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.
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.