Brandi Blackbear Was Not Like Everyone Else

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A friend sent me a home-made DVD of a Lifetime movie she’d recorded in 2006 titled Not Like Everyone Else. The movie was based on a true story of events that happened to a girl in Oklahoma named Brandi Blackbear in 1999-2000. I was surprised to get this movie. I’d missed the story the first time around (I was fifteen and in Hell… give me a break). Actually, I vaguely remembered the story, but somehow missed some of the details. I hadn’t thought a thing about it since, but was very pleased to become reacquainted with the subject.

Rather than write a review of the movie, I’ll simply copy some text from Wikipedia which sums it, and the issue that is based upon, rather well. That should be more than enough to go on.

Shortly after the Columbine High School massacre, Union Intermediate High School (in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) was one of many schools around the country increasing security measures to prevent school shootings. Brandi Blackbear wrote horror stories similar to those of Stephen King, dressed in a slightly Goth-like way, and was not afraid to be herself, or to stand up to bullying by popular kids. Her defiance engendered hostility toward her from certain segments of her school’s culture. False stories of threats of violence were circulated, and the combination of her writing and authorities’ natural hyper-awareness following Columbine led to her being suspended. When some of her fellow students later saw her checking out a book on world religions, including Wicca (as research for her stories), they immediately branded her a witch, and eventually accused her of casting a spell that made a teacher sick. Fear of her spread through much of the school, and she was once again suspended.

Finally, her parents went to the ACLU, where they were told they had a good case against the school for violating her civil rights. The ACLU sued the affluent school for $10 million, even though the Blackbears were not sure they deserved that much based on what Brandi had suffered. Still, the ACLU argued that the school would not take any lesser claim seriously. When the school offered a settlement, the Blackbears refused. They were not interested in the money, despite needing it; what they really wanted was to have their story heard in court to inform the public that the school had mistreated Brandi. The judge ruled to dismiss the charges rather than going to trial, and ordered the Blackbears to pay $6000 in court fees, which they could not afford. Eventually it was agreed to drop the fees if the Blackbears dropped their appeal.

That’s the gist of it, and is what the movie was based upon. I looked for the movie on Amazon.com, but apparently it isn’t availble on DVD. If it was, I would’ve made it available on the front page on PaganCentric. I felt a particularly painful kinship with Brandi Blackbear, because of my own experiences as Wiccan. It retrospect, I’m amazed that this story didn’t resonate more with me at a time in which my mother had been taken away from me because her religious beliefs (she was a Wiccan) were deemed by the courts to dangerous to my well being.

Some Americans might think it hard to believe that something like this could happen in modern times, that a student could honestly wind up in court defending herself against charges of witchcraft. But it did happen. Similar issues play out all across the United States every year. Pagans and Wiccans know what I’m talking about, while Christians will instinctively belittle what I’m saying as whining. The uncomfortable truth is that nearly every Pagan I know has faced something like this. My mother had her only daughter taken from her because she was Wiccan. I’ve had friends who have lost jobs because of their faith, been denied housing, had their children harassed and humiliated in school. Yet it continues.

Pagans and Wiccans make easy targets. We don’t have a centralized organization that can stand up for us, so we are each essentially on our own if our neighbors, or our police officers, or our judges, decide to cull us from the herd and destroy our lives in a misguided campaign to protect their own families from some perceived threat. What happened to Brandi Blackbear happens to Pagans and Wiccans all across the country every day and every week. The only difference is that most of these intolerant acts go unreported. I contend that if Brandi Blackbear had, in fact, been the witch she was accused of being, the public would have never known about the issue, because she would have never pursued it. Most Pagans and Wiccans instinctively avoid these types of conflicts, because it rarely goes well for us.

One would think Brandi Blackbear would have had an easy case to win. She was suspended by her school because it was claimed she had worked a spell on a teacher. And yet the judge dismissed the case. There aren’t many of us on this side of the issue who are surprised by that.

Oddly enough, in researching this I discovered that Wic’s long-time political web site, The Watch, reported on these issues “back in the day”. It probably says a lot about how little traction stories about Pagans and Wiccans getting screwed have in the public consciousness that not one person I mention this story to could remember it. But I think it’s worth mentioning.

If you want more information about these issues, you can find it at the links below.

References

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About Claire

Claire Mulkieran is a teacher of Pagan-related spirituality and the unofficial patron saint of meandering misfits (or a delusional lunatic, depending upon whom you ask). If you're ready to read between the lines, consider her guiding motto; "Are you a figment of my imagination, or am I a figment or yours?" Claire is also rumored to be a glorified computer programmer by trade, but you can call her a “Systems Security Designer” (which is fancy way saying she's paid to break things).

16 Responses to Brandi Blackbear Was Not Like Everyone Else

  1. Astra June 28, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    so sorry to hear about the things that happened to you and your family. it’s hard to believe that is even possible. (and for that matter, it was very difficult to watch the movie, and how nasty children can be to each other in particular – i was shocked when i realised it was based on a true story). when i went to school, we were supporting and helping each other in every way possible – even fought with teachers (verbally that is), if they were unfair.

    i am atheist myself and i’ve been feeling quite uncomfortable lately, here in australia, with all these christians trying to ‘convert me’ – even though my ‘background’ is christian as well (not that either of my families is religious). are they nuts??? i was born atheist!

    i must say i know hardly anything about paganism and wicca religion. i only know that in my father’s (serbian orthodox christian) tradition, there are many ‘pagan’ elements, for example in burial ceremony. i think that, in that particular part of the country, people kept their original believes and only ‘adjusted’ them through history to appear more ‘christian’. that was my personal conclusion, but, unfortunately, i haven’t come across any anthropological research.

    as i said, i really don’t know much about paganism, if anything, but i was, for some reason, quite happy when i recognized those pagan elements in a formally christian tradition. i guess it’s the rebel in me :-)

  2. MilesVorkosigan December 16, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Seen from Europe, this case appears like a middle age trial… Everybody would laugh if a school even tried to sue a sudden for witchcraft! Beginning by the judges. You Americans are childish some times… You don’t know when to stop your own stupidity.

  3. haleigh April 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    It’s on hulu right now!

  4. GothinHS April 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I just watched the movie on Lifetime..
    anyway I just wanted to say that I can totally relate to this girl. People treated me like crap for being Gothic and artistic in HS. Much worse happens to kids than being suspended. My friends and I were beaten with glass bottles for being goth and walking on the side of the road in north Arkansas.

    The west Memphis three was thrown in jail for 20 years for a crime they did not commit but were charged for based on their Gothic looks. They were just released based on lack of evidence to prove them guilty.

    People are sick and not all are good parents ,they teach their children to be mean and close minded because they think it will bring them normalcy when really they are the ones creating monsters.

  5. sara April 22, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    you can watch it on hulu.com

  6. Donald (GreyWolf) Roberts April 7, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    O si yo

    you know i have to say this brought back memory’s of me going to high school because i was Cherokee and believe in the old ways i was thought to be a danger to the others when all i wanted was to be liked by everyone else because i was nice and loving and honest we have to put an end to this…isn’t this why religion and state were being separated schools shouldn’t have any bearing on a child’s religion it should be there family and the believes they are brought up in..this will happen again i can promises because they federal court allow this to go out the door with out teaching them they can not do this

    To: Brandi Black bear
    please do not stop doing what you love. you were right. and as an adult fight to change things for other kids like us if you need help i will fight with you 100% ..We have to put an end to this kind of injustice ..this is the same that everyone forgot many years ago that was done to the native people and as so this to will be forgotten if we do not keep reminding them..

  7. Jesse B March 6, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    Does anyone know where the real Brandi Blackbear is? Oh and I see a lot of people suggesting lifetime to buy the movie from I use Itunes and it has it for less than 4 bucks if you don’t mind keeping it on your computer or your ipod.

    • Lesley April 8, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

      Watching this film on TV now and wondered that myself. It appears Brandi is on Facebook.

  8. Susan October 7, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    The movie was just aired today. It brought back memories. When I was a child in Montgomery County, Maryland in the 1960’s, I was spat on from the window of my school bus by kids I went to school with, because my family was Athiest. I was told by classmates and teachers that I was going to hell, and some parents did not allow me to play with their children. I’m in my sixties now, and I moved across the country to put it all behind me, but the scars never go away. By the way, I consider the way I was treated, and Brandi was treated, no less than child abuse, and it should be punishable on those terms.

  9. kim August 26, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    what i dont get is ppl complain of other ppl and what they believe in and stand for or they hate them but when it comes to them and their beliefs and if someone disapproves then its all wrong. i still so proud of those who stand up for themselves and you see it more from the younger crowd then the older crowd and thats what we need today

  10. ft August 26, 2010 at 4:11 am #

    My companion and I watched”Was not like everyone else” No matter what u say or do to make some one believe you, you will never be heard. And when you are heard they still don’t believe so its a waste of your breath. We live in a world where I believe you will never win a battle(Lawsuit) if you don’t know anyone or not important or ain’t white. I am a native american indian and was raised w/ all race around me and would see we all out of place @ all times, out of place meaning we laughed at, disrespected, harrassed and much, much more. When we report an incident they get a slap on the wrist, and we get reported with incidents we get the book with suspensions and if at work we’d get fired. What I’m trying to say is ain’t nothing fair in this world and if there were fairnss there woudnt be wars around the world, there wouldn’t be violence if there was believing in one another. Its to we all afraid to speak out.

  11. kim August 25, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

    i jst saw it on lifetime movie network and it was good. its sad she had to go through with what she did, and i m glad her and her dad got closer sometimes (even though it sucks) it takes a turn of events in your life to know someone loves you. i would buy this movie myslef ok if anyoe has lifetime moie network or know someone who does it will be on thursdy at 1 am i know late but its orth staying upfor

  12. Joan August 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    Go directly to Lifetime on line. They have the movie on sale! It’s only around $20.00!

  13. jenni August 22, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    Is now on fancast.com

  14. tiffany July 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Is there any way you can send me the movie online. I would really like to see it and its impossible to find it anywhere.
    Thanks

  15. Susan June 21, 2009 at 12:12 pm #

    I heard about this unbelievable case and have been wanting to see the movie ever since, but I don’t think it’s been released on DVD. Is there any chance you could upload a copy of your DVD to one of the torrent trackers so that I and anybody else like me will be able to see it? I’d really appreciate anything you can do; please email me to let me know. Thanks.

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