Wiedmer: Whether in Grundy County or elsewhere, bullying must stop

Wiedmer: Whether in Grundy County or elsewhere, bullying must stop

October 18th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

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National Center for the Development of Boys director Troy Kemp speaks during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

National Center for the Development of Boys director...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

As the executive director for the National Center for the Development of Boys, longtime McCallie School administrator and lacrosse coach Troy Kemp has spent more time studying bullying and hazing than most.

Though he won't comment on the recent Grundy County High School case involving five football players who allegedly attempted to rape a 15-year-old freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop, he is troubled by these outrages in general.

"You feel sorry for the victim and you feel sorry for the people who have enough pain in their lives to do something like that," Kemp said Tuesday, one day after school system officials voted 6-2 not to cancel the Yellow Jackets' remaining two games.

"All of this (hazing and bullying) is getting harder because unlimited access to the internet allows people to learn about these crimes and, at times, copycat them. We have way too many people out there who are all wrong about what they think it takes to be a man or a ballplayer."

Not two years have passed since Ooltewah High School got it all wrong. As some of you may angrily and painfully recall, three Owls basketball players assaulted a fourth by ramming a pool stick up his rectum while they were staying in a Gatlinburg cabin during a holiday tournament a few days before Christmas.

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Perhaps partly because of the holiday season, that case became a bureaucratic nightmare of passed bucks and ignored responsibilities. Jobs were justifiably lost even if we may still be a long way from determining if justice will be done for the victim.

At least Grundy County made sure it would move a bit more swiftly and decisively than Hamilton County did in the Ooltewah case in order to show it would not tolerate such behavior by either the young people who allegedly committed this crime or the adults who failed to correctly supervise these young thugs' behavior.

"The board and school administration have been slow to comment on these allegations due to pending investigation and based on advice from counsel," Jessie Kinsey, the director of Grundy County schools, told this newspaper on Monday, six days after the incident occurred a week ago today.

"We are as shocked as anyone that this happened in our community. We are better than this. Our children know better. Our families expect better. Our educators model better, and yet, apparently, something awful happened."

There is speculation that something awful has happened before in Grundy County without a strong response from those in charge.

Whether true or not, the school wasted little time this time in canceling last Friday's football game against Upperman at a cost of $2,500, as well as relieving head coach Casey Tate and assistant Greg Brewer of their coaching duties.

What they failed to do was cancel the season's final two games, which would certainly have been appropriate, though the reason given for not doing so also makes sense, since it would have required the school's basketball teams to forgo postseason tournament play due to Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules.

You could understandably argue that the TSSAA should perhaps change the rule, but the hunch here is that the governing body for Tennessee prep sports never envisioned that rule coming into play because five teammates allegedly attempted to ram the metal handle of a dust mop up a fellow student's behind.

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But what really needs to go away is this behavior. Call it hazing, bullying or some misguided right of passage into adulthood, but whatever you do, Call It Off.

"My position is we don't tolerate any of that," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Tom Arth said Tuesday. "Hazing, bullying, whatever you want to call it. It's like my wife and I tell our own children: Treat people the right way. Everybody is blessed in different ways. Their talents and gifts are very different. If you see something like that happening, defend that person, stand up for them. No good comes from bullying."

Yet Arth also once played in the NFL where tales of hazing and bullying among teammates are almost as old as the 75-year-old league. So was he never hazed or bullied?

"Hazed, maybe," he smiled. "When I was a rookie with the (Indianapolis) Colts, they sent me and the other rookies out to various groceries at Thanksgiving to get a turkey. Only when we got there, they'd make us sing our college fight song or do a dance or something to get the turkey. What we didn't realize was that they were filming everything we did and on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the whole team got to watch those videos. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was in no way hurtful."

What happened at Grundy was hurtful. And likely criminal. And needs to be stopped at every level of society, whether it involves a sport, a glee club or the simplest of interactions with your fellow man or woman.

Or as UTC junior defensive back C.J. Fritz noted when asked about hazing or bullying on the Mocs, "We don't go for that at all. We treat everybody the same. We're all family. You don't hurt family."

You don't hurt anyone. At least you shouldn't. We know better than this; at least we once did. If we don't return to being better soon, something awful is going to happen more and more to our young people, and only God knows what will become of those bullies and victims alike when both sides become adults.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

Grundy County High School football players charged in attempted rape case

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