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OPINION - Bullying

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  In Connecticut, the school year began last week. And there's a very sad story from Greenwich  - a very affluent suburb not far from the school district where my mother teaches.

A 15-year-old boy, bullied by his classmates for years, took a shotgun and killed himself the day before the new school year began. The thought of enduring another year of it was too much.

The case of Bart Palosz fits a pattern. He spoke differently. (His family was from Poland; he had an accent.) He was fat. He had a bad case of acne. He wasn't athletic. His sister, who'd looked after him at school, wasn't around anymore having gone off to college.

This isn't a case of school officials being unaware of what was happening. Bart came home with scrapes from the time he was thrown into the bushes outside the school. His cellphone was smashed... stepped on by other classmates. He was bruised after being shoved down the stairs. Four times his parents went to the school to complain. An earlier suicide threat was posted on social media.

Connecticut (and Wisconsin, too) has a law that requires school officials to go to the police if bullying escalates into criminal behavior. The case of Bart Palosz clearly involves multiple assaults and criminal damage to property. The school district, in full cover-our-butts mode, won't comment on the case. There's no record of any police report or anyone being charged. Bart's parents say even after meeting with school officials, nothing changed.

The school will be sued. The case will most likely be settled out of court. Bart's family will get a lot of money. Obviously, they won't get their son back.  And every time they see another family around town with their teenage kids they'll wonder 'are you the people who are the insensitive jerks who drove our son to take his life?'

Hundreds of Bart's classmates came to his funeral. Some were there to mourn. Perhaps others were there to repent.


Chris Conley
9.3.13