Our family will soon celebrate the one year anniversary of an event that changed our lives forever. It has taken me a year to write this post, a year to tamp the flame of intense emotions surrounding our experience. As I write, I find that I have channeled those emotions, not dismissed them.
Nothing changed for my 6th grade son when the nation’s children were dealt an opportunity to continue their education at home due to COVID-19. We had the experience of being thrown into the homeschooling community months prior.
Within weeks of the start of Middle School, I watched my son transform from an overly excited 11 year old boy, thirsty and excited for a 6th grade school year full of new friends and self exploration...into an anxiety filled, self-conscious shell of himself. My son isn’t perfect and has had his struggles, much like any pre-teen boy, but he doesn’t deserve what happened to him.
About a week into the school year, our son told us about an incident in the lunch line. A man-sized 8th grade boy saw that my son was different, poked him, and called him a “little b;+ch.” The 6 foot plus tall bully ended the confrontation with threats to beat my son up in the parking lot after school.
As soon as I heard about the incident, I e-mailed the Principal and Counselor. I received a prompt reply from the Counselor that evening and another the following morning. Every few days my son would tell us about brief interactions with the man-child in the hallway. Most often, the conversations were one-sided invitations to fight in the parking lot as we had instructed our son to refrain from responding.
The interactions escalated as the bully began to intimidate by blocking doorways to my son’s classrooms. One day, he followed my son into the restroom and cornered him while slamming one of his fists into the palm of his other hand. The Principal insists that the bully was “just playing around.”
One Monday, I received three calls from the School Nurse. My son had been in the nurse’s office, shaking uncontrollably and seemed very nervous. Of course, I thought, it had to be related to the recent changes in his medication.
I arrived to pick up my son on what would be his last day at the Middle School. He wasn’t waiting at our designated area, so I drove around the block and into the parking lot. A few moments later, I spotted him. He was walking very quickly toward me and seemed disheveled, both hands full of crumpled papers, open backpack hanging on one forearm. I questioned his reason for not being at our designated meeting place. His one word reply, the bully’s name.
He went on to tell me that the bully had been chasing him around the area surrounding the school since the final bell rang, insisting that he would take my son to his house. I drove around the parking lot and pulled up next to the bully. I lowered the window and the boy walked over to my car. He leaned over, grinned, and rested both elbows on the door of my car.
I calmly, but firmly stated “You need to leave my son alone.”
As the bully shoved himself off of my car and extended a dramatic crotch chop my way, he screamed “Suck my dick, b;+ch!”
I simply drove away…
What happened in the upcoming weeks was horrifying. I assumed some effort would be given toward resolution, especially since my husband is a teacher in the district. I received a call from the Principal weeks after the incident, even though I called him and left a message as I drove out of the parking lot that day. Meetings were scheduled to resolve the situation, mostly with plans for my son to isolate himself so the bully wouldn’t have access to him. In one meeting, the Principal actually told me that I was to blame for traumatizing my son because I approached the bully in the parking lot.
Those of you that know me also know it isn’t my nature to sit quietly when I have something to say. I will not apologize for that. I verbalized that by allowing bullying, the Principal of that school is playing roulette with teen suicide and encouraging acts of violence such as school shootings that everyone is, supposedly, working so hard to deter. A boy, with hopes and dreams of dealing drugs and felony convictions, was allowed to remain in school. The Principal gave up on my son.
Unfortunately, the Principal’s decision to allow bullying overshadows the amazing teachers and counselors at that school and I am saddened that my son has been robbed of their contribution to his growth. A wise woman told me “If you don’t stand up for your kids, nobody will.” I stand against bullying. My tolerance is zero.