A discussion about bullying in our children's schools and the issues surrounding over-zealous administrations who do not deal appropriately with the issue.
When I was a child I suffered from unmerciless teasing and bullying on behalf of my classmates. To this day I am not sure why it was I who was singled out as the target, but I know that my childhood was miserable because of it. When I was in the sixth grade, this senseless behavior on the part of those children became so unbearable to me that I finally stood up in the middle of one of my classes and yelled, “Leave me alone!” We had a substitute in that class all that week and she had failed to do anything to control the rowdy roughs and I had frankly just had enough! Well, apparently that was not a good excuse to her for my outburst. I guess I was supposed to just sit by while the other students tripped and kicked me, knocked my things on the floor, pulled my headband out of my hair, and incessantly teased me. My outburst was reported to my homeroom teacher who decided that I was the one in need of reprimand. He pulled me aside that afternoon, which was on a Friday, and told me that beginning on the Monday of the following week, I would be spending my lunchtime in his classroom for being disrespectful to the substitute. I was outraged, my father was even more angry than myself when I told him of the situation.
When I had finished relaying the whole scenario to him, I cannot remember the exact words that he spoke now, but they were something along the lines of, “The hell you will!” I was subsequently instructed by him that when my lunch period came around that Monday, I was to gather my belongings and meet him in the office, because I would be leaving school for the day. When that time came around, I went to my locker to do as instructed. My homeroom teacher, Mr. Roher, saw me at my locker down the hall and yelled at me,
“Samantha, you are supposed to be in my room serving detention.”
I replied, “Sorry, but I am going home, my dad is here to pick me up and is waiting at the office.”
He was less than enthusiastic about my response and an argument ensued in which I was told that I would not be going home and to put my belongings back in my locker and to report to his room. I once again informed him that I was going home and shut my locker and proceeded to walk toward the office as I had been instructed to do by my father. Well, this did not go over well with Mr. Roher, and he began to literally come after me. When I noticed that he was trying to catch me, I began to walk faster, and then he began to run! Next thing I knew, I was sprinting through the halls of the middle school being chased by my outraged teacher running behind me, screaming at me. When I got to the office and my dad saw me, he asked me why I was running and I proceeded to tell him what had transpired. I don’t think that I have EVER seen my father that angry in his life! With clenched fists and a red face he told me very strictly, “Go wait in the car. I will deal with Mr. Roher and be out in a minute.” I was not about to argue with him! So I went to the car and waited a few minutes. When he finally came out he was shaking, and when I asked him what had happened, he refused to tell me.
Suffice to say, that I never returned to that school that year. Instead, I spent about a week or so going to work with my dad, this was right before we were to have two weeks off for spring break. When spring break came about, I was informed that my parents were sending me to a very small town in Northern California to live with my father’s childhood best friend, who happened to be one of two teachers at the K-8 school that was there. He would be my teacher and my pastor at one of the two local churches, and his wife was to be my bus driver to and from school. This is where I would spend the remainder of my 6th grade year, with people that I barely knew, hundreds of miles away from my own family.
I am not going to go into detail of the things that transpired while I lived in California; that is another story for another time. What I will say is this, the experiences of not only that year, but of my entire childhood and adolescence left an indelible mark on me. As a parent, I am far more aware of the issue of bullying than many I suppose, and I am also far more protective over my own daughters than I would have been had I not been bullied myself. Bullying is an under-identified, yet over-abundant issue in schools today. Much of the time, the only time that it ever gets any notice is when a child either dies from bullying or commits suicide because of it and even then, it is often soon forgotten. However, in some school districts, the district response to deal with the issue has been far over reaching and even more problematic. My 13 year old daughter’s own school is a prime example of this.
They have a system in which children can fill out a bully report to turn into school administrators. However, the school administrators are often biased and very gullible as well. There are students that take great advantage of this system and cause unnecessary aggravation to other students, causing them to get into trouble when they have done absolutely nothing wrong. The administrators often believe the reporter, giving little heed to anything the reported has to say, but there seems to be a flaw in even this pattern of bias. When my daughter reports bullying, little if anything is ever done about it and she has often been threatened with outrageous punishment if she says anything to those bullying her. And I literally mean ANYTHING. I once received a letter telling me that if the administration found out that she had spoken even a word to the other student whom she had reported, as student well known to have behavioral issues and a very unstable home life, that she would receive a three day in school suspension. My daughter has never even had a detention, something that at this school only seems to exist if students fall behind on homework. Talk about a ridiculous standard of punishment for something!
My daughter’s best friend has also dealt with very poor response on the part of the school administration to deal with bullying toward her, and it was a special-ed teacher dishing it out! She receives help, or so they call it, from a special-ed teacher with her math while she is in class because she has a learning disability. Well his idea of helping her is to get in her face and tell her things like, “You are exactly what is wrong with this country and why it is going to be ruined in the future because you never want to do your work.” This was said to her in front of other students in the middle of class and when it was reported to the principle, it appears as if nothing was done except perhaps a verbal reprimand. Another issue that she dealt with was being told by the principal that if she wanted to break up with her boyfriend, and why that is any of his business is absolutely beyond me, that she would be required to do so by having a meeting with him with the school counselor. How completely asinine and entirely out of the scope of their business as school administrators! No wonder so many parents these days are opting to home-school their children.
I for one do not have the ability to do so because I am a single mother and lack the time and financial means to buy the materials that would be needed. This, however, doesn’t keep my daughter from begging me to do so. For this reason, I am in the process of moving to another town. I spent much of last year in and out of the vice-principal’s office dealing with issues about my daughter. One recently arose this year which my daughter went in and dealt with on her own with the principal. She told him, “I am talking to you because I am trying to keep my mom from coming in here herself to deal with the issue,” to which he responded, “And we appreciate that!” I am not well liked there apparently… to which I say, “That means I know I am doing my job by protecting my daughter and not allowing them to mistreat her!” And I say it proudly, I might add.
All of this leaves me to question, where do we draw the line? How much do we expect school administration to intervene when it comes to bullying? How much do we as parents intervene? To what degree should school administrations be involved in the lives of their students and where do they cross that line? I do not profess to have all the answers, but I know that in many cases, schools and administrators have gone WAY too far when it comes to the way in which they deal with bullying and perceived threats on the part of student behavior. All too often I read stories of students being suspended or expelled from school for the most asinine of reasons. Much of this involves the ever present issue of gun control. It seems as if schools would rather instill fear of weapons in our children rather than common sense. A little boy eats his pop tart at breakfast and it just happens to resemble a pistol, he is kicked out of school. Some little boys are playing with air-soft guns in their own front yard before going to the bus stop one morning, and they are expelled. It is absolutely ridiculous!
Instead of teaching our children to fear firearms, we need to teach them to respect them and we need to teach them firearm safety. Instead of kicking an kindergarten student out of school for hugging a little girl, which was labeled sexual harassment, we need to teach our children kindness, compassion, and love. Instead of choosing to dish out over zealous punishments at the drop of the hat, school administrators need to really try to get to the source of the issue and attempt to help students resolve them. All I know is that if we want to have our children grow up confident, instead of scared, things need to change.