Dodgeball Incident: Bullying or Aggravated Battery?

By Paul Langhorst

A middle school student in Enid, OK was left unconscious and with severe injuries following a fight after a recess dodgeball game. Preston Hodge, 14, suffered broken cheekbones, severe cuts and possible internal injuries in the fight Tuesday during lunch recess at Longfellow Middle School in Enid, about 90 miles north of Oklahoma City, reported.

While the injuries were severe and the incident disturbing, it is unclear as to whether the incident was, or could be classified as "bullying." According to the report published on, the incident happened after the game when one student shoved or pushed another. A fight resulted, leaving Preston Hodge beaten, bloody and unconscious.

Parents quoted in the story suggest that "bullying must be stopped," however the classic definition of bullying requires that these three factors be present:

  • a pattern of ongoing physical or mental abuse
  • aggressive behavior
  • an imbalance of power

In this case, based on the report, clearly one of the three factors is present, but the details do not indicate if there was on gong aggressive behavior between the Preston and the other boy in this story, or whether there was an imbalance of power (physical size, wealth, social status, disabilities, etc.)

Clearly an assault took place, and even the report on indicates that the police department are viewing this as aggravated battery, however it is unclear if charges were filed on these grounds.

It is unfortunate that this incident happened, but it is also useful to show the difference between bullying and other forms of aggressive behavior. Bullying is an ongoing problem between one or more students, not a one-time incident on the playground. This case is also useful as illustration as to why the statistics on bullying incidents are so suspect. What is considered bullying by parents and students, may not be actually "bullying" as classically defined by experts, but just bad behavior or even criminal behavior.