A 13-year-old autistic boy has been punched, teased and had his condition mocked in online videos by his peers. But the parents of the accused children say they were justified in bullying the Iowa teen.
On Monday, WhoTV.com ran a story about how the classmates of Levi Null had posted a video online showing Null suffering from symptoms of Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. In the video, classmates taunt Null, and teachers in the classroom appear to turn a blind eye to the behavior.
However, the station says that after airing the story, it actually received more than 100 emails from parents, shockingly with many of them defending the bullying at Melcher-Dallas High School, saying the child brings it on himself.
“I would say three-fourths of this stuff he brings on himself and probably a fourth of it is bullying that shouldn’t be going on,” said Levi Weatherly, father of the teen accused of posting the video online.
The school’s principal wrote Null’s mother an email saying the behavior documented in the video does not amount to bullying. Nonetheless, two of the students were disciplined and the video was reportedly deleted.
In a video interview with the station, Principal Josh Ehn actually said it is the students' responsibility to handle cases of bullying. “We try our best to educate our staff, to educate our students to react to the cases, to investigate the cases we have,” Ehn said. “But ultimately, it’s got to come down to the kids to take ownership for this and to stand up for the kids who can’t stand up for themselves.”
The principal’s decision was defended by School Board President Bob Lepley, who told the station, “I stand by our principal. … According to his investigation I’ll have to stand by him.”
So why would the principal, the school board president and a number of parents defend the alleged bullying?
“He called my nephew a nasty name, and my nephew Cole cocked (sic) him in the mouth,” resident Jamie Harrison wrote to the station. “I’m proud of my nephew for doing that.”
“This kid has done things to get people mad that I think he could probably control,” added resident Nate Goof.
Levi's mother, Dawn Simmons, says that she herself has even been targeted by some of the parents since complaining to the school about the video.
“It’s been a very frustrating day for all of us,” she said.
However, Simmons told the station that two of the students have since apologised to Levi, saying they didn’t realise how their actions had affected him.