Bullying: What can we do?
Adults have to step up
In the past few days, the local newspapers where my family resides has been filled with the horrifically sad story of yet another tragic loss of life. A young woman who had had enough. She had been treated badly for so many years, the thought of returning to school and going for another round proved to be fatal for her. The 15 year old had suffered through torments and bullying due to the ability to march to our drummer, be someone who was different, looked different from the rest of the crowd. We, as adults, know that this is a good sign of a promising future, a special and beautiful mind to grace the world with her gifts of art and poetry. However, the kids, it is threatening and they will do whatever they can to destroy someone who has the courage to walk their own path.
This is near and dear to my family. My almost 10 year old daughter is definitely a gifted individual. People throw that word around to boast and raise their children up, but we never have. Being gifted is not an easy life to live and we are not people looking for anymore roadblocks, having our oldest who possesses an diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. He has his own forms of gifted that we are challenged with daily. So when my daughter's principal insisted on us having her evaluated for the gifted program, we at first declined, not wanting to separate her further since she already stood out for having a disabled brother. The principal informed us that she was definitely on the gifted side and needed this enrichment in order to stay motivated in school. She was correct.
My daughter heard about this young women who tragically threw herself in front of a bus and died in the past week. She said to me: "she sounds a little like me." referring to the girl's love and gifts in the arts, her uniqueness of style and special abilities. This is a true statement. My daughter has also been treated poorly by many in her class for the past few years. She is often not included in parties and games. She is insulted and made fun of. She is a beautiful girl, thin and athletic. Many people associate bullies with people who pick on those who are overweight, wear glasses, look "geeky" are unattractive or clumsy. Not true, anyone is a target. My daughter is a wonderful artist, is top of her class academically. She is very sweet, kind and giving. She is very attractive and dresses well. There should be no reason to pick on her.
However, she has a wonderful mind. She expresses herself. She is able to think well past what other children her age would do. She can draw beautiful pictures and write stories well beyond her years. This apparently infuriates certain children. She is supposed to do what they say and do. She is not supposed to be an individual according to their rules. She is expected to "fall in line".
What has never helped in our situation is the parents of the students in her class. Many of them think this is silly and do not understand the issues here. They are often bullies themselves. I have gone on class trips as a chaperone. I have observed adults that I have no desire to have any interraction with. These are the people raising the children my daughter has to spend 6 hours a day with in a tiny, crowded classroom. It answers many questions when you step back and look at the parents and surroundings OUTSIDE of the school.
My daughter is not the only one in her class going through this. There are 32 kids in the room, she is not alone in her misery. She does have friends, who are true friends, and they often suffer at the hands of bullies as well. They rarely speak up because they don't want it to get worse. Her school has impleted zero tolerance for bullying. They run great programs. Yet it still continues. I spoke to the school psychologist last year and told her that they can do all they want during the school day, and maybe a few children will get the idea, but the majority will go home and have what they were taught undone by the environment they live in.
So what can we do? First off, parents need TOTAL ACCESS to all social networking, emails and texts sent by and to their children/teens. Parents MUST monitor the activity on these sites or their children should be participating. Unlike years past, the bullying continues when the kids are home. Facebook, texts, emails, other social sites kids frequent. It invades all areas of their lives, They never get a break from it. I am a parent who reads my son's facebook pages, texts and emails. I am aware of what goes on with the online xbox sessions and the Skype sessions in the house. The children must do these things in plain site of we parents, not isolated in their rooms. It does not make my house too pretty that the living and dining rooms housing computers, video games etc. But I don't care, I want this activity where I can see and hear what is going on. Also phones are turned over to me if I feel anything problematic is occurring. It is alot of time and energy and it still can allow kids to slip through and do what they want, however, its a start. I can also see what is going on with other kids and alert their parents. If they get mad at me, so be it, better safe than burying your child.
Many argue that this is infringing on my children's rights to privacy. Too bad. I do not care. They are minors in my care and it is my responsibility to keep them safe. They are not mature enough to handle the real or cyber world without guidance.
My son received a text a few years ago from a classmate that was threatening. I called Verizon. They told me that this was to be reported to the police. I called my son's school and told them that I would indeed do this if this student was not dealt with properly. They took care of it, it was a prank. However, I told the school that this was not harmless and that Verizon had told me to call the police. I advised the school to have a cyber workshop for the students. They have not. They are holding a workshop for teachers next week and moving from there. Why does it take 2 years? My friend's son just went through a facebook issue, he is in the same school. What does it take for people to realize how important it is to stay on top of what our kids are doing? Not just the school. Not just the parents. All of us, as a community.
When it comes to bullying, all I ever hear is 'the schools, the teachers, the principal" should... Yes, what should they do? They are already being put to the test to educate our children. If our children do not pass these ridiculous state mandates, the teachers are labled as bad teachers even if the children come from impossible environments filled with crime. They are being charged with instilling morality to our children. They are technically expected to raise YOUR children. That is completely inappropriate and unfair. When a parent chooses to bring a child into the world, they have now accepted a LIFETIME commitment to that human being. The parent's career and social life will have to take a backseat. Raising a decent human being is the most important job one can be charged with. It is very important to be successful, the most important task one can take on.
The newspaper states that the mother of this young woman was shown the threatening and horrible texts. Her sister knew. I wonder how many years they tried to help. I don't know how many doors were shut in their faces. The parents of the minors sending these messages have to be held accountable as well as those who wrote them. If it came from their phone and they claim it wasn't them, too bad, keep a closer eye on your phone then. Accountability and responsiblity is lost on our children, which is why we are facing the problems we face today. Noone wants to take responsiblity and be held accountable. Noone. Least of all the parents of teens who think they have the right to do and say whatever they want to whomever they want without any punishment. If your children are not listening to you, then get help, there are countless places one can go for help with parenting. The internet is one of them.
My daughter's teacher read an article with her class a few months ago regarding bullying. My daughter and another student stood up and proclaimed that this is what happens in their class and they want it stopped. This has prompted a new day in their classroom. Other bullied students felt empowered to fight back. My daughter does not get upset anymore and that causes the bullies to feel more defeated than elated. I have warned her that it may get stronger because they will try harder to get a rise out of her, but she is doing very well and confident in her responses if she even bothers to dignify the comments with one.
We, here at home have done everything in our power to give her the tools to fight back. We know that a parent going into the school or confronting the parents or the bullies themselves only goes so far and often makes it worse for our child. So we are giving her the ability to be strong, to fight back,to know that what they say is not the truth. Also to realize that this is just temporary, not forever, she will grow up and never have to see these kids again. She will move on and be a great person while many of them will not due to their own issues. If the day comes where it is impossible to get through the day without serious issue, or it becomes violent, we will remove her from the environment. No matter what we have to do. There are safety transfers, there is private school There is always home school. Giving up is never the answer and allowing your child to be hurt for many years is not okay. But what is worse is allowing your child to HURT OTHERS and do nothing about it because it is "part of growing up" No, it is not. It is abusive, and unnecessary. I feel it should be treated as a serious crime and those commiting it and permitting it to go on should be held responsible to the full extent of the law.
I watch my niece as she friends thousands on facebook and opens countless social networking accounts. I am keeping an eye on her because her parents have alot going on and also are not concerned. They, like many other parents think this is just in fun and trust their child. I am not saying don't trust YOUR child, but keep an eye on what is going on. Read, ask questions, do not say yes to everything even if it makes you the bad guy. Also, do not, do not, do not entrust the schools to raise your child. That is your most precious commodity. Why would anyone do that? This is our legacy, this is the gift that we were given to leave a lasting mark on the world for something wonderful we acomplised among the other material, not as important accomplishments of our lives. We need to open our eyes. We cannot keep losing our children to this.