Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's Not Bullying Until It Happens More than Once, Right?

Bullying is a hot topic these days. We hear about it on the news on a regular basis and we can find it written about all over the Internet. Over the past several years, it’s become almost standard procedure to add a “Zero Tolerance” policy in very school district. Of course there are those that criticize these policies and say that one kid torturing another is standard adolescent behavior. They also say that anti-bullying programs cause children to grow up and be unprepared to deal with unpleasant social interactions.

I call bullshit.

As a grown up, our children will have jobs and live in a society where there are rules and laws. Most companies have policies that protect their employees from actions by another. In society there are laws protecting citizens from stalking and harassment. Therefore, I contend that these policies absolutely fit into our school system. They need to be there. Our babies need to be protected. They deserve to feel safe and secure in the environment that we send them off to every day.

Ask almost anyone and I’m sure they can share a story of their own childhood and being bullied, or seeing someone get kicked around. The girl that tormented me at Nathan Hale Junior High was Ann Epperson. Yes, that’s her real name. Maybe someday she’ll google herself to see what kind of lasting impact her behavior had on someone. She harassed me for nearly two years. She would walk behind me and make fun of the way I walked. She’d copy me walking with my back straight and head held high. When I noticed her doing this, I started to walk in a more slumpish fashion, and still walk this way some 25 years later. I was lucky enough to have Ann on my school bus as well, so I was got to deal with her from morning pick up to afternoon drop off. She got her friends in on the action too, and they’d gleefully spend their lunches making fun of everything I ate and did. I was lucky that it never escalated into anything physical, but the things they said and the way they mimicked me still makes me cringe. I look back now and wonder what ever happened to that merry band of losers, because that’s really what they were; pathetic mean people that had nothing better to do with their time.

Did I ever say or do anything to stop this behavior? No. While I was a “nice girl” and friendly with my teachers and classmates, I always knew that if I told on Ann, there would be hell to pay. She was already smart enough to figure out where all my classes were and stand outside them and taunt me from the hallways. I was never as happy as I was to see her move on to high school.

I am thankful today that my daughter’s school district has a zero tolerance policy. I am glad that there are counselors on hand to help them if they need it. I am glad that the students are well-versed in the steps to take if they feel they are being targeted by a bully. So I was horrified to come home last night and be part of this conversation:

Sugar: Next time Little Joe comes over, he should bring Cam.
Spice: Why would you want Cam to come over?
Sugar: Because Cam is nice.
Spice: But Cam sat on your head today.
Sugar: No, that wasn’t Cam, that was Sam.
Me: What on earth are you talking about?

As it turns out, a girl from our former neighborhood came up to Sugar in the playground while she was waiting for school to start. They have always been friendly so Sugar wasn’t concerned. Then Sam wrapped her arm around Sugar’s neck and put her in a headlock, which dropped her to her knees. Sam then pushed her down, sat on her head and held her legs down so she couldn’t move. This 6th grade girl sat on my child while making animal noises.

As is typical when trying to get details out of Sugar, she gets confused and upset and the details start to change. Between last night and this morning, I was able to ascertain that Sam sat on her until Sugar’s homeroom teacher saw it and came and pulled her off. She had a private conversation with Sam, but Sam was allowed to stay on the playground. She then proceeded to follow Sugar and her friends around, while continuing to make animal noises. BFFL’s twin was part of this group, and immediately told her teacher what happened when the school day started. The teacher assured her that Sam would be “written up,” whatever that means. BFFL's twin deserves a prize for protecting the sisterhood. 

I am at a loss. I don’t know exactly what happened, as seen through the eyes of the adult in charge because I was never notified. My daughter was physically assaulted on the playground, which was witnessed by a teacher, and no one thought to call EN or me? Why was Sam allowed to stay on the playground after behaving like that? Why did she continue to follow my kid and her friends around? Is it over the top to think that the adults in charge might have been watching Sam a little closer, to ensure that she behaved-and stayed away from my kid-for the rest of the time on the playground?

And now, we circle back to policy. What exactly is the policy for dealing with situations like this? The policy is easy enough to find online and I know now that the incident should have been reported to the principal and that they are required to notify me of the incident within 48 hours.

Tick tock.

It’s easy for me to call this bullying because that’s the hot topic today, as was the “Just Say No” program when I was young. But is it? Or is it an isolated incident of a creepy kid being mean to my kid? In that case, should the Anti-Bullying Procedures set forth by the school board in my town be followed?

Last night I sent an email to the teacher that took Sam aside in the playground. I also emailed BFFL’s mother to see if her daughter told her what happened. This morning, I left a message on the same teacher’s voice mail. I’ve yet to hear anything back from anyone.

Tick tock.

Ice Princess 

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