Today on FaceBook a friend directed me to a mother who’s trying to fight against the bullies in her son’s middle school. After introducing ourselves and telling her about my book, she asked to read it. This is the letter I sent her.
Hi C—-, nice to meet you. The more people like us talk to each other, sharing our stories and telling our truths, the sooner acceptance of bullying will end. Working together we can make a difference.
I can’t know for sure, but I’d bet you and your husband have heard phrases like these: “Kids will be kids.” or “Boys will be boys.” and “All kids get teased. I was teased and lived through it, so will he.” and “It’s a rite of passage. He’ll be the stronger for it.” These seem to be the knee jerk responses from authority figures when confronted by parents whose kids are bullied. You’ll hear them even from people you know are supportive, like friends and family.
But you know better. You can see what it’s doing to your son. I know better too. I was a sixth grade teacher (now retired) and have my own experiences behind me. Which is why I’m going to butt in where I’ve not been invited.
I strongly suggest you not visit your son’s school unannounced to catch the bullies in the act. Your son will suffer from your very public appearance, I guarantee you, especially given the post you put up yesterday about no one sitting with him already. And by trying to go around the school administration you’re going to get the school staff steamed, which unfortunately does leak over to your student. In other words, the little good it will do you (a grudging admission from the principal that there does seem to be a problem and a promise to ‘deal with it’ will result in the principal taking out his anger on the bully. All well and good, but the bully will then take it out on your son. Sounds like they’ve already got everyone else cowed into silence.
Instead, I suggest you pay a visit to the principal today and tell her once more, and very clearly, of your concerns for your son’s ability to do well in her school while constantly in fear. Tell her every one of the things your son has told you happens. Make an appointment with her for the three of you to watch your son at lunch unseen. Explain that your concern is so deep that your next step will be to go to the school district Superintendent and the School Board. Give her the distinct impression that you are not going to let this go, that you demand her cooperation to see your son succeed unimpeded in school. But do it all in a calm, in control, even polite manner. You’re in the right, so there’s no need to shout. Don’t let them get under your skin, no matter how emotional you and your husband may be about this. Do not lose control of yourselves for even a moment. Show no weakness.
And, at least for a time, you might consider removing your son from school. Keep him home and demand lesson plans and supplies from the school until they guarantee his safety. Each day of public humiliation and shame is harming him, scarring his psyche, so if it is at all possible, remove him from the place that makes him miserable. If you get nowhere at his current school, check with your district to see if you can get him transferred to another.
Remind yourself constantly that this is not his fault, and that he needs extra love to make it through okay. Pile on the affection and positive reinforcement at home and do your best to make him feel secure and valuable. Give him little special jobs so he can be praised for his smarts, or creativity, or compassion. Your house is his safe place, and as such must be as nurturing and encouraging as possible.
Anyway – that’s my advice based on what little I’ve seen on your page. Attached is my book. I hope you enjoy it, but I would like to warn you that it has made people with bullying in their own pasts very uncomfortable. Because I take bullying so seriously I didn’t pull any punches in my book, I tell it like it is and the shocking brutality I expose causes some people to get upset. I hope you’re not one of them, and instead see that this message is for those who will not open their eyes to the truth. I wrote this book for the teachers, and principals, and parents of those kids who are bullied, or are bullies, or are just standing by and not doing anything to stop bullying when they see it.
Let me know what you think.