Members of Bikers Against Child Abuse stand watch at the Rally Against Bullying in Carterville, Missouri
By Joseph Johnson, Staff Writer
A sea of pink and black, as well as leather and lace, was the first thing your eyes would capture as you approached the Rally Against Bullying held Sunday at the home of Anita Demery in Carterville, Missouri.
And the Bikes.
Left, right, front, back…Bikes.
There were Harley’s and other big bikes lining the 300 block of North Fountain Road, as over 200 people turned out to support a grass roots event to promote awareness of abuse against children, specifically physical assault and bullying. The majority of the “hogs” belonged to members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) who were present to provide support for children of abuse, as well as promoting awareness.
Besides hosting the rally to bring about awareness, Mrs. Demery has a personal reason for her role in the event. Less than two weeks ago, her 14 year old son Brett was assaulted while waiting at a school bus stop. The young man suffered broken bones, as well as other injuries during the attack.
Throughout the crowd, you could see faces with smiles, and ones with tears. Some had both. Within the crowd you could sense both encouragement and despair. One parent I spoke with said, “It’s getting to the point where you can’t even feel good about sending your child to school. It [bullying] has to stop.” Another parent shared this, “I try to teach my child to be kind to others, but it’s hard to expect them to do that when some other kid is walking by and knocks his school books out of his hands. Somebody has to do something, and bullying has to stop.” Still yet, another parent had this to say, “I’ve told my son to keep his hands to himself. But if other kid hits him, then he has the right to defend himself. This bullying other kids around has to stop.”
The common denominator: “It has to stop.”
I also spoke with several children, all of which stated that they had either been a target of, or witnessed bullying in their schools, on the buses and in their neighborhoods.
ATTACK IN CARTHAGE
Also present at the rally was Wendy Estes, the mother of seven year old Austin, who was allegedly choked by a 7th grader while riding a bus home from school. Miss Estes states that her son arrived home with red marks on his neck, and she posted photos of the injury on Facebook. She claims that when she called the bus barn to report the incident, that a supervisor told her it was “horseplay.” Miss Estes says that she has not had much cooperation from the school district, and they refuse to allow her to view the video footage recorded on the bus that day. According to her, a senior school district official did contact her, stating that he had viewed the video.
“The superintendent told me that at first Austin and the other boy were kind of scooting each other out of the seat and then Austin [7 years old] hit the other boy [7th grader]. He also said that while the boy had his hand around Austin’s neck, two other boys started to hit him [Austin].”
I talked with little Austin. Grinning up at me with his freshly gelled Mohawk, he informed me that he didn’t remember being hit by the other boys. “He had his hand on my neck holding me down, “Austin shared with me. When I asked him if he was scared, he replied, “Yes.” His mother states that the school official who viewed the video also told her that the seats partially obstructed the view. “We have been talking to an attorney, but we are not sure what to charge them with,” she said.
As people mingled, listened to speeches and snacked on food that was provided, Brett made his rounds, posing for photos and hopping onto a few of the “hogs.” Other than some bruising, a swollen jaw and a bright pink cast, he appeared no different than any other 14 year old at the rally. Yet, he is a survivor that lived through a terrible beating that could have had a very different outcome. And long after his physical healing is over, I suspect that he will still suffer emotional scars from that morning at the bus stop.
You can become involved by joining the 4-State Anti-Child Assault and Bullying Task Force by clicking here.
Read part one of “The Bully Dilemma” by Joseph Johnson by clicking here.
Photos by Vanessa Johnson