The phone call came last week.  It was the middle school Principal calling to inform me that a bullying issue had occurred, and my oldest son was the victim.  Apparently another kid on his bus, an older child with whom he had an issue with at the beginning of the school year, was punching him and verbally harassing him to the point that several other students on the bus felt compelled to speak up on his behalf and report it.  The Principal went on to say that she had spoke with all the students who had come forward and then she spoke with my son; and all corroborated what had been taking place.  There was some verbal interchange between us regarding this whole situation in which I confessed I knew nothing of the issues going on but that I would be speaking to my son.  Then she went on to say that school was taking action, that this incident violated anti-bullying laws, and that this issue was being handled with the gravity at which the offense warranted and that she would be in touch.

I hung up the phone and a wave of emotions washed over me.  At first I wanted to cry at the absolute cruelty that human beings can show one another, especially children.  My heart was broken over the fact that my child, a generally sweet all-around good, kind kid who just wants to fit in, was the victim of another kid’s mean spirit.  My sadness however quickly turned to anger.  What gave this kid the right to target my son?  To lay his hands on him on almost a daily basis and call him names?  To say the least I was pissed.  And it didn’t help when my son confessed that the bullying had been going on for the entire year…. Despite the fact that this kid was hassling my son from almost the first day of school, had his seat on the bus moved, he continued to lay into my son on a daily basis and my son never said a word – at least not to me.  A million questions ran through my mind… Where was the bus driver in all of this and why didn’t she do something?  Why didn’t my younger son speak up on his brother’s behalf?  Why didn’t my son come to me and say something, anything?  My son told me that he didn’t want to get in trouble – when did being the victim come with the fear of wrongdoing?  I now understood why my son hated to ride the bus….why he would me to take him to school or pick him up…. *sigh*

After speaking with both my sons to garner more of the story, my husband, my ex, and the mom of one of the boys who spoke up on my son’s behalf I decided to take action…. The school got an email from me that night that read as follows:

Dear ******

I had the opportunity to speak with **** after you and I spoke.  Suffice to say I am extremely disturbed and upset by what he told me as it pertains to not only the length of time this student has been bullying him but also as it pertains to the number of times this student has physically assaulted my son and verbally intimidated him.  While it seems that **** tried to manage the situation on his own clearly his efforts were futile.  According to ****, this student has routinely laid his hands on him in some unprovoked was going back over the course of the school year – although it seems as if it has escalated over the last few months.  I am grateful to those students who spoke up on ****’s behalf and commend their strength of character to do the right thing and take a stand against bullying.  I have faith that the school will do their part however both ****’s father and I are requesting that this child be removed from the bus.  Quite frankly we are highly concerned for ****’s safety and well-being.  If this child in anyway continues to harass **** verbally or physically assaults him again, both his father and I are in agreement that we will look to press charges.

In the meantime we have encouraged **** to keep the lines of communication open with us and to speak with you or Mrs. *********** with any issues he is having or to any improvements in the current situation.

Sincerely,

After sending my email, I then had a talk with both my sons in which I stressed the importance of speaking up.  I told them that “if you see something, you need to say something.”  As brothers they need to have each others backs, they cannot assume that one is going to come to me, and I drilled home the point that I can’t do anything if I don’t know what is going on.  I also spoke with them about speaking up on behalf of others when they see something happening.  I told them that those students who spoke up on my oldest’s behalf were brave and showed such strength of character to do what they did.  I said that I hope that they would do the same if they saw another student in need.

The next day rolled around and my son was under strict instructions that if this kid so much as looked at him in an intimidating way or God-forbid touched him – I wanted to know about it.  I was fully prepared to leave work, go to his school with the police and take it to the next level.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to do that… at least for now.  Rest assure I am fully prepared to though if anything changes.  The Principal was true to her word regarding the swift interaction she told me she was employing (though at the time I was not allowed to know what the discipline would be) and this child was removed from the bus and apparently given In-School suspension.

So what now? My son’s father and I discussed enrolling him in some type of martial arts program.  While I don’t condone violence, the fact of the matter is that I want my son to know how to properly defend himself if he is ever put in a position where he feels threatened.   I want him to learn self-confidence and self-discipline and this I feel is the way I can accomplish that.   I am tired of him being a target because he is gentle-natured and a little socially awkward.  I am tired of people taking advantage of his kindness and desire to fit in and using that for their own gain.  I am tired of living in a society where kids are stepping on one another, intimidating one another, verbally harassing one another, shaming one another on social media, cyber-bullying one another – AND FOR WHAT?  to position themselves higher on the social ladder?  I am tired of reading about children committing suicide because them have been bullied relentlessly and nothing was done about it until it was to late.

Parents, if you are not involved or oblivious to what your child is doing it’s time to get involved and get a clue.  It’s time to not only ask questions, but ask the right questions.  It’s time to keep asking if the behaviors don’t match the answers.  It’s time to hold your children accountable if you find that they are treating others with disrespect or if they are being bullies.

Teach your children to be kind to others and to be respectful.  Teach them to stand up to injustices and to speak up on behalf of someone who can’t.  We can stop bullying if we take a strong stance against it.  Now is the time for vigilance and awareness.  There must be consequences to one’s actions and they must be significant enough to promote a change in one’s behavior.  No more coddling those who hurt others for fear of being politically correct.  If you are going to be a bully then be prepared to deal with the ramifications of your actions.  And if you stand idly by and say nothing, you’re no better than the person doing the bullying

We can make a difference if we speak up, speak out, and show that we will not tolerate these behaviors….