I usually don’t post anything too personal on this blog. But there is something that has bothered me so much recently and it has gotten worse every passing week.
My son is an upper elementary school aged child. There are a group of boys that he has been in class with since kindergarten. These boys have been frenemies from the beginning. Sometimes they like each other and sometimes they don’t. One day they are friends and the next day they are enemies and calling each other names. This last year in particular, however, it has gotten increasingly worse, to the point that I am getting called by the school at least every two weeks, sometimes more, regarding escalating incidents between these boys and my son.
My son is no angel and I have reprimanded and spoken and yelled at him and punished him plenty of times for his part in the situation and for his wrong doing. I’ve told him that if a child says something to him that bothers him, then he should tell a teacher because we don’t want it to escalate. He has had an increasingly hard time dealing with the stress.
He was seeing a social worker at the school to discuss coping strategies. He had two different social workers, the first was an older woman who had a very calming demeanor about her and my son took to her very well and enjoyed meeting with her. She retired and was replaced with another social worker, a male in his 30’s, whom my son also liked very much and looked forward to meeting with.
This yeat, however, he was switched to a guidance counselor because they said the social worker is reserved for more intense and behavioral students. My son didn’t warrant a social worker. So he was scheduled to meet with the guidance counselor every week. From the beginning, my son disliked her. He said she was “mean” to him. He said if she asked him a question and he didn’t give the right answer, she would yell at him and get frustrated that he didn’t respond with the term she was looking for. Every time he has session with her, he came home more stressed that he was before meeting with her.
I contacted the school and requested that he not meet with her anymore because it wasn’t effective and was making the situation worse, actually. I knew it wasn’t just my son being defiant because he loved the other two social workers and never complained the three years he went to session.
The school was adamant that I keep him in the guidance sessions and said they had no alternate counselor. He couldn’t go back to meeting with the social worker because he had no room in his schedule. My son was pulled out from class again after I requested that he not be. I then took him out early from school the next time he was scheduled and told them that I demand his IEP be revised and I put it in writing so it could not be ignored.
They did remove guidance from his IEP and gave two alternate outside resources for me to call. The first told me that my son wasn’t yet old enough for their service and the other referral had no openings. Which would leave me with having to pay out of pocket for any other traditional counselor and I cannot afford that.
So anyhow, the school situation has gotten horrible. The group of boys is still in class together and it has gotten so bad that teachers have had to physically intervene and separate the boys. Every day there is a new story of who said what and who is friends with who. The boys have gotten excluded from class trips, have received lunch detention, have been threatened with suspension, have had meetings with the social worker to mediate and diffuse the situation. Things will be good for a week and then it’s drama again.
I’ve went to the school to talk with my son and the principal. She has told my son to “ignore it because they are just words”. She said “it’s going to only get worse in middle school and you have to learn to block out some things”. I agreed with her to an extent. Life is cruel. People are mean. There will always be situations and environments where you don’t like someone. I spoke to my son about picking and choosing his battles. I told him that he can’t get upset about every little comment but to get upset about the malicious and really hurtful ones. I’ve given examples of how he could respond to the minor, not so hurtful comments. I told him when someone comes up to him to tell him that another boy doesn’t like him, then he should say “I don’t really care what he thinks”.
This week everything went downhill. Yesterday, my son came home saying he doesn’t want to go back to school. He said “I don’t want to see them anymore”. He said “I don’t want to keep fighting them”. I told him that he had to go and that I would talk to the principal because apparently, there was a situation that took place yesterday and I was not made aware of it.
So the principal this morning told me that she didn’t get a chance to call me yesterday because she had a lot of obligations. She called me later this afternoon to tell me what happened. She said that in the schoolyard during recess, a boy went up to my son to tell him that the other boys were talking about him. This boy proceeded to run back and forth between my son and the other two boys to instigate. The principals exact words were “the other boy was instigating and provoking”. Then the other two boys came up to my son to confront him so now it was 3 against 1. One of the boys, in the principal’s words, “lunged” at my son. He apparently swung at my son but missed. My son grabbed his hand and did a hold on him that he learned in karate class. Teachers then intervened and my son had to talk with the principal and she then did an investigation. Later that day, my son went to use the bathroom alone. One of the boys involved in the first altercation saw my son going into the bathroom. He followed him into the bathroom. One of the teachers saw this and went in to see what was going on. According to the principal, this boy went to punch my son but missed and my son then hit him.
So the principal then tells me that if this continues, my son will be suspended and the other two boys will have consequences as well. I asked if the other two boys will be suspended as well. She said no because although they attempted to hit my son, their hit didn’t land or make actual contact. My son, however, although in self defense, did land his hit and because of a hands off policy at school, he can get suspended. The other boys would just not be allowed on the next two school trips.
I obviously became very upset at this unfair and one sided punishment. I told her that if she suspended my son and not the other two boys, then I would take it to a higher level and she can justify not suspending the other boys involved who started the fight, because their hits “didn’t land”.
I did yell at her, not even gonna lie. And the F bomb was used. Not at her but in the sentence. She then hung up. She was called back and yelled at again for being ridiculous and unfair and she said that she is being “verbally assaulted” and hung up again.
So she can’t tolerate an angry parent yelling and hangs up the minute voices get raised, yet my son should “get a tougher skin” and “ignore it”. A child who is around his peers all day every day should learn better coping techniques yet she hangs up within five seconds of being yelled at.
Maybe she should develop a “thicker skin”.
So now I will be going to my local elementary school this coming week to have him transferred. He’s actually not in his zoned school right now. This is a neighborhood we no longer live in but I chose to keep him in because I didn’t want to pull him out after he made friends. That will all change come Monday. I will not force him to return to a setting where he is within feet of a group of boys that he has ongoing issues with and a school that obviously has no clue on how to prevent these situations from happening and has no alternatives other than to stick my son in a Kindergarten class. This will only continue to get worse and I can’t imagine how my son must have felt yesterday when he was attacked twice in one day.
The principal told me that he cannot hit even in self defense. I understand that schools cannot promote hitting, even if in the name of self defense. But we also can’t teach our kids that you should just be a victim and there will be no consequences for the other party. I will never teach my son to be a victim and I will always reinforce that you have a right to defend yourself. Because next time it will be more than one kid following him into the bathroom. I’m glad he made it known that he will and can defend himself.
His school talks about anti-bullying and hangs their anti bullying posters all over the school. The principal makes a morning announcement every day about being kind and keeping your hands to yourself. Yet when the bullying situations occur, they aren’t handled properly. Telling kids to ignore hurtful words and to be made to feel like a criminal when they defend themselves is sending the wrong message. It is not realistic to tell a child to consistently ignore malicious words from their peers. It is not realistic to say keep calm and to not react. It is unrealistic to say that you should not let unkind words hurt you and effect your mood. Bullying is an epidemic and more and more children are committing suicide because of improper handling of bullying situations and peer issues. My son tells me consistently that he does not want to go to school because he is having a hard time dealing with the situation. These boys are kept together within feet of each other every day when it has been proven over and over again that they need to be kept separate. The school is very small and does not have alternate rooms for them to go to.
I hope that when I go to our zoned school to have him transferred, things will go smoothly and he can begin attending immediately. I can’t imagine having him return to his current school for another school year.