Four years ago, my daughter, Megan, got accepted into the Gifted and Talented (GATE) program. She started the 4th grade in a GATE classroom at a brand new school. Soon after she started, there were several girls (led by one girl in particular) who started harassing her. She did not know these girls and could not understand why they didn’t like her when she hadn’t done anything to cause them to dislike her. Can’t tell you how fun it is to have a conversation with your children telling them that sometimes people will not like you and there really is no good reason. I told her to ignore them and to focus on the kids who were nice to her. What I didn’t understand at the time was the depth to which bullying is allowed to go these days. I say “allowed” because while the schools put on a big “No Tolerance” policy for bullying, there really is very little that is done to control it. I’m not even sure what schools can do to stop it and when did it become the job of schools to teach children not to be cruel to others. That should start at home. Where are the parents??
I admit, I should have been more proactive when it started, but I had no idea how far it would go. Megan came home several times upset about the way these girls teased her in class. I tried talking to her teacher and she said she would do what she could. After a few months, Megan came home crying uncontrollably. She handed me a note that the bully ringleader had given to her. It read “If you hate Megan sign below.” She had gone around the class and had all the kids sign it (willingly or not). Then she gave it to Megan and said “See, everyone in class hates you not just me.” After taking some time to calm my own “seek and destroy” mother bear instincts, it became clear this was no regular case of playground teasing. I went to the principal with the letter and voiced my concerns about the constant harassment. The principal assured me action would be taken. The bully ringleader was sent home for the day and was given some kind of lecture about her behavior. That was it. Of course the behavior continued.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and followed the girl until she met up with her mother. I then talked to her mother about the incident. She apologized and asked if we had received the apology letters from her daughter. When I told her we had not received any letters, she again apologized and said she would try to remember to have her daughter do that. Try to remember? Since when does your child being completely cruel to another child not register on your priority list or set off alarm bells in your head??!! I continued to talk to the girl’s mother and even befriended her to keep her daughter away from Megan while constantly fighting my own urge to beat some sense into her.
Thankfully, things got better for Megan. She is now in the 8th grade and has a lot of friends and is doing well. However, yesterday, we were reminded of the cruelty that still exists. I had been away on a short trip with the kids and when we returned, my husband was laughing and saying that I needed to listen to the messages on the answering machine. He said there were several crank calls from some kids who were most likely from Megan’s school. He said they sounded funny. Our digital recorder is old and sometimes the messages are difficult to understand. There were three of them (two from a boy and one from a girl), and I had to listen several times to be sure of what I was hearing. Among the silly rambling, all three messages included “Megan you are fat and ugly.” One even ended with “Megan you are fat and ugly. Suck my dick.” Are you kidding me??!! The caller ID was blocked of course, so there is no way to track them. I will be going to talk to the principal on Monday when school starts back after break even though I know there is nothing they can do. Megan keeps bugging me for a cell phone, like we really need her to have a direct way for kids to harass her.
Compassion is not like breathing and swallowing. It has to be learned and it needs to start at an early age. Parents have to be the first line of defense against teasing and bullying. It has to matter to parents when their children are being mean to others. It has to be taken seriously by ALL parents involved. This can no longer be tolerated as “kids can be cruel” sometimes. If it takes a village to raise a child, we need to get out our torches and pitchforks my friends because there is a beast among us and it is called “Bully.”