Zero tolerance for standing up to bully

When a bully attacked a gay student in the cafeteria, a football player stepped in to protect the victim. Rescuer Mark Betterson was suspended for 10 days for fighting, reports Gay Star News. James Griffin, 18, faces battery charges for the attack on Jonathan Colon, who’s openly gay.

East Lee County High School in Florida has a zero tolerance policy on fighting, reports Reason‘s Hit and Run blog. It doesn’t matter who started it.

Griffin reportedly threw milk in Colon’s face and shouted homophobic slurs before punching him twice in the head. “Jonathan was just going to stand there and get beat up … if I didn’t jump into it,” Betterson told WFTX-TV. “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.”

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.

” . . to be suspended for 10 days, I don’t understand. I’m not going to stand there and watch somebody get bullied.”

Colon didn’t know Betterson before the fight, he said. “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.” 

Life imitates Glee.

Colon organized classmates to protest Betterson’s suspension, which will be reviewed on Monday.

About Joanne


  1. Zero tolerance, as practiced, means zero critical thinking and zero judgment. It’s admins playing CYA all the way, and the ed world (and bureaucracies in general) gets no respect.

    • The attraction of zero tolerance policies to elective officials is that they give the appearance of dealing forcefully with some issue while, in fact, doing nothing and to administrators by absolving them of the responsibility attendant with the use of judgment.

  2. But the students have learned a valuable lesson to not take “educational professionals” seriously or as mentors. Kids aren’t dumb, they recognize stupid when they see it.

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Important lesson- If you see something wrong, don’t do anything about it. You’ll only get hurt if you try to step in. Just stay in your bubble and ignore the attacks. After all, YOU’RE not a Jew, so what business is it of yours if someone rounds up the Jews?

  4. And if Mark Betterson is on a plane that is hijacked, he should just sit and wait for the plane to be crashed into the White House, right?

  5. Ann in L.A. says:

    It’s important to note here that if the gay kid had fought back, then he would have been the one suspended. Did he know the rule on suspension for fighting? and did he know that he had no choice but to suck it up and take the abuse?

    Congratulations to the kid who stood up!

  6. PhillipMarlowe says:

    My kids’ Catholic schools had a no tolerance policy. So the guy who brought in the hunting knife and the fellow who shoplifted had the choice to jump or be pushed.

  7. Set aside the fact that this kid is getting suspended at all (instead of awarded at an assembly) but ten freakin days!!

    I can’t even imagine what a kid would have to do to get suspended for ten days at my school.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      Yeah… I can’t remember that ever happening.

      There was one expulsion that I knew about — it was for some pretty egregious crap — but the longest suspension I can remember was like 5 school days.

  8. I am always amazed that there are grown-ups so willing to relinquish the ability to use their own judgment in any given situation. If you know your students, it’s much like knowing your own kids. One size–even when it comes to discipline–does not fit all.

  9. Looking at it another way— it’s important to be able to do the right thing, even if you know you will be suspended. Maybe that’s the more important thing to take away from this.

  10. Kirk Parker says:

    Mark Betterson is a civilized human being. The folks that run East Lee County High School, not so much.

    Re momof4’s zero.. zero… zero… observation, there’s another zero she left out: these administrators deserve a pay scale that’s exactly zero dollars and zero cents above minimum wage.

  11. Where was Security? Whoever was on lunch duty needs to be looking for new employment.

  12. My DH says that there are a couple of public-service
    commercials currently airing on TV that promote exactly this kind of intervention against bullying. Maybe they should add the likelihood of disciplinary action against the good guys.

  13. Here in California, Ed Code specifically forbids suspending a student for self defense. That doesn’t stop schools, including mine, from suspending such students, though. And it certainly doesn’t protect a Good Samaritan. Shameful.