Can we please stop confusing objective threat analysis with “victim blaming?”
Real talk: I’m going to ask you all a question as if you’re parents. If you’re not, consider it a hypothetical and pretend you are. Do you tell your kids to avoid strangers? Do you tell them not to get in someone’s van, even if they say they have puppies? If so, why? Why are you “telling your kids to not talk to strangers instead of telling strangers not to kidnap/molest?” Are you blaming the victims of child molestation and kidnapping for what happened to them? Do you think that “kidnappers and child-molesters can’t control themselves?”
Or is it something else? Is it that you’re smart enough to realize that “tell perverts and psychos not to be perverts and psychos” is not really a realistic, viable option for ensuring your child’s safety, and so you advise them to take reasonable steps lessen their odds of becoming victims? I’m betting it is. Because that’s the reality of this world, people. In a perfect world, you would only tell people not to do something if it was illegal or immoral. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a screwed up, dangerous world, filled with screwed up dangerous people who do screwed up dangerous things to other people. Acknowledging that and advising people to plan accordingly is not “victim blaming.” It is not an endorsement or an excusing of wicked behavior. It is simply prudent common sense.
People need to accept a certain basic level of responsibility for their own safety; not because they’re not entitled to be treated with basic human respect, but because if they DON’T accept said responsibility, they’ll never BE safe. It’s unfair, it’s unjust, but it’s LIFE, and no amount of getting indignant, ranting on the internet or picketing people trying to give you advice on being street-smart is ever going to change that.
This kid doesn’t deserve to be bullied, but saying a boy carrying around a backpack emblazoned with characters from a cartoon aimed at little girls is a bully trigger is not saying that he should be. It is an acknowledgment of reality. Namely, that kids are cruel and unfair, and will pick on other children for petty, stupid reasons. School administrators can only stop bullying if they catch it happening, or someone reports it (and I’m sure we all remember how easy it is for kids to make friends when they have a reputation for telling the teacher whenever someone says something mean to them). And even if they report it, I can tell you from experience, it’s then just the victim’s word against the bully’s, and the bully always has his little group of a-hole friends who will corroborate his story, and then you have to explain to the bully’s parents why you believe some other kid’s word over THEIR kid.
In short, the school administrators were being realistic. They were leveling with the family, saying “look, this sucks, but the reality is that we can punish the kids on the rare occasion that we catch them, or he can get a different backpack so the kids will leave him alone.” Call it unfair all you want, but at least take the intellectually responsible route and try to figure out WHY they said it.