Ronin Shimizu is dead because he was different. This gender-fluid 12 year-old was repeatedly harassed, bullied and assaulted for his differences from the time he entered the first grade. All efforts to get school intervention failed. Now, the school district is settling for $1M. Too little, too late for Ronin who committed suicide.
Fair warning: bullying pisses me off and I’m letting it show in this piece. Ronin Shimizu, age 12, endured years of bullying at his school. Repeated attempts by his parents to have the school intervene fell on deaf ears. Not that it will bring back this innocent child, but at least the school district is being forced to open its eyes as the bullied child’s parents get $1M settlement after he committed suicide.
Thing were not rosy in the suburban Sacramento school Ronin attended. In fact, the abuse and bullying started in first grade and never let up. Ronin was what many would term “gender fluid,” in that he wasn’t a traditional masculine child. I have nothing but the deepest empathy for him. I went through similar treatment until my senior year in high school.
According to his parents, Ronin was “taunted for being ‘gay,’ ‘girlie,’ ‘a fag,’ pushed out of the boys’ bathroom and told to use the girls’ bathroom, pushed down into the mud, doused with fruit cup[s] in the cafeteria, and made to suffer other indignities.” My heart hurts for this poor boy. To this day, I cannot tolerate the nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” as “Twinkle-twinkle” was one of my classmates’ favorite taunts.
The Shimizu’s lawyer, Mark Meron, said in the filed brief that any meetings with school officials and teachers were largely unproductive. Ronin’s uber-empathetic (NOT) first-grade teacher’s response was that his parents shouldn’t let him use girls’ clothing when playing dress-up.
Way to apply 1950s pop psychology, teach! In my opinion, you and every other hetero-normative prude at Ronin’s school are complicit in this young child’s ultimate destruction. I hope you lose sleep over it for the rest of your miserable lives.
It unfortunately got worse for Ronin. He was pushed into a bathroom sink, splitting his lip, in the second grade. He was bullied and picked on over deciding to join the cheerleading club in the fifth grade. He was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and OCD, as well. Requests from Ronin’s parents for a support program for him fell on deaf, hetero-normative ears. One is forced to wonder if such ignorant responses to the requests would have been given if the mentally-ill child had been a jock or a popular kid.
Yeah, I’ve got an ax to grind. You bet your ax, I do. Marginalized kids, such as Ronin, are typically overlooked, even punished, in many school systems. Abuse, bullying and taunts that would never be tolerated were they about race, religion or handicap are simply not seen. School administrators and teachers turn a blind eye because we are disposable to them. We simply do not count. Period.
In a last-ditch effort to save their child, Ronin’s parents put him in the home-schooling program the district offered. Sadly, the damage had been done and Ronin committed suicide a year later. When one spends that much time (especially during formative years) in an environment where one is constantly degraded, reduced to non-human status and harassed no matter what one does, it leaves a lasting wound. Sometimes that wound is so deep that even being rescued from that environment isn’t enough. For Ronin, sadly, that was the case.
Lest anyone say, “Just suck it up and move on!” let me tell you that I didn’t fully come into my personhood and self-esteem until well into my 30s.
In a spectacular case of closing the barn door after the horses escaped, the school district put an anti-bullying program in place. It also created a Character Education and Bullying Prevention Task Force. Superintendent Deborah Bettencourt said that they are now committed to making safe and caring environments for all kids.
She said, “This settlement is a fair resolution as our students, staff, and community continue to work together to learn from this episode and prevent another tragedy. Our hearts continue to be with Ronin’s family, and we support their efforts to promote kindness, empathy, and positive school climate.”
What horseshit! While I certainly hope that these efforts are successful in preventing bullying, the only reason Bettencourt and her cronies are doing this is because they got caught being discriminatory a-holes and not fulfilling their duties to safeguard the lives of the children put into their care during the school day.
The $1M settlement is being paid from a public school insurance pool.
If Ronin’s parents should, by some stroke of fate, see this post, I want to say this to them:
I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. It’s unjust and cruel that such a beautiful, sensitive soul was subjected to such abuse. Never doubt yourselves; as parents, it can be easy to think that you didn’t do enough. You did all you could. Please know that we who made it through to the other side of bullying are with you. Celebrate the good memories. What is remembered lives.