Public schools

High School Student Athlete Suspended After Stepping in to Stop a Gay Student From Being Assaulted



charged, bullied, suspended
mugshot, screencap, family photo

East Lee County High School in Florida has a zero tolerance policy on fighting. It doesn't matter who started it or who may have tried to stop it, if you're in a fight at school, you get suspended. In the case of Mark Betterson, a student at the high school, he received a 10-day suspension because, he says, he stepped in to stop a gay student from being bullied. Via the Gay Star News:

'I was just trying to break up the whole thing because its not fair for somebody to get beat up for something that he is. That's not really called for.'

Betterson said he had only gotten physical when Griffin had begun throwing punches at him too.

'He swung at me and was like you can get it too so we got into a fight,' Betterson said.

Betterson said he understood the school's policy but thought that 10 days suspension was unfair when all he was trying to was protect another student.

The student who allegedly started the fight, James Griffin, an 18-year-old, wasn't just suspended for 10 days. He faces battery charges after sheriff's deputies reviewed surveillance video of the fight, which they say corroborated what the bullied student, Jonathan Colon, told them. Betterson said he'd do the same thing again, fearing Colon would have suffered more injuries without his intervention, but still wishes the penalty were less severe. As for Colon, who said he wasn't friends with Betterson before the fight, he said he was surprised Betterson stepped in to help. "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," he told a local TV station.

The state of Florida has a stand-your-ground law that is supposed to protect the right to self-defense. It doesn't require a "duty to retreat," keeping that claim out of the toolbox of overzealous prosecutors. But, as with other rights protected by law, or even the Constitution, education administrators would prefer they didn't apply in school.

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  1. I’ve never understood the parental response, “It doesn’t matter who started it.”

    1. Me neither.

      If either of my sons were to be suspended for helping to protect a fellow student, and an administrator said “it doesn’t matter who started it”, said administrator would be in grave need for protection himself.

    2. You dont? Ask yourself what would happen if all of the serfs had sound moral compasses and it will become clear.

  2. The difference between Betterson and the school administrators who punish him because “It doesn’t matter who started it.” is that Betterson had the courage to do the right thing.

    1. BOOM! Well said SRV.

    2. Andk this:

      Betterson said he’d do the same thing again,

      Good man.

      1. A little more character in defiance of government pressure to do the wrong thing would be nice.

  3. Zero tolerance is there for a reason. It keeps school administrators from having to use discretion, which leads to possible professional scrutiny, which leads to the threat of accountability.

    1. Just fucking give them sovereign immunity and guns. It works for the po-po.

    2. I had to sign a “zero tolerance” document at my job, where I am a mandated reporter for child and dependent elder abuse. I asked for a definition of “zero tolerance.” They couldn’t give one that made sense. Made a big deal about needing to use my own judgement, look at totality of circumstances, etc. Even got some hokey analogy about stopping at a stop sign in the middle of the day versus early morning when there is no traffic, which was contrary to my understanding of the concept. Finally I said said something to the effect that there is no good definition of zero tolerance, but I should use my own judgement, but even if my judgement is sound, if something goes wrong it’s my fault. Which got no response. I signed the stupid paper.

    3. Petty officials LOVE “zero Tolerance” because it allows them to push people around without actually having to take responsibility for their actions ? or it does until some kid with parents who have some guts gets shafted.

      Let’s hope that in a little while the idiot who suspended Betterson is standing, stunned, in the ruins of his career, mumbling “What happened?”.

  4. Betterson said he’d do the same thing again

    Good. State indoctrination and its negative feedback fails again. Fuck suspensions; do the right thing.

  5. “I was just trying to break up the whole thing because its not fair for somebody to get beat up for something that he is.”

    False. It is okay to beat up mathletes.

    1. So it’s ok to beat someone up just for the hell of it?

  6. Bravo to the school and its policy. They’re just trying to teach their children the proper way of dealing with these situations. Instead of trying to save the gay kid from a beating, Betterson should have gone to the school safety officer, who could then appropriately handle with the situation as soon as back up arrived.

    1. back up being a school shutdown and waiting for the SWAT team to arrive.

    2. Aaaaaand shot and killed everyone in the vicinity.

      1. And we would’ve gotten away with it, too! If it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

  7. Zero-tolerance is obviously a blunt tool, but you can understand its reasons (less thinking and accountability needed on behalf of the school).

    What baffles me, and always has, is what possible satisfaction does a big dumb idiot get from beating up effeminate gay guys? Do they strangle kittens as a gesture of their own masculinity as well?

    1. I didnt think it mattered to you why they did it, only that they graduate and take a job confiscating illegitimate profits from the rich.

      1. Surely you of all people can explain.

        1. Over the years I have watched you, and i am convinced that you are a sockpuppet. In all the time I have seen you comment I have not seen a single person here swayed in the least by your blathering.

          I do wonder though, how many Tony sockpuppeteers we have converted.

          1. I’m convinced Tony is a real person. He posts the same arguments and views at Salon and Slate occasionally under the same Tony handle.

            I assume he just enjoys the attention and likes to test his talking points with a hostile libertarian audience.

            1. So what do you make of his constant mendacious misrepresentation of other people’s arguments? Does he not realize he’s doing it, or does he think it actually makes him a good interlocutor?

              1. My opinion is that he’s just a neurotic gay guy living in Oklahoma that enjoys trolling us.

                He probably really does believe what he’s arguing to the point that none of the countless times he’s rebutted and thoroughly dismantled by the libertarians here has any impact on his entrenched liberal beliefs.

                1. You guys are extra pissy today. Christ.

                  But the laughably unearned narcissism remains the same. Oh yes you libertarians always totally slay me with your wackadoodle bullshit.

                  1. So why do you keep coming back?

                    1. I’ve learned a lot from Tony. I never understood how my leftie friends could make the decisions they make, personally and also politically. But, Tony has shown me how. I try to start with where I am and then look for a way out of it, if I’m not happy with something. Tony seems to think how things should be, according to him, and then takes the first idea that pops into his head, that if people acted that way would be a step closer to his own private Utopia. Example: I don’t like guns. It would be better if no one ever shot anyone. Therefore, prevent people from getting guns. What could be simpler? It never seems to occur to people like that we live in a country with 300,000,000 guns already in existence. Start from there and even if you don’t like guns, and don’t want people to have them, you will come up with a very different solution. If you can come up with one. Listening to Tony ‘argue’, if you can call it that, has shown me how my numbskull leftish friends continually mess up their own lives.

                    2. Listen harder. I’ve never advocating banning all guns, and certainly not because I “don’t like” them.

                      Nearly every time one of you guys try to repeat one of my arguments back to me, it’s always completely off.

      2. Actually, the intent of the action is all that would matter to Tony, and not the morality of beating someone up in general. Afterall, aggression is fine as long as the majority says its okay.

        1. Boring strawmen.

          1. But enough about you…

          2. Actually, I’m pretty sure you make that exact argument every day. Our rights come from the majority, or something like that.

    2. What baffles me, and always has, is what satisfaction school administrators get from handing out punishments to students who have not only done nothing wrong, but have in fact done something very honorable.

      1. I don’t think they get satisfaction from it; overbroad policies like this are just CYA strategies to avoid having to make decisions that could later be criticized (or even sued over).

        1. I think they do get quite a bit of satisfaction.

          And, if they don’t, then I hope they suffer miserably in their chosen profession. Since they clearly have no interest in using their positions of respect and authority to change any of these policies.

      2. Because that particular act is approved by Top Men. If you don’t like it, vote in new Top Men. What ever the majority says, goes. You have no right to complain about the punishment.


    3. Do they strangle kittens as a gesture of their own masculinity as well?

      What’s wrong with kitten strangling?

      1. Have you ever tried to hold a kitten that didn’t want to be held? If they’re even a few weeks old they’ll flense your hand. Gay high school boys are a LOT safer to torment.

    4. Your thinking in a nutshell: ignore the actions, focus on the intentions.

      1. I agree with the premise. Normally I’d not even comment, but this facet of the story is curious to me.

    5. Yes, because school is no place for thinking and accountability to be on display. What kind of example will that set for the children?

      And in response to your question, they get off on it because the effeminate gays are. generally, less likely to fight back; what the folks in Homeland Security would call a “soft target”. Plus, you know, ignorant bigotry.

  8. I thought Obama said to stop suspending minorities!

  9. “East Lee County High School in Florida has a zero intelligence policy on fighting.”

    Fixed it for you.

  10. “If they want to bully you, let them bully you. Otherwise somebody might get hurt.”

  11. You don’t understand, Lee County has an anti-bullying policy, and downloadable forms to report bullying!

    Once a report form is submitted, there will be a response within two business days. But if you fear the victim is in immediate danger, call the police! (some links are PDF)

    1. Backup will do their best to arrive before you are rendered a paraplegic. If not, we tried.

  12. Well he has the satisfaction of being a man of integrity. Taking a 10 break from school, while a bullshit punishment, should not harm him given the outpouring of support and praise he’ll get.

    This while situation is perfect for a college personal statement.

    1. That would depend on the college.

      Or he could get a job.

  13. Not that the story isn’t horrible, but the gay angle is kind of unnecessary here. Every indication is that the administrators would have done the exact same thing and implemented the exact same policy regardless of the reason for the fighting.

    The only reason the gay bullying thing would be a mitigating factor is if you’re the sort of person who is in general okay with zero-tolerance policies and the idea that people who break up fights should be punished along with the fighters, but also thinks that a sufficiently noble goal like defending a gay person is a license to break those rules.

    1. I don’t think this story would have legs if the kid was being bullied for beinga socially awkward geek.

      But snything that draws attention to public school idiocy is good.

    2. Yeah, but that’s how things like this get picked up as a news story. I’m sure similar things happen often enough. Big tough football player sticking up for the flaming gay kid makes it play on the TV news.

  14. Does this bullying-intervention-suspension ‘snafu’ not play out on a daily basis? Why does this particular incident rise to this level of notoriety?

    1. Don’t know, but it’s good that it did. Especially when it shows the world how much these public-spirited, progressive administrators *really* care about protecting gay students.

      Say what you will about knuckle-dragging, troglodytic conservatives, but they don’t think exercising your legal right of self-defense – especially when the aggressor is charged and led off by police – is a suspendable offense.

  15. The only good thing about the school punishing this brave kid, who did something heroic by standing up & protecting a weaker kid, is that a whole class of kids will learn that the school is the real bully.

    1. The school neither threatened nor committed violence against anyone. However imperfect its rules, it is there to prevent and punish bullying, which would be rampant without such structure.

      Ah libertarianism, where metaphorical violence is always worse than actual violence.

      1. The school neither threatened nor committed violence against anyone.

        So if the kid shows up at school while he is suspended, they’re just going to let him stay at school, right? He’s not going to be physically removed by agents of the state carrying guns?

      2. “However imperfect its rules, it is there to prevent and punish bullying, which would be rampant without such structure.”


        “Ah libertarianism, where metaphorical violence is always worse than actual violence.”

        Yeah, how awful that this kid used violence to stop another person from using violence against an innocent third party.

      3. A zero tolerance on defending a weaker person pretty much guarantees more violence against the weakest.

        Hockey teams used to have ‘enforcers’, players whose sole role was to protect the skilled stars from dirty players on the other team injuring them. People got upset about players fighting other players so they brought in a rule that said the 3rd man in a fight got suspended. The result was a whole generation of skilled stars spent half their careers injured because dirty players faced no one who could stop them.

        You are once again defending something because you think its intent is good. Whether it works or not is irrelevant. NO ONE should do anything about it because the authorities are the ones who should be in charge.

        1. If you’d pay attention you’d realize that I’m not defending zero tolerance.

          1. It sounded like you were defending the intent of the administrators, even though what they did was incorrect. Rules top common sense and correct action any day, provided the rules had the right intent behind them. Pretty much the same stance you take towards Obamacare.

      4. Ah, Tonyland, where the metaphorical government cock is even tastier than the actual cock.

      5. Tony…the kids are being taught it is wrong to help those weaker than yourself. The kids are being taught that when you’re in trouble, there will be no one there for you. The ones that would have been there can’t, because they don’t want to be expelled, and the teachers won’t be because they are not present.

        What comes from that is school shootings. Kids have nowhere to turn, knowing no one will help. They will take matters into their own hands.

      6. The only school I went to where no one was bullied was also the only school I went to where grades 6 through 12 met in the same classroom. The moment that teasing started to get a little mean, an 18 year old would step in and stop it. That set the tone for the whole place.

        I don’t recall the faculty ever having to get involved.

    2. Shit like this goes a long way toward convincing high school students to distrust authority. They pay attention, you know.

  16. He should just ignore the suspension and show up for school. With a TV video crew in tow. Public schools bureaucrats fold easily under that kind of pressure and publicity.

  17. So who’s up for mailing in a bunch of the bullying reports citing the administration as the aggressor?

  18. Betterson clearly hasn’t learned that the proper way to handle these situations was demonstrated by Kitty Genovese’s neighbors long ago.

    1. Yeah, when some kid gets beaten up really bad and the other kids do nothing to stop it, look for the thumb-sucking editorials about Kids Today not having any values, failing to note who’s been trying to suck those values out of their souls.

  19. Sometimes, when I hear of school administrators doing stupid things like, I wonder if the real problem is they are too immature for the job. They’re supposed to be “responsible adults” and instead have worse judgement than my six year old grandchild. They need to be replaced ASAP with some mature grownups with good judgement who are willing to accept responsibility.

    1. Any administration that implements zero tolerance should have their salary cut 50%. After all, we’re no longer paying them to think.

  20. Dude is not making a lot of sense man.

  21. My youngest son was a little guy. He was constantly being bullied and harassed in Grade 8 by two kids in the school. Both of whom were the biggest kids. One guy was a foot taller than my son. He was well over 6′ in grade eight. He was bugging my son one day and my son went up and popped him one. Knocked the guy flat on his back. Of course a big brouhaha happened teachers went crazy and my son and the big kid were taken to the vice principal’s office. I was called in, and heard the story. I said to the VP, ‘do you have a problem with what Dan did?’ Actually, no he didn’t. He was quite cool about it. He said everyone in the office was cheering Dan on, privately of course. But, he said, he had to be suspended because that is the rules. He said he was giving him 3 days off. I said, ‘that works for me, it isn’t like he is really learning anything here anyway’. The guy laughed and said, ‘tell me about it’. Dan got in the car, I told him what transpired and he said, ‘Wow. I got to punch Mike in the face and I also get 3 days off school! This has been a good day.’

  22. State indoctrination and its negative feedback fails again. Fuck suspensions; do the right thing.

  23. I am so happy “that. “boyfriend is back” he left me 6 months ago. but with the help of dr_mack@ yahoo. com” my relationship was restored instantly.??”,,,,,,,

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