|Mark Betterson, Jonathan Colon, James Griffin|
For Jonathan Colon it was just another day at school; classes and tests, followed by a beating in the cafeteria because he’s openly gay.
A video of the beating shows one student, James griffin, all six-foot-two and 305 pounds, throwing bread and milk and yelling anti-gay slurs at Jonathan Colon as he walked by. Then griffin got up and began punching Colon in the face and head because, he says, that Colon, after being hit with food and called names, gave him the finger.
"I took the disrespect to a different level, but I don't believe that I was the only one who did something wrong."—James Griffin
Um, except that nothing would have happened if you’d kept your lunch on your tray and your mouth closed, eh?
Griffin was arrested for the beating, remains suspended and could be expelled from East Lee High School. But he isn’t the only one in trouble, it seems. No, not Jonathan Colon, the victim.
Mark Betterson has been suspended from school for his involvement in the fight, but his involvement went like this: he saw Griffin yelling at Colon; he watched Griffin punch Colon about the head; he jumped in front of Colon and started fighting with Griffin to stop the assault.
Mark Betterson faced expulsion, but is now simply suspended after Jonathan Colon and other students came to his defense.
Now, I am a pacifist;’ I am beyond non-violent. But when someone is getting beaten, did the school administrators expect Betterson to walk up calmly and simply ask Griffin to stop? And where were the teachers in the cafeteria? Cafeteria staff? Administrators? None of those folks were either around when the fight broke out, or else they turned a blind eye to a student getting beaten.
I say Bravo to Mark Betterson.
Colon, who took to Facebook to say that how he was bullied and attacked that day was not a normal thing, and to thank Betterson for stepping in; he was shocked to learn Betterson faced expulsion and urged his classmates to petition Principal Brian Mangan to be lenient:
“I was protected by someone who had no reason to protect me. We have nothing in common — he’s on the football team and I’m the flamboyant gay boy."
Colon now admits he didn’t give the school a chance to respond to the situation before organizing students to Betterson’s defense:
“(Principal Mangan) was deeply moved that we all banded together for our fellow classmate. We had to understand that although Mark’s intentions were just and heroic, he did break school rules and that kind of violence could not be overlooked.”
I agree, but how else was Betterson supposed to stop Griffin? Again, where were the teachers? Would it have been better to let Griffin beat Colon into unconsciousness? I don’t like bullies. But how do you stop a bully when the adults aren’t around? How do students protect themselves when the teachers look the other way?
“It’s not fair for somebody to get beat up for something that he is. I’m not going to sit there and watch someone get bullied. I’ve been bullied too. … Bullying isn't called for, and everyone should be respected for what they want to be and what they want to do."—Mark Betterson
And Mark Betterson, for his part, says he’d do it again.
Funny, though, he wouldn’t have had to do it in the first place if there was adequate supervision in that cafeteria.