Asheville-area school embroiled in ‘My Little Pony’ bullying dispute

A 9-year-old boy is getting international attention from his battle with a Buncombe County school over his family’s claims that he is being bullied for carrying carry a “My Little Pony” lunch bag to class.

Grayson Bruce, a student at Candler Elementary School, is being home-schooled because his mother, Noreen, said school officials would not support her son.

Noreen Bruce said she is scheduled to meet Thursday with Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Tony Baldwin to discuss the issue.

In the meantime, Grayson and his lunch bag have become a sensation around the world.

The student and his mother appeared Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to state their case. They also have been featured in newspaper and magazine stories around the world.

And a Facebook page started by the family and friends has received about 50,000 “likes,” as of late Wednesday morning.

“My Little Pony” was created by the Hasbro toy company and began receiving heavy marketing in 1983. The toy was popular with young girls but also had fans among boys. Male fans have become known as “bronies.” The pony toy sparked a number of other spinoffs, with the iconic horse figure appearing on clothes, backpacks and lunch bags.

In January, 11-year-old Michael Morones of Zebulon, near Raleigh, nearly died after a suicide attempt. His mother told The News & Observer of Raleigh that her son had been bullied because of his interest in “My Little Pony.”

Noreen Bruce told USA Today that she noticed her son’s problem a few weeks ago.

“He didn’t want to get out of the car because kids were being really mean,” she told USA Today.

Grayson told WLOS-TV of Asheville that some students were “punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names ... stuff like that.”

Noreen Bruce said a counselor at the school, in an unincorporated community about 10 miles southwest of Asheville, advised her son to hide the lunch bag inside his backpack. After that, she said, school administrators advised Grayson to leave the lunch bag at home.

The Buncombe County Schools released a statement, saying officials take close interest in all reports of bullying and fully investigate any complaints. Jason Rhodes, a public information officer for the school system, told several media outlets that the Buncombe County system is trying to resolve the issue.

Noreen Bruce said she hopes the school system will protect her son.

“There’s got to be a better way,” she told USA Today.