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Posted at 01:14 PM ET, 05/10/2012

What Romney should have said to schoolchildren about his ‘prank’ and bullying

My colleague Jason Horowitz wrote in this Washington Post story about how Mitt Romney, when he was a senior at an elite private high school in Michigan, led a group of boys who “tackled” a boy who was presumed to be gay and had bleached-blond hair, held him down and chopped his hair off with a scissors even as the boy pleaded for help.

A spokesman for Romney told Horowitz that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate didn’t remember the incident which was the most serious of many “pranks” Romney was reported to have engaged in as a student.

Yes, Romney said he didn’t remember behavior that today would clearly be defined as bullying and would land the perpetrators in serious trouble. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it is worse that he doesn’t remember or simply said he didn’t.) Some of his friends who were involved in the episode remembered it well enough to talk to Horowitz in some detail.

In any case, today, as the story of this incident spread, Romney talked briefly about it during an interview with Fox News Talk Radio. He said:

“I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by it, obviously I apologize,” he said. “But overall high school years were a long time ago and I’m glad I have a lot of friends from those years.”

As for the particular incident detailed in the story, he said, as he chuckled, “I don’t remember that incident.”

He did, however, say that he didn’t think that the boy in question was gay — “that was the furthest thing from my mind” in the 1960s.

He further said about the pranks he pulled: I don’t remember them all... High school days and I did stupid things. And I’m afraid I gotta say sorry for it.”

Actually, that’s not all he’s gotta say.

What he might have said instead is something like this:

“When I was a high school student, I did some things that simply were not acceptable. I didn’t intend to but I hurt people. I am profoundly sorry. I recognize that this isn’t a case of ‘boys will be boys,’ or, ‘that’s the way we were in the ‘60s.’

“I did not see myself as a bad or mean kid, and there’s a lesson in that. Even good kids can sometimes do mean things that can have lasting effects on others. That’s why we all have to look on the issue of bullying as deadly serious.

“Schools everywhere should be teaching students and adults how to deal with bullies, and victims. Students have to learn how to safely stand up for others who are being bullied, and all of the adults in a school building have to learn to keep their eyes open and watch for unacceptable behavior that kids may try to hide.

“Let’s all work to keep kids safe in schools everywhere. That’s one goal that Republicans and Democrats can agree on with the same passion.”

If you have a better idea of what he might have said, let’s hear it.

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By  |  01:14 PM ET, 05/10/2012

 
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