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Florida teen who stood up for gay student suspended for 10 days

A Florida high school footballer who jumped in to protect a gay student who was being bullied has been suspended for 10 days even though the bully has been charged by police with battery
Mark Betterson
Photo by Fox4

A Florida high school student has been suspended for 10 days for protecting a gay student from a bully who was attacking him.

Mark Betterson was suspended under East Lee County High School’s mandatory suspension policy for anyone involved in a fight despite the fact he was stepping in to protect openly gay Jonathan Colon from being assaulted by 18-year-old James Griffin – another student at the school.

Griffin called Colon a series of anti-gay slurs and threw a carton of milk in his face before punching him in the head and the back of the head in the incident on Thursday.

That’s when Betterson, decided he needed to step in and do something.

‘If I didn’t jump into it, it would have got serious,’ Betterson told WFTX Fox4, ‘It would have been worse than what he got.’

‘Jonathan was just going to stand there and get beat up … if I didn’t jump into it.

‘I was just trying to break up the whole thing because its not fair for somebody to get beat up for something that he is. That’s not really called for.’

Betterson said he had only gotten physical when Griffin had begun throwing punches at him too.

‘He swung at me and was like you can get it too so we got into a fight,’ Betterson said.

Betterson said he understood the school’s policy but thought that 10 days suspension was unfair when all he was trying to was protect another student.

‘I understand [it's] because how the school policy is, but to be suspended for 10 days, I don’t understand. I’m not going to stand there and watch somebody get bullied.’

Betterson said, despite his suspension, he wouldn’t hesitate to intervene to protect someone from bullying again.

Betterson is on East Lee County High School’s football team and Colon and he were not previously friends.

Colon told WINK News that he was blown away by Betterson’s actions and organized a protest at the school in support of him.

‘I was protected by someone who had no reason to protect me,’ Colon said.

We have nothing in common – he’s on the football team and I’m the flamboyant gay boy.'

Betterson is appealing the length of his suspension.

Police charged Griffin with battery after reviewing security camera footage of the incident.

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You know, the media has a really biased way of reporting things. There's so much more truth to this. I'm not even sure where to start. First of all I'm not a victim because the assault was provoked; Does that make him hitting me any less wrong? No, but it does shed light on this story. He did bully me (homophobic slurs), and I did a little dance, flicked him off, and sat down. He threw bread at me, I threw it in the air (not at him), but still, my actions were a catalyst for his violence. He punched me in the face and Mark, who does actually know me because we were both in band, got into a fight with him. Reviewing the surveillance footage from the security cameras in the cafeteria, it's evident that as Mark approached him, James was backing off. Mark could have stopped at that point and it would have been a wrap. But he didn't and they fought. My ego was shot and I wrote some articles and sent them to local newspapers (who love to denounce the reputation of East). I emphasized Mark defending me and made him out to be a martyr by leaving out the fact that we were already friends and contrasting his football player status with my flamboyant nature. (Anything with Gay in it is a attention grabbing headline) In truth I hated James after that, and I wanted people to hate him to. That makes me just as much of a bully. The only difference between the two of us is that where he hurt me physically I attacked him socially and psychologically. I'm just as disgusting as he is. Mark is the least guilty person of the three of us. His intentions were just and admirable but his logic was flawed; he did the right thing by stopping it, but he did the wrong thing by fighting him after it was already finished. I did the wrong thing by indirectly starting the conflict, and James did the wrong thing by hitting me. We were all wrong. I didn't, and couldn't press charges against him because it was evident that by flicking him off, I was inadvertently asking for it. Mark and I are friends and he would probably be judging me right now for revisiting something that happened so long ago. In my blind emotion I knew only two things; 1, that I had to destroy James in any way that I could, and 2, that I had to do something about Mark being suspended and possibly sent to ALC. I wrote an article titled "Protest at ELCHS" and in it I used every bit of my journalistic ability to make it enticing for the local news media. (Although it was littered with grammatical errors that I didn't notice until after I sent it). I rallied my peers on FB and then we had a sit down in the cafeteria after breakfast. There were times that the crowd of students began to erupt in full out rebelliousness; the spirit of a protest does that to people, and I, advised by the resource officer, calmed them down and reminded them that this was a silent protest. The principal, who is remarkably adapt at damage control, thanked us for our solidarity, explained to us that we gave him less than a day to react to this and ensured us that he is a very fair and understanding person. He asked us to go back to class and the room was thick with anticipation of what I would do next. We wanted to make a statement and show our conviction and that's exactly what we did. There wasn't anything more that I could ask for so I packed my things and left; everyone else did the same. Mark was back the next day.
I began to realize that I had unleashed a nasty can of worms; the schools public image just took a huge blow because of me. I was tired but I tried my best to limit the negative perception of my school. I wrote a second article highlighting me being protected as opposed to me being attacked, the intolerance of bullying at ELCHS, our cultural diversity and why the students are unified and understanding of one another; using Mark as an example. I also included how understanding and effective the principal was. I did interviews with the press, who not too surprisingly weren't interested with any of the good things I had to say about my school. Instead they picked apart my words and rearranged them to fuel the negative image that I was fighting against. No one cared about my second article. It was never mentioned or speculated. I felt ashamed, and disgusted with myself. For years I was the biggest advocate of East, and my Senior year legacy, only made the reputation worse. The student population was positively affected though; all of the things in my second article were true. We were more unified than ever and bullying really was at an all time low; peace and understanding was spreading like a virus. It's ironic how the first article, which was an extremely skewered perception of the truth was believed more by the average person than the second article, which was way more truthful... but that just goes to show that the people who sit there and watch the news all day will believe anything those reporters say and they won't bother to do their own research; because if you had, you would have found my articles on Facebook.
I kept reading in the comments peoples concern with administration not breaking up the fight. I got punched in the face in less than 5 seconds; how much time does that give anyone to react? Mark was sitting right in front of me. The admins and resource officer did pull the two of them apart.
There were a thousand and three ways I could have avoided getting punched in the face. I chose to be prideful and I chose to be a bully. Mark had the option to not fight James (because James had stopped after Mark jumped in front of me and Mark initiated the fight with James). He chose to. We all made our choices that day and we all suffered the consequences. The rest was just manipulation and politics.
Nothing I did was admirable or justifiable. I forgave myself eventually.
I'm not sure where I stand on the zero tolerance policy.
In truth we should have all been suspended.

I am heartened this morning by this young man's sense of morality and dignity for his fellow man. Unfortunately, the school district has its head up its rear-end like most in the country. I believe that until we rise up as a community and make a PR nightmare for these schools and draconian administrators change will not come quickly. My question is where were the adults in the cafeteria who SHOULD have stepped in to stop the fight, and who need to be fired from their jobs. I reckon to say that if an African American student were engaging with a Caucasian student every single adult in the school would have been all over it and the student would rot in jail for the remainder of his years. One grows tired of the latent racism and discrimination in this country.

You know, the media has a really biased way of reporting things. There's so much more truth to this. I'm not even sure where to start. First of all I'm not a victim because the assault was provoked; Does that make him hitting me any less wrong? No, but it does shed light on this story. He did bully me (homophobic slurs), and I did a little dance, flicked him off, and sat down. He threw bread at me, I threw it in the air (not at him), but still, my actions were a catalyst for his violence. He punched me in the face and Mark, who does actually know me because we were both in band, got into a fight with him. Reviewing the surveillance footage from the security cameras in the cafeteria, it's evident that as Mark approached him, James was backing off. Mark could have stopped at that point and it would have been a wrap. But he didn't and they fought. My ego was shot and I wrote some articles and sent them to local newspapers (who love to denounce the reputation of East). I emphasized Mark defending me and made him out to be a martyr by leaving out the fact that we were already friends and contrasting his football player status with my flamboyant nature. (Anything with Gay in it is a attention grabbing headline) In truth I hated James after that, and I wanted people to hate him to. That makes me just as much of a bully. The only difference between the two of us is that where he hurt me physically I attacked him socially and psychologically. I'm just as disgusting as he is. Mark is the least guilty person of the three of us. His intentions were just and admirable but his logic was flawed; he did the right thing by stopping it, but he did the wrong thing by fighting him after it was already finished. I did the wrong thing by indirectly starting the conflict, and James did the wrong thing by hitting me. We were all wrong. I didn't, and couldn't press charges against him because it was evident that by flicking him off, I was inadvertently asking for it. Mark and I are friends and he would probably be judging me right now for revisiting something that happened so long ago. In my blind emotion I knew only two things; 1, that I had to destroy James in any way that I could, and 2, that I had to do something about Mark being suspended and possibly sent to ALC. I wrote an article titled "Protest at ELCHS" and in it I used every bit of my journalistic ability to make it enticing for the local news media. (Although it was littered with grammatical errors that I didn't notice until after I sent it). I rallied my peers on FB and then we had a sit down in the cafeteria after breakfast. There were times that the crowd of students began to erupt in full out rebelliousness; the spirit of a protest does that to people, and I, advised by the resource officer, calmed them down and reminded them that this was a silent protest. The principal, who is remarkably adapt at damage control, thanked us for our solidarity, explained to us that we gave him less than a day to react to this and ensured us that he is a very fair and understanding person. He asked us to go back to class and the room was thick with anticipation of what I would do next. We wanted to make a statement and show our conviction and that's exactly what we did. There wasn't anything more that I could ask for so I packed my things and left; everyone else did the same. Mark was back the next day.
I began to realize that I had unleashed a nasty can of worms; the schools public image just took a huge blow because of me. I was tired but I tried my best to limit the negative perception of my school. I wrote a second article highlighting me being protected as opposed to me being attacked, the intolerance of bullying at ELCHS, our cultural diversity and why the students are unified and understanding of one another; using Mark as an example. I also included how understanding and effective the principal was. I did interviews with the press, who not too surprisingly weren't interested with any of the good things I had to say about my school. Instead they picked apart my words and rearranged them to fuel the negative image that I was fighting against. No one cared about my second article. It was never mentioned or speculated. I felt ashamed, and disgusted with myself. For years I was the biggest advocate of East, and my Senior year legacy, only made the reputation worse. The student population was positively affected though; all of the things in my second article were true. We were more unified than ever and bullying really was at an all time low; peace and understanding was spreading like a virus. It's ironic how the first article, which was an extremely skewered perception of the truth was believed more by the average person than the second article, which was way more truthful... but that just goes to show that the people who sit there and watch the news all day will believe anything those reporters say and they won't bother to do their own research; because if you had, you would have found my articles on Facebook.
I kept reading in the comments peoples concern with administration not breaking up the fight. I got punched in the face in less than 5 seconds; how much time does that give anyone to react? Mark was sitting right in front of me. The admins and resource officer did pull the two of them apart.
There were a thousand and three ways I could have avoided getting punched in the face. I chose to be prideful and I chose to be a bully. Mark had the option to not fight James (because James had stopped after Mark jumped in front of me and Mark initiated the fight with James). He chose to. We all made our choices that day and we all suffered the consequences. The rest was just manipulation and politics.
Nothing I did was admirable or justifiable. I forgave myself eventually.
I'm not sure where I stand on the zero tolerance policy.
In truth we should have all been suspended.