Friday, March 09, 2007

Happy slapping ISN'T happy!

Note: this is a rant!

This morning I was on my way to the office when my phone rang. It was my 13 year old son. He should have been at school. He had been on his way to school. In fact he was almost there when two boys on a bicycle emptied a 6 pint bottle of milk over his head as they passed. Of course, there was no way he could go to school in that state, so he turned around and headed home, and he had phoned me to inform me of this fact.

This is the third time that this child has been targeted in one of these random acts that all seem to form part of the culture known as "happy slapping". Originally, the idea was to walk up to some random stranger and slap them, while friends recorded the event on their mobile phones. Hilarious, I don't think! Whatever endorphins that act released obviously became very attractive, because it has now become de rigeur to commit acts of minor violence upon random strangers even when there is nobody there to record the event. Somehow this seems worse to me.

This is the third time my son has been the victim of one of these "attacks". The first one took place when he was on his way to a guitar lesson. A kid punched him in the face as he cycled past, leaving him with a swollen, bruised cheekbone. The second time was on his way to school, when a child smacked him upside the head.

On the first occasion, we reported the matter to the police, who were very kind and very efficient but of course, nothing transpired - they have bigger fish to fry! The second occasion was different. My son recognised the child from school, so we escalated the matter through school channels and the perpetrator was given community service. He was puzzled, since, as he put it, he was only "having a bit of fun", and thought it unresaonable of my son to take exception to that.

With his eyes full of milk, my son was unable to tell whether he knew the perpetrators today, and among close to 3000 children in 6 separate halls (sort of sub-schools), there is little chance that the staff will have any luck. At a school this size, staff members don't even know all the other staff members, let alone the students!

After today's incident, my son was forced to go home and change his clothes, shower and wash his (long, very thick) hair. He felt violated and humiliated, and he refused to return to school for the day. I have set him some research tasks to do around the work he is currently doing at school, but he will miss an end of module science assessment today. He has never enjoyed school and I am concerned that this incident will make it difficult to presuade him to return to school on Monday. I am not in a position to home-school him, and I lack the skills to do an effective job even if I made the necessary changes to my life.

I feel impotent, which is not helped by the fact that there seems to be nothing anyone can do!


Donald H Taylor said...


This is horrible. I feel for you and for your son. The sense of powerlessness and humiliation must be terrible. I'm not going to offer advice or homilies, in fact I don't know what to say except commiserations, stick with it, and I hope things get better.


rlubensky said...

Karyn, this is a serious counterpoint to my post here. I still don't think banning YouTube in schools will make any difference and would remove its beneficial access to valuable clips. A few idiots are ruining it for the rest. But the mindless disrespect of others seems to be increasingly reinforced in broadcast and participative media. My wife and I find Funniest Home Video, seen in USA and Australia to be offensive in how it promotes levity in the misfortunes of unnamed individuals. Best wishes to your son, who I hope can shrug off the unfortunate event.

Anonymous said...

Thank you both, Donald and Ron for your messages of support.

By the way, Ron, like you I would never suggest or support the banning or censorhsip of something like Youtube, which, as you so accurately indicate, gives access to all sorts of wonderfully educational and informative clips. Also FHV is aired in both the UK and South Africa as well.

My son seems to have recovered his equilibrium and is all set to return to school on Monday. We have reason to believe that he tends to be targeted by one "style" group for belonging to another. But we went to Camden Market today and he bought himself some clothes - his taste totally unchanged from the sort of funky folk-fringe that is his wont. So the incidents have obviously not done lasting damage!