Bullying is a huge problem facing our society today. We read national headlines that address this issue from the elementary school level well up through the college years. After that, bullying branches off into such titles as sexual harassment, stalking, intimidation and from there can sometimes escalate to assault and battery, manslaughter and murder. It really all does fall under the same umbrella of behavior. Am I implying that bullying is on the same page as murder, absolutely not; however they both carry the same thread of an act against someone else’s will, which does not escape my awareness.
Last year, my son came home from school very upset because he had been on the receiving end of children ganging up on him on the bus, teasing him and calling him names. Then going so far as to actually hold him down and remove his shoe and throw it into the garbage can.
The school’s response, when I called to get to the bottom of this issue, was that the bus driver can’t watch the children and the road at the same time. I agree completely, which is why I believe that it should be mandatory to have another adult on the bus actually monitoring the behavior of the children. The school’s response to that was that it wasn’t cost effective. I drove my son back and forth to school for three months to reduce the stress that he was facing at school everyday with a certain group of children, while working with him to better navigate these challenging school relationships and ultimately bolstering his confidence enough to face the bus once again.
As the year went on, I got a few more phone calls from the school regarding issues with my son, being on both the receiving and giving end of what they consider “bullying” behavior. I give the school credit for trying to deal with this very complicated issue; however, I fault them (and many other schools) for being so far off the mark in effectively dealing with this subject.
I went to the guidance counselor to ask for help, to inquire as to what was actually offered to the children in the way of group education regarding these types of social issues. She gave me the name for the hospital that I could call, which seemed to me very much like a brush off of having to accept any responsibility for this issue. I thought that was her job, guidance for the children, which I would assume would cover these types of issues in elementary school. The students aren’t exactly filling out their college resumes yet, but I guess I don’t really know the job description for the counselor at my child’s school.
At the end of the school year, I got a phone call from the school telling me that my son had punched another child and given him a black eye. My son told me about the incident as soon as it happened. The child who my son punched, as well as another child, had held my son down in a headlock where he couldn’t breathe as his bus stop was approaching. When the child finally let my son go, he had had enough and stood up for himself; because, he felt he had no other option, after having done things the school’s way all year long and having nothing change.
Did my child do the right thing? Do I condone his standing up for himself? Do I approve or disapprove? The answer is that I don’t approve of him ever having to be in a situation where he has to make those decisions. I don’t approve of the fact that nothing was done about it. I told the school that I would be more than happy to hold my son accountable for his behavior, if I could see the tape of the incident. I was told all year long that the busses were equipped with video cameras, which are more a useless visual deterrent than an actual solution to the problem. Additionally, seeing the offense after it has happened is hardly a preventative act. No tape came forward and I heard nothing about it again.
This year, I have to say, some changes have been made and things seem to be going a lot smoother than they had before. My daughter started kindergarten this year and I have since met and introduced myself to the bus driver who knows both of my children. My son has matured greatly since his socially awkward phase last year and the school has made some strides toward dealing with this issue, but will be adopting a new policy for the next school year, which seems to be much more comprehensive and responsible.
It is my opinion that the national educational curriculum needs to broaden it’s scope to include subjects like tolerance, acceptance and to actually teach social skills and educate the children about the differences between acceptable and unacceptable behavior and to clearly outline the consequences for not adhering to those rules of conduct. Not all children will grow up to use complicated math in their careers or need to know how to diagram a sentence; but every single child will grow up to face social situations for the rest of their lives.