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Culture War Roundup for the week of April 17, 2023

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In late October 2022, the Department of Education began an investigation into alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity at a school district in eastern Pennsylvania. While many of the specific allegations in the complaint focused on conventional culture war -- Pride flags in middle school classrooms, pronoun and name policies, what gender's sex-segregated health class a trans person should go to, some complex questions about during-school-hours protests -- a large portion reflected something far less prosaic: over two dozen (largely-redacted) pages of bullying targeting specific students, and a teacher (redacted in the ACLU's public copy of the complaint, but in other reporting revealed as an Andrew Burgess) was suspended and transfered after reporting that bullying.

The school district has, in response, investigated and released its own report:

For his part, Student 1 wrote Mr. Burgess a lengthy e-mail, setting forth multiple alleged bullying incidents, including:

  • having ice thrown at him, being hit, and being subjected to physical threats;
  • having a student yell at him and try to trip him;
  • being “deadnamed” and being told the name he used was not his “real” name;
  • being called a variety of slurs;
  • being repeatedly propositioned for a date, despite turning down theoffers;
  • having food thrown at him in the cafeteria; and
  • being called the “r-word.”

3/3/2022 E-Mail Message from Student 1 to Andrew Burgess [Ex. 41]...

Mr. Burgess then began to organize Student 1’s allegations of bullying and harassment into the dossier, setting forth in a two-page chart the names of the alleged perpetrators, dates and times of the alleged bullying, a description of the alleged events, names of witnesses, and the locations of the events. The remaining two pages of the dossier contain further detail about the alleged events. [Ex. 16.] During his interview as part of this investigation, Mr. Burgess explained that he created the dossier during a meeting with Student 1 and Student 2 during school hours. Burgess Interview at 25–26 [Ex. 11]. According to the dossier’s metadata and contemporaneous e-mail communications, it appears that the dossier was initially created on March 3 and that additional work occurred on it on March 4, when it also appears that Mr. Burgess met with Student 1 and Student 2.

The dossier contains serious and troubling allegations. If true, it shows that Student 1 was subjected to repeated bullying by about a dozen of his fellow Lenape students over the course of months, with some of it continuing on a “weekly” basis or even “3 or 4 times a week.” [Ex. 16.]

During his interview, Mr. Burgess was asked whether he ever reported to the School District the information Student 1 gave him:

Q. And did you ever report any of the information that [Student 1] gave you to anyone else at Central Bucks School District?

A. No, I did not.

Burgess Interview at 26 [Ex. 11].

This was not a one-off:

During her interview, Ms. Gluck, a French teacher at Lenape and moderator of the school’s SAGA club, told us that, around December 2021, she was approached by Stephen Albert, then a former Lenape assistant principal and a vocal activist on LGBTQ issues and frequent attendee at School Board meetings. Mr. Albert asked Ms. Gluck to get information from SAGA club members (i.e., students at Lenape Middle School) about stories of LGBTQ bullying and harassment in the School District that they had heard.

According to Ms. Gluck, in January or February 2022, she made that inquiry of SAGA members at a club meeting and reported the information to Mr. Albert, who, again according to Ms. Gluck, was to send a “compilation” e-mail to a Lenape administrator. During our investigation, we found a February 6, 2022, e-mail message from Mr. Albert to Mrs. Saullo and Mrs. Dowd, which copied various individuals, including Borough of Doylestown officials, Ms. Pray, Superintendent Lucabaugh, and the three Democratic School Board members.

Nor was it specific to just faculty at the school:

Mr. Burgess told us that he sent the dossier—which was replete with allegations of physical and verbal abuse—to Mr. Marshall [ed: an attorney at the Philadelphia Office for Civil Rights], that the two of them talked about the issue over the phone in May 2022, and that he told Mr. Marshall that the information in the dossier had never been reported to the School District. Id. at 197–98.11 Further, in his April 25 e-mail to Mr. Burgess, Mr. Marshall refers to the “the student and family involved in the complaint,” indicating that he appreciated that a child’s welfare was at issue. [Ex. 12]. Yet, with this knowledge, Mr. Marshall failed to notify the School District of the allegations in the dossier and OCR complaint, even though he knew the information had been concealed from the District.

During our investigation, we wrote to OCR about Mr. Marshall’s conduct in this case, requesting an opportunity to interview him about what happened, and asking OCR to cooperate with this independent investigation. On February 8, 2023, Beth Gellman-Beer, the Director of OCR’s Philadelphia Office, wrote us, declining to make Mr. Marshall available for an interview.

To be absolutely clear, this is not a neutral analysis by an disinterested third party: the report is written by Duane Morris LLP at the request of the School Board, which does not require mind-reading to find somewhere other than the bleeding edge of trans activism or jumping to support OCR investigation of their policies. It is absolutely possible that Duane Morris is spinning this as hard as they can, or even playing as fast and loose with the facts as it is alleging the teachers in question did. (though the recommendation that Burgess be suspended without pay is at least raising the stakes, if doing so.)

But they do have some pretty nasty receipts.

It's even possible (indeed, I'd guess likely) that the school administration would not have necessarily acted in accordance with Andrew Burgess's preferred punishment schedules, if perhaps more on the matter of incorrect pronoun use or the awkward 'romantic' (probably not; the report seems to think they were genuine if stalkerish, but that it came through a third party feels more like what's often used as the windup for later mockery) overtures than one the student that allegedly said "I'm going to rape you". I wouldn't be surprised to find someone here immediately start debating whether each particular thing counts as meaningful harassment rather than 'mere' teasing, though given that Burgess and the ACLU listed them as serious offenses I don't think it particularly matters at this point. I wouldn't be surprised if the teachers here genuinely believed, in their heart of hearts, that the school board and principle's policy proposals were strong evidence that they Don't Care About Trans People rather than just Don't Care About Pronouns, or perhaps that they were the earthly incarnations of Satan awaiting the opportunity to break children.

((Hell, it's possible even the most friendly administrators might still ignore a case, without the political loading: joint overdiagnosis and under-diagnosis is more palatable a term than anarchotyranny, but neither is unimaginable or even that unfamiliar. The report details a Buck County Investigation against students who wore t-shirts sloganed with and said "Let's Go Brandon" at Sexuality and Gender Alliance students as an example. And there are genuine policy disagreements over when and what extent requires intervention.))

According to the school district's claims and investigations, which seem to fully match the unredacted portion of the ACLU's complaint, they never had the opportunity to fail that test. And that's relevant less because I care for the opportunities available to a school's upper management, since no small number of the upper caste in public education make it seem like they thought Brazil was a how-to guide, but more because it means that a student (actually, multiple students) were getting left for the bus to run over them, by people that they thought were specifically looking out for them.

I've written before about cases where people elevate Activism above actual things happening on the ground, and while this isn't quite as literal as burning the very people you're claiming to protect on a pyre, it's got my hackles up to a pretty similar degree. Barring some pretty serious revelations from the ACLU or Burgess -- which is possible!... if not likely, given this statement --this does not look like how a teacher would or should act if trying to use every tool available to prevent harassment of vulnerable students. Even had the Department of Education acted on the initial complaint, rather than closed it, Student 1 would have finished a full school year and experienced a large part of a second one before any intervention could have occurred.

This looks more like people who wanted to provide a gift-wrapped case against the school district's new board, which could wrap the controversial or policy questions in with the trivial ones. I can see the utilitarian arguments, for the needs of the many, so on. They just look very bad when, at the end of the day, a trusted adult specifically acting as an advocate for the students is sitting on that list.

Humans are weird enough that I’m near certain that some are gender dysphoric. But this is likely a stable, rare number. Growth in trans identifying youth appears to be a misfit thing, like the goths of my generation.

Some of the goth thing seemed to me to be an embracing of and celebration of misfit status. They dialed their weirdness up to eleven so no one could possibly mistake them for a normie.

It would be so very strange to see even a news story about goths being bullied in middle school. People would have a few reactions:

  1. That’s so unfortunate.

  2. It’s probably not happening because they are goth.

  3. If it is, why don’t they just dress normally?

I’m surprised the comments here are so supportive of bullying, and frankly I wonder if it’s because it confirms many of our anti-trans biases.

When I first read this I noticed myself disagreeing that the bullying was important, but after reading some of the arguments in the comments I realized I’m not convinced for any logical reason, just because I am frustrated that trans ideology is spreading in middle schools. I think it should be reserved for adults.

If this child were being harassed for something like believing in God, or an immutable characteristic like a big nose or their race, I would find this situation terrible.

For all the people saying kids need to toughen up or whatever - I firmly disagree. Humans can learn to operate in high trust, net positive ways, and that’s the society I want to build. If we keep creating cycles of kids being fucked up and aggressive in their early lives, adults will continue to act that way too. You can say hierarchical psychological violence is necessary to the human condition or whatever, but if that’s truly the case I say we strive towards something better.

I think part of the issue is that some of the things in that list are very definitely bullying but some of them are things that SJ has unilaterally declared Problematic, and even here nuance is hard.

Yeah, that's probably a good part of it. Even in the Duane Morris report, which (at least by the time of publishing) was trying to highlight the teacher's inaction in the face of bad behavior, it's worth noticing the euphemistic nature of "being subjected to physical threats" and "variety of slurs", given that the investigators had (and attached!) the chart listing exact words. And the ACLU-PA complaint redacted wholesale anything outside of the political and school policy matters.

I emphasized the exact quotes from that report to highlight fidelity, but it did mean it's easier to focus on the less significant and more minimal stuff.

I feel like there is a "Central and non-central example" going on here.

Everyone agrees that the central example of Bullying is unequivocally bad, only that is relatively uncommon; negative social interactions among kids and teenagers aren't rare though. A lot of people are trying to claim bullying, for varying reasons. They might have had poor social experiences but that doesn't mean they were Bullied or even that they were (only) the victim.

Then there are the actual policies, do they help or are they making things worse and only providing an illusion of action and acting as a cover for not taking responsibility for the really horrible events by hiding behind policy?

The same dynamic extends to a lot of issues:

  • Parental abuse

  • Rape

  • Racism

  • Sexism

  • Etc. More or less anything with a claimed victim/abuser dynamic

A genuine but relatively uncommon issue exists and people immediately try to claim victimhood to gain sympathy or rationalize their own inadequacies (often to themselves)/bad experiences. Most claimed instances are so ambiguous that it's impossible to tell who's the victim and who's the abuser, or even if the event took place at all.

Sweeping policy is implemented but is so ineffective as to be possibly be counterproductive in regards to its stated purpose and has a lot of negative unintended side effects, which end up being the primary effect of the policy. Often with stated lofty goals just like the one in your final paragraph.

The cure is so bad that disease not only becomes harmless in comparison but even actively good in the minds of some people.

Bullying is bad, but this whole thing is selective outrage. If someone was bullied there for any other trait, would any authorities have cared about it? Let alone open a Federal investigation?

On one hand, probably not. The ability of school administrations to ignore bullying, or worse to come down like a pile of bricks only on students who defend themselves, is pretty legendary. I've written before about a school district that managed to have its employees walk by some of the most severe crimes: overlooking some thrown food or an implausibly-friendly 'joke' is a lot more minimal than that and certainly happens thousands of times a day across a country the size of the United States.

((I don't think any of the behavior here requires or even benefits from a federal investigation, instead of just telling the offending students to knock it off and, for repeat offenders, something like a detention or separated lunch sessions.))

On the other hand, I've spent six hours in the last month dealing with the fallout of a student making fun of what he perceived or joked about perceiving as (heterosexual, if it matters) flirting between two students. Part of the reason it took six hours to deal with the fallout is that the organization didn't spend fifteen minutes two weeks earlier to recognize that same complaint had shown up in three different contexts and put a stop to it then, but a bigger part is that I didn't want to have three students lose some important opportunities for learning. And that stuff then was far more marginal (I wouldn't categorize it as bullying at all, but if you had to it's definitely closer to norm enforcement than a lot of the described stuff here). And unlike the teachers in question here, making sure students have a conducive learning environment isn't my literal full-time job.

So while I absolutely agree that this shouldn't require a federal investigation, I absolutely would care about it, and would expect other adults in a position of authority or trust to at least consider the situation once brought to their attention. I'm not going to expect or even ask for heroic efforts from every teacher on the planet, and it's not hard to imagine a teacher or school administrator that didn't think any of this was worth the paper it was written on.

((I don't agree, and to no small extent I think this organizational willingness to accept disruption and student-student conflicts is one of many small reasons that some of the worst schools manage to be so incredibly bad, along with having negative effects for normal students at normal schools, but I could be persuaded that it's better than the alternatives. And there's nothing in the Duane Morris report suggesting the discipline problems in this school were outside of the typical range.))

But this teacher did decide that it was something he Cared About, enough to file with the feds and involve the ACLU. Just not enough to do anything in the meantime.

Would you care? If yes, why don't you make it a Federal issue?

It's not up to me what gets made into a federal issue. That's up to the feds.

Yeah, that middle school was a horrible horrible time for me, filled with with what would rightly be classified is ongoing physical abuse and verbal harassment in an adult context. The setting of middle school makes bullying a much bigger issue than most people will ever encounter as adults.

I don't know what the best solution is -- I don't want kids' lives getting ruined because they were a dick as a 12-year-old -- but I think it's perfectly appropriate for a school to investigate and take serious action on it.

I think changing the setting has to be the start. That some teens are abusive dicks is one thing. That you (and I) felt obligated to go back everyday to the place where you are regularly abused, to sit in forced confinement with people you hate, is insane.

No need to ruin any lives. The solution is simple: anyone caught bullying gets punished in a horribly embarrassing manner. Spanking, maybe? Something that would make them the object of mockery, to reduce their social status and impede the social dynamics that encourage bullying.

The process is then iterated. Anyone caught bullying the former bully is also punished. After a few passes, everyone will be too terrified to bully.

This won't be implemented because (1) the required punishment is not permitted in Western countries and (2) teachers generally don't actually care about bullying.

This is a terrible solution. A punishment can't really be embarrassing unless the one doing the punishing is higher status, and I don't think bullies generally respect teachers. A teacher spanking a bully wouldn't lead to him being bullied by his former friends, it would lead to him and his friends beating up the previous victim for snitching to outsider authority.

I don't think respect for teachers matters. You think a 12-year-old being spanked in front of the whole school wouldn't be embarrassed about it? You think his peers wouldn't laugh at him?

They would laugh at him for getting caught, and not taking the punishment stoically enough, and then go right back to being his friends and bullying the previous victim/the snitch. Friends laughing at each other does not make them lower status amongst themselves.

The idea was to embarrass the bully in front of all of his classmates etc., not just his friends.

But OK, it might not be a foolproof plan. Maybe I just don't understand middle school social dynamics well enough.

or all the people saying kids need to toughen up or whatever - I firmly disagree. Humans can learn to operate in high trust, net positive ways, and that’s the society I want to build. If we keep creating cycles of kids being fucked up and aggressive in their early lives, adults will continue to act that way too.

I was with you until this part. Kids do need to toughen up, but bullying is not the way to do it, unless we're using a very broad definition of bullying. The problem with bullying is the mob dynamics, not that they might get into a scrap.

It depends what is your plan for your children's future.

If they will have to live in the jungle where only right is might and only laws are teeth and claws, they do need to learn how to be animals.

Of course, when you are the biggest, strongest and toughest jungle animal, you are still jungle animal, and some people another ambitions for their lives.

If they will have to live in the jungle where only right is might and only laws are teeth and claws

I'm sorry, but what the hell are you talking about? I missed the part where I advocated for might makes right, and law of the jungle.

unless we're using a very broad definition of bullying.

That seems to be both the commonly-used definition and the most common form of bullying nowadays. Most people I know have said they were bullied, and when I asked how it essentially boiled down to "I didn't have many friends" or "I faced social repercussions for my actions."

Oh. I was thinking more of cases like this, where someone is picked on precisely because they seem unlikely to retaliate, though here the bully meets karma. OTOH, this example isn't even so egregious, because all the other kids let them sort it out one-on-one. What I'd consider bullying would be when the bullies friends would step in, and beat the crap out of the victim for daring to retaliate.

Yeah that's definitely closer to actual bullying.

I am of the belief that bullying is net positive and our obsession with bullying is another manifestation of over charged empathy.

That doesn’t mean all bully is net positive (some goes too far). But a little bullying is positive.

In my experience almost all kids who are bullied are bullied over harmless or immutable characteristics like being short, unattractive, shy, or fat. Once it's established that they suck, other even more minute characteristics (clothes they wear, their interests, their family, etc.) which would be totally unremarkable in anyone else are used as pretexts for further bullying. I don't think I've ever seen a case of "constructive" bullying.

Getting picked on all the time didn't make me any more of a well-adjusted person, it just made me angry and withdrawn. What did was when I eventually ended up transferring (for unrelated reasons) to a new school where bullying was practically non-existent, so I was able to reach out and make friends without the constant fear that I would be mocked or physically assaulted.

Being fat is not an immutable characteristic, especially as a kid.

Most kids are not in control of their food intake (and should not be). Their food is prepared and portioned by adults. If a kid is fat, you need to be bullying the parents.

There is value to enforced conformity, especially when people are young. People learn the rules.

Perhaps if they were going to be (openly) trans, they should have had stronger convictions or perhaps been closeted. It's a shitty situation, but life is full of those.

"The same boiling that hardens the egg softens the potato"

I've found people's opinions on things like bullying or violence tend to just be them projecting their own egg-ness or potato-ness onto others. Yeah, some people will grow character because they got picked on, pull themselves together, become more socially adept etc, but others will just break, curl up into a ball in their own isolated corner, and suffer for it for a long time.

Now you can just say "they should be better," but I'm not sure that's possible. Most things are genetic, and I'd be surprised if fragility isn't heavily genetic as well. There's always trauma adaptation, but that usually makes the person less fragile and also less socialized, so there is a tradeoff there.

The way I see it, the problem is trying to act like everyone is equal. By insisting that this is true, we've left no room for people to exist safely at the bottom of social hierarchies. There's always a sense of "why aren't they better?" that just wouldn't exist in a world where it's understood that yes, some people are at the top, and others are at the bottom, and you each have responsibilities and expectations. Meritocracy has become an excuse for those at the top to ignore the responsibilities they must carry, and an excuse to blame the bottom rung of the ladder for not carrying out responsibilities they shouldn't even have.

Yeah, some people will grow character because they got picked on, pull themselves together, become more socially adept etc, but others will just break, curl up into a ball in their own isolated corner, and suffer for it for a long time.

Devil's advocate: perhaps the point is to sort the sheep from the goats, and to do so early in life in a way that rarely kills them outright. Then those that can't hack it wind up in roles for those that cannot hack it...

In my experience, it's the losers that do most of the bullying. The kids with dysfunctional families who don't have anything going for them. The actually smart, successful, socially adept and resilient kids... often do a lot of posturing and casually put others down... but the kids who go out of their ways to be bullies are not our future stars.

"Hack" what. It's not like being a bullied dweeb precludes someone from a good career and family.

And also those who can't or won't be bullied are not placed on a track for the best societal roles.

I guess. There could be a noblesse oblige for those at the top, but so much of our society is predicated on catering to the bottom already.

Further, it incentivizes the worst kind of bullying — cry bulling.

Pretty sure the worst kind of bullying would be the sort that leads to death (by own hand or otherwise) or permanent physical damage.

The 'catering' we do for the bottom is caused by the meritocratic view, however. Believing that every ghetto-denizen and backwoods hick is just a temporarily-embarrassed email worker is a direct result of ignoring the fundamental differences between people. Our current system is built around trying to pretend the bottom is "really" just like the top, while shunning anything that's actually 'bottom-ish.' Proper recognition of natural differences means that we can accept that no, most of the bottom has very different ways of thinking than those at the top, and will never be the same.

The same goes with cry bullying. It only works because privileged people are able to pretend that they're not. Proper noblesse oblige means that the privileged are held to higher standards.

Yeah. But I guess...I think that a lot of middle class schools have gone too soft. Take stuff like zero-tolerance. It'd be a good idea to have at least a cursory attempt to find out who started it...if Bully punches Victim and Victim grows a pair and decides to fight back they both eat a suspension. Incentives are all fucked up.

So too: we've got stuff like...1) people crapping on someone that doesn't shower, calling them Stinky or some shit like that. They can probably fix that problem, and if they can't there are larger issues at play. Then you've got shit like 2) assholes bullying a kid on crutches by repeatedly kicking his crutches out from under him and causing him to fall. These are not the same.

I've heard stories of things that are closer to 2)...Tonya Harding tier shit where a bunch of jealous guys ganged up on a star football player, punching him when no one was looking and eventually pushing him down a flight of stairs. Guy broke his leg, but returned to football the next year.

I wouldn't be surprised to find someone here immediately start debating whether each particular thing counts as meaningful harassment rather than 'mere' teasing, though given that Burgess and the ACLU listed them as serious offenses I don't think it particularly matters at this point.

Yes, there are kids who get relentlessly bullied (and serious harm is done) but that seems like an outlier and not applicable to this incident. The examples given were common (to just about anyone) when I was in middle school. Kids can be mean, but so is the world. Some kids need to learn to harden up and others need to learn empathy for people who are different. School is when you can learn these lessons/make these mistakes in a relatively safe environment (compared to IRL).

Saying that this is a moot point is odd. I don't understand why the ACLU gets to decide this.

Edit* Interesting write up tho... thanks for posting

I suspect that these things follow a power law...for both bullies and victims. There are some bullies who are really good at being bullies and bully a lot; there are some poor motherfuckers who are simply bait for said assholes. You've got some mix of voluntary bad conduct AND immutable characteristics in there. That mixture varies. On one end you've got the guy that genuinely is an asshole, on the other you've got the guy who's IDK black in an all-white school in the middle of nowhere. Admittedly - that is becoming dated, but 40 years ago that was very much a thing that happened.

I think there could be some interesting conversations in the general sense, about what extent each particular matter requires intervention, if any, and what those interventions would be. I'd argue that there are some that I think are unusual enough that they should require intervention -- even if "I'm going to rape you" was an outdated Dragon Ball Z Abridged joke, and contextually I'm pretty skeptical that it was, it's the sorta thing you at least need to mark down so you know if the kid's learning when to stop -- but I probably could be persuaded a lot on what extent that intervention needs to take, especially.

I don't think it's relevant for discussion at this stage. None of the current OCR complaints are about punishing the students. Regardless of when the ALCU or OCR should be deciding things, both the ACLU-PA and the teacher on site believed that these incidents were enough to justify federal investigation, and indeed investigation about insufficient response to this bullying. Even if the ACLU and teacher wrongly believed a strong and immediate intervention necessary, it's valuable to notice that they weren't consistently behaving as if they believed that.

I'd argue that there are some that I think are unusual enough that they should require intervention

I agree. But it seems they're pushing it to the point where everything requires intervention.

There's definitely a line and rape threats are past it; even if it's trolling, joking, whatever... And that's something kids should be taught. But a federal investigation?

Perhaps that shock causing me to miss the nuance of all this...

Has retard really hit this level of the euphemism treadmill that it is included on this list? Besides the dead naming and stalking I could have produced anecdotes for that whole list for myself and many people I knew growing up and none of us even considered ourselves that bullied. Discipline the little shits doing it for sure, they need to learn what is unacceptable but am I really supposed to be that surprised middle schoolers are little bastards to each other? I suppose if these are tasteful understatements that might be different but that doesn't seem their style.

Has retard really hit this level of the euphemism treadmill that it is included on this list?

I'm not sure. It was widely suspected to have been either on the No No List or used as justification for putting subs on the No No List back at reddit, but it wasn't the sort of thing that was getting autofiltered everywhere. In this case, it's a middle school student sending an e-mail to a teacher teacher, so I can understand not being in a huge hurry to spell it out (though the student did write out "faggot", which I was under the impressive was pretty discouraged).

Besides the dead naming and stalking I could have produced anecdotes for that whole list for myself and many people I knew growing up and none of us even considered ourselves that bullied.

I'm not sure for the 'stalking': the original allegation from the student was "[redacted] that kept asking if I would go out with him or [redacted] because they "had a crush on me" even after I kept telling them I was uncomfortable and asked them to stop". It might have been a genuine-if-creepy romantic overture, in which case it'd be outlier stalking, but I'd had something similar happen that was essentially just trolling, . Given the gender stuff, age group, and especially the dual overture, that seems at least as plausible for me.

That said, while I got to run into some really annoying bullying, I don't think anyone ever said even jokingly "I'm going to rape you". The closest was a girl who kept wagging me across the room and then making jokes about how she 'made me come with her finger', which is... still a pretty far distance away. And my high school days were back when that was much more in the common comedy than now.

Discipline the little shits doing it for sure, they need to learn what is unacceptable but am I really supposed to be that surprised middle schoolers are little bastards to each other?

Yeah, I'm absolutely not surprised by a bunch of young teenagers being jerks; even well-intentioned teens often don't recognize boundaries or reasonable behaviors, and a lot of kids aren't well-intentioned. I think the kids need to be talked to, but the bigger issue's the failures by the teachers in question. Even in informal environments, you have to be really careful because it's so easy for problems to fall through the cracks until they explode. If you can't separate the situations where a kid misbehaves until told proper behavior, from those where the kid continues to repeat or escalate bad acts, you don't have the ability to manage students at all.

I don't think anyone ever said even jokingly "I'm going to rape you".

Guys say this all the time, in different, often grotesquely violent terminology. "I'll rip out your eyes and skullfuck you into the next county!", which in a school document would probably get pared down to "I'll [rape] you". Especially if the person doing the writing wanted to make it seem more serious, rather than just over-the-top ridiculousness.

Didn't get that one, either. Especially at the time and the circles I wandered, there were only so many times you could offer or threaten to (skull)fuck a suspected gay before the 'suspected' bit would have rubbed onto the jokester too, so may have been more present for other people.

I'll certainly recognize the possibility it was a joke or even a friendly joke, and the timeframe would be about right for when the whole 'submissive and breedable' meme took off (which, uh... is even more awkward to write out). And, to be clear, there's a lot of not-joking interpretations that would still require little and minimal immediate intervention. At the other extreme, it's certainly possible that Student 1's specific allegation (to directly quote the e-mail: "[redacted] threw ice at me, and after it hit me, said 'You bitch, I'm going to rape you.'") was either exaggerated or even wholly false.

Sometimes these are things you can figure out, and sometimes they aren't. Most teenagers are awful liars, but that mostly just lets you eliminate what didn't happen, rather than increase certainty in what did.

But, notably, none of those simple investigatory steps happened here for months. I don't, and Duane Morris LLP's report does not, make any serious analysis of the specific bullying allegations. The teacher in question claims to have believed the student, and wrote down the name of another student that Student 1 claimed was a witness for the specific matter. And then sat by as nothing happened about it.

Has retard really hit this level of the euphemism treadmill that it is included on this list?

It might have. I’ve had people confront me over saying it in casual conversation a few times, years ago (granted in a very progressive environment), and I’ve seen a lot of “r-word” referring to retard in the last few years.

I don't understand how saying 'r-word' is any better. They're referring to the same word, just not putting out the phonemes.

It all seems kind of r-worded.

Yes. This happens with all slurs though.

When people say "N-word", they aren't yelling "You N-word!" at a black person. The signalling would make no sense (I want to yell a slur at you but I want to be Politically Correct about it...?) and they would sound stupid and unprincipled.

When they want to use the slur, they actually use the slur, so by not actually saying the slur, that's a strong signal that they are actually not using the slur. And this reifies the whole signal.

Is this stupid? shrug It's how slurs work.

That's my point. People who are racist just find a new word. Thinking that stopping the word will stop evil is silly.

We can all acknowledge that the euphemism treadmill is kind of dumb. Yet we still defend it because bad people use those words.

In the meantime, silly things like the OK symbol gets trolled into being something it's not... and people still go along with it.

I’ve always seen it as stupid in the He-who-shall-not-named way. It’s poor communication (if you mean to refer to a slur, then imo it’s much better to simply say the word and be clear what was said and what was meant) but it also gives those words much more power than they’d otherwise have. Half the fun of smoking is knowing that it will really upset the squares, and likewise half the fun of saying retard or nigger is seeing the adults hyperventilating over a single word.

I mean, the way things are going I could definitely see people in the future using "N-word" as a minced oath. It would certainly be amusing to see a kid try explaining to their teacher or angry parent that they called someone "an N-word, but not the N-word."

Man, I can't get over the fact that The Department of Justice Education is investigating middle school bullying. Like, it's middle school dude. What did you expect? I'm sure if you put everything that happened to me in middle school into an adversarial legal brief it would look pretty bad too.

Let me explain the problem: Every single child in the public school system has to learn every single social rule at some point. Some will learn simply by being told, but not every rule is or could be expressed in words. Some will learn from the mistakes of their classmates. Some further will have to make the mistakes themselves. A number of these mistakes are, or must result in, bullying. Middle school is when puberty starts, and thus is where many of the most salacious rules must be learned -- learned the hard way if necessary. You can't take the bullying out of middle school and have it still be middle school.

Was anyone killed or maimed? I've known people that went to schools where bodies were being hauled out once or twice a year. Perhaps that is a bit high of a price to put on social gracefulness, but there might be a point in some of it. I've heard stories of people who had their classmates attempt to light them on fire when they were seventh-graders because they were gay in Texas in the 70s; I don't know how the attempt turned out.

The kicker: his teacher egged them on.

You're being overly charitable to middle-schoolers if you think most of bullying is that "they didn't know better". They know better well enough, they simply don't care.

I'm sure if you put everything that happened to me in middle school into an adversarial legal brief it would look pretty bad too.

Right, but nobody would care, because you're not a member of an actually-protected class. It's who/whom all the way down. Heterosexual boy gets beaten up, threatened, called a retard or faggot or whatever, that's just a day ending in 'y'. Same thing happens to a 'trans' student, it's literally a Federal case.

As far as I can tell, the DoJ isn't involved; the complaints here were filed with the Office for Civil Rights under the Department of Education (officially its own cabinet-level org, for whatever anyone treats it like that). But they agree that it was too small beans for them, too, and the original complaint detailing just the middle-school harassment was closed in September of last year.

The four new complaints at the OCR, at least some of which were filed with the ACLU-PA, are about alleged retaliation against Burgess, alleged retaliation against students who protested Burgess's suspension, allegedly discriminatory naming and pronoun and class assignment policies, and failure by the school administration to respond to the bullying allegations.

I agree that some students will only learn the hard way (and sometimes not even that). I do not think the appropriate response for these alleged bullying behaviors involve removing the students from the environment, and severe punishments shouldn't (and probably can't) be brought. The galling thing here is that a teacher that believed the behaviors here were severe enough to justify an initial OCR complaint, but did not act in a way conducive to actually getting any lesson, at the expense of the targeted student that confided with him. Even something as simple as sitting the kid down and telling them to cut it out, cause that's the sorta thing that will get them in deep trouble in most office jobs, wasn't possible when the only teacher with the kid's name was sitting on it.