My kid would never…
My kid is “everybody’s” friend…
My kid is never mean…
My kid was provoked.
Let’s be honest, there is always going to be kids that are mean, there will always be “cliques”. There will always be the kid that doesn’t fit in and will be picked on.
We always hope it won’t be ours. If it is mine, I want to know.
We want to be the parent of the child who protects others. The child who stands up so others can sit down. The child who sees an injustice and works respectfully to right a wrong.
We always hope that it our child who is the protector and not the tormentor.
It seems lately there has been an uptick in bad behavior, from our kindergartens to our Presidential election. Society says it wants to be kind, but we do not walk the talk. We either tune out the negative or we refuse to acknowledge it exists. We say to ourselves, this doesn’t happen in my country, in my town, in my back yard, it’s not my fault and it’s not my kid.
We are quick to blame anyone, anything other than our sweet child. We are quick to blame the other kid, not holding our own accountable for their behavior. We blame the school system for not doing more. For not protecting our child. Yet, by law, the school system is the only place our children visit where there is an affirmative stance of zero tolerance when it comes to bullying. Teachers, administrators, staff and even bus drivers are held to a legal standard to protect our children. It is a State Law, it is in Staff and Student handbooks. Acceptance, tolerance and anti-bullying themes are the focus of in school assemblies and teachings in the classroom. It is supposed to be in the very fabric of our school culture.
So why do mean kids exist and bullying continue?
Contrary to what they tell their students, teachers (and staff) do not have eyes or ears in the back of their head. When they are teaching a class of more than 2 students, they cannot possibly hear every whisper. They work at being aware, they strive to keep their students safe, they want to give every one of their students the individual attention they deserve but when executing those efforts, there will be kids who get away with unacceptable behaviors. Bus drivers are doing their best to navigate road, where NASCAR wannabe’s are cutting them off because Heaven forbid they get stuck behind a school bus on the way to work. Most elementary children are so small the bus driver cannot even see the children behind the seat backs, let alone hear a mean comment. In most cases, they might not even be aware until the child gets off the bus with tears in their eyes. By then, the bus driver can find out what happened, but the damage has already been done to the child.
I’m not excusing the school staff that turn a blind eye. But I honestly believe those are the few and not the many who serve our students. I also know that, as a parent, I tune out what is happening in the living room or in the back seat of the car until it is obvious that a truce to prevent World War 3 has to be negotiated.
Honestly, it comes down to us parents doing what we signed up for: parenting. AN anti-bullying society begins at home. Kindness, acceptance, tolerance and inclusion only happen when it is discussed at your table. A first grader who asks a classmate if being black means they are dirty, either (a) has never been exposed to a person of color (doubtful) or (b) has learned from their parents something that parent would be embarrassed to say in public. Trust me, I have had children in the school system for 8 years, it has never been in a lesson plan that if you are not the same race you are not equal.
The child that pushes down an overweight peer and calls them fat did not learn that skill in physical education. The child that won’t let their classmate play with them because they have two moms/dads did not learn about intolerance in social studies. These children are learning this behavior in our country, in our town, in our backyards and (sadly) in our homes.
I’m not blaming all parents, or all of society. I am saying there are some parents who are so quick to defend their child they never even consider that their child may have been the culprit.
Schools are responsible to provide a safe and enriching environment for all students. Our teachers, staff and bus drivers need to make acceptance and tolerance not a special assembly but a component of the very fabric of our schools. Yet, they can only do so much with the children they are given. There are some children who need a lot of education when it comes to acceptance. There are many children that need to learn how to advocate for themselves and others. Families are the best teachers, parents are the first people to teach their children life’s basics.
If your child is being bullied, unless you do tell the school they cannot act. Tell the teacher, that doesn’t work tell the the administrator. Still no result? Tell the Superintendent and then the School Committee. Unless you go through the chain of command, no one can act. School staff are not allowed to just respond to social media. They can see it and reach out. But until you tell someone with the ability to make change, your child will still be harmed.
It disturbs and disgusts me that a child will need to leave a school not because the parents are unhappy of the educational offerings but because their child is being tortured. Speak up, help your child speak up, teach your child to speak up for others. Alert the school on what the true issues are and demand action. If you leave without a word no one will know the true reason.
In the end it comes down to each one of us to end bullying.
You want to stop bullying? It takes more than the parent or the school system. To truly bring about a culture where bullying (from kindergarten to the White House) is not tolerated takes all of us: children, parents, schools and, most of all, the community at large.
Disclaimer: this post was brought about from my closing arguments in my role as a school committee member. However in no way am I expressing a view supported by or endorsed by the Sandwich School Committee. These words are my own personal opinion and views. Although I do view my role on the committee to serving all students, staff and community to make it a safe and bad-behavior free environment. And yes, if my child is ever the mean girl let me know. I will make sure that she understands the error of that behavior. Because accountability and changing our society begins with me.