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Posted at 3:30 PM ET, 05/21/2010

Forcibly tattooing a boy isn't bullying. It's assault

By Valerie Strauss

Tattooing someone against their will is not bullying. It is assault. The difference matters.

This is relevant in the case of a 14-year-old boy who was allegedly tattooed against his will by four or five young men who have been charged with assault, endangering the welfare of a minor, tattooing without a license and other offenses, according to the Smoking Gun.

An arrest warrant affidavit issued by the Concord Police Department in New Hampshire says that assailants told the ninth grade victim, who has learning disabilities and attends Concord High School, that “he was going to get the tattoo whether he liked it or not.” If he tried to run away, they told him, he would be caught and beaten up.

The warrant also said the victim was told he would no longer be bullied if he allowed himself to be tattooed and then agreed.

The victim had an obscenity and a drawing of a penis tattooed on his backside on May 10 after being enticed to a Concord home, the warrant said. Some of the boys attend the same school but are legal adults.

Some of the media accounts of the incident are calling the young men who were arrested “bullies.” If they are found guilty, they certainly will be shown to be bullies, but also criminals who assaulted a student.

Bullying is pernicious and dangerous behavior with these three components, as defined by Dan Olweus, creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program:

1. Aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. A pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. An imbalance of power or strength.

But schoolkids who are bullies are not considered criminals in part because of their age and in part because of the nature of the behavior. Police are not normally called to deal with schoolyard bullies. In this case, however, they were, and rightly so.

Calling someone a bully who forcibly tattoos a minor misses the criminal nature of such an assault and blurs the definition of bullying. At a time when schools should be looking at systemic approaches to handling bullying, we want everybody to understand what bullying is, and what it isn’t, and how to effectively deal with it.

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By Valerie Strauss  | May 21, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bullying  | Tags:  boy forced to get tattoo, boy tattooed unwillingly, bullying, tattoo and bullies, tattoo and bullying  
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Four of the 5 Concord High School bullies are adults: "leader" Blake Vannest (18), Ryan Fisk (19), Travis Johnston (18) and Donald Wyman (20).

They face charges of assault, unlicensed tattooing, (conspiracy to) endangering the welfare of a minor, etc.

The 5th accused (Johnston's little bro) is a minor. (See )

The harassment tide is changing. Minors can be criminally charged, too, as the Phoebe Prince suicide case sadly shows.

Three of Phoebe's accused abusers - Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Chanon Velasquez, per the Dist. Atty - face criminal charges of harassment, stalking, assault and/or civil rights violation.

(See court docs at )

Two other accused abusers of Phoebe - Sean Mulveyhill and his gf Kayla Narey - face statutory rape, criminal harassment and/or civil rights violation.

Finally the law is seeing bullying for what it is: harassment, assault, stalking...

Posted by: CitizenOfWorld | May 21, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

A lot of the bullying I have read about, if performed by adults and directed toward adults, would be either a criminal matter or justification for a restraining order. If we want to put such behavior by high school students in another catagory because of their age, let's make it clear to the students that they are not in legal trouble ONLY because of their age. As it is now, the discussions in the press, I think, lead a lot of students to conclude that "bullying" is on the level with running in the halls or using your cell phone in class--wrong only because the adults around you don't like it.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 22, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I agree that there should be a charge (and should be any time a bully lays hands on his victim, there should be no schoolyard privilege), but throwing a half dozen or so charges at people like that I feel to be unnecessary. Pick the one which adequatey defines the situation and dump the tattooing without a license.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | May 22, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I am only 25 years old. Just 7 years ago I was a student in the public school system. It is sad to see the school system turn into such crap in such a short time. I am a mother now and I am worried about sending my kid to school when the time comes. School should be a place where parents feel safe to leave their kids, and confident that they are getting the education they are there to receive. Those students deserved to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. What they did is disgusting and deplorable. The should get a tattoo of a penis on their faces!!! AND THEY SHOULD BE HELD FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY EXPENSES RELATED TO GETTING THE TATTOO REMOVED!! I dont know if the kids are to blame or the parents for raising them with no moral standard. DISGUSTING!!!!!!!

Posted by: genny26 | May 26, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

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