Teenagers from Ryle High School in northern Kentucky rallied together to support their friend and their civil rights by creating and wearing “ Bullying Gone Too Far” t- shirts to school after an almost deadly accident in which 17 year old Mitchell Herweh alleges that two fellow students bullied him and caused him to lose control of his vehicle, eventually flipping it, spinning upside down, and hitting a utility pole.
The black t- shirts worn by the kids in the picture say “ Bullying Gone Too Far ” with a picture of Herweh’s totaled car on the front and say “ We love you Mitchell” on the back.
Evan Gideon, one of the students who helped create and distribute the shirts, explained how the idea came about after sitting in the hospital with Herweh. At first, she and her friend were going to make just a few but then a major donation came in for the shirts from Ronald Hines of Republic Capital, a local Boone county businessman who heard about Herweh’s accident through his employees and wanted to contribute to the cause.
"We thought that if we wore the shirts to school it would bring awareness to the bullying issue... Mitchell has been bullied since freshman year and every time he told someone at school he was just told to ignore it. Well, he did ignore it and look where it got him. He is lucky to be alive, the next person might not be that lucky. That's why we felt the need to bring awareness to the school, ” Gideon says.
Unfortunately, it is more often a fellow classmate who takes action to protect those who are bullied than anyone else. According to StompOutBullying.com, a child is bullied every seven minutes and adults intervene in only 4% of cases while peers step in 11% of the time. 85% of the time, the kid stands alone.
While many parents would beam with pride at the courage of Gideon and the rest of these kids, unfortunately, there are others who would prefer to keep them-- and their message- quiet. When they wore the shirts on the day Herweh returned to school, they were called into Ryle’s Principal, Matt Turner’s office, where they were allegedly discouraged to wear the shirts. According to Herweh, Turner told them the shirts would “impede Mitchell’s learning process and may cause more bullying for them all.”
When asked about that conversation he had with the students, Principal Turner responded,
" With the actions that happened in which Mitchell was injured severely, and there are allegations of misconduct with this ... One thing we try to work on in our school in general is to try to make sure they have a safe environment for everyone...that was my steps as a principal to try to understand the situation, what was going on, and to make sure that we don’t have anyone taking steps to further inflame a very difficult situation... we try to make sure that students are trying to focus as much on their classwork as possible ... Algebra 2 is hard enough as it is without other issues, whatever they may be. ”
This approach that teaches the kids being picked on to “ignore” the problem until it goes away is a major part of what is wrong with our society and our schools and what causes thousands of children to endure more emotional, sexual, and physical trauma than anyone else in America would ever be expected to tolerate. It is a problem that has been tearing through schools for decades but has come more apparent due to a combination of the many teen suicides that occur due to bullying as well as the rash of school shootings across America in recent years. Parents are left to trust that the school officials will protect the students, yet the school officials are often not properly prepared to deal with the situations either.
Although Principal Turner did say that he doesn’t think that Ryle has had any majoring bullying incidents this year, he stated he was interested in talking about allowing a screening of the new movie “Bully.”
Herweh, Gideon, and many others would disagree.
" Mitchell is a great person. He is one of the funniest and sweetest people I know. Whenever I am having a bad day, he always knows what to say to make it better. Everyone loves being around him. He makes everyone laugh so much. He does not deserve what happened to him at all.” ( Evan Gideon)