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Darnell Young, a student at Indianapolis's Arsenal Tech High School, faces expulsion after he brought a stun gun to school in an effort to protect himself from the incessant bullying to which he has been subjected since October. The very officials who failed to protect him at school are now recommending that he be expelled for violating a ban on weapons.
Carrie Ritchie of the Indianapolis Star reports that Young came out during his freshman year at an Arizona high school, but was not bullied until the seventeen-year-old moved to Indianapolis and began his junior year at Arsenal Tech.
His classmates at Tech made his life miserable, taunting him with homophobic slurs, circulating false rumors about him performing sex acts, following him home, even throwing rocks at him.
The bullying occurred every day. He lost weight. His grades slipped from As and Bs to Ds and Fs. It got so bad he contemplated suicide.
When Young and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, told school officials of the bullying, teachers and administrators seemed to blame Young for being openly gay. His behavior and the way he dressed called attention to himself, they said.
"They said that the problem was he was too flamboyant, with his bags and his purses and his rings," Grimes said.
Young and his mother reported more than ten separate instances of bullying, but the school launched only one formal investigation. In that instance, a student who taunted Young during class was taken to the dean's office and punished.
Fearful for her son's safety, and frustrated with the school's failure to protect her son, Grimes gave him a stun gun to carry, just in case. "I had to do something," she said. "They throw bottles and rocks at him."
She said she did not want to give him a gun or a knife, but something that would scare people if they tried to attack him. She settled on a stun gun because it did not seem as dangerous.
The small weapons come in a range of voltages. They do not shoot bullets but give an electric shock that temporarily incapacitates people. Unlike Tasers, they do not have barbs that shoot out of the gun and embed in people's flesh. Instead, the shooter must place the gun on or close to people to shock them. They are not considered deadly under Indiana law, but they are not allowed on school property.
Grimes said she thought Young could use the stun gun to scare off bullies without shocking them. Firing the stun gun into the air makes a loud clicking sound, which can be intimidating.
Young carried the stun gun in his backpack for a few weeks without using it. But on April 16, as he walked between class buildings, six students surrounded him. They called him names, cursed, and threatened to beat him up, Young said.
He pulled out the stun gun, pointed it in the air and fired it so it would make the noise. He said the students backed off, and he went to his next class.
Minutes later, however, school police officers came into his class, cuffed him, and found the stun gun. He was suspended and recommended for expulsion.
The expulsion hearing was held on May 2, 2012. The arbitrator is expected to issue a decision within a few days. It can be appealed to the School Board and to the courts if necessary.
"It has been a nightmare," Grimes said. "I'm trying to fight for my baby's education."
What is striking about this story is the utter incompetence of the school officials. They are either unable or unwilling to protect this student. After disregarding repeated pleas for help and basically blaming the victim for being bullied, they have swiftly moved to expel him for attempting to protect himself.
The people who need to be expelled are the bullies.
The people who need to be fired are the incompetent administrators who have created, or at least tolerated, a climate in which bullying flourishes.