The word “Bullying” translated into Russian is хулиган “khuligan.” Sounds about right. A hooligan is described by Merriam Webster as a “violent young troublemaker.” Even the definition of hooliganism is characterized by “disruptive or unlawful behavior such as bullying.” Bullying takes a away a person’s ability to function, to reason or to otherwise become the person they could be.
After more than a decade and thousands of valued clients, we have seen the power of story-telling through t-shirts. In December, we had the opportunity to work on a grassroots effort that grew out of felony charges against a student who was bullied at school by two older boys during class last May who used racial slurs, robbed him, and sprayed him in the face with Silly String. He reacted, knocking the older boy to the ground.
Jorge was suspended from school. The older boys were not disciplined. As with many schools, fighting is a zero tolerance offense with immediate consequences and Jorge threw the first punch. The school administrator, Assistant Principal Arthur O’Neill, would find the suspension would become one of the county’s most talked about issues in the county, challenging school rules role in criminal law.
Following the suspension, Jorge’s father, a veteran police detective and member of the National Guard, met with O’Neill, challenging the suspension as a violation of law and asserting that his son had the right to defend himself against the assault. He recorded the conversation, an exchange between O’Neill and Jorge’s father set in motion what many believed was the actions of an out of control school administrator and the Cobb County School District Superintendent, Chris Ragsdale.
Only after the meeting with Jorge’s father was Jorge charged with two aggravated assault felonies, charges that could potentially lead to jail time.
The school vs. the community
Seated next to his father, the image of Jorge Santa would leave a lasting impression with viewers of CBS46. A shy 15 year-old, Jorge is perhaps five feet tall and not more than 100 pounds. He would appear to be a good mark for a bully and that’s probably what the older boys must have been thinking when they approached him. What they didn’t know was that Jorge’s father was a former MMA fighter, who often brought his son to the gym when he was young and taught him to defend himself. As his father articulated during the recorded conversation, Jorge showed great restraint, refusing to engage after he was approached, antagonized, and even robbed. It was only after physical contact was made with the spray, did he react.. Georgia’s self-defense law provides gives individuals the right to defend themselves: GA 3.02.10 Justification; Use of Force in Defense of self or others:
A person is justified in threatening or using force against another person when, and to the extent that, he/she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himselfYherself or a third person against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person is justified in using force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if that person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself/herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Members of the community rallied around Jorge and his family including radio personalities and every news organization reported on it. In order to raise money for
Jorge’s defense, t-shirts were created with a design created by Jorge.
The charges were eventually dropped, but no comment from the school district or an apology to the student.
On January 11, 2019, Jorge’s attorney announced he had assembled a team to go after the Cobb County School District after receiving numerous documents from the state during his fight to have Jorge acquitted that showed the school system was not reporting bullying numbers as required by law.
Another t-shirt design has been created to raise money for these new efforts that is expected to play a big role in protecting kids against bullying in the district and, hopefully, within the state. If you’re interested in participating you can find the shirt here.