Thoughts on the viral post about bullying

I am sure you all have heard about the post by a mom blogger in South Dakota named Stephanie Metz.  Here recent post, “Why My Kids Are Not the Center of My World” went viral after being shared on Facebook and the response has been strong in both directions.

I’d like to address her post. As a parent, our first priority should be to raise our sons and daughters to be respectful, independent members of society with a strong work ethic and moral compass. That is our job as parents. We need to raise them to be able to solve problems and figure things out on their own.  Not only does this help them to be resourceful, but it encourages their inquisitive nature.

While I do agree with Metz’s mention of the sense of entitlement children often have, I do not believe that we are raising wimps–I believe we are actually failing to raise children to be responsible citizens with empathy.

I cannot help but be alarmed by her ignorant comments on bullying and the sweeping generalizations she made about gender.  Apparently, according to Metz, all little boys like to play with guns. No. I don’t think so. Years and years ago, perhaps. Do they now? No. I can’t think of any of the boys in the own children’s circle of friends who were 2 and 4 and loved a little bit of gun slinging. This notion that boys play with guns and monster trucks and girls play with dolls and like to dress like fairy princesses is antiquated.

Metz mentions “critical thinking” in her post.  To be frank, I laughed at that reference–not out of being snarky, but because I really think I was just shocked that the term came out of the blogger’s mouth (or keyboard).  As critical thinking is defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence”, it is obvious that this piece involved thinking that was neither open-minded nor informed by evidence.

First of all, the blogger’s children are just 2 and 4, so we need to keep that in mind as it relates to real world issues her boys will face as they become school-aged children. I had much of that same sense of idealism when my own boys were 2 and 4. I had similar plans as to how life would be based on my own parenting. And as a mom of 8 and 10 year olds, REAL LIFE has taken over and we have had to adjust for it. That is what happens in the real world.

As a mom who has taught her children not to let people walk all over them, who HAS encouraged them to defend themselves, issues consequences, holds them accoubtable, and who doesn’t give into their whims, I don’t believe I coddle my children. They are very active, polite, well-rounded kiddos. We encourage them to partake in activities such as soccer, wrestling, lacrosse, and basketball. In fact, my bullied child takes karate 3 times per week.

I admit that is very disconcerting that Metz can make such blanket statements on bullying, especially given the tone she has chosen to take. Here is what she says on bullying:

“There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money.  There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this).  Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party.  And Sally – phew!  She should be jailed!  She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.”

How flippant. I hope and I pray that Metz doesn’t one day find herself sitting in the pediatric ER with her 8 year old as he is tested for any neurologic impairments due to a concussion. That was our first experience with bullying at school. And I hope and pray that her sons never come home with bruises on his legs from being kicked by another child, pushed on the stairs, shoved in a locker and getting a bloody mouth, or punched in the eye, breaking his glasses. If those things happen, surely Metz’s boys just need to grow a pair and “toughen up.”  That IS her message in the viral blog post afterall, right? 

A large part of society’s problems stem from people who think like Stephanie Metz. It is because parents are failing to teach their children empathy. Bullying isn’t just a fact of life.  Bullying is REAL with lifelong (and sometimes life-ending) consequences. There ARE children who are taking their own lives.

According to Metz’s rationale, bullied children are ending their lives  because of “girls being girls” and “boys being boys”.

No. Some people are just sociopaths and thugs and it is NOT our children’s fault when they cross paths with people like that. I really am quite tired of people who have not been through this falling into the desctructive culture of victim blaming.  It is NOT the fault of the bullied child. It is the fault of people without empathy who are ultimately failing to teach their children empathy.

My son’s visible bruises and cuts have healed. His glasses have been repaired. Yet, the wounds that linger emotionally aren’t going to go away. And I will be damned if I will look at him and tell him to suck it up and toughen up. I am not a parenting expert. But I do know that any good mother would fight for her child and not make him feel like her did something wrong. A good mother would not just say, “Hey, being bloodied and bruised at school is normal. Suck it up and toughen up.”

I ask Ms. Metz to spend some time doing some actual research.  Not only can she study statistics, perhaps she could speak to mental health professionals and the parents of bullied children who have committed suicide. I ask her to reserve judgment until she actually can speak based on actual experience. I would suggest she read some great books on teaching empathy to children. Perhaps she will learn something. I recommend Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson, Ph.D. and Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child by Mary Gordon.

Let’s look at some good resources on bullying, folks:

Click here for a guide put out by New York state on the link between bullying and suicide-

http://www.nysenate.gov/files/SuicideBullyingBrochure.pdf

More on teaching our children empathy:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/key-to-preventing-bullying-lies-in-teaching-empathy-expert-1.1234953

http://voices.yahoo.com/when-parents-bullies-dont-teach-their-children-12150489.html?cat=25

And, read these recent stories of bullying in the news:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/felony-charges-for-2-girls-in-suicide-of-bullied-12-year-old-rebecca-sedwick.html?_r=0

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/living/boy-bully-wiseman/index.html?iid=article_sidebar

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/08/bullying-public-health-issue_n_4241468.html

http://metro.co.uk/2013/11/14/simon-walters-boy-14-bullied-into-suicide-for-being-ginger-4187571/?ITO=Facebook

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Where do we go from here?

It has now been 13 days since my son was assaulted at his middle school.

As we know, the bully, who “understood the severity of his actions”, was allowed to return to school just two and a half days later.

Just two and a half days of “punishment” for that boy, while my child will continue to have the lingering emotional scars.  When things like this happen, others are affected.  Of course, Nick is the one who has endured the most.  My husband and I have been impacted by what has happened to our child.  Our younger son has also been greatly affected. He is a happy go lucky 8 year old with a heart of gold who has been very worried about his big brother.  What this bully did affected our entire family.

Please excuse this post, as it may not be very organized today. I am speaking from my heart.

Some thoughts:

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1. Dear Bully’s Parents,

You had to come pick up your son from school on Tuesday, October 22 because he was suspended out of school for punching a younger, smaller child in the eye unprovoked. You have not once attempted to reach out to our family to say that you are sorry for the horrendous actions of your son.  You have not once asked how our son is doing, what you can do, if there are damages (and there are, not just the glasses and the doctor’s appointments, etc.), but you have not had the moral decency to say, “We are sorry our son assaulted your child.” This speaks volumes.  Not only does this give US the message that you just do not care, but what is this teaching your son? That you condone bullying?  Do you condone bullying?  

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2.  Dear School Board,

I am tremendously disappointed at your generic response to my letter. It is especially bothersome to me to know that we received an almost identical response to the letter another mother with a bullied child received from you just a couple weeks before. While I understand and respect that your main duty is to handle the master plan and budget, I believe that as elected members of the BOE, that you have a duty to the children in your schools. One of the board members knows Nick from when he used to attend Vacation Bible School. It is disheartening to know that individual members did not reach out or take the time to respond. Sadly, I realize that this is a game of politics.

Here is what the President of the BOE said, in case you missed my last post:

“Regarding your concerns, please be advised that the Board of Education has great confidence in Mr. Desrosiers and the teaching and professional staff at Rogers School.  I understand that you are working with him.  As a board, our role is to set policy, protocol and with community support adopt the budget.  All of those actions and resources are focused on learning and achievement and the creating safe environment our schools need to reach that goal.

 
Please understand that student discipline is a process that is progressive by design.  In some circumstances the Board could be asked to review suspensions, thus I cannot comment on any specific situation or student.
 
I hope this communication helps clarify the position of the Board.
 
Thank you, on behalf of the entire Board of Education.
 
Charles Perreaud”

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3. Dear Mr. Crane,

Each year, parents sit and listen attentively at parents’ night at school about how you are always there to listen. And you always seem so genuine. You stil have not personally responded to me, and that really does bother me, not just as a parent, but as a taxpayer in the West Irondequoit School District. I believe you are a good person and I have to believe that you do care about the children in your community. I really wish you would one day sit down with the parents of bullying victims, and with these children themselves so you can REALLY see and hear of the lasting impact these events have had, are having, and will continue to have.

Truth be told, I have felt greatly disillusioned lately about our school district. It is especially disheartening to keep hearing from other members of our community and other parents about bullying in the WICSD.

Here is just one letter from an uncle of a bullied 6 year old girl in this district. He has written this letter as an appeal to the media to investigate. 

Dear Ma’am or Sir,

I am writing to notify you that my niece, a student at Brookview Elementary School in the West Irondequoit School, Irondequoit, New York, was been hit (assaulted/battered) three times in a two week period by a fellow student. The third time my niece was struck, on Monday, 07 October 2013, the school left a message on my sister’s home phone about the incident, in spite of them having both parent’s cellphone number. Since then, my niece has been kept home from school, as both my niece and her parents feel she is no longer safe at Brookview School.

In spite of meetings with the teacher, the principal and the superintendent, no action has been, nor will be taken to ensure the safety of my niece. In light of the West Irondequoit School District’s inability or unwillingness to ensure the student safety of my niece, I am appealing to you to investigate and take action.
From a legal standpoint, both the Irondequoit Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff have informed my sister that there is nothing they can do. My sister is conferring with an attorney and is looking into home schooling because of the danger to her daughter within the West Irondequoit School District.
If it will assist you, I have copies of correspondence between my sister and the school district displaying both the school district’s unwillingness to do anything and my sister’s desire to work out a scenario that would allow for a safe environment for her daughter to receive and education.

Respectfully,
James W. White
Irondequoit, NY

More of my thoughts today & an update

Through the power of Facebook and Twitter, each day I have continued to hear from other concerned parents. One mother at Dake has told me of her son being bullied while at Rogers and Dake. The bullying last week invlved being slammed into a locker once again, this time leaving marks.  If you are reading this and you are a member of our community, I implore you to speak up and express your concern and discontent.

I spoke with a well-respected Democrat and Chronicle reporter last week. I know that I am not the only parent in the WICSD who has been in contact with her and I do hope that after she investigates that there will be some sort of progress.

It is not all bad here– I am not naming names, but there are some really amazing 5th graders at Rogers Middle School who have reached out to Nick and he knows he is loved. Thank you, parents, for raising such wonderful kids.

I submitted our letter of intent to homeschool today. We will not send Nick back to the WICSD. They have failed him. I will homeschool him for the remainder of the year. He needs to know he is safe. He will be visiting local private schools as well and we plan to send him to private school in the fall. I have to say, though, what would other parents do? Both my husband and I work from home.  While my husband must adhere to his schedule, I am a beauty editor for a magazine and telecommute. I do social media for a skin care company as well. I am able to shift my writing so it is at night and weekends. I am not tied to an office or a boss and thankfully have a great deal of flexibility. I CAN homeschool Nick and take him on field trips and get him into homeschooling social groups.

What if I could not?  I would have to:

A. Quit my job, causing a financial burden to our household.

B. Send my child back to an unsafe environment.

This is a decision that most are faced with. And it is unfair and should not have to be this way. There needs to be something different done in response to bullying in this school district.

When bus monitor Karen Klein was bullied on a school bus by children, those students were not allowed to attend their regular classes at school. Greece handled that properly. Why can’t this district?  Making the kids who are bullied seek a new environment punishes the victims and sends a message to other students that if you bully, you will be allowed to resume your normal life within days.  What lesson does that teach? West Irondequoit has failed to provide any type of meaningful action in this situation and I continue to be disgusted, disheartened, and greatly disillusioned.

 

*UPDATE 11/4/13 About an hour and a half after this post was published, I received a phone call from the Superintendent. He offered no words of apology or concern over what transpired at one of his schools. Nothing should surprise me, but I really felt like, “Hey, how is your son doing?” may have been a good place to start. Nope. I was told if I would like to discuss things more, he would listen. When I said I wanted to sit down and talk about how bullying is handled in the WICSD, I was told that we could discuss Nick and not other students who, and I believe the words were, “may have made some mistakes.”

BOE Response

It took a couple of days, but I did hear back from the Board of Education– an email from the President. 

After I had not heard back from any board members, I decided to send a tweet on Twitter to the BOE president. I am on Twitter often for my job, so I thought this might attract someone’s attention from the WICSD.

After the tweet, I received this response:

Ms. Ziegler Mott:
 
I am using this email to reply to your communications sent primarily through Twitter.  I do not “tweet” I only use the site to be part of the lives of my children and family who prefer it over email.
 
Regarding your concerns, please be advised that the Board of Education has great confidence in Mr. Desrosiers and the teaching and professional staff at Rogers School.  I understand that you are working with him.  As a board, our role is to set policy, protocol and with community support adopt the budget.  All of those actions and resources are focused on learning and achievement and the creating safe environment our schools need to reach that goal.
 
Please understand that student discipline is a process that is progressive by design.  In some circumstances the Board could be asked to review suspensions, thus I cannot comment on any specific situation or student.
 
I hope this communication helps clarify the position of the Board.
 
Thank you, on behalf of the entire Board of Education.
 
Charles Perreaud
 
This is very similar to a response another mom received a couple of week’s back.  Her daughter was being bullied by a boy at age 6. Instead of dealing with the BULLY, the bullying victim was sent to another district school.
 
This is unacceptable to me. And I have not heard from any other parents who DO find this response acceptable. Predictable? Perhaps. Acceptable? No.
 

How many other children?

Yesterday, I posted Nick’s story to the Channel 13 Facebook page. For those who aren’t local, 13 WHAM is our local ABC affiliate.

You know, I realized we had a HUGE problem being swept under the rug here, but I did not realize how far-reaching it is in the WI school district.

Parents have been coming out today sharing their stories. This school district MUST act.

Some comments from other West Irondequoit parents:

“I had to remove my son from West Irondequoit Schools in 6th grade after realizing the bullying situation was not going to change…”

“The WIBOE talks a great deal about bullying and maintaining a respectful environment, but I have yet to see them take action that send a clear message that innocents such as your son will be protected while perpetrators will be punished. I have heard other stories equally as disturbing and know families who have switched districts.”

“I love West Irondequoit and our school but I’m so very very saddened and let down by seeing this happen. It’s not only with Nick. I keep hearing more and more and more. It’s so devastating.”

There are many other comments, many other emails.

WICSD, please listen to us.  So many of us have CHOSEN to reside in Irondequoit and pay the high taxes we pay because we wanted our children to have a West Irondequoit education. Our children deserve a safe environment.

I have asked before and I will ask again. What about the bullied children who are NOT talking about what is happening?  What will it take for you to realize that there are children who are suffering?  You undoubtedly have heard all of the stories in the news. There are children so scarred by being the victims of bullying that they are seeing no other way out and are taking their own lives.

I implore you to do something.

Disgusted.

After hanging out with our neighbors this evening, we came home and I picked up my phone.  A friend had texted me to let me know that she was informed by another parent with a 6th grade child that the boy who assaulted Nick was in the cafeteria eating lunch today.

power

 

#1– What happened to the out of school suspension?

#2– This happened TUESDAY. Today is Friday. The boy ASSAULTED my child in front of the principal, teachers, and students.

#3– The principal, with whom I spoke on the phone this afternoon DID NOT MENTION he lifted the suspension! I had to find out from someone else.

#4– I am disgusted.  Other parents are disgusted. This is WRONG. There is no justice for the victims of bullying in the West Irondequoit schools. What will it take?

My Letter to West Irondequoit BOE and Administration

Two years later

I am back here after the long journey I believed to be over.

Much to our dismay, events have transpired which have prompted us to remove our son from his school.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the entire West Irondequoit Board of Education, Superintendent Jeff Crane, a local reporter (Linda Quinlan at the Irondequoit Post) & many other relevant district members. Names and a bit of personal information have been removed to protect privacy. 

Sadly, my letter has not been the only one to be sent out, as my child is not alone. Nick’s name is left here because I have talked about his story before —

LETTER FOLLOWS:

I would like to would like to introduce you all to my son, Nick.

Nicholas is 10 years old. He’s in the fifth grade at XXX in the West Irondequoit Central School District. He is funny, charming, a bit quirky, both very respectful and well-respected. He is an avid reader and a chess player. He enjoys doing math problems in his spare time and reading the comics, even though he doesn’t typically pick up on humor because he interprets words very literally. Nick has Aspergers.

Nick has a thirst for knowledge and truly loves to learn. He is an old soul. At times, it seems he is like a little old man trapped in a little boy’s body. He is a remarkable young man. I know that all parents think that about their children, but if you have had the pleasure of encountering Nick, you would agree.

At around 10:30 in the morning on Tuesday, October 22, I received a phone call from a deeply concerned principal, {PRINICIPAL 1}. Before I move forward and forget to mention this, I have to tell you that I believe with all of my heart and mother’s intuition that {PRINICIPAL 1} TRULY cares about the children in his care, and that he truly cares about my son. I can see that in his eyes when we speak and I can hear it in his voice when he calls from school.

{PRINICIPAL 1} informed me that Nick had been punched in the face, in the eye, by a sixth grade student. The boy walked right up to Nick while he was at his locker and punched him. He committed this act of assault with teachers, students, and the principal in viewing range. Nick did not even have a chance to defend himself–not that he should have to at school.

This boy, with a complete disregard for authority, respect, and human decency, assaulted my child at school on a hallway full of witnesses. We did file a report that afternoon with Officer Nichols at the Irondequoit Police Department to be sure the incident is on record.

The incident started in chorus. Nick is a member of the 5th and 6th grade chorus at XXX. He loves music and singing. The child who assaulted him was two people over from him on the top risers. The boy (who we now know is named STUDENT A) said “Fuck you”, “You better shut your bitch hole or else your asshole is going to be whooped”, and sang the words, “Nick is a fucking bitch, fucking ass, and fucking jerk” to the tune of the song “Conjunction Junction” which was being sung at the time.

After doing this, Nick asked TEACHER A to use the restroom and walked by, asking her quietly if he could please talk to her at the end of rehearsal.

He was frightened and very upset by this student. At dismissal from chorus, TEACHER A asked Nick to stay for a moment since he had wanted to speak with her. STUDENT A told Nick, “You better not tell on me or you are going to be sorry.”

STUDENT A left and Nick told TEACHER A what had happened. Nick did not know STUDENT A’s name at the time, as they hadn’t met. Nick found out from another student (who heard what was going on and was afraid to speak up) that the student’s name was STUDENT A and he told TEACHER A.

After leaving chorus, Nick walked to his locker and was unpacking his bag.

STUDENT A walked up to Nick and asked in a threatening tone, “Did you tell TEACHER A?”

Nick answered truthfully and said, “Yes.”

Immediately following, STUDENT A punched Nick in his face, hitting his glasses.

Nick has a mark by his nose, a small bruise on the eyebrow, and his glasses are broken. The lens popped out and a screw is missing from the side.

Nick started to cry because of the pain. He could not see and he heard {PRINICIPAL 1’s} voice telling {STUDENT A} to go with him. Nick said his eyes were still closed, but he heard another student, {STUDENT B} asking {PRINICIPAL 1} if he could walk Nick to the nurse.

While walking, Nick encountered {TEACHER B}, his Social Studies teacher, who walked him the rest of the way to the nurse.

Nick sat in a chair in the school nurse’s office, was checked out, and then {SCHOOL COUNSELOR} came down to check on him and discuss the incident. Nick laid down and {SCHOOL COUNSELOR} popped the lens back in his glasses so he could see again. Nick rested for about 30 minutes and went to his math class because he was worried about missing work.

I picked Nick up to come home immediately following my return from a doctor’s appointment in Bushnell’s Basin. He recounted everything that happened and is frightened. He does not want to return.

This incident is bad enough in itself. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident.

Nick has been pushed on the stairs, shoved into a locker, and verbally taunted.

As many of you are aware, in October 2011, Nicholas suffered a concussion as a result of bullying and nothing was done because of the circumstances. Emails expressing concerns about one student, {STUDENT C}, had been sent to both {TEACHER 3} and {TEACHER 4} during 2nd and third grade.

On this particular day in 2011, {STUDENT C} knocked Nick down at recess. The recess aide gave the child 5 minutes of time out as a punishment.

When time out was done, the child went after Nick once again. Fearing for his safety, Nick attempted to run away from {STUDENT C}, and in doing so, struck his head on the metal ladder leading to the monkey bars.

Because {STUDENT C} did not physically push Nick’s head (that time) into the ladder, he had no consequences even though Nick was trying to prevent being hurt for the second time in one recess period. Nick fell unconscious. He was seen at RGH in the pediatric emergency room, and diagnosed with a concussion.

After that incident, we attempted to come to some sort of resolution by talking to the boy’s parents, {ELEM SCHOOL COUNSELOR}, {TEACHER 4}, and {FORMER ELEM PRINCIPAL}. Unfortunately, nothing was done. I contacted {SUPERINTENDENT}. I understand that the school just wanted me to go away and stop fighting for my child. That is quite clear. I believed things would change–that this was an isolated type of incident.

I was very wrong.

Things were fine in {Teacher 5’s} class last year. There was quite a bit of supervision and Nick did not have anyone physically hurt him in 4th grade.

Fifth grade has been a different story.

Nick was pushed on the stairs by a boy named XXX and I reported it to {SCHOOL COUNSELOR}. The day after I reported that, I received a call from {PRINCIPAL} to let me know that a boy named YYY had pushed Nick into a locker. When Nick is very nervous or anxious, he repeats words or bites his lip (or nails). He was muttering the word “meep” over and over again. Apparently, this bothered YYY and instead of asking him to be quiet, he resorted to physical shoving. At that point, Nick was extremely nervous about school. He was scared to be in the hallways.

One of the measures that had been put into place was that there would be more adults in the hallways when there were transitions since these events were occurring during times that are typically unstructured. We told Nick is would be OK–that it would be safe. He had faith in us. He believed that our word as parents meant something. He believed that the adults at school could keep him safe.

Tuesday’s assault proves that Nick is not safe at XXX Middle School. This incident took place with faculty, staff, and {PRINCIPAL} in the hallway. If Nick can be bullied with these measures in place, there are no measures that can be implemented to guarantee his safety.

Again, I wish I could even say that these events are isolated. We know this is not true. A fellow 5th grader who lives right on our street was bullied during 4th grade. She kept being bullied. She was bullied in after school care (again, by STUDENT C) while at XXX Elem. She was bullied over and over last year. Her mother had no choice but to pull her from the district a few weeks back. She is now in a safe environment.

We know of a sweet girl in Nick’s karate. She was a kindergarten student at XXX Elem. in the West Irondequoit School District and repeatedly bullied by a boy in her class. Instead of getting to the root of the problem and addressing the boy who had been physically hurting her, the victim has to be moved to XXX Elem.

This punishes the victim. It is a pattern.

These are just instances of people we know right in our tight-knit little circle. There must be many others.

I have met with{PRINCIPAL}. He is the epitome of what a principal should be. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe he will exhaust every effort and avenue to keep his students safe and happy.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done to make our son feel safe. I am a mom, first and foremost. I love my children with all of my heart. I have a younger son in {TEACHER 6’s} third grade class.

We moved here from the Park Avenue area of the city, which we happened to love. Knowing the reputation of the city schools, we moved here when Nick was a baby because we believed West Irondequoit schools were worth the extra taxes so we could give our children a safe environment with a fabulous reputation. We honestly believed that this would be best. It is not. It has not been.

I ask all of you, what will you do to ensure that my child is safe? That my other son will be kept safe? That the other West Irondequoit students are safe?

The Dignity for All Students Act, as you know, addresses bullying.

Here is what it says:

“Bullying has been described by the U.S. Department of Education as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, bullying generally involves the following characteristics:

An Imbalance of Power: Children who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity, to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

The Intent to Cause Harm: The person bullying has a goal to cause harm.

Repetition: Bullying behaviors generally happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Examples of bullying include, but are not limited to:

Verbal: Name-calling, teasing, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting and threatening to cause harm.

Social: Spreading rumors about someone, excluding others on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, and embarrassing someone in public.

Physical: Hitting, punching, shoving, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things and making mean or rude hand gestures.”

1. My child was verbally bullied in chorus by {STUDENT 1}. He was threatened. {STUDENT 1} attempted to use threats and intimidation to control Nick into not speaking up about what had happened in chorus.

2. {STUDENT 1} CLEARLY intended to cause Nick harm when he walked up to him and punch him.

3. Bullying behavior has happened more than once and with this act being done in the presence of authority figures, has the potential to happen more than once.

4. Nick was verbally bullied. He was physically bullied.

My son is supposed to be protected by the Dignity Act:

“The Dignity Act protects all New York State public school students from discrimination and harassment by students and/or employees on school property or at a school function, not just students who are the subject of discrimination or harassment based on their actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity or expression), or sex.”

The West Irondequoit Central School District has a duty to provide my son with a safe environment:

“Once an allegation or report of bullying is made, the school district or BOCES has a responsibility to take appropriate action, which includes investigation and taking necessary steps to protect those involved. All districts and BOCES must adopt and enforce a code of conduct for the maintenance of order on school property and at school functions. The code of conduct must govern the conduct of students, teachers, other school employees and visitors and must include the procedures to be followed in such situations (Education Law §2801[2] and 8 NYCRR §100.2[l][2][i]).

It should be noted that charter schools are also required to include in their disciplinary rules and procedures, pursuant to Education Law §2851(2)(h) and, or, if applicable, in their codes of conduct, provisions to comply with the requirements of the Dignity Act (see also, Education Law §§10-18 and 8 NYCRR §119.6). The charter school’s disciplinary rules and procedures, or, if applicable, its code of conduct must also include the procedures to be followed in such situations.”

Most of you are parents yourselves. Would you in good conscience be able to place your child back into an environment where he has been assaulted right in front of the adults who are there to protect him?

I cannot. I love my son. I fear for his safety. I cannot get the image out of my head. We live across the street from XXX Middle School. To know that I was at home sipping a mug of coffee while my child was punched in the eye at his locker without anyone being able to protect him is not something I can or will forget.

I want to know what the West Irondequoit School District will do to address not just the district-wide bullying issue, but I want to know what you will do specifically to make sure that my son is able to have a safe, quality education?

After Nick’s concussion in 2011, I stopped pressing. I believed the problem would be remedied. I made a mistake by trusting that Nick would not be bullied again. I will not be silenced this time and I will do everything that I can to protect my child and keep him safe.

{STUDENT 1} gets to return to school once his suspension ends. Life will go on for him. Chances are, he will find someone else to pick on who is smaller and weaker than he is. For Nick, though, and the others bullying victims, the scars are long-lasting. This is a real issue. What will it take for the district to really pay attention? Will it take a child who has lost all hope taking his or her own life? Quite frankly, as a mom, that is my biggest fear.

I know that people will not be happy with me for contacting so many with Nick’s story–but his story needs to be heard. The children who have been left no choice but to change schools or move need to be heard, too.

What will you do to protect my son? To protect the other victims?

Karley Ziegler Mott

Thoughts on Karen Klein

When I started this blog, it was out of frustration for what my son had endured at school because of a boy who had been mean to him on and off since their days in preschool. This was about my frustration with schools in general turning a blind eye to bullying and the constant excuses of parents who like to just say that bullying will “toughen up” a sensitive child or “it’s just boys being boys.”

I did not know that a few months down the road I would be addressing a bullying incident a few miles away in Greece, another large Rochester suburb. I am sure by now you all have hear of Karen Klein, the 68 year old bus monitor for the Greece Central School District. Whether you want to call this bullying or elder abuse, this incident is clearly reprehensible and was done by CHILDREN without a moral compass.

I am not an expert on elder abuse by any stretch, but what Karen Klein endured would fall into the elder abuse criteria according to the New York State Office of Children & Family Services website:

Under the Emotional Abuse heading, they describe it as “Willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, intimidation or other abusive conduct. This includes, but is not limited to, isolating or frightening an adult.”

“Flicking” this woman’s head, as evident in the video, would be a form of physical abuse, I would say.


It is just sickening to hear and see what these SEVENTH grade students did to this bus monitor. I do not think anyone with a sense of compassion can watch without having a range of emotions from shock to sadness to anger and disbelief filling their hearts.


Here is the video, which has made headlines all over the world. As I type this, more than 1.6 million viewers have seen this:





I have to say that I am amazed at the courage and restraint that Karen Klein had when she rode the bus with these “children” on Monday afternoon. I do not know if you or I could have listened to such hurtful things without lashing out as a way to cope with our hurt and anger.

I have said it before and I will say it again–this goes back to the way children are raised.

Respect must be instilled early on. Lead by example. If your children hear you speaking with contempt or with disrespect for your spouse, you are telling them it is OK to speak that way to others.  If you are hostile toward your children and call them names or make them feel worthless, you have NO ONE to blame but yourself for bringing them up this way.

I remember that along with “please” and “thank you”, respect and compassion were ingrained in me as far back as I can remember. I went to school respecting my teachers and being kind to my peers because I was taught that it was the right thing to do.  I remember being a child at the Palmyra Elementary School walking by the Principal’s Office. Just walking by the office made you have this fear that you never wanted to be the “bad” kid sitting across from Mr. Caringi because he just commanded respect and kindness.

How the Greece Central School District handles this is crucial.  They have a choice to make and how they deal with this will send a message (positive or negative) across the globe.

Karen Klein has stated that she does not want to press charges against these children.  I would think she would be well within her right to do so.  Maybe if more people were held accountable for their actions (or their parents) other bullies might be discouraged from further acts of violence and intimidation.

People around the world, though, are wrapping their arms around Karen Klein virtually. More than 12,000 people have donated money since yesterday on the fundraising website, Indiegogo. Started by Max Sidorov, a Toronto nutritionist, as a way to raise $5000 for Karen to have a dream vacation, people around the globe have chipped in. As I type, the total is $260,181! Maybe Mrs. Klein can have that dream vacation and add the rest to her retirement so she never has to work another day.

I want to say to Karen Klein that I am so sorry that people were so cruel to you.  You are loved and cared about by millions around the globe.  No one should ever have to endure the abuse you took. You showed grace and integrity–a lesson so many can learn from.

What are your thoughts on this incident? I’d love to know.