t remember adds little to our schools’ initiatives to eradicate bullying. It would have taken courage, but admitting to the action, calling it what it was, and urging people to work hard so that things like this don’t happen in schools would have shown real leadership. Instead, Romney issued a weak apology -- “if there’s anything I said that was offensive to someone, I certainly am sorry for that ….”
Writing in the New Jersey Star Ledger, Carly Rothman sums it up this way: “In September 2010, after a spate of suicides by young victims of bullying, columnist Dan Savage started the “It Gets Better Project,” which uses user-created videos to let young LGBT people know that no matter what challenges they encounter as teens, they can find happiness and acceptance at some point in adulthood.”
Rothman adds, “Today Mitt Romney sent those same kids a less helpful message: that the students bullying them without consequences today will still be evading responsibility when they are powerful adults.”