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Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I cried my eyes out at church Sunday morning listening to the adult education speaker, Anne Gettis. Anne's son, tormented by bullies throughout his school years, killed himself at the age of 21. She barely made it through her talk for a number of reasons. Her grief was the first reason, but the parents in the audience wanting to chime in and share their experiences was another. Obviously this is a very relevant subject for many parents and we'd like to see Anne return.

It was amazing to listen to the stories from many of the parents in the audience.

  • One who's kids are now in their thirties, talked about how being bullied resulted in terrible depression in her kids.
  • One who is now homeschooling her 5th grader because her son's bully harassed him to the point that he would no longer attend school, nor did they want him to.
  • One who sided with the bullies stressing compassion and sympathy.

I've always said, the naughty kids have more rights than the good kids. Young One had been bullied by a kid several times. This kid choked him, scratched him, and punched him in the nose. The school's response? Sam had to go to the discipline office which made him feel like he was in trouble and at fault. I was told this was just so that Sam could tell his side of the story, but this experience was more traumatizing than the bullying itself. He thought he was in trouble and he was treated as such. All the other kids thought he was too. The "ooooohs" as he left the classroom were almost unbearable to him. When he cried when interviewed by the school discipline administrator, they suggested he see the school psychologist. He was scared and scarred and in second grade. I politely told everyone involved to go to hell (not quite, but I was a mad mother bear) and then said that they should never speak to Sam again without one or both of his parents present. We haven't had an issue since. Sam still remembers this as an extremely traumatic event in his life.

And the bully? Well, I caught him stealing lunch money from kids while on an orchestra field trip two years ago. He hasn't changed and obviously, nothing much is sinking in with this kid. I should have reported him to the police, but once again, when I brought this to the school's attention, it was swept under a rug. "Let's not make too big a deal of this" I was told

As a parent, with the very limited conversations I've had with school administration about their policies, I've been made to feel that they feel helpless too. Schools are so afraid of law suits that I think they're afraid to make a stand. So, they write policy after policy, establish discipline plans, create "friendship circles" and none of it works. Policies are rarely followed to completion because they rarely get parental involvement from the bully's side. Bullying rarely happens in front of teachers or administration and kids are afraid to tell because it often makes the abuse increase.

I mentioned to the class at church that all seven of my Confirmation kids had been bullied at one time by one individual at their school. I told them how I got to meet that particular child face to face. Sam needed to bring his bass in to school for one of his teachers to look at. While I was waiting, a young man repeatedly raced down the halls laughing, cursing, and shooting rubber bands at other kids. None of the teachers I spoke with paid any attention to him. Sam came out, bass fixed, and I asked him, "Who's that kid, " and he named him as the very kid that all of my Confirmands had complained about. One of the Deans was in the hall and I asked him why such behavior was tolerated. "Oh him, " he said, "We can't do anything with him." He shrugged his shoulders and then quipped, "He's supposed to be in detention."

I find myself starting sentences like this all the time and I hate myself for it, BUT....

When I was a kid, this behavior wouldn't have been tolerated. I'm not advocating the paddle that Mr. Emerson used on kids when they misbehaved. I'm asking for accountability, though. And I'm asking for the district to take a stand on behavior. Why should kids who behave well have less of a right to an education than those that don't?

We do a disservice to the bullies for allowing them to keep getting what they want through this behavior. Either they bully their way through life unsuccessfully or they hit huge brick walls when they find out this doesn't cut it in the real world. Imagine what would happen if the kid who choked Sam in second grade tried the same behavior in a business meeting? Imagine what would happen if parents of the victims called the police and reported assault rather than letting the schools continue with their politically correct policies.

It's a complicated issue. I was approached after I spoke at church about joining a task force to try to figure out if we can play a role in assisting our young members who are challenged with this issue. There has to be something we can do. Our kids face bullying on a completely different level than we did. Cyberbullying has become rampant and commonplace. And it's even worse than anything we can imagine.

I hope I can make a difference. I remember being bullied by the Mean Girls when I was a kid. The teasing, the exclusion, the downright cruelty, it was very difficult. If I could help just one kid it would be worth the extra time.

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