This week, nine year old Grayson Bruce was censured by his school for bullying, more specifically for being bullied because he chose to bring a My Little Pony backpack to school.
When Grayson brought this backpack to his North Carolina school he was punched, pushed, and called names by fellow students. The school administration decided the situation needed to be handled not by punishing the bullies, but by ordering Grayson to never bring that backpack into school again. A school district official said “Our schools take any allegations of bullying seriously and work diligently in all cases to resolve the issues in the best interest of students.”
That sounds nice, but what good are their methods doing if the only student who has to make concessions because of this incident is the victim? This reaction to the problem does not fix it, it merely hides it. The kids who bullied Grayson did so because he was a male using a piece of merchandise from a show aimed at girls. To not punish these bullies is to teach them that their behavior is correct, that it is wrong for a boy to enjoy the same things a girl does. This just perpetuates the problem, and in fact reinforces bullshit gender distinctions in these bully’s eyes. Instead of doing that, the proper thing to do would be to teach these bullies that not conforming completely to gender roles is fine, especially since these bullies are presumably the same age as Grayson and so would probably be very receptive to education on this topic. Adhering to and reinforcing gender norms is not something children are born doing, it is something they are taught to do. These children are young, and are practicing the intolerance of their elders, but they do not have to, and the school can do something to change that.
The school has reportedly lifted the ban on this backpack due to the support that has been shown to Grayson since this issue came to light. In fact, the page “Support for Grayson” on Facebook already has over 74 thousand likes as of March 26. Even Lauren Faust, a writer and producer of the show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, posted “#standwithgrayson ‘nuff said”. Hopefully the school will also be doing something about the bullies who started this whole problem. And by “doing something” I do not mean something useless like putting them in detention or suspending them from school. Instead the school should try taking a constructive approach, not simply punishing the bullies but teaching them why what they did was wrong and showing them how to improve their behavior treat others better.
The support of those in the online community is really the most inspiring part of this entire event. Let’s hope that this supportive attitude persists if further events like these arise. But hopefully they will not because as heartwarming as it is that so many people are showing Grayson support, it is also incredibly depressing that our society is still at a point where a boy owning a piece of merchandise aimed at girls is a big deal. Hopefully the response to this bullying attack is a symbol of better times to come when these goods will not be made for boys or girls but for anyone, and nobody will give half a shit who owns them.
by MEGAN A. ZIMLICH / contributing witer