A problem as old as time, yet one that continues to exist, and if anything has only gotten more powerful – thanks in part to social media, parental ignorance, and a generation of entitlement.
If you are a parent whose child has been the victim of bullying then you I am sure can relate to the pain, the anger, the frustration, and the overwhelming sense of disgust you feel towards those offenders (other children) who can act so deplorable to your own child – and often with little to no “significant” consequences. My son was the victim of several bullying issues this past school year and even as I write this I waver between emotions of sadness for my child who has suffered and outright anger towards these children AND their parents. My son is a good kid, yeah he’s a little goofy and at times socially awkward thanks in part to his struggles with ADD. But, as all kids do, he just wants to fit in with his peers. Unfortunately in his attempts to fit in, his efforts, though benign, often illicit the opposite effect and have made him a target for others to make fun of and bully him. And sadly, he has suffered in silence, not wanting to make waves or speak up.
To the schools credit, when the first issue came to light they handled it swiftly and satisfactorily. When the second issue came out they were on top of that HOWEVER, as the parent of a child who has been bullied, this issue is so much more than the school handling the other kids (the most popular kids in class by the way) administratively. As a parent I want justice for my child that supersedes a “slap on the wrist or a stern talking to.” Quite frankly I want a letter of apology to my child from both the offender AND the parents. I want their to be an understanding, a precedent put out there, that if one’s child is going to bully my child in any way, that I have the right to pursue legal action against not only the child BUT the parents as well. This attitude that kids will be kids is bullshit. We are raising a generation of kids who feel entitled and have no concept that actions have actual consequences. Kids have no problem bullying others because a mere slap on the wrist or a “talking to” bears little to no weight. How about detention, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension or even having to go before the school board in the presence of the child they hurt and that child’s parents to offer up restitution? In our case for the first issue, where my child was being physically, verbally and emotionally bullied on the bus, the child was kicked off the bus and served several days in-school suspension. For the second incident, where three of the most popular kids in his grade were verbally bullying him but calling him “retarded,” telling him he must be autistic, calling him ugly – amongst other things, the school handled it administratively – whatever that means. In both cases however, none of these children were instructed to make any restitution to my child. None had to apologize, take ownership for their actions and actually acknowledge that their actions had consequences on another human being. To me this is where the system is flawed and offers no justice, no comfort, no support to the victim of bullying. These kids received their punishments but yet my son got no justice from the standpoint that the punishments lacked in ownership.
So who do I blame?
While the school did their best, could they have done better – quite possibly…. The irony is that I am not allowed to know exactly how the school handled each situation and what lasting impact it may or may not have in that students record. I know that the one kid was kicked off the bus because he no longer was on it for the rest of the year, and that that same kid got in-school suspension because my son saw him in that room. However due to privacy restrictions, the school wasn’t allowed to tell me this. As for the other incident, I was only allowed to know that the school would be handling it administratively and that the parents would be notified. Kind of laughable that I am not privy to the punishment though my child is the victim. This is a policy that I feel strongly should change. At best, I should have the right to know specifically how exactly the school planned to handle each situation.
As for the parents of these offenders I can only hope you handled your child in a manner that ends this despicable behavior. However, I can tell you where you fell short in your parenting skills. When you were notified of your child’s actions, you as the ones who are supposed to be guiding and imparting good moral values within your child, should have made your child take ownership of his actions apologize to mine. If nothing else it was the right thing to do. Your child could have done this on the phone, in person (in school in front of the principal and my child) or even written a letter to my child. The very fact that these offenders never have to face the kids they bully in this type of forum is the exact reason that the punishments will never bear weight. There is a lack of remorse for the actions perpetrated, and a disconnect that exists between the actions and the consequences. These kids are under the assumption that they got away with something, that they can be outright cruel to another person and only get “a talking to.” This is a huge problem….
While I realize the school can only do so much within their scope, as a parent it is my job to protect my child – and rest assure I will take this to any level necessary in my fight to end the bullying of my son. This school year ended before I could fully see how the second issue will ultimately impact my son on a longer term scale, but I am fully prepared to pursue legal action if it becomes necessary in the future. While I don’t know if I am entering uncharted territory, I will not rest until there is accountability – and if the offender is going to continue his/her bullying ways then I am going to have no choice but to pursue justice for my child. I have no problem holding the offender AND their parents accountable – and mark my words, I will do so, even if I have to break new ground to make it happen. I think it’s high time that parents have assume some degree of responsibility and accountability for the actions of their children.
If you are fortunate enough that your child is not being bullied, before you sigh in relief you need to ask yourself one key question: What kind of child am I raising? Because if your child is frequently mocking, laughing at, teasing, excluding, intimidating, or putting someone else down then NEWSFLASH, you’re raising a bully. There is no excuse for mean behavior towards another child. Yes, not everyone will get along and children will test boundaries with one another and hurt each other. However, we as parents have the ability when children are young and impressionable to teach them how to handle themselves socially and guide their behaviors in less than favorable social circumstances. We need to teach our children that certain behaviors are not tolerated and we need to hold our children accountable when they do misbehave and hurt someone else, whether with their words or actions. To do nothing is to stick your head in the sand and perpetuate the bullying epidemic. To do nothing, is to say nothing and promote ignorance.
If you see something, say something. It’s time to end bullying….