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?

Sharing Some Thoughts…

It has been quite some time since I posted and I do apologize. Day to day life has kind of gotten in the way of me updating this blog.

So, what is new these days? Nicholas is doing very well. He is a resilient, positive boy who sees the good in people and he has really done remarkably well since his October incident. Thankfully, the bully has not bothered him and Nick chooses to hang around with his supportive, caring friends, especially G. down the street and his Ninjago-loving pal E.

I guess you could say that we have returned to “normalcy.” Please do not read this as total acceptance. I am extremely disappointed in our school’s handling of things and I do not hesitate to share my thoughts with others.  And I am quite certain that if anything happens again and gets shoved under the rug, that I WILL pull him out of the district and let the world know why.

After this happened, I had a decision to make–I could use my voice to shout from the rooftops via the media outlets here about how our district didn’t address the matter the best way they could, or I could remain vigilant in other ways by engaging in ongoing discussions with other parents in our school and others.

While more would have been done if I had gone the route I mentioned first, this wouldn’t have been the best option for our son. Nick knows I fight for him and will always do so. He faced some flack from classmates about me sharing my voice. My blog posts were shared by some parents with their children, who teased Nick and picked on him for having a loud-mouthed mom who “talks about other children” on her blog. One peer told him that his father “hates” him because he was a “wuss”. This really affected my son and bothered me enough so that I have had to choose some other options for our son’s extracurricular activities because I do not want our son ending up in a group being led by that dad. It’s a shame that there are those who do not have empathy for others or who believe bullying is a rite of passage. I can shield my son from people like that and have done so. That is my job as his mother.

I have continued to read your emails.

Are you in Michigan?  Attention Shelby Public Schools — there is a bullying problem that is not being addressed. I’ve been contacted by a mother who says her son and others are being repeatedly bullied and that despite going to the superintendent on numerous occasions, no one has protected her child. This is unacceptable.

I was pleased to see a front page article today in our daily paper, the Democrat and Chronicle, about bullying and the new documentary called Bully.

Here is a trailer from Bully:

I would like to see school districts offering screenings of the documentary for parents, teachers, administrators, and students to watch together. It really takes a whole community for change to occur and I think that this could spark true action and dialogue.

Do you plan to see Bully?  Will you take your children?

Schools get an F at protecting our kids.

The subject of bullying is back center-stage in the Rochester area lately, as it should be.

Nearby in Wayne County, the Marion Central School District is being sued by the mother of a high school student because they say that the district didn’t do enough to stop the repeated bullying of their son.  Here’s a story by WHAM’s Rachel Barnhart about this: click here.  According to the story, the child has been tormented for more than two years and over 30 complaints to the school’s administration were made.


In Spencerport, a girl took her own life last week.  Cameron DeVeronica was just 14.  Friends set up a Facebook page now with over 10,000 followers in an effort to raise awareness for what they believe was a suicide caused by bullying. According to reports in both mainstream and social media, this young girl was being bullied by female classmates.  The Ogden Police Department and Spencerport schools held a news conference last week trying to debunk the bullying rumors despite the fact that students have said otherwise. This hasn’t been sitting well with their community.


Another child has died. Once again, it looks like another local school district wants to look the other way and say “not here” and pretend bullying isn’t a cause for concern.


I have to applaud the Spencerport community, though, as a protest involving approximately 300 students and parents was held outside the Spencerport School District to demand an end to bullying. Due to this increased pressure from students who are sick of bullying, it looks like the district and police department might be pulling their heads out of the sand to do something….one can hope, at least.


In our own situation, it has now been 2 months since the incident at our school. I’ve given two full months and have gone through the cycle of anger, disappointment, sadness, etc. 


My son is OK now. His concussion has healed. He smiles and laughs and plays like a normal 8 year old. He has friends and is a good boy.  The big egg on his head may be gone, but I can assure you that the scars of bullying remain. This has affected all of us–I think the grown ups have taken the situation even harder than our resilient son.


If you know me at all, you know I am a pretty calm and collected person.  Deep down, though, I am furious. I am pissed off at our school for allowing this to happen and DOING NOTHING ABOUT IT. I am pissed off that their solution would be to have my son and the BULLY (it is what it is, folks, he’s a bully) go to the school counselor together to try to become friends. You know, if an adult was attacked, would the judge say that the victim of the assault should make nice with the criminal? No. So why should that be the solution here? I pulled Nick out of that joint counseling because he wasn’t comfortable and to be frank, I do not want my child to be friends with a bully. Would you?


The bottom line is that bullying occurs in nice suburbs and at top-ranked schools. Not just “other schools.” Our districts are failing our children.

A Must Read From My Friend Sarah

My friend, Sarah, recently posted something of great importance on her blog.  I think it’s a must read. Her son’s pal has been tormented with cruel words and picked on for being “different” (I think different is good–why don’t people get that???).


This boy is just 11 and told Sarah’s son that he was thinking of suicide. Thank God her son and his friends sought help for their friend. They were raised right and know that you need to help instead of standing by and being silent.


Read it.

We need to do more.

With all that has been going on in the news these past couple days surrounding the Penn State situation, I have been thinking more and more about how not enough in being done to send a message to children that we as adults are here to protect them from the evil that lurks in this world.

There are multiple people at Penn State who knew of horrific abuse upon young boys by a coach–and turned the other cheek or did as little as possible, including one who allegedly witnessed a 10 year old boy being raped and did nothing at that moment to say “STOP! This is wrong! I will rescue you from this monster so you do not have to endure one millisecond more of trauma and pain.

Read the Grand Jury report here to see how many people were aware and didn’t do enough.

One person who actually witnessed one horrific act, walked away and DID NOTHING.

He allegedly told his boss. Not the police. He walked away and allowed this to continue. Can you imagine what went through this boy’s head–someone knew he was being harmed and didn’t rescue him–didn’t come to his aid, didn’t stand up for him. This attitude of “it’s not my place” to intervene is pathetic.

I am quite sure that it happens more than we know. It also applies to bullying.

I remember one night over the summer when I was sitting out on our deck enjoying an iced coffee.  It was getting dark and there was a boy who used to be in my son’s grade riding his bike.  I always had a soft spot for this boy, who is no longer in our district, because he was so kind and respectful.  He looked out for Nick–stood up for Nick. He lived with extended family and really was on his own most of the time without that strong sense of “normal” in his life.  There was regularly change and chaos surrounding his environment.

Anyway, I remember him riding his bike around the school and a group of older kids (15 or 16, I’d guess) followed him and then took his bike away and made him run after it.  They called him names.  They clearly were raised without respect for other people or property. I could hear him saying, “That’s my bike. Give it back. Leave me alone.” I couldn’t believe that this 8 or 9 year old child was being picked on by a bunch of teenagers. I jumped out of my chair, ran across the street and remember being so ticked that this boy was the hoodlum’s “entertainment”. The older kids ran off in different directions as I held the phone with 911 ready to be called and I  told them to never even think to bother this child again or they would have to answer to the police. Of course, they used the horrible language that seems to be commonplace in this society these days and took off.

I remember the look of relief in the boy’s eyes and he came over and hugged me and said, “Mrs. M., thank you for helping me. You didn’t have to do that.” Oh, but I did. When someone is being physically or verbally or emotionally harmed, isn’t is our duty as human beings to stand up and say enough is enough?

If one turns the other cheek and ignores what it happening, that person is enabling bullying and abuse.

When schools see the signs and ignore acts of bullying, they enable bullying.  When schools do not give consequences for acts of bullying, they enable bullying. Failure to act–truly act–to protect our children from harm is just as bad as the bullying, in my book.  We send our children to school and expect and assume that they will be safe–that they will be protected by the adults–all of the adults–in the building.

But that might take extra time.  It might ruffle feathers.  It might create an uncomfortable situation….or it is just quite possible that the reality is “We have a reputation to maintain as being a top school district in this area. Confronting the issue of bullying and acknowledging we have a true problem might tarnish that.” So what. School safety….the comfort level of CHILDREN ought to be the #1 concern. Nothing else.

Something we, as parents, can do is teach our children very early on that if they see something happening to another child, they have a responsibility to do the right thing. Sometimes even good kids turn the other cheek….or join in to be in the “cool group”.  The community as a whole needs to make sure that we are protecting our children from the evil in this world. Every time that we look the other way, we are sending the message that it is OK to harm another living human being.

{Non-accountability}

Today I would like to talk about this culture of non-accountability. It runs rampant in our schools when it comes to bullying. No one wants to stand up for the victims of bullying and say “This is wrong.  It will not happen ever again on our watch. There will be consequences for what did happen.”

Schools would rather look the other way or brush bullying incidents aside or make excuses. There’s no accountability. No one is willing to stand up and say, “ENOUGH.”  What happens, though, is that when one is allowed to get away with acts of harassment, intimidation, verbal and physical bullying, these behaviors will most likely escalate. When schools send the message that bullying will be tolerated, they send the message that they are not accountable for the safety of our children at school.

For example, if a child is exhibiting signs of aggression and bullying at 4 and nothing is done to put an immediate end to it, it will likely continue at age 5, 6, 7,  8, etc. That pattern on non-accountability and a sense of acceptance tells bullies that they have the green light to continue harming others with their hands, their feet, or their words.

I was reading some information on  schools’ responses to bullying the other day and was struck by a comment schools in terms of how they handle bullying:


“Bad schools deny it, ignore it, justify it, rationalize it, handle it inappropriately, sweep it under the carpet, blame the victim of bullying, blame the parents of the victim of bullying, say they’ve ‘ticked all the boxes’ and make lots of impressive noises but take no substantive action.”



This quote really resonated with me. I feel we live in a great school district in terms of academics & opportunities. I have never thought otherwise until these past 2 weeks. Now I have mixed feelings about a school community I have loved so much and spoken of so highly when it comes to how bullying is handled.

We’ve been exploring our son’s other options for next year.  We chose to move here to be in this school district and quite honestly I feel let down. I truly feel like the school doesn’t fully have my son’s back and that’s not a good feeling for anyone.

The main outcome of the meeting the other day is that the other child gets no punishment for his actions. No accountability. If this child Nick was running from–the same one who had just knocked him to the ground a few minutes earlier–had directly pushed Nick’s head into the metal rung, that would’ve been a bullying incident.  Since Nick was running away from the kid who had just physically shoved him down in fear that he was going to hurt him again, then that gets called an accident. Really?

Schools teach kids to find a trusted adult to talk to when they are scared. They say that grown ups will help you. “If you think you’re being bullied, go tell someone.” I really think that some of the kids who are being bullied are getting mixed messages and wonder, “Why bother?” They want to feel like the school has their back and will help them, but is this the reality?

Each and every child has the right to go to school everyday and not be bullied, harassed, or abused in any way.

In fact, our district’s 2011-2012 Code of Conduct, the issue of bullying is addressed. What happened to my son clearly violated this Code of Conduct, yet there have been no consequences.

Prohibited Conduct

Bullying

No person, alone or with others, shall:

1) Engage in “bullying” which shall mean repeated attempts or acts to intimidate or coerce
others by the real or threatened:

• Infliction of physical, verbal, written, gestured or electronically transmitted (cyberbulling)
emotional abuse;

• Attacks on the property of another;

• Verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs including ethnic, gender or sexual
orientation based verbal put-downs;

• Efforts to extort money or possessions;

• Efforts to exclude others from peer groups.

2) These prohibitions shall exist regardless of whether the person against whom the conduct is
committed participated in, consented to, or acquiesced in the conduct deemed as “bullying.”

3) The reasoned and civil exchange of opinions or debate, protected by state or federal law, is
not prohibited by this section.

Also, as many forms of bullying would fall into the realm of criminal activity and endangering another child’s welfare, here is what our handbook states:

Criminal Court Complaints; Juvenile Delinquency Petitions


“Violations of this Code which constitute criminal acts and/or which endanger persons or property
will be reported to the superintendent and to the police…”

The system is broken.  Not just in this school district, but in districts across the country.  Since I started blogging about the incident which occurred exactly 2 weeks ago, I have received literally hundreds of emails from people around the world — from as far away as Australia to as close as our same neighborhood. The concerns are eerily similar when it comes to a culture of non-accountability.

There may be no consequences we view as appropriate for the person who caused our son to suffer a concussion, but you can rest assured my mission of standing up for my kids and helping others stand up for their children through this blog is far from over.

Some thoughts on raising kids…

Today I would like to talk about something we ALL can do to help combat bullying and it begins with us as parents.

I truly believe that the best gift we can give our children is a proper upbringing. If parents instill proper values in their children right off the bat, nurture them, teach right from wrong, and model appropriate behavior, children will grow up to be adults with respect, morals, and values.  I realize there are exceptions to some situations and we can talk about that later, but I really believe that this begins at home and it begins with the parents.
When I was a child, I was taught about respect and kindness at an early age.  I knew that my elders were to be respected.  I remember my parents saying “You have to be a friend to have a friend” and “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” 
Using manners and living with integrity, demonstrating respect for others, and showing empathy and respect, etc. were things drilled into my head back as far as I can remember. I did as I was told.  It was really quite simple–you did what was expected of you or you had consequences. You listened to your teacher. I can’t believe the disrespect shown to teachers at times.
All too often in my own life, I also see children disrespecting their parents. I have seen children putting their hands on other kids and being mean right in front of their parents without fear of consequences. In many of these situations, there aren’t any consequences. So many parents stand by and watch this type of thing happen and they do nothing. These parents are part of the problem. Do not think that I am a hard as nails, rigid type of parent with a drill-sergeant persona.  I am not. We do not believe in spanking or any type of corporal punishment, for example. We personally do not believe that hurting our children is the right thing to do. An effective punishment is still good old “time out”. We also believe that modeling appropriate behavior (the way my hubby and I speak to each other and interact and the way the kids see us treat other people in general) and making our expectations clear right off the bat will help the boys grow up to become the kind of men we want them to be.
Our boys know what is expected of them. They know how to treat people. They show their elders respect and if they speak inappropriately or do something we do not feel is right, there are immediate consequences.
Our boys have been told that we will always love and support them, but if they ever treat another human being in a way that would be considered bullying, it will not be tolerated and there will be consequences.

This is something I have been thinking about a great deal lately. I have been trying to think about HOW a parent could justify or rationalize any type of bullying, whether it be verbal or physical. In thinking about this, I realize that I have even had some casual friends–fellow parents–who let this behavior slide and who make excuses for their kids.  It makes me feel guilty by association.  Does that make sense? 

My refusal to let this matter at school rest has even tested friendships of my own and has even questioned my ability to be a good judge of character. I don’t mean to ramble here, but something I am struggling with is the fact that not all of the people I would have considered friends even just a few days ago are supporting my decision to speak out about this. I will not, however, apologize for being an advocate for my child. In the end I realize, though, that true friends would be appalled by what happened to my son, right?