Adam is a bright, warm, loving child who enjoyed school when we lived in Southern Maryland. He had friends, did well in school and although there was the normal occasional teasing and tension, for the most part he got along with everyone.
After school he participated in karate class, which he loved. He was also in Lego club and in summer attended Kid’s College at the local community college. On the weekends he spent time with his friends and played video games.
Adam has a kind heart. We raised him to never make fun of others. He was taught to always keep his hands to himself, a lesson that was stressed in karate. For the longest time he even thought “stupid” was a bad word. We always told him that just because someone was different did not mean they were any less worthy of respect.
If one of his friends got hurt or he saw something sad on the News he would cry in sympathy.
When we made the decision to move to South Carolina he was sad to leave his life behind but hopeful of meeting new friends and starting a new life.
He was enrolled in one of the local Elementary Schools to begin 4th grade.
His first class was with a substitute teacher who was filling in for the regular teacher out on maternity leave. I tried to talk to this teacher for a few minutes at the open house the night before school started. I wanted her to know that Adam was new and nervous about the new school. I was hoping that she would watch out for him a bit and help him acclimate. She barely acknowledged my presence the whole evening. When I asked about any after school activities he could join I was met with blank stares.
The next morning when we dropped Adam off in front of the school, he went up to one of the teachers and told her that he was nervous and was not sure where his classroom was. She brushed him off and told him to move on. I will always remember the lost look on his face.
When I went to pick him up from school that afternoon he got into the car and burst into tears. He told me that there were several boys in his class who had hit and pushed him during the day. He said that they had called him names and would not include him or even try to get to know him. Worried, I wrote a note to the teacher. The note was ignored and she did not contact me. The rest of that first week was the same thing. The boys were physically and verbally abusive to Adam constantly. My every attempt to contact the teacher was met with silence. Never once did she respond to me.
The school hired a new teacher and the various 4th grade classes were reassigned. I was hopeful that Adam would be separated from the boys who had ganged up on him. This was not to be.
Adam was placed into the new teacher’s class, along with the same boys who had been bullying him. The same day that the new class was created my son told me that one of the boys had spat a big wad of spit onto his hand and proceeded to wipe it all over Adam’s desk. Every day there was something. These boys punched him, shoved him. Threw balls at him, tripped him and stole his field trip money. They called him names including “gay” and made fun of the way he walked.
Adam’s Achilles Tendons did not grow along with his legs and the result was that he walked on his toes. He was physically unable to put his heels on the ground. The boys called him a “girl” and made fun of his walking on his toes.
Every day when I picked him up from school I saw my son in tears. I watched my warm, loving son growing more and more angry and frustrated.
Over and over I would park the car and go to the teacher who was as frustrated as I was with the lack of support and discipline. The teacher would have problems with the boys and send them to the office only to have them back in class.
No matter what the teacher did the bullying continued.
I finally sent an email to the Principal outlining the problems we had been facing from the beginning of the school year. I expressed my frustration with the lack of support, the lack of communication and the lack of any sort of obvious consequences for the boys who were physically and verbally abusing my son.
I never got a response.
I went to the school and spoke to the Principal face to face. He told me that he had never received my email and he said that he was concerned about the bullying. He assured me that he would “not tolerate” that behavior in the school. I also told him that my son was angry and frustrated and if something was not done about these boys, I was sure that there would come a point when Adam would finally break.
After speaking with the Principal, I would ask Adam each day if these boys were still in school. They were.
The bullying continued. I was at that school several times every week either speaking to the teacher or the Principal or the Guidance Counselor. The counselor interviewed the boys and told me that she had asked them if they were bullying Adam. They confirmed that they were. The admitted to the hitting and pushing and all the other abuse. When she asked them why they did it they said they had no real reason for it.
Her idea was to then sit Adam down with the boys who were tormenting him. She had them eat lunch together and talk together. I felt outraged that she would force him to spend even more time with the kids who were making his life so miserable. It was, to me, no different that making the victim of an assault or mugging have lunch with his attacker.
One day while in the bathroom Adam had just walked out of the stall when one of the boys came out of another stall with his hand wet and wiped it on Adam’s shirt.
The New Year came and went. The kids were given an assignment to write a paper about their New Year’s Resolutions. One of the boys who had been bullying Adam wrote that his resolution for the year was to be meaner. If that wasn’t a sign that the kid needed help I don’t know what was. I brought that to the attention of the Principal, but to my knowledge nothing was done about it.
The bullying continued.
At home Adam was now angry all the time. The littlest things made him snap. He was constantly complaining of a stomach ache and begging me not to make him go to school. I literally watched the innocence and joy in his eyes die.
I felt so frustrated and helpless. This school was filled with people who all knew each other, we were the outsiders, the newcomers. I truly felt that they were closing ranks against us because we were not “Locals”.
One time the class watched a film about the war. Afterwards one of the boys went up to my son and told him;
“See? This is why we don’t like you. You are a Yankee.”
Every day Adam was continually physically assaulted. No matter how many times I went to that school nothing changed. When the Gym teacher was not looking they would hit him in the back and head with the ball. His school supplies were stolen regularly.
Finally, near the end of the year came the final straw . One of the boys pushed Adam for the last time. Adam snapped and pushed him back.
Before he knew what was happening my son found himself in In School Suspension.
I had warned everyone all year long that my son was only human. I had begged them all year to stop this torment. I begged them to protect him.
They did nothing that remotely came close to solving this problem.
They failed miserably in protecting my son and then punished him for finally defending himself.
Adam was devastated.
I was LIVID.
I went to the school to be pulled into a meeting with the Principal and Guidance Counselor.
The meeting was a total joke. They told me that basically Adam had asked for the bullying because he followed the rules and because he told on the boys who had been tormenting him. The Counselor told me that had Adam not been a tattle tale, they probably would not have bullied him.
The Principal said that they had done their best to deal with the situation all year long. My response to him was:
“Not to go all Dr Phil on you but how is that working for you? Because we are having the same conversation and the same bullying now that we’ve had all year long!”
He had no response to that.
I assured the Principal that my son would not be attending that school the following year. Subsequently we enrolled him in a local private school where he is doing much better.
At this new school when the Principal says “Zero tolerance” she means it and there are very few issues.
My son learned some hard lessons at that public school. Lessons that I would rather he not have learned at such a young age.
He learned that the adults there either could not or would not protect him. He learned that following the rules, listening and being good were not rewarded.
He lost some of his trust in people and took a blow to his self esteem at the hands of those boys. He also learned that he was punished for defending himself. Something every person on the street has the right to do.
I have never felt so hopeless or helpless. I felt as though I had let my son down. No matter how hard I tried I could not protect him. I could not make things better.
We had raised him to keep his hands to himself, but he saw for himself that not everyone else lived by that rule.
I constantly questioned whether we had been doing my son a favor by trying to raise him the way we had. He had been totally unprepared for the mean spirited, rough, verbal and physical torment leveled upon him by those other children.
I often wondered what kind of parents would allow their children to continue to behave in such a manner. The Principal told me that he had contacted their parents over and over. I could only wonder at the lack of any sort of response. Had the parents truly punished their children for this behavior, it would have subsided, wouldn’t it?
In the News over and over I read of children who are bullied to death.
Bully-cide is the new ugly word coined to describe these tragic suicides. It breaks my heart to think of what those poor children went through until they got to the point where they just could not take any more. I hurt for the parents who have lost their children at the hands of mean, abusive children who apparently have no consequences at home.
I read over and over about how the schools have let these children and their parents down by not protecting them from bullying.
Having lived through this nightmare I know, first hand, the frustration and anger of hearing platitudes but seeing no results.
What has happened to common sense? Schools are making the News for punishing children for having toys at school or for wearing a nose ring while bullies are physically assaulting other students with impunity. Kids are expelled for having army men on their hats or for having long hair but bullies are committing crimes without a single consequence.
Anti-bullying campaigns are started and discussed. The victims are told what they should or shouldn’t do.
Confront the bully.
Don’t confront the bully.
Tell on the bully.
Don’t tell on the bully.
In the meantime the bullies themselves are going about their days with no accountability. The focus is in the wrong place.
If a student physically assaults another student that student should be suspended the first time and made to attend counseling at the parent’s expense. The second offense should be the last. The bully should be expelled.
The students have the right to a safe learning environment. The faculty at every school has the obligation to provide that safe environment. Instead of focusing on the inane and outrageous, bullying should be the centerpiece of every school’s mission statement.
It is up to parents to raise their children properly. Too often parents make excuses for their ill behaved children. They bail them out when something happens. “No” seems to be a dirty word.
If a parent gets a call from the school telling them that their child assaulted another child or called another child “gay” and the parent does nothing, then it needs to be up to the school to take a stand on behalf of the victim. The school absolutely needs to be held accountable for the behavior it allows. Parents should not have to resort to the threat of legal action in order to make schools do what is right.
Adam has been at the private school for three years now. Last year two other boys joined his class, both also victims of bullying at their respective public schools here in this county.
Adam is doing well now. Much happier and feeling safe. I could not be more pleased by his Principal, Mrs. Smith, and the way she handles discipline.
Adam will never forget what he suffered in the 4th grade, nor will I.
Every time I read an article about another child pushed to suicide because of a bully I remember what we endured.
I can only hope and pray that schools all over this country shake off their apathy and start seeing this epidemic for what it is.
Before it is too late.