VICTORIA — Home from his job training police officers in Afghanistan, Randy Duke is on a mission. Instead of just spending precious time with family before he goes back, for a couple of hours each day he finds himself outside his son’s school sandwiched between two signs that read: Bullying Victims are Punished Here.
“It’s been tough. It’s been tough. He feels that nobody is listening to him, and then when he finally has to take matters into his own hands, he gets punished,” said Duke. “It’s at a point where he said, 'Dad, I couldn’t walk away. He follows me around and beats me up all the time.'”
Duke says his 14-year-old son, Max, has been targeted by the same bully for years. Things apparently came to a boil last week at Cade Middle School. Duke said when the eighth grader stomped on a paper plane his son had made for a special-needs child, it sent Max over the edge.
“So Max just looked up and said, ‘What the hell?’ and this guy shoved him. Max had had enough. And that just snapped him, and he shoved back and they started into it,” said Duke
Max’s punishment was a two-day suspension and 30 days at an alternative school. He's also banned from marching with the high school band during football games.
Duke said being part of the band changed his son's life.
“This opened him up,” said Duke. “After years of bullying, he had closed into a shell. This started bringing him out of his shell. He was making friends. He had something to look forward to.”
Victoria ISD said federal laws prevent it from discussing the specifics of the case. Some parents at the school said, at least on the surface, the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
“Here you’ve got a child that retaliated for being picked on for three years and he’s being punished. It should have been stopped three years ago,” said one father who didn’t want to be identified.
Duke says his son has started to withdraw again.
“He has,” said Duke. “That day I saw him regressing, and it just killed me.”