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As you know from our post on Monday, Casey Heynes — the bullying victim who slammed his tormentor to the ground in a YouTube video that’s gone viral — has become an internet sensation.
A Facebook page celebrating “Casey The Punisher” and his “schoolyard justice” has attracted over 15,000 fans, many of whom are calling on Casey’s Sydney middle school to lift his suspension sentence following the fight. Makeshift Photoshopped images on the page show Casey and his bully, Richard, engaged in a Mortal Combat video game-style match up. “Finish him,” the game instructs. “Fatality,” reads the screen as Casey smashes Richard into the ground.
The overwhelming support for Casey’s plight reflects an impassioned — and perhaps misguided — anti-bully rage.
“Well done Casey,” writes one Facebook fan. “I know how you felt being a big person myself, i just wish when i was teased and abused at school like you that the perpetrators had of been close enough for me to do what you did.”
ESPN’s Henry Abbott praised the viral video as exemplifying “an end to victimhood.”
“The big kid in the video officially took himself off the ‘easy to bully’ list, and good for him going about the business of preserving his own dignity.” At the same time, Abbott noted, “If you’re against violence in schools, I can’t see cheering for it.”
Echoing Abbott’s observations, one Deadspin blogger adds, “Bullying is a serious problem, but this is not a good response.”
The case of “Casey the Punisher” raises an interesting moral dilemma. Schoolchildren are taught to walk away from fights and “turn the other cheek.” The victim of repeated bullying at school, was Casey, 16, justified in throwing his 12-year-old bully to the ground?
At least one bullying expert suggests the new viral video may be glorifying and even encouraging violence in the schoolyard. ”In so far as people are gloating over what has happened it is having a bad effect,” Professor Kenneth Rigby of the University of South Australia told the Sydney Morning Herald. ”There’s a strong case that it should be taken down. I’m also worried about the possible effect of this in terms of thinking that the only way to deal with bullying is to come down very heavily on everybody involved.”
Rigby also condemned the school — Chifley College High School in St. Mary’s, Australia — for suspending Casey, fearing punishing the victims of bullying will only feed unwillingness of victims to come forward.
”He should have gone for help – told a teacher. The problem is that about half of those who do that end up feeling that the situation has been made worse, not better. People don‘t tell because they’re not confident that the school will do something.”
But would the school have done something? According to other students, Casey’s days were plagued by constant bullying and physical violence.
“The fights I have seen here, it’s horrible. It really makes me feel unsafe,” one said. A classmate added: “People pick on him every single day, they hit him around and stuff, and he just got sick of it and let out the anger.”
A spokeswoman for the school district said the school “does not tolerate any violence and deals with all cases according to its community-agreed discipline code.”
As Casey’s suspension winds down, his parents worry the schoolyard bullying may only get worse after the altercation.
“There’ll be reprisals from other kids in the school and he still has to go to school somewhere,” Casey’s father said. “He’s not a violent kid, it‘s the first time he’s lashed out and I don’t want him to be victimised over that. He’s always been taught never to hit. Apparently other people‘s parents don’t teach their kids that.”
What do you think — Were Casey’s actions justified? What do you think he should have done?