About Fathers

Perspectives on fathers and their children.

School Ban of 'My Little Pony' Backpack Raises Gender Issues

Could banning a backpack after bullying possibly be right?

A story I wrote this week for the TODAY show online, "Bullied boy allegedly banned from bringing 'My Little Pony' backpack to school," raises some interesting questions about gender policing and schools' responses to bullying.

Sandra Graham of UCLA said telling the child who's been bullied to leave his backpack at home blames the victim and lets the bullies off—a point of view I think a lot of us would agree with.

Jaana Juvonen, also of UCLA, raised an interesting issue about gender policing efforts by young boys, for example, to define what is right and wrong for boys to do. In this case, the pack decided that it was wrong for a boy to carry a backpack displaying images from a cartoon based on toys for girls.

That's a time, she says, to seek support from other children and remind all the children that, say, men can be nurses.

David Schwartz of USC suggested that maybe banning the backpack, at least for the short term, would allow matter to cool off while a better solution was devised.

What do you think? Can it ever be right for a principal to appear to restrict a bullying victim rather than the bullies themselves?

I'm torn. I would find it difficult to encourage one of my kids to walk into a minefield day after day, even if that seems the right thing to do.

What would you do?

Journalist Paul Raeburn is the author of Do Fathers Matter? to be published by Scientific America/FSG in June, 2014. He is also the author of the Fathers and Families blog.

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