If you follow me on Facebook you might have seen me mention our little bully problem this week.
It all started when my son Ayden, 9, came home upset one day. I always go outside and watch the kids walk home from the bus stop and I noticed he was walking really slowly with his head down, while usually he is running, laughing, and chasing his sister all the way home. He's a pretty cool and content kid all the time, and he's always excited to see me and tell me about his day.
This day was different.
He wouldn't look at me and kept staring at the ground, barely muttering a "hi" when I hugged him and asked how his day was. I knew something was up and I assumed it probably involved another kid at school or on the bus. So I asked him what was wrong and if something happened. He nodded and I asked some more questions- was it a kid at school? Was someone mean to him? Did he get in trouble? Did he just have a bad day? He got really quiet, so I hugged him again and told him to please tell me what was wrong so that I could fix it, and that I wouldn't be mad at him for telling me what was going on. Finally, his face crumpled and he blurted out "I think these kids are bullying me." So we talked.
He told me the whole story and this is basically it:
After school, in the bus line outside, there were two boys who were giving him crap. 4th graders, so a year older than Ayden, and they had been constantly picking on him and would mess with him while waiting for the bus. That particular day they had stolen his hat (a beanie), threw it on the ground, and stomped on it repeatedly. He kept telling them to stop and leave him alone but they laughed and kept doing it over and over again. He said he was kind of crying by that point and they laughed even more and started calling him names. Then, to my surprise, he said "I don't know...they kept saying something about how I was teabagging...I don't even know what they're talking about!" I had to turn away to keep him from seeing me laughing. (If you're unsure of the other meaning of "teabagging"- don't Google it. I'll just tell you that it's a sexual reference involving a part of the male anatomy. Enough said!) I composed myself and simply told him that I didn't know what they were talking about but that boys say weird things sometimes, and I urged him on with the rest of the story. So anyway, he tried moving away from the boys but they followed him and kept laughing at the fact that he was crying and continued to call him other names (that he wouldn't repeat) until the bus came. I asked him how long this had been going on- a day? A few days? A week? He said that it had been more than just a few days and probably closer to a week. A whole week of these kids treating my kid like crap. I was pissed.
I believe my exact words were "Don't worry honey. I'll take care of those little shits."
But really, after that I made sure to thank Ayden for telling me. I assured him that he did the right thing and wouldn't be in trouble, and that telling me what happened would help fix the situation for him. He absolutely did not have to sit and endure that kind of crap from a couple of mean kids, and I was going to make damn sure the school did something about it.
I tried calling the school, but his teacher's line was going straight to her voicemail, so I decided to email her. After all, when I had a question for her before I usually asked via email and she was always speedy with a response. Then she would have the story in writing too, which I figured might be helpful. So with Ayden's help, we fired off a quick email to his teacher, giving her all of the details (minus the teabagging part- I just mentioned a "crude, sexual remark that my son didn't even understand" and figured she'd get the point). We high-fived each other and I told him I was proud of him.
Within an hour of sending the email, his teacher responded and said she just forwarded it to the principal, thanked me for reporting it, and said she would contact me as soon as she heard anything about it. Perfect!
The next day, the principal called, and I had this to report:
The principal was awesome, and was so on top of it. She said she talked to Ayden and that she was really proud of him for how articulate and mature he was about the whole thing. She gave him a chance to stand up to the kids and tell them that he didn't like the way he was being treated and that they were not allowed to act that way to other people. Go Ayden! What a brave move. The 1 boy, the instigator, had already been in his fair share of trouble, so the principal told me that was the reason she thought he needed a severe punishment this time. He was suspended and now his parents have to pick him up in the office every day for the rest of the year. In the office- he can't even stand outside in the pickup line with the other kids! Pretty sad when you have to be completely separated from your peers, but I guess that's what you have to do to protect the other kids from these repeat offenders who just don't know how to be nice or behave. I'm glad he won't even have a chance to do this to another kid out there, and it's good to know he is being watched.
One of the great things that his principal also told him and me was that she wants to know if there is any sort of retaliation. If those boys (or their friends) even so much as give Ayden a dirty look she wants to know about it, and explained to him that it was absolutely unacceptable. They are the ones who did wrong, and if they give him a hard time about "getting them in trouble" there will be even more severe consequences. That was great of her to make that clear, because I knew Ayden was thinking about what would happen when he had to see the boy again. He said he's not worried at all anymore, so mission accomplished.
I'm super thankful to his school for stepping up so quickly and standing by their zero tolerance policy. I know a lot of schools are more on top of these sort of things nowadays, and it helps me to rest easy knowing that something was done about it right away.
I'd like to know about the parents. Where are they at with all of this? Apparently teaching your kids the basics on how to be decent human beings isn't being taught anymore- or they are just MIA and/or are oblivious to their kids' behavior, because we seem to have a generation of jerks nowadays. I would love to have a conversation with this kids' parents and see what they are like, because I'm willing to bet they are a lot like their child. The kid is 10 and is already a huge trouble maker at his school- enough that the principal knew him just by giving his first name and she had a whole file on his bad behavior. Are the parents OK with this? Do they even realize how serious this is? Or do they just think "Well, he got in trouble again." I don't know, and I don't get it.
Parents of the bullies- please step up and do your job. When you know that your kids is terrorizing other kids repeatedly, do something. We don't just need to protect the kids that are being picked on, but we also need to stop breeding more generations of mean, hateful, cruel children who lack discipline and basic moral values that should be taught at home before entering school.
I totally do not fault my son's friends (who witnessed the situation) for not saying anything or standing up for him. They are 9 years old, and were probably terrified of having the bullies turn on them. But I think we should definitely talk to our kids about stepping up and helping other kids in need if they can do so safely. My son's friends had strength in numbers and if they all came together they could have tried fending the boys off or went and got the help of a teacher. I had a good discussion with Ayden about this and he understands what to do if he ever witnesses someone in a similar situation. Kids should be helping other kids!
Thanks to all of the sweet comments on Facebook- I really appreciate it! In reading them I discovered quite a few people who have dealt with this issue regarding their own children and it makes me sad to see how common it is. And how early it starts! I didn't think we'd have any problems until closer to middle school, but I guess I was wrong. I hope anyone else experiencing this with their own kids gets the same kind of help and support from the school that I did. I hate to think of all the kids out there having to deal with this type of thing (or worse).
Have your children encountered any bully problems at school yet?
How did you/would you deal with it? Was your school as supportive as ours was?