Should 11-year-old Brenton Peraita make death threats — and suggest he wishes he had a gun — to deal with the bullies tormenting him at Riverbend Elementary in Yuba City, California? Of course not, and while calling in the police may have been a slight overreaction, I also don’t think it’s a terrible policy to take every precaution possible when it comes to students threatening bodily harm. But once we figure out Brenton’s punishment (he’s been arrested and charged with making criminal threats), how about we deal with the bigger picture?
Like the one where Brenton endures bullying whenever he’s at school, subjected to name calling (“Brentina,” “homo,” “fag”), having his glasses broken, and the usual threats that gay-perceived students face. Because Jose Peraita, his father, says they’ve complained to the school fifty times about the harassment, and nothing has been done.
“His reward for standing up for himself and saying, ‘I’m no longer going to be the victim,’ was a ride to the police department and a mug shot,” says Jose to Fox 40. No, that’s not true: Brenton was arrested because he talked about using a gun to silence his bullies, and that’s simply unacceptable. (Three other students involved in the incident were issued citations.)
But Jose and Brenton, who was also suspended, are right that more needs to be done to keep this boy safe in school. So what’s the school’s response? Here’s Bruce Morton, the school’s director of attendance and student welfare: “We understand that it does happen, and we’re not going to say it doesn’t. Let’s be realistic. But I will tell you when I heard ‘a year and a half,’ and there were ’50 times,’ I can tell you that number is way out of whack.”
Might Jose — who says his family doesn’t “have a gun,” as if that changes anything — be over-exaggerating in his claims of reporting bullying? Sure. But just one report should be enough to raise some serious red flags, where administrators realize they potentially have a dire situation on their hands. Brenton did something wrong, yes. The people responsible for keeping him safe, however, appear to have wholly failed him.