Monday, April 25, 2016

I Need Your Help

You all, my heart is breaking, and I need your help.  For the past year, my son Zach has been bullied at school.  At first it was only two boys.  They’d make fun of him, kick his books across the room (during class), and make faces at him when the teacher’s back was turned.  At first, my son felt like he could handle it.  He ignored them, he told the teachers what was happening, he told me (I in turn talked to the school), and he tried to just go about his day.




It didn’t work.  The boys escalated things.  Soon it wasn’t only two boys picking on him, it was most of his class.  During group work kids muttered, “Oh shit,” or slammed their fists on their desks in anger when the teacher assigned him to their group.  He’s picked last in gym.  His grades started to slide.  He became increasingly anxious and depressed.  He started having suicidal thoughts.

It got so bad that we pulled him out of school in November with the plan that I would homeschool him.  We talked to the school, met with the headmaster and dean of students.  They assured us that they would talk to the offending students and make sure the bullying stopped.  My son wanted to go back to school, so we decided to try it again.  After a week at home, he returned and things seemed better.

It didn’t last.  During gym class kids tried to hit him with balls.  They were playing baseball and one kids hit the ball so hard with the bat that he cracked it.  They laughed at him as they aimed for him.  Then they’d say in a stage whisper, “Don’t do anything to him.  He’ll just tell on you.”  One day in class, they waited until the teacher left the room and wrote, “Zach = Retarded” on the board.  The teacher didn’t notice when she returned to class, so Zach had to raise his hand and ask if he could erase the board.

The bullying hasn’t been confined to school.  This year, the school went to a system where the students use Chrome Books.  A lot of their content is online.  The bullying continued there.  In one of the worst comments, a student wrote to my son, “The week you were out of school was the best week of the year.”

Every time we contacted the school.  Every time they assured us they would make it stop.

They didn’t.

This is a private school for academically gifted kids.  We specifically sent our son here to avoid bullying like this.  We’re paying for our son to be treated like this.  (This is where I need to mention that apparently the parents of the bullies give a lot of money to the school.  Hmm, wonder if this is why they haven’t been sufficiently dealt with??)

Thursday was especially bad.  Zach came home with a bruise on his face.  He spent the night in tears.  “Is there something wrong with me?” he asked.  “Am I causing this?  Is it my fault?”  The suicidal thoughts returned.

I kept him home on Friday and we called the school again.  They – once again – said they would take care of it.  Zach returned to school today and my husband went in to talk to the administrators.  They said they talked to the entire class but (wait for it) they couldn’t find any evidence that things were as bad as Zach said.  (By the way, the “evidence” they are looking for is for the students to speak up and say that this is happening.  Um, yeah.  I’m not an expert, but I don’t see that happening.)  Then they suggested that because my husband recently changed jobs and isn’t home as much, maybe Zach is just trying to get attention from him.

This is where I went from my heart breaking for my son, to white hot fury at the school.  How dare they blame him for the bullying.  How dare they excuse the behavior of the other kids.  How dare they act as if my child just has to suck it up and deal with it.  When my husband said that if this happens again Zach will finish the rest of the school year at home, they said they weren’t sure if that was in the curriculum.

But apparently it is in the curriculum to have my son spend the entire weekend scared to death of returning to school.
 
Finally, when my husband said that things had not been resolved to his satisfaction, the administrator said he didn’t know what else he could do.  I don’t work in the school system, but here are just a few suggestions off the top of my head:

Suspend the bullies
Move the bullies to a different class
Have a teacher/admin shadow the bullies (instead of the victim)
Send the bullies to a month (or more) of detention
Suspend them from extra-curricular activities
Since these two boys seem to feed off of each other, put them in separate classes
Make the bullies write a 10 page research paper on how bullies end up later in life
Expel the bullies
Make the bullies clean the bathrooms

I'd just like to not that all of the above suggestions put the responsibility for the behavior on the bully -- where it belongs -- instead of on the victim.  Just sayin'.

I’m just a mom and a writer, but these are just a few ideas off the top of my head.  I’m sure given more than five minutes I could come up with more.

We're not a wealthy family.  We can't give the school the large donation it apparently requires to be taken seriously to make the bullying stop.  

OK.  That's fine.  What I can do is write.  What I can do is reach out to all of you.  One of the hardest things about all of this has been the isolation that Zach feels.  You all, he feels so, so alone.  So I'm asking for your help.  I'd love to show him that we all have his back.  I'm asking you to do two things.  
First, please leave a comment of support for Zach either here on this blog or on my Facebook page.  I want him to see that there are more good people who love him than there are bullies in this world.  I want to shower him with positive messages of love and support.  

And second, please share this blog post.  I don't want another child to feel the way my son feels.  I don't want another mom's heart to hurt the way mine does.  

Thank you all.  I know this will make a difference.  

43 comments:

  1. Zach, I am so lucky to know you. I have so enjoyed watching you grow and become such an amazing young man. You are a wonderful brother to your siblings and because of your big heart and bright mind you will be one of the best things to happen to this world as an adult. I cannot wait to see what you become in the future and am so happy to be a part of your family!
    Your cousin,
    Audrey

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    1. Audrey, thank you for writing to Zach! It's so helpful to him to hear from people (other than his parents!) how much he matters.

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  2. Stephanie, please tell Zach he's got my love and support and he does not deserve what he is going through. I, too, went to a private school and was severely picked on after my mother passed away and because my family decided to support my education through tutors so I could excel. My family didn't have the most money and the bullies were also kids whose parents gave a lot to the school and could get away with anything. Please know that I can truly empathize and that you are not any of those awful things they said. Please know you are loved and not alone. Sending love and light.
    ~Dora

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    1. Dora, thank you for sharing your story with Zach. Knowing he's not the only one who's gone through this helps him so much.

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  3. Zach, here is what I know about horrid people: it isn't about me. It isn't about you either, Zach. It's about their seeing something BEAUTIFUL in you that makes them aware that they aren't nurturing it in themselves. So they hurt you because it's the quickest way for them to feel better-than...which, they aren't. You don't need to hate them. They're hurting too, and hating them won't make you feel fabulous. But anger is appropriate; they are being really, really bad to you, and it is not your doing. It is not your fault. There is nothing "about you" that is wrong, flawed or anything bad. I believe that what this experience is about is you getting an education in something that most adults struggle with (so you'll be ahead of the game): there are people like you who live with care for others, and there are others who live in fear and therefore attack others to feel better about themselves. It's Not About You. It's Not About Anything Lacking In You. Quite the contrary. Be safe. Be strong. By the way, the more you find ways to see yourself as strong, the less others will see you as pick-on-able. Much love to you, and strength too! Signed...someone you don't know, but someone who's been bullied as an adult.

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  4. Zach, here is what I know about horrid people: it isn't about me. It isn't about you either, Zach. It's about their seeing something BEAUTIFUL in you that makes them aware that they aren't nurturing it in themselves. So they hurt you because it's the quickest way for them to feel better-than...which, they aren't. You don't need to hate them. They're hurting too, and hating them won't make you feel fabulous. But anger is appropriate; they are being really, really bad to you, and it is not your doing. It is not your fault. There is nothing "about you" that is wrong, flawed or anything bad. I believe that what this experience is about is you getting an education in something that most adults struggle with (so you'll be ahead of the game): there are people like you who live with care for others, and there are others who live in fear and therefore attack others to feel better about themselves. It's Not About You. It's Not About Anything Lacking In You. Quite the contrary. Be safe. Be strong. By the way, the more you find ways to see yourself as strong, the less others will see you as pick-on-able. Much love to you, and strength too! Signed...someone you don't know, but someone who's been bullied as an adult.

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    1. Lori, thank you. This is exactly what I'm trying to teach Zach.

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  5. Zach! I haven't seen you in a very long time, but I've thought about you and your folks very often over the years. I remember what a miracle you were when you were born!
    This is breaking my heart, bud... It really is. Because I dealt with a lot of bullying in school when I was a kid. Then I would go home and get it there from my dad and every kid in the neighborhood. I lived in hell for most of my young life. I fought and hurt a lot of other kids, hospitalizing one of them for two weeks. It was the only way I knew to deal with the way I was feeling; to lash out.
    My instinct is to tell you to beat them up and make them leave you alone, but I have a lot of regrets from living like that. It makes for a lot of guilt that never really goes away. And there is always another bully standing behind that one that wants to box you too. It doesn't really fix anything.
    I'm glad you have the parents you do. They are both really smart, caring and wise individuals who will help you figure this out. If you want to, get them to call me (or you can call me) and we can go do a little fishing or grab dinner or whatever you like to do. I know talking to people that aren't your folks (even folks as good as yours) can be helpful.
    Until then, hang tough and try to remember that all this will be a distant memory one day. Also, remember that trials like this are what make us into the strong, resilient men that bullies can't match! You. Will. WIN!!!

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    1. Jason, thank you so much. I'm so grateful to you for being willing to share your story with Zach. It helps him to know he's not alone and that he will get through this!

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  6. Hi Zach, you're an awesome, smart kid! I'm sorry this is happening to you. Being bullied is not fun and no one should be treated like you're being treated. Your parents will help. Make sure you tell them how you're feeling and know that there are a lot of people who love and support you. Hold on to them. Whatever you do, remember that bullies are the ones to blame and that none of this is your fault.

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  7. I don't know you, Zach, or your mother, but I am a mother, and I was a victim of bullying. I remember how horrible it felt, how alone, and how my parents also tried to get the school to take action. They didn't, and I was sent to a 'doctor' because the problems - according to the school - were all in my head.
    Fortunately the doctor agreed with my parents and with me - and the medical records...
    You are the stronger one.

    Now, practical matters.
    Phones - they come with voice recording technology. If you can get just one incident recorded, just one, it might be enough proof for the school. Document EVERYTHING. Get the doctors involved, photograph bruises, show screen shots (that one note via chromebook might be enough to prove cyberbullying if there's more then it's more proof) Remember, cyberbullying is now a crime and that can take it out of the schools hands - useful for parents to remind schools of this because they DONT want the cops snooping around...

    http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/

    Use the tools that are there and don't ever hold back in telling your parents AND the teachers (immediately after its happened - and document on your phone when it happens).

    They want proof, give it to them through so much documentation that they HAVE to take notice.

    You're strong. You're brave. You. Are. Not. Alone.

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  9. Hi Zach, just remember none of this is your fault. Adolescent boys (and girls for that matter) can be so awful. I dealt with a bully when I was in the 8th grade and it was one of the hardest things I ever did. My daughter, Ashley Wilbers, knows you from Hinsdale and would like to talk to you. She has also been bullied though not to the same degree. Please contact me!

    To Stehanie, I can't imagine your frustration but you are doing the right thing. I think bringing awareness to this will help not only Zach, but also other children.

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    1. Crystal, thank you! Zach would love to talk to Ashley.

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  10. Please call Mason Edwards. Your parents sound like amazing people. Sometimes when you are hurting like you, It will be easier to talk to someone who has been EXACTLY where you are and made it thru to the other side. Also you won't have to filter what you say for fear of hurting your parents. You sound like a kid who might try to "deal" or not "worry anyone". Honey, we worry because we are old - to you anyway - and we have seen things and done things and survived things. We want better for you. So go fishing. You are loved. You are not alone. These sad children with no morale compass or empathy for others, I am sad for them too because if they don't end up in jail one...even if they do, many will wake up one day wracked with guilt at the abuse they dished out. Even worse, some will never feel remorse and they will raise more of the same.

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    1. Jason Edwards 😊 autocorrect

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    2. Jason Edwards 😊 autocorrect

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    3. Tracy, thank you for reaching out to Zach!

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  11. Zach, you are a brave young man! Going back and giving school another try = bravery. Talking with your Mom and Dad about the situation =bravery. Please do not let the behaviors of others make you question your actions, beliefs and morals. Stay strong, brave and have faith that God is watching over you.
    Stephanie, I would not protect the school, administration, faculty or organization. If the private school is unwilling to address this issue honestly call them out so others might join your battle. Be it this school or their own. There is strength in numbers and common ground. I will be praying for Zac and the Kippur family. Have faith.

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    1. Thank you for letting Zach know how brave he is!

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  12. As a fellow written and the mother of a son that was also bullied I feel your pain. Zach, nothing is wrong with you at all. You are beautiful just being you. I'm so impressed with your ability to go to your parents and openly talk.just know that once you graduate, you probably won't be seeing these kids again. You can go on with your life, be and do anything you want. Keep your head up.

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  13. Zach, you are better than these bullies. You always will be. You are loved, liked, and admired. You have a friend in my son, age 8, any time you need a playmate. These bullies do not define who you are! They never did and never will.

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  15. Zach, all I can say is sometimes people are awful. But, it's not because of who you are. It's all on them. And please remember, you aren't alone. I, too, have a child that can struggle socially at school. You have parents that clearly love you. Trust that they'll do everything they can to help you.

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    1. Thank you, Keri. That's exactly what we tell Zach.

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  16. Zach, I was bullied consistently as a child. People would even kick me when I waited for the bus. Name calling and embarrassment was a daily experience. It gets so much better. As an adult, I have a husband I love, a career that is really rewarding, and two children of my own. Success in life is the best revenge. Keep going, you will make it and find better times!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps Zach to know he's not alone.

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  17. Zach, I was bullied consistently as a child. People would even kick me when I waited for the bus. Name calling and embarrassment was a daily experience. It gets so much better. As an adult, I have a husband I love, a career that is really rewarding, and two children of my own. Success in life is the best revenge. Keep going, you will make it and find better times!

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  18. Zach, to this day having you in my Sunday School class is one of the great joys of my life. Your kindness and compassion for not only the other kids but also me is in unmatched in all of my other teaching experiences and that includes 10 years in public schools and almost as many in Sunday school. I'll never forget you coming into class one week after I had been in major back pain the week before. You were so concerned for me and really wanted to know that I was feeling better. I remind you of this to say there is nothing "wrong" with you. Other kids your age(and adults too) should aspire to the same love for others that you so freely show. I can't imagine how painful this all must be for you. I know it seems overwhelming and like there is no light at the end of a very long tunnel. But you are not in that tunnel alone. Hold tight to the people who love you. You will persevere and come out the other side standing confident in the person God has created you to be!

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    1. Beth, you have me in tears. Thank you my friend. Your words mean so much!

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  19. Mean kids suck! And adults that act blind to this behavior are even worse. My daughter has been dealing with this crap on and off since the 6th grade. She will be 16 in June. She has dealt with self harming issues, anxiety and bouts of depression because of it. Counseling has helped. She doesn't want to leave her school, so she is hanging in there. Just today she received an anonymous mean message on instagram. She has good days and bad. But each day she gets a little stronger and each day that she gets stronger the bullies get weaker. I know it doesn't seem fair and it isn't. Hang in there kiddo. I know it may not seem like it, but God has big plans for you. Keep talking to your Mom and Dad, they are fighting for you and love you. We are a Catholic family, however my daughter has started to go to Crossroad every Thursday for the Middle/High school service, it has been life changing for her. Whatever helps them get through. Good Luck and God Bless.

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    1. I'm so sorry that your daughter is going through this. I'm glad she's finding some comfort at Crossroads. Thanks for taking the time to encourage Zach!

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  20. Mean kids suck! And adults that act blind to this behavior are even worse. My daughter has been dealing with this crap on and off since the 6th grade. She will be 16 in June. She has dealt with self harming issues, anxiety and bouts of depression because of it. Counseling has helped. She doesn't want to leave her school, so she is hanging in there. Just today she received an anonymous mean message on instagram. She has good days and bad. But each day she gets a little stronger and each day that she gets stronger the bullies get weaker. I know it doesn't seem fair and it isn't. Hang in there kiddo. I know it may not seem like it, but God has big plans for you. Keep talking to your Mom and Dad, they are fighting for you and love you. We are a Catholic family, however my daughter has started to go to Crossroad every Thursday for the Middle/High school service, it has been life changing for her. Whatever helps them get through. Good Luck and God Bless.

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  21. Zach, I keep trying to think of the words that would be a comfort but I'm angry on your behalf. The plain truth is that sometimes people are just ugly. Odds are that your bullies were raised by bullies and they'll probably just perpetuate the cycle. Sometimes those people grow, often times they don't. The best you can do at this time is recognize their limited power. All the intimidation in the world doesn't make them brighter, smarter, or a better human being. Hurt people... hurt people. Something in them feels inadequate.

    I don't know you but I certainly know how you feel. The good news is that there are lots of us who do. We make it through. Stand strong and don't let the inadequate people diminish your journey through this time in your life.

    On a more practical note, perhaps the school could contact one of these local resources for an anti-bullying program. It's certainly a more proactive stance than doing nothing and waiting for an incident to make the evening news. Schools who dismiss bullying problems should be held responsible for their negligence.

    http://www.referweb.net/uwgc/MatchList.aspx?c;;0;;N;0;0;Individual%20and%20Family%20Life;Social%20Development;53;Bullying%20Prevention~

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    1. Thanks for the resources and the words for Zach!

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  22. Zach,

    I know at this time, life is hard. Bullying is a horrible thing to endure. Just remember that there are people that love you and care for you. These kids at school are a small piece of your timeline. Don't let bullies cut short that timeline. Things do get better! There is so much more to this world and your life that you have yet to get to discover. I came from a home of divorced parents, both of whom were alcoholics. Without going into details, I felt like my life was a dark and dreadful place. However, I decided that I was not going to let the darkness take hold of me. I wanted to be happy. I was able to give my energy and time to people who were good for me and to me. This helped me get through it and you will too. It sounds like you have a wonderful mother and family. Let that be your light. Wishing you all the best and lots of love!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story and sending love to Zach!

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  23. Hi Zach,
    Although we do not know each other, I am certain that you are worth so much more than these circumstances. Ive had to deal with bullies too as a child and it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can promise you this..their behavior has nothing to do with you. They are lacking something in their own lives.The good news is that this will pass! In the meantime, you have to be strong. Remember that there are people at home that love you unconditionally. There are also people out in the world (like me) that cant wait to see how you grow up and make this world a better place. Your time will come. This will all be a source of strength for you to draw upon as you conquer obstacles in life. Hang in there, buddy. We all have got your back.
    - Jason H.

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  24. Zach, I am so angry for you and my heart goes out to you too Mom because I know how much pain it causes you too. I am a mother of 5 and grandmother of 11 and I have experienced this with one child and 1 grandchild...both are older now and have done so well in their lives. I know that this doesn't help much but this too shall pass. The children that are bullying you are not good people its just that simple. Good people win and bad people lose. I will pray for you stay strong buddy...I have seen what bullies turn into and they are to be pitied. You will be the strong successful one in the end Zach....God Bless. Ill be thinking and praying for you.

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