As a parent, Arlo Svedberg said he had no choice. He had to take legal action against the teenager who called his son "Dumbo."
"I love this boy and I'll do anything to help him," Svedberg said Thursday. "There's nothing more important to me. He's my whole life."The state Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld an order prohibiting Anthony Stamness, 17, from taunting 14-year-old Chris Svedberg.
The younger boy had been nicknamed "Dumbo" for his oversized ears and humiliated by three snowmen built to mock him, his family said in court.
Rather than let the teenagers work out their differences, the parents got involved.
Svedberg, advertising sales manager and columnist for the weekly newspaper The Gleaner, complained repeatedly in his column that his son was being bullied at school. Before long, Charlene Stamness helped her son build a jug-eared snowman on the front lawn.
Charlene Stamness would not comment on the court decision Thursday and said her son was out of town. The family's lawyer said the case raised several First Amendment issues and that an appeal was being considered.
Fourteen-year-old Travis Enger said it wasn't fair to single out his friend Anthony Stamness. He said Stamness "never hurt anyone in his life."
Svedberg always is railing against one perceived injustice or another, said Enger. "He's always taking someone to court over some dumb thing."
Christian, who prefers the nickname "Chris," has his father's ample ears. As a boy, Arlo Svedberg made his classmates laugh when he imitated Dumbo, the cartoon elephant who used his big ears as wings.
Chris is more sensitive.
He said he was embarrassed when his father wrote a column about local bullies. "But once it was printed, there was nothing we could do to get it out of print."
In the long run, the teenager said, it may have eased some of the taunting. "At the time," he said, "it just made it worse."
A hard-charging former Marine, Svedberg has stirred up Northwood, a community of 1,640, in the past.
There was the time the newspaper published a front-page photo of a snowmobiler who strayed across Svedberg's property line. "Family Under Siege," read the caption.
Soon, snowmobilers were going out of their way to cut across Svedberg's yard.
A school board member took him aside, Svedberg recalled, saying "Now, your son's really going to get it at school."
Svedberg pressed charges when his son's bike was stolen and again when someone vandalized the boy's bike. He complained last year when a young driver swerved his car to frighten Chris on his bicycle.