Recently, I publicly announced that my daughter (a second grader) was being bullied from a student at her school. A lot of parents wouldn't recommend that you take something so personal into the public eye. As a BULLY advocate, I do not have a problem with using our situation as an example as that it may help others in the future.
With that being said, here is the story that many have been waiting to hear.
And like any good story, I should hope that by the time you have read this you will have had something positive to take away from this too- should you ever be in a similar situation or know someone who might.
Well, I thought the same thing. Until one night my daughter confided in me and suddenly, it was as if all of the puzzle pieces came together.
I have not asked her many questions to the point of provoking. She does however know and understand what things are not okay for someone to do to her and what she cannot do to others.
The conversation began quite simply with us talking about dairy products. She asked if she could drink the milk at school (she hadn't been feeling well that week) and after my reply she says "Well, that's if he will let me.."
This opened up a conversation I was not at all prepared for. Even as a BULLY advocate, I understand that it can happen to anyone. It even happened to me as a child.
She didn't call it bullying, however. "Picked on" were the words she used when she described in detail what had been happening to her. She talked about her fingers being stepped on, her hands being smacked down or held behind her back when she raised them to tell, her hair being pulled, her papers being taken from her, being pushed out of line, food being taken from her lunch tray..
And then, it all made sense.
Why was she starving when she got off of the school bus? She had ate her snack in class and could tell me what was on her lunch tray..
Why did she have such bad headaches when she hadn't hit her head on anything and her eye checks were up to date..
Why were her fingers red and sore? She was crying at night in bed and pulling on them because they hurt and said she hadn't did anything to them.
Why did this child who when misses the bus and has to ride with me to school, suddenly started to feel sick and not want to go, but feel better once the bus was gone?
My initial reaction was most likely the same as yours, as you are reading this. Anger, hurt and afraid.
Who was this person who was making my child so miserable? After reviewing the timeline, I'd realized that this had been going on for the six weeks or more.
Two days passed and I had my appointment with the school principal. A lot of parents may be wondering why I skipped the chain of command and went directly to him, well it's fairly simple- I was going to pass through him (because of security reasons) to get to the teacher anyway. My child was not going to be attending class again until this was resolved, and this was not a matter that I wanted to handle over a phone call with the teacher.
My best bet? Just go to the principal directly.. so I did.
The principal is a very kind man, like myself blunt and to the point. I appreciate the way he handles the students and parents involved in his facility. When you first walk up to the school, there are signs clear enough for anyone to read saying how it is a No Bullying Zone.
We discussed the situation and he told me that my daughter was excused until he further contacted me to have a meeting with the other student, the other student's parents and the teachers involved. I was pleased with all of this and thanked him for his time. I even took the opportunity to inform him of The BULLY Project. (Seek opportunity everywhere, for every cause!)
So, a few days later I talked with my little one about meeting with the other child and his parents and she was fine with it. I recorded one of the conversations as she and I were talking, but she hushed about it once she became uncomfortable with the idea. So we let the subject go and went on about our day.
We met with the teacher, the principal and the father of the son who was the other student, the student was there as well. It was nerve wrecking for everyone and the father of the other child kind of reminded me of my own dad.
I went in with the mindset that this would be a positive experience for the children. They are after all, only seven and eight years old. My target in this meeting, were the adults.
During the meeting my little one was nervous and scared, whispering to talk and the other child was in tears throughout. To see both children, so little in age sitting in this room scared, broke my heart. They are kids. As adults, it is our responsibility to teach them in their individual ways what was right and what was wrong in the situation.
Now is the time to stop the bad behaviors and reward the good. They are learning from us.
As the meeting went on, I made sure to look both children directly in the eye and remind them that we could fix this as a team. I knew that raising our voices, scaring them or being angry would only shut them down. That is not how I wanted this to be.
Both children admitted that against the teacher's word in the beginning of the meeting, they had tried to tell multiple times on eachother- her for him picking on her and him for her fighting back.
At the end of the meeting, it was my turn to talk and I made sure to look the teacher and principal in the eye with what I had to say.
I stated that I felt it was irresponsible of the school to have this gone on as long as it had. The fact that it had gotten to the point where we had to have the meeting, was absolutely ridiculous. I pointed out that this school was of a small classroom size and that for both children to have had this happen, to the point where my child was hurt, the other children witnessed it and helped get him off of her, both children tried telling on eachother and nothing was done, was absolutely absurd. I let them know, that if this were to happen again- with either child, that either one had a a problem and it was even remotely ignored that my child would no longer be a student at that school.
I reminded them that I am not a parent that uses the school system as a 'babysitter', but I don't expect something like this to go to the extent of pain- emotional or physical for six or more weeks.
The tension in the room had rose at this point. But I made my point clear.
The principal and teacher assured me that it would not happen. I myself, talked with the children and told them that instead of picking on eachother, they could become a team and help other kids who were getting picked on. To think of eachother as friends and team up against anyone else getting hurt, including eachother. The kids agree'd.
We all walked out shaking hands and that was it. Now, we have winter break.
So, here I sit typing this to you my wonderful readers in hopes that you can learn from this in case you are ever faced with something similar. Had I handled this differently if the kids were older? Of course. But for this particular situation, I handled it to the best of my mommy ability.
Now, we will see what the next few weeks have to bring. Yup, I'll have butterflies in my stomach the first time I send her back. I'll be pacing floors and typing faster than normal.. but when she gets home, I'm sure it will all be okay. In the meantime, it happened and the meeting is done.
Now, we just wait.