Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

In earlier posts or from tweets on Twitter you may have already surmised that my son has Tourette Syndrome and some of the comorbid conditions that can go with it, such as OCD and ADHD.  Below is some basic information about Tourette Syndrome and a description of our experience with it.  It also includes a description of some behaviors that are happening in our society and my opinion about them..

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that  is misunderstood and has been stigmatized.  The entertainment industry, whether it be television, radio or the internet, has been criticized for depicting those with Tourette Syndrome as social misfits whose only type of tic is coprolalia (a vocal tic consisting of swearing).  The coprolalic symptoms of Tourette’s are also used for humor.  To the public, this representation of TS has created an inaccurate perception about people with TS.

Take a moment, go to Twitter, and do a search on the word Tourette.  The majority of the results that you will see are despicable. Individuals are pretending to have TS or accusing others of having TS and use it for an opportunity to swear in their tweets.  There may also be  the references to “Glenn Beck has Nazi Tourette’s.”  The other common tweet has to do with the Tourette’s Guy, who has a website and has posted videos.  Tourette’s Guys is a drunk, overweight man who claims he has Tourette Syndrome and spends his time video taping himself while he is philosophizing and swearing.  Some allege he really does have Tourette Syndrome, and some don’t.  Either way, I find him vulgar.  There was a time when I would send tweets to these tweeple and explain how bad the disorder is.  It is rather odd that a number of them responded by telling me off and then saying they had TS and could do what they wanted.  I find it very hard to believe that a person with TS would make these type of comments that are in these tweets.  I finally had to stop this confrontational tweeting because it just infuriated me, and put myself susceptible to a barrage of lewd comments from these tweeple.

Most recently, the lawyer of a woman,  formerly known as the Hiccup Girl, may be using TS as a defense tactic for murder.  The medical advisory board of the National Tourette Syndrome Association took issue with any defense based on the disorder.  We also recently had a politician, Prime Minister David Cameron making a jibe user a tourettes reference.

The other hot topic with people with TS is the bullying that may occur.  Bullying has recently become a hot topic in the U.S. due to some suicides that stemmed from bullying.  Bullying doesn’t just happen to the smallest kid in the class. Bullies target those who seem to be less powerful or not as strong. Bullies also often target children who seem “different”. Children with TS and other disabilities are, therefore, at significantly higher risk of being bullied. All students have the right to attend school free of fear of harassment and bullying.

TS is recognized as a disability in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Disability harassment is discrimination that violates section 504 and its regulations. Under Section 504 and Title II, disability harassment in schools is defined as, “intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student’s participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution’s program. Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling, as well as nonverbal behavior, such as graphic and written statements, or conduct that is physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating.”

Check out Jaylen’s Challenge website, which is a grass-roots effort of a young man name Jaylen who has Tourette Syndrome and has made it his goal to reduce bullying for disabled children.  Jaylen’s website, at http://www.jaylenschallenge.org/how-can-you-help,  provides the following suggestions for how you can help with this cause:

  • Donate as much as you can. Don’t forget, donations over $10 gets an exclusive ‘Bullying No Way!’ glow in the dark wristband.
  • Spread the word about this cause. I am trying to change the world, one classroom at a time.
  • Don’t bully people for ANY reason. When you bully someone, it is because you are insecure with yourself in some way.  If you can’t help yourself, talk to a parent, a teacher, or another adult about receiving help.
  • If you are a parent and you know your child “picks” on other kids, don’t laugh and think it’s merely “child’s play” or harmless. This is serious. Kids are losing their lives. Talk to your children, educate them. Let them watch my videos under the video links tab.
  • Take up for someone when you see bullying. Just as I’m trying to do in a sense, ‘Pay It Forward’.  Stick together. A bully will pick on an individual, but a bully will not bully 5 kids standing firm together.
  • If you are getting bullied, you HAVE to tell someone. I know you don’t want to tattle and make it worse, but tell someone. Tell me and I will try my best to do an ‘in-service’ to your school if we have the funds available. The bully will never know it had anything to do with you.
  • Come back to my website often. I am going to try to receive a strong rally of supporters in order to get help to children.

Jaylen is a very courageous young man and is a fighter for doing what is right. Take a moment and look at his website.  You will learn more about TS and directly see how an individual lives with TS.

I think the portrayal of TS in the media is shameful.  Having TS seems hopeless.  The medical community haven’t made much success at improving the lives of those that have TS.  For those like my son, each day is a struggle.  I can’t count the number of days my son has come home from school crying because of events that happened with his peers. Even more so, there have been numerous times when someone called him “retarded” because of his TS.  (Coincidently, Congress recently took action on the use of the word “retarded” and has removed its reference from all federal laws.)

Every time this happens it wounds my heart.  Every day, I wish I had the power to take away this disorder from my son.  I would rather carry that burden myself, than have him struggling day after day.  Unfortunately I do not have that power to do this.  Instead all I can do is help raise awareness about Tourette Syndrome and to continue looking for a cure.  I know I am only one person, but I am slowly growing a village, and who knows where this may take us.

Related Posts:

Related Posts:
Tourette Syndrome and my son
Tourette Syndrome, school and despair

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If you have been following my posts you may know how much school has been difficult for my son and myself.  I am also sure that I have made some educators angry when I wrote a post called,  There are bad teachers . . .   If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do. 

Between third grade and fifth grade I prayed that my son could survive long enough to finish each school year. I say survive because those three years were torture to my son. With all of his health problems, the school actually made things worse.  I had expected the educators to be the experts when it came to educating children with learning difficulties and health issues.  Unfortunately, I found out that is not necessarily true.

I am ashamed to say, as a result of this elementary school and the information they had been providing me, I had very low expectations for my son. The school drew a bleak picture of a young boy who did not pay attention, was not organized, wouldn’t say hi to his classmates, had difficulty reading, was always sleepy, was struggling with math, could not physically write, was not a self-starter, and made up symptoms to look like Tourette Syndrome. With all of this observations, I truly worried about what would happen to him when he is an adult.

I must say some of the things the school experienced we also experienced at home. For example if you told my son to do three things, you might get one of them accomplished. His bedroom is an absolute danger zone. I used to try to keep up with it, but I gave that up long ago. I keep telling and showing him that everything has a home.

The most annoying situation is when my son misplaces everything. I always joke that he would lose his head if it was not attached. I can’t tell you how many mornings we were scrambling to find this or that before school. I kept explaining to him that if he followed the rule and put everything in its home, then he would know where to find it. I have tried every trick in the book to correct this behavior with no success. What we did do, which I did not realize until he went to school, was we had subconsciously adapted our home activities and behaviors to fit his needs. At home I learned to only give him instructions for one thing at a time, or the night before school we laid out all his clothes and got his back pack ready.  We didn’t do this to be organized.  We did this because we knew we would be looking for something in the morning which would take up all of the time.

My son also has a little OCD. As a result of this, when he loses something he will obsessively be on the hunt for it. I can remember when he was very young, before he was diagnosed with any of his health issues, he had a toy which was a learning toy consisting of an airplane and three animal passengers. The airplane interacted differently with each character. He loved the toy, but as you can guess, he kept losing one or more of the characters. We spent so much time looking for them, and if he couldn’t find them he got very, very upset. Usually we would eventually find them, but there was one time when they were nowhere to be found. I was so tired of his extreme grief, and obsessive hunting, that I went to the toy store and bought a new one. Thank goodness he grew out of that toy.

So I am not surprised to see these issues at school. In fact our neuropsychologist said that my son has impaired executive functions, which includes organizational skills. Since this has been identified as a part of his medical issues, there are objectives in his IEP to improve that behavior or learn other skills to help him remember. The school used a pictorial schedule for him so he knew where he was supposed to be at different times during the day, but that was the extent of what they worked on. Numerous times his homework was left at school. It was a miracle to receive flyers for field trips or book orders.  His assignment notebook came home but you couldn’t read any of it.

Then sixth grade came, which meant going to middle school. I could tell that things operated differently there. At the end of fifth grade, representatives from the elementary and the middle school met with me. The purpose of the meeting was to understand my son’s health and educational needs. It was probably the best and most thorough IEP meeting I had ever had. There was no topic left unaccounted for, and there were indications that they were making a genuine attempt to create a successful learning experience. They also knew that the learning experience starts on the first day of school. Not one week later. Not a month later, which was our experience at the elementary school.

A couple of weeks before school started for the sixth grade, the middle school invited my son to attend four half-day sessions with the purpose of getting used to the school and to know where everything was, such as the gym, the lunchroom, and the health office. They also worked through the procedures of a day, including their schedule, their locker, going to lunch and getting on the bus. It was a great program, and it took some of the anxiety away for starting a new school.

School started and my son was very cautious. Cautious about the new school. Cautious of being a new student. Cautious of his peers and the kids from the upper grades. I will admit I was very anxious for him, and waited with my breath held, praying that nothing happened.  I didn’t want us to go back into survival mode for another three years, with his progress at school continuously slowing down, with minimal forward movement.

His schedule was set up so that all of his core subjects were held with the special education teacher, Mrs. G and a small group of students. The remaining classes were with mainstream teachers and students.  A number of factors happened in the beginning days of school which created a very positive effect for my son. First of all, he did not start school at the same time as the rest of the students, because he was newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. When school started we were in the middle of getting him stabilized and learning everything we needed to do to support his diabetes which was really daunting in the beginning. The delayed school start was good because all of the other students were in a rhythm by the time he started. As a result of this the teachers were able to focus purely on my son with individual all the individual attention he needed.  Not only was he starting a new school, but he had a new health issues that had to be dealt with throughout the day. 

The second thing that occurred was when my son went to his first class in the special education room.  He saw that his assigned desk was beside a girl that he went to school with in kindergarten, first and second grade. They were huge friends.  After second grade she moved and we had no way of contacting her. In fourth grade at the end of the school year the fourth graders from all of the elementary schools in the area participated in a field and track event. It was there that he met up with her again. They kept each other’s company throughout the track event. They exchanged phone numbers and talked with each other for the next year, meeting again at the fifth grade field and track event.

My son walks into class and this girl is his desk partner. Unbelievable! I have since heard from his teacher Mrs G that they are really good friends and do everything together. I think this is one thing that reduced his anxiety about school. In the previous year my son was a victim of a bullying situation, and he was very anxious about running into these students at the new school. Finding his friend eliminated that concern entirely. He knew he had someone to back him up.

The third event that happened during the beginning days of school, my son’s special ed teacher, showed him that a teacher could have empathy.  She acknowledged that things have been hard for him, and said she was proud of him enduring it all.  This empathy from Mrs. G was a total new experience for my son.  She understood his health issues and showed concern.  She had previously taught kids with Tourette Syndrome and understood the disorder.  She didn’t berate hm when he had tic episodes.  She didn’t accuse him of faking it. She didn’t tell him to stop it.  What a relief. 

Another event that happened is Mrs. G  was totally supportive of moving his education forward, and she recognized that praise was a great motivator, or telling him a story that she had some of those problems too.  This was a message to my son that she understood him and had been there herself. 

One of my son’s education issues up to this year has been that he has dysgraphia which are a result of a couple of factors including tremors.  Until recently he could not read his own handwriting, let alone have someone else read it.  In the past there were attempts to use a speech-to-text software program, and to teach him typing, with not much success.  I think if a little more effort would have been done one of these mechanisms would have worked.  As I watched him learn, I realized how important it is to visualize your own writing.  Without being able to do this, it really hampered his ability to learn spelling, grammar, writing complete sentences or capturing information in a report.  Up to now he had missed out on all of this.  Besides providing alternative methods of writing, the elementary school also did not give him extended time to complete his writing.  The combination of all of this resulted in a sixth grade boy who could not write and had not learned language skills.  It just seemed his previous school just ignored the importance of being able to see what you write and how it would affect everything he is doing.

His new special ed teacher, Mrs. G knew about this issue, and beginning the very first week of school she told him that she liked his handwriting and that he was doing a great job.  This little comment was a huge thing for my son.  The day she said this he came home from school and told me what she said and he was so happy.  I suspect she is also giving him the time he needs to do his writing.  Believe it or not his handwriting is improving.  He can read it.  I can read it.  He has a way to go to catch up with the spelling, writing proper sentences, or organization of information, but that is expected.  In the past he had given up writing, even though I tried to work with him.  Today he is writing pages and pages of information.  He has even started a blog discussing video games.  He does the rough draft and I work with him to find corrections, and then he publishes it.

Another new educational experience is that this Mrs. G has the philosophy that she really didn’t care what the kids read, as long as it was appropriate and they kept reading.  My son has been attracted to graphic novels.  At his previous school they would not let him read graphic novels.  His special ed teacher said he needed to read some books with more structure and that were more substantial.  Okay, his beginning chapter books were thirty pages long with limited information on each page.  His graphic novels were about 250 pages long, but in total consisted of more reading than the beginning chapter books.  This year my son has said to me that this school is letting him read the books that he likes and chooses.  As a result of this he is reading all of the time, and now his reading interests have expanded beyond graphic novels.  I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.  I have always been a big reader, and I have wanted him to experience the enjoyment of reading, which hadn’t happened up to now.

Now for the pièce de résistance.  We recently had our first IEP meeting at this school.  Mrs. G was reading the objectives and results that were written by his previous teacher.  For example a goal said, the student must on three out of five attempts, initiate his work in the classroom without reminders from the teacher.  I suspect this is a goal for getting him to be a self-starter.  Mrs. G said that she was not experiencing this issue.  She said that my son is always ready to get his work done and is usually the first one done in the class.  She said she has not had to give him any reminders to start his work.  She also said since he had missed some school, due to his new health issue, he is easily able to keep up with the rest of the student.  She continued through the review of the IEP and all of the objectives had the same observation.  She said, “He is not having and of these problems at school.  Looking at his IEP, it is as if he was a different kid.”  Wow.  That was a big statement.  At one point she questioned me about what was going on.  I explained I didn’t want to get into the details, but I thought we had some teacher issues previously.  Also attending our meeting was the OT specialist who has worked with my son since first grade.  During this discussion he tried to intervene and say that my son had really matured over the summer.  Bull.  Yes, there was some maturing but not to make a night and day difference. 

Anyway, I am so thankful for Mrs G and the Middle School.  She is doing a great job with my son and I am so appreciative.  I am now seeing that he will be okay, and with time will be able to self sustain as an adult.  She keeps in contact with me weekly.  She predicts when my son may have an anxious moment and eases him into it.  I absolutely love her.  This year is going to be a big turning point for my son.  He is loving school which is a big relief.

Bullying is a serious issue.  It happens with all age groups.  It happens in all communities.  White, brown.  Rich, poor.  Public schools, private schools.  Girls and boys.  It has also been happening for many years and has not been taken seriously.  Now we have children dying because of it.  We can no longer turn our back to it.  We can no longer be quiet about it.

 For the purpose of addressing the bullies it has been recommended in the school system that the schools: 

  • Increase supervision is inadequate in unstructured locations, such as the school  bus
  • Ensure there are consequences for bullying
  • Have the perpetrator have conferences with a counselor
  • Have the perpetrator have a conference with administrator
  • Notify the parents of the incident, both from the perpetrator perspective and the victim
  • Establish a disciplinary write-up which includes parent contact
  • Escalate to the law enforcement officials.

For the purpose of addressing the victims it has been recommended creating a program to help children prevent assaults and other victimization.  These programs typically include:

  • Helping children identify dangerous situations;
  • Teaching children techniques for evading these situations, such as saying ‘no,’ yelling and screaming, and running away;
  • Encouraging children to tell an adult about the incident;
  • And assuring the child that the incident is not his/her fault.

Children Against Children Research Center (CCRC) researchers have investigated the efficacy of such programs. Among the findings:

  • Children appear to acquire the concepts that are being taught in these programs.
  • Children involved in school-based prevention programs were more likely to use the school-taught self-protection strategies when victimized or threatened; were more likely to feel they were successful in protecting themselves; and were more likely to disclose to someone about the victimization attempts.
  • Children in school-based prevention programs were not able to lessen the seriousness of assaults and, in fact, received more injuries in sexual assaults.

It doesn’t surprise me that the students understood the concept of the bullying program and perhaps improved the reporting of the occurrences.  I don’t believe that it is true that the students were more likely to use self-protection strategies.  Once again the burden is on the child.  The child realizes there are repercussions with these strategies, and who is going to be there when they don’t work.  Remember the same strategies are being taught to the victims and the perpetrators.  And finally as it states above, there has not been an improvement in the seriousness of the assaults.

I don’t have the all of the answers, but I think there needs to be zero tolerance for acts of bullying, whether that be teasing, harassment, or bullying.  I don’t care what you call it.  All I know is it is detrimental.  Zero tolerance means immediate consequences.  What do we do in the adult world.  If an individual assaults another person, and it has been proven to be true by the legal system, the perpetrator losing his rights.  Why are we not doing the same with children?  I really don’t see how any of the tactics described above are going to “change” the bully, and ensure that it is changed. 

The only thing I suggest is that everyone needs to be much more observant.  When an incident occurs or is suspicious it should be seriously investigated and addressed.  The only way a bully will change his actions is if he knows what the consequences are, and the consequences are severe enough that would dissuade the bully from continuing with this deviant behavior.  There should no longer be a private enforcement of consequences.  How many times have you heard through the grapevine that so and so got detention, or so and so was sent home, or so and so had their parents brought into school?  When a bully makes the decision to harm others  he has taken a public stand, and he has lost the right for privacy.  Make it public.  Set an example.  These kids need to know what fear is. 

As for the victims, once again we need to be observant.  When an incident arises, whether the victim reports it or other students, the situation needs to be addressed.  Immediately.  All of the students, both victim and perpetrator should recognize that it is being addressed.  Once students recognize that the adults are truly taking care of the situation, including protecting the victim, they will be more likely to report such incidents.  And finally, no child should be taught that they need to deal with peer issues all by themselves.  This is too much for a victim of bullying to be responsible for.  Children do not have the ability to judge what they should do.  This action alone is a punishment to the victim.  You may say, but that is going to require judgement, and who is going to be responsible for that?  Well right now we are making the victim be responsible for the judgement, and this wrong.  We need to quit punishing the victim, and start punishing the bully.  .  As an adult I have this right, then so should our children. 

Sources: 

Olweus, D. (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in schools: The plight of the vulnerable and the victimized. New York: The Guilford Press.

Related Posts:

Teasing . . . another form of bullying

Bullies and their victims . . .

As you may know, bullying has been a hot topic lately.  Most schools have included the topic in their curriculum and it has been a big headline in the news.  The View did an interview with a boy and his family that had been recently bullied.  I did a search on Google for bullying and suicide related news.  The list of news articles about kids that had committed suicide due to being bullied was endless.  Take a look at a few of the articles.  The stories are pretty much the same over and over again.

Teen bullying victim tells ‘The View’ why he thinks he was attacked

Family: Bullying Cause Of Slippery Rock Teen’s Suicide – News

Bullying -> Depression -> Suicide -> Jared’s Story

Teen suicide after bullying – Quincy, MA – The Patriot Ledger

Lance Lundsten, Tiffani Maxwell Commit Suicide After Reported Bullying

Teen Bullying Leads to Suicide – CBS News Video

Truth Wins Out – Another Bullying-Related Suicide in Minnesota

I really don’t understand why this has become a hot topic.  It is true that the suicides are an awful event, but bullying is not a new phenomenon.  It has been going on for ages, and it has been ignored for ages.  The link between bullying and school violence has increased attention since the 1999 rampage at Colorado’s Columbine High School.  The sad thing about most of these stories is that other people (students and teachers) knew about the bullying situation and knew of a change in behavior of the kids that were being bullied.

So I ask myself why do people bully, and here are some of the reasons I came up with:

  • The bullying incidents are not reported or observed.  Therefore no one can take action on the incident.
  • Many times victims will not admit bullying occurred because they fear retaliation which would make the situation worse.
  • Sometimes victims will not report incidents because they are ashamed.  It is not easy to admit that you are weaker.
  • Sometimes bullying continues with witnesses, but the bystanders are uncertain about how to intervene.
  • Other students don’t report the event because they fear the bullying will turn to themselves and then they too will become a victim.
  • Probably the worst situation is when students continue to bully because they know that an adult observed the bullying incident and didn’t do anything about it.
  • The bully has not paid for any consequence for his behavior.

While I was reading some of the news articles about real life events of children being bullied, there was one characteristic that was common.  The bullying was not a one time event.  It appears that once bullying starts, it continues to recur.  Take a look at some of these articles:

Bullying lawsuits Florida: Parents go to court to stop bullying

Bullied student case heads to Ohio Supreme Court – morningjournal.com

Mom says Springfield boy, 11, who committed suicide was repeatedly

Parents tell Hellgate board bullying of special needs students

So I ask my self why is bullying an offense that occurs over and over again to the same victim.  Here are some of the reasons that I could come up with to explain this situation:

  • The bullying incidents are not reported or observed.  Therefore no one can take action on the incident.
  • Many times victims will not admit bullying occurred because they fear retaliation which would make the situation worse.
  • Sometimes victims will not report incidents because they are ashamed.  It is not easy to admit that you are weaker.
  • Sometimes bullying continues with witnesses, but the bystanders are uncertain about how to intervene.
  • Other students don’t report the event because they fear the bullying will turn to themselves and then they too will become a victim.
  • Probably the worst situation is when students continue to bully because they know that an adult observed the bullying incident and didn’t do anything about it.
  • The bully has not paid for any consequence for his behavior.
I don’t think bullying is a big secret.  I can, to this day, name the people who I went to school with or rode the bus with who were bullies and who were victims to bullies.  The bus was a notorious place for bullies to pull their stunts.  It occurred day after day, and usually the bus driver was aware of it, and did nothing about it.  The only time the bus driver intervened is if it became a physical fight.
 
I can remember an incident that occurred, probably when I was in the 7th grade and it occurred on the bus.  This bus had kids from all age groups, including elementary kids and high school kids.  There was a group of individuals on the bus that “ruled” the bus, and every day you prayed that they didn’t notice you.  You never knew what would happen if you were in the spotlight of these bullies.  They could bully you over the littlest thing or for nothing.  It was known that once you were bullied you would always be bullied, or at least until the bullies graduated from school or dropped out.
 

The one incident that sticks out in my mind was between several highschool kids and another high school boy.  The group consisted of  bullies that were both girls and boys.  The only difference was the girls bullying consisted of taunts, and the boys would taunt along with physical annoyances.  This will sound ridiculous, but the reason that this kid was bullied was because he wore a flat-top hair cut.  This was in the late 60s and early 70s which was a time way past the days of flat-tops.  Every day this poor kid put up with the taunting.  He usually stayed to himself and was very quiet.  One day one of the highschool boys put gum in his hair.  This was the last straw, and the taunting turned into some pushing and shouting.  Finally the bus reached the kids stop, and as he was getting off the bus he said to one of the other high school boys, “I’d call you a prick, but a prick is a man, and you are no man.”  I was kind of proud of him.  A little too dramatic but he stood up to them.  Unfortunately the sad thing was he never rode the bus again.  I have no idea what happened to the kid with the flat top.  I think the bullies had won.

The internet is full of statistics, but none of them are consistent.  The percent of individuals that report they have had involvement in bullying ranges from 80% to 30%.  Based on studies boys are more likely to conduct physical bullying, and girls are most likely involved with social bullying, such as exclusion.  The studies also say the bullies typically have a quality in themselves that is lacking, such as behavioral, emotional or learning problems.  It is also common that their parents used physical discipline.  On the contrary, the victim of bullying experience higher rates of loneliness, depression, school avoidance and thoughts of suicide. 

 So what do we do about it? I understand we have to address the bullies, but we also need to put some focus on the victims.

To be continued . . .

Source: 

Olweus, D. (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in schools: The plight of the vulnerable and the victimized. New York: The Guilford Press.

Related posts:

Teasing . . . another form of bullying

One of the things I firmly believe in is that children are the treasures of our society.  When they are young, and uncorrupted by society, they are pure in heart and a blessing to us all.  They are a true representation of goodness and purity.  Even more important, they are our future.  Unfortunately sometimes our society does not treat them as “treasures,” and sometimes they have less rights than adults.  

I like you, you like me . . . not necessarily

Schools try to give this impression to the students that everybody likes everybody, and everyone should get along.  I am sure all of you heard this when your child was in kindergarten, “He plays so well with the other children.”  It really sends confusing messages to the child. It is not realistic to like all people.  If a child is taught that you should like everyone, what happens when a real life situation happens when he doesn’t like someone?  He begins to question himself and possibly thinking he is a bad person and in the wrong. 

In my home it is okay to not like someone.  The key is how you behave around this person.  I tell my son to take the high road.  Don’t initiate interaction with the individual if you don’t like him. If the individual tries to interact with you, respond curtly,  but pleasant, and with a dismissive tone.  Above all he should treat them as he would want them to treat himself.  I realize that this is easier said than done.  But it has to be much better than thinking you should be liking everyone, and if you don’t there must be something wrong with you.

Last year my son had a teacher that punished him for not saying hi to one of his classmates as he entered the classroom.   He didn’t omit the kid from his salutation.  He didn’t say a salutation to anyone.   My son did not care for the individual because of the boy’s behavior in the classroom.  In addition the classroom was not a pleasant experience for my son.  So my son did not feel like saying hi. I really don’t see anything wrong with that.  He wasn’t being disrespectful.  He didn’t break any school rules.  He did not have to fake a feeling when it wasn’t genuine.

You are on your own

When a child is having a social problem with a peer, the school teaches them to first try to take care of it themselves.  At school the child is supposed to be in a “safe” environment and the adults who are supposed to be making sure he is safe basically abandons him.  The second thing the school teach the students is, if they can’t resolve the issue themselves, they are supposed to tell an adult.  Are children really able to evaluate when to escalate a situation to an adult?  I doubt it.  

I know children struggle with this responsiblity.  My son did.  Children are also aware that there may be repercussions for telling an adult.  It could easily turn into a “he said, she said” situation, and then he is treated just as guilty as the perpetrator.  Children avoid this situation because there is a possibility of it being turned against themselves. Or even worse they could be accused of tattle-tailing. This accusation can come from his peers or sometimes even the “adult,”  and the child usually ends up being ostracized.  

So what if this is a bullying situation?   How do you think children that are being bullied are handling this? View it from the perspective of the child based on what he has been taught in school:

  • Everyone should like everyone
  • Everyone gets along with everyone
  • Don’t hit other children
  • Be cordial all the time, even if it is fake
  • Handle the situation yourself
  • Telling an adult may turn into a “he said, she said” situation
  • Telling an adult may turn into an accusation of being a tattle-taler from his peers or the adult
  • There may not be consequences for the offender, and the bullying will continue or get worse.

Is teasing really just ‘kidding’ around?  Do we really expect a child to handle being teased?  Some view this as less of an offensive than bullying activities.  Seems to me it is a form of bullying and can have dire consequences.  What do you think happens to a child’s self-esteem when he is being teased repeatedly?  What happens when the situation is dismissed by an adult?  Who does the child turn to for help?

Several years ago, my son was attending a preschool.  It was our intention to continue in this private school for kindergarten.  It had a good reputation, and seemed to be a better first step for starting school.  We were one of the few that had been awarded acceptance. 

The summer before kindergarten my son was switched to a new room and teacher.  Shortly after being transferred in the room, my son began showing hints that he was not happy at school, and each day was dreading to be dropped off.   I talked to the teacher and she pointed out that my son was new in the classroom and my son needed a little time to adjust.  She told me that there was a group of  five boys that had already been in the room for some time and they were a tight clique.  She even referenced to these five boys as the “gang” of boys. 

I decided to give it a little bit more time, but within a couple of weeks I could tell my son’s anxiety was increasing.  It was obvious the situation was not getting better.  I talked with him about it and he said the boys wouldn’t let him play with them and kept teasing him.  I told him to give it time.  He was new, and I’m sure it will change.

Well, it didn’t change.  Within a short time one of the teachers pulled my aside to talk to me and she said that she thought I should know that my son may be a little upset because the boys were teasing him about the color of his skin.  She said the boys were saying that my son’s skin turned brown because he drank chocolate milk.  I was a little shocked to hear this.  She also said she thought it was important for me to know this.  She obviously was concerned about the circumstances.

Now you may say I am an over-protective mother.  Maybe.  But I know what it is like to be teased, and I sure as hell was not going to let some six-year olds pick on my son because of his skin color.  My son had been going through a number of health issues and he was quite traumatized by some of it.  I really didn’t want another aspect of his life to be  difficult.  The kid needed a break.

The next day I did not take my son to the school until I had this situation corrected.  Instead, I scheduled to meet with the director of the school.  In our meeting I explained what the teacher told me about the teasing and asked the director if she had any suggestions for how to handle this.  Her suggestion was she was going to talk to each of the parents.  She also had the same reaction to the chocolate milk reference as I did.  I told her that I would like to help get this turned around.  I offered to buy and donate some books for the class regarding diversity.  I even offered to bring in a speaker that could talk about the subject with the kids.  She was very cooperative and very much in agreement with this. 

The next day I got a phone call from the director requesting that we meet again.  She said that she discussed this issue with the teacher of my son’s classroom and they came to the conclusion that this was not serious.  It was just plain old teasing.  She pointed out that there is another girl in the classroom that was African-American, and she was not being teased.  I was a little caught off guard when she concluded that we didn’t have an issue. 

I told her that I was not sure why they would pick on my son and not the little girl.  Perhaps it was because boys play with boys, and girls play with girls.  Or perhaps it was because my son had brown skin, and he has a mother who picks him up every day that is caucasian which drew attention to the situation.  In the end, I said it is irrelevant.  Teasing is teasing.  My son is being teased and I want it stopped. 

I asked the director if she was going to talk to the boys’ parents, and she said no.  I asked her if she realized that this behavior is a learned behavior.  She responded by saying that these children come from respectful and nurturing homes and she found that highly unlikely. 

I looked at her and realized I was not going to get anywhere with her.  She was just plain ignorant.  I turned to her and said, “I am pulling my son from the school.  I don’t want him to be in an environment that he does not feel wanted or safe.”  She said that it was my choice but I had to give her two week’s notice, as it is stated in our contract.  I looked at her and said, “You have got to be kidding.  I am taking my son home.  He will not be back.  He will also not be attending kindergarten at your school.  And since you have refused to resolve this issue, I am not paying for the two weeks.  It appears to me you are also a part of the problem.”  She responded, “You have to pay for the two weeks.  It is in your contract.”  My response was, “I’m not paying.  Sue me.”  And I headed out the door. 

Now I know this may sound like an insignificant event, but I wanted my child to know that his mother is there to protect him.  He could come to me anytime and we would get the issue resolved.  I also wanted him to know that he did not have to put up with situations such as this, and you had a right confront individuals involved.

I also wondered to myself, what lesson this “gang” of boys had learned.  It is okay to pick on someone.  It is okay to treat someone differently because of their skin color.  Since the adults around them did not take an action, it is okay to continue with this type of behavior.  In the end I was thankful that we left the school. 

To be continued . . .