My grandson, Landon, is in 4th grade. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, he was the recipient of bullying in his classroom. It escalated to the point where he was injured. The other boy stabbed him in the hand with a pencil, leaving a deep cut. No, he didn't need stitches, but we decided it was time to intervene.
Whew, I wish I could tell you we had great success. I wish I could say that the school and district had a Zero Tolerance Policy and used it. I wish I could say that if it weren't for COVID-19, our only choice would have been to uproot Landon, a boy who's an honor student and never been in trouble, and either move him from the classroom or to another school.
My daughter-in-law, Jessie, and I arranged for a meeting with the principal, and I'd also like to tell you that we reached a resolution. We didn't.
To begin with, we had to wait over forty minutes, which I felt was a little extreme. About fifteen minutes into it, the school receptionist came in and moved us, saying that the "other party" was in a meeting with the principal, and she didn't think we should be in the area when they left her office.
Fine. We moved.
I sat down in a child's chair in a room that looked like it was a storage room. This was after three back surgeries in five years. I wasn't given the choice of even having an adult chair. No, I'm not angry...yet.
But I did get that way, although I reined it in, of course. Showing anger in a meeting like that will not get you what you want, but then again, we didn't get what we wanted anyway.
As we waited, I thought of the messages we were receiving. We weren't important enough for the principal to be on time. We weren't as important as the other family, as we not only were moved from the comfortable chairs in the office into a storage room at best.
Finally, the principal came for us. She didn't introduce herself, apologize, or make small talk. For a few minutes, I wondered if she was one of my daughter-in-law's friends. She ushered us into her office with an air or arrogance.
Intimidation tactics 101.
At one point, I asked the principal for a copy of their bullying policy. She jumped up from her chair and went to her bulletin board and handed me a well-worn, three paragraph paper. It had pinholes sticking all over it, and was one of the least professional documents I've ever seen.
I asked her for a copy. "Keep it," she said. I did.
I had already been to the school district's website and found their bullying policy. It was equally anorexic. One of the first things the principal offered was a meeting for both families with the two boys as part of the mix. "What?" I asked. "You've got to be kidding. What do you hope to accomplish with this meeting?"
She spun a tale about how it was the other family's desire to have this meeting. I've been an educator for almost forty years, and I've never heard of such a thing. When emotions are hot, having two families meet, kids in tow, is a recipe for disaster. "We're not interested in having a session of the Jerry Springer Show," my daughter-in law quipped.
During the meeting, I counted five more times that the principal pushed for this meeting until I finally said, "Quit asking us to have this meeting. It won't happen."I'd like to say she stopped asking...But that's another story. In the end, our only choice was to move Landon to another classroom. Two other boys had already been moved out of the class because of this tyrant, and the school seemed to cater to not only his needs and wants, but his parents.
Or, we could move schools, something Landon had just experienced.I asked the principal why the other boy couldn't be moved. "We already offered that, and they didn't like the other teacher, so they won't agree to it."Wow...who has all the power here?
Obviously...the bully's parents...the people he probably learned his behaviors from. So, what we learned from all of this, is that if your child is bullied and even hurt, you can only move him somewhere else to protect him. I couldn't believe the lack of support, professionalism, and the bizarre solution that was offered.
I asked for extra "eyes" while Landon went to the bathroom, and was told it couldn't be done. I pushed. Eventually, the principal said that she'd personally watch his bathroom breaks to ensure he wasn't hurt. At this point, I doubt if that ever would have happened.
Sigh. If not for COVID-19, an honor student, a boy who'd never been in trouble at school, would have been treated as if he'd done something wrong. The best solution the school could come up with, was moving him. After he'd done nothing. We were ready to do it, just to keep Landon safe. He's loved and treasured and has experienced enough from this boy.
Our story isn't unique; I know that. We have to do better than this. Bullying is real. It's harmful, and administrators like this only make the problem worse.