Bullying now has a face. Locally, anyway. It’s the face of 9-year-old Ephram Lake, the victim of a playground beating at his Concord elementary school.
It’s this face:
Perhaps you saw Ephram’s picture on the front page of The Elkhart Truth. We put it there for a good reason.
Because it’s time for this community to understand bullying and address it.
Ephram’s story emerged Thursday night on elkharttruth.com. His parents, Joseph and Sarah Lake, said they got a call a couple days earlier from the school nurse at Concord South Side Elementary.
Your son was in “a playground scuffle,” the nurse said. A group of boys had surrounded Ephram beaten him in the head. Be here in 15 minutes to pick him up or we’re calling an ambulance.
When the Lakes arrived at South Side, their son was slurring his speech and seemed confused about his surroundings. They rushed him to IU Health Goshen, where a doctor said Ephram had suffered a concussion.
Sarah Lake said she was frustrated because as of Thursday, she still hadn’t been able to speak with the school’s principal. Superintendent Wayne Stubbs, however, issued a statement.
Stubbs said that according to school administrators, Ephram and two other students started by pushing each other, “as mutual horseplay.”
Although the students threw several punches, "adults immediately intervened and took the injured student to the nurse," Stubbs said in his statement.
That’s not how Ephram and a cousin remember it. They said that they had to go find a teacher for help.
The Lakes filed a report Tuesday with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. They’re also considering a lawsuit against the school and the students who attacked Ephram.
That sent some people over the edge. One typical comment on www.facebook.com/TheElkhartTruth, quoted verbatim:
“are you serious...you expect kids never to get into fights...has nothing to do with how you are brought up..boys will be boys....is too bad this young man got hurt..but you should see what I had to go through back in the 60's....especially with the racial tensions....this is nothing”
We still do not know the definitive story of what happened Tuesday on the playground at South Side Elementary. Stubbs says adults quickly intervened, while Ephram and his cousin say they had to go in search of help. Accounts differ.
Still, this much is clear — two boys hit Ephram in the head so hard that, according to a doctor, he suffered a traumatic brain injury. And part of this community thinks that’s OK.
Suck it up, kid. Take your beatings. That’s what we did.
No. What happened to you was wrong. Somebody should’ve stopped it, but they didn’t. And now you line up with the bullies. You provide them with cover.
We can’t let that continue.
Go ahead. Look at Ephram’s picture again. Try to convince yourself that he deserved a beating. Argue that a brain trauma is simply a rite of childhood passage. Or that taunting a kid until he breaks down in tears is innocent fun. That happened to Ephram, too.
No one at Concord Community Schools condones bullying. Not a single administrator or teacher.
But does Concord need to assess its anti-bullying program at South Side, and perhaps throughout the district? Yes.
So does every other school system. And we cannot stop there; we can never hope to reduce the violence that tears at this community until all of us — inside and outside the schools — begin to address bullying.
No child should go through the pain and humiliation that Ephram endured. But as long as part of this community continues to defend bullying, they will.