Silence perplexing in Florida middle school bullying, rape

By Colleen Jenkins
and Marlene Sokol

St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA — Some students thought the boy was just getting picked on. Some were afraid to speak up. Some figured if the bullying was serious, the boy would tell.

This week, three months after news broke that four teens were accused of sexually assaulting a younger classmate in a Walker Middle School locker room, another troubling revelation made headlines. Nine students described as witnesses in the case had failed to report anything they saw until authorities questioned them.

By then, the 13-year-old victim said he had been attacked as many as a dozen times by fellow members of the flag football team. School officials acknowledged Friday no adults were present when the alleged attacks occurred.

How could this happen?

The explanation lies somewhere in the tricky power hierarchy of a middle school locker room, the social phenomenon of a group watching someone in distress and the devastating effects bullying can have on both the target and those who watch it unfold.

Roland Sweeting’s son told sheriff’s detectives he saw two teammates hold the victim down as a third teen used a hockey stick to poke him on one occasion. He couldn’t see exactly where the victim was poked but said the boy was laughing after he fought to get away. Full story.


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