Florida school bullying case highlights silent battle is now a crime


The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In a Tampa middle school locker room, prosecutors say four flag football players held down a younger teammate and committed a horrifying assault: Raping him with a hockey stick and a broom handle.

“Don’t do it again or this is going to happen to you again,” a witness says he heard one of the boys say in the April attack.

Two decades ago, the attack may have stayed a secret. Victims of hazing, bullying and sexual assault are still often too terrified to report their attackers — though officials say that’s starting to change. Police are called to investigate everything from cyber-bullying and schoolyard fights to brutal hazing rituals, and tormenters can be prosecuted under anti-bullying laws in dozens of states. Proactive parents aren’t afraid to confront school officials or take the matter to court, and schools are training students and teachers alike to spot and report bullying.

“Back in the old days it was, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,'” said Kevin Quinn, a school resource officer in Arizona and regional director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. “In today’s day and age, words do hurt and that’s how a lot of the bullying begins.” …

And a school district in Bakersfield, Calif., along with several students and their parents, paid $260,000 to settle a lawsuit after debate team members encased a younger student in plastic wrap and tape in a hotel room before a competition.

The Tampa case has stunned the region for its brutality, the young age of the four students accused and the fact it happened on school grounds. Equally surprising were the characteristics of the accused: One is the son of a police officer, and several are promising athletes and students who took honors classes. Each has been charged with multiple counts of sexual battery.

“It’s going to be a situation where they’re looking at it saying, ‘How could someone with this type of background, this type of character, be charged with something like this?'” said Timothy Taylor, an attorney for one of the accused boys. Full story.

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