I composed an email to my child's principal today and after some thought I have decided to post it here.
UPDATE: The principal responded very quickly with a short response promising a longer one later. She has taken the time to speak with our son already. The reason I asked about bullying programs was because I could find nothing on the school specific website. An important oversight in my opinion. He does not want talk about their conversation and we are honoring his requests. We will see where it goes from here.
I am sure you get a lot of emails and I know that you are busy, but I hope you can find the time to sit and read this email and truly think about it.
This week my son came home sad again, afraid to talk about his day. Embarrassed to talk about how two boys in particular are taunting him on the playground. This is not the first time, and it they are not the only children to have done this.
As a young man I was taunted and teased. Bullied with words as far back as I can remember. My parents told me over and over again to just "ignore them and to walk away". In those days I didn't have a school that was touting itself as zero tolerance for bullying. I didn't have teachers who were supposed to be looking out for bullying. I was an emotional child. One who cried easily. My parents told me "its OK for boys to cry." The boys on the playground saw it differently and took joy and pleasure in poking and prodding me with words until the tears came. So I learned very quickly it was NOT OK to cry, which made it even harder to stop because I was made to feel weak. Children today are no different.
It rips me up inside to see this happening with my son. My history boils up inside and all I want to tell my son is to fight back. We all know from movies that punching the bully makes them go away. But that isnot what I truly want my son to do.
If the answer to ending bullying was to truly walk away and ignore it, then we wouldn't have a bullying problem, because kids who are bullied do try to walk away and hide from those that are taunting them.
Our kids need advocates and while I understand deeply that teachers have enough responsibilities, my child has no one else to be his advocate on your watch than the teachers and staff who are monitoring the playground.
When a child approaches a teacher and tells him or her that someone is bullying them, be it even with words (because we all know that words do hurt) that child needs to believe that something will be done. Our children must know that their words will be heard. It takes more strength to tell a teacher that they are being bullied than it does to just walk away. It takes more character to tell a teacher that you are being bullied than it does to fight back. Because telling makes you a "tattle tale," doesn't it. Approaching a grown up to say you are being taunted is a cry for help that needs to be taken very seriously.
Our children need to believe and they need to feel that telling a teacher is the right thing to do and that if they do, something will be done. Because if nothing is done, then it's our children who are being hurt. Then our children won't tell when someone is taunting, name calling or teasing them, and that is heartbreaking to consider. Our children need to believe that something will come of their actions. Otherwise our "zero tolerance" policy is nothing but meaningless words, and our children will continue to pay the price.
Does your school have an official bully reporting system? If not, what are your plans to establish such a system? Do you have regular training and assemblies to discuss this issue? If not, are there plans to create and schedule them?
Take a 8 minutes of your day to watch this video, come back and read my email again and then please, feel free to respond.
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I have told my son that the next time he is being taunted to go straight to a teacher and say "I am being bullied." I expect that his words will be taken seriously. Please do whatever it takes to be sure that his and other children's words are taken seriously.