Half the room was assigned the task of making a case of self defense for Casey, the big kid, the other half was to make the case it was excessive force. The point of the exercise was to be able to explain your actions because self-defense is a violent act and unless you can explain it properly, those acts are criminal. In addition, one individual was to act as advocate for the bully who hit the ground and one to be Casey, speaking for himself. I was Casey. I was given a little background on Casey to work with and a goal: everyone is going to be very clinical and lawyer-ly about this, but I was to appeal to emotion. "Make them cry, if you can."
Everyone separated into groups and got their stories together and I left the room to get into character. I thought about being a bullied kid. I thought about how it would feel to be trapped. I thought about a gentle but big kid like my son Malachi and what he would have to feel like to lash out like that. That's where I went. Down a deep, dark, lonely hole. It wasn't a comfortable place to be at all, but I felt myself getting there and I held onto it.
Presentation time. One team used all the legal buzzwords we had gone over to describe the excessive force like it was the George Zimmerman trial. The other team reenacted the scene, breaking it apart like CSI. The advocate tried to make the bully sound like a sad, peer pressured kid in way over his head, and so far, everyone was very official sounding and people chimed in agreement or groaned in contrast.
Now it was my turn and I'm proud to say they didn't see me coming. Hell, I didn't see me coming. My talk, completely improvised, went something like this:
Hi, my name is Casey. All my life, I've always been bigger than all the other kids my age. My Mom would tell me not play rough because I might hurt one of the other kids. And ever since I started going to school, the kids would pick on me for my size and Mom would say not to hit because I was so much bigger then them. But, once the kids knew I wasn't going to hit back they'd mess with me everyday. Every single day somebody was teasing me or tripping me or doing something to me.
When they came around that day I knew they were going to do something because I saw the camera. He came up to me and I asked him to leave me alone but then he hit me right in the face.
People ask why I didn't run away but I run away every day. But, it's my school and I have to come back, right? I can't not go to school! (BTW, at this point, I'm stammering, my voice is breaking the words into pieces and tears are welling up in my eyes)
So he keeps hitting me and I know he's not going to stop, so I grab him just to make him stop. And I just grabbed him because Mom told me not to hit! WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?!? (I shouted that line the best I could, but my throat was so constricted, it wasn't very loud. Tears are coming down my cheeks. The room is dead silent)
Then I threw him down because I wanted get him away from me. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know anything else to do.... Thank you.
The room erupted. Those not already standing, stood and joined the applause. I took a very deep breath, wiped my eyes, then held up my invisible Oscar statue and thanked my audience; took a few mock bows.
I never really had to deal with bullying in my youth, so what I imagined couldn't have been anything like the loneliness and desperation a truly victimized kid feels. And where I went was a dark dark place. But I went voluntarily and felt secure that I could get out.
Bullied kids aren't so lucky.