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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation


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I admit right away that I haven't read very much in the area of appropriate response to bullying in school. What I do know is from experience, and most of my experience consists of the parents of kids who have bullied mine complaining of how much their kids have been bullied! It seems to me that on the parents' side, the first thing you need to do is admit that there are no bullies, just bullying behavior, and that all kids do it to some degree. It's up to adults to model and teach right from wrong in how you treat those around you. Also, once you call a kid a bully, he becomes a bully. Kids respond to the labels you give them, and it becomes self-fulfilling. What are your experiences with how schools have responded to bullying?

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patricia hunt's picture

Saying there are no bullies, only bullying behavior, is a PC way of saying 'my kid wouldn't do that'. Bullying is a destructive problem that is destroying our schools and our kids. Kids need to be held responsible for their inappropriate actions from kindergarten; how else are we ever going to stop the harassment that is ruining school for so many children. From a parent whose child was bullied from k-garten to third, it is never too young to hold children accountable and teach them to change their actions and attitudes.

Lisa J. Cooley's picture
Lisa J. Cooley
School Board member, parent of 2 public school students.

I would never say that kids who bully should not be held accountable. They should. I'm simply saying that when you call a kid a bully, he or she takes on that role, and the identity. Yes, your kid would do that, all kids will do it to varying degrees, and we need to deal with the behavior itself.

Rosie Riveter's picture
Rosie Riveter
significant other is spec. ed teacher, parent of two grown children

Both my children were bullied ages ago. I talk to many young parents and am sad to say nothing has changed. My daughter was the person who stopped the bullying (elementary), the school did not. She decided she had enough and used her size and voice to put the fear in the bully. In high school she had to use her size and voice again to make bused inner city girls respect her. She never had to fight, but just the threat of it seemed to work...show no fear. My son was verbally abused in the start of 9th grade but used humor instead. When the bully opened his mouth he would constantly say "banana". It worked! I don't like the escalated violence from bullying but I do believe we have to help teach our children to survive this in a smarter way. Too many people are turning their heads (incl. parents, teachers, and administrators). My favorite saying came from 9-11 when the result of the study into the why's on 9-11 called it a "Failure of Imagination" or when grown people refuse to believe what is going on. When prosecutors have to arrest students because the school has ignored bullying situations then that is the point when we need to wake up. We talk a lot but we are short on action. We'd rather dwell on whether President Obama is a muslim or not....sorry a little catty on my part.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation

I like the idea of saying "banana" - LOL! That's brilliant. My kid is super short, so she's not going to have any physical leverage. Humor, however... :)

Wayne Nickless's picture

Our 13 year old son has been the recipient of bullying since 1st grade that culminated in a note left on his desk in the 3rd grade. The note read, "go back to Russia. (He's adopted)When you grow up, join the Army so we can kill you when the war comes". Ms. Cooley, this isn't and can never be classed as a "tell the kid he's a bully and he'll be one" situation. There were taunts and incidents that the school administration didn't address and it was that indifference that led to this incident. The principal went as far as threaten to expel our son when we met with her. This is a wake up call that can't be ignored with bureaucratic lip service.

Rosie Riveter's picture
Rosie Riveter
significant other is spec. ed teacher, parent of two grown children

Mr. Nikless, there is a point where you need to contact the law and I believe this is it. Your son's life has been threatened for years. When children enter their teenage years, life can get mixed up for them; depression can cause these "children" to end their own lives. Children are bullies for various reasons, when it spills over and causes this much pain it HAS to be dealt with, whether through the school, the newspapers, the law, whatever you can to end it. I don't believe that it will ever end, ignorance has always been part of the "human condition". As parents though we can make it stop for our own children. I really would have liked to see the principal try and expel your son for no reason....lawsuit..... I remember when my brother punched out a kid in high school for constant bullying. He got suspended from catholic school, but no punishment from my parents. Kid never bothered him again. Not that I'm telling you to do this just that is what my brother chose, consequences and all. If you're in a public school and your son gets expelled just know that they are REQUIRED to provide education to your son, even if that means a private tutor.

patricia hunt's picture

Hi, we now have a law in Massachusetts against bullying; we shall see what really happens. Go to the police, they can be quite sympathetic, if not walk away, there is already enough denial to go around. Sadly, in my state, the sped/legal system is broken and unless you want to hire an attorney for 50k, do not expect the school to obey the law or for the state to enforce the law. Sadly, the sped laws are a joke and I say this as a parent who has spend way too much money fighting the system. An attorney friend of mine was totally frustrated with me and I never understood why, until the courts ignored everything and I realized she was trying to tell me that the system is broken, it does not work. But you can't hear this from someone else...but trust me, it is. On the other hand, despite all the money we 'wasted', I do not regret it as I know I did everything I could.

Rosie Riveter's picture
Rosie Riveter
significant other is spec. ed teacher, parent of two grown children

This is terrible. I'd like to think this is isolated but I fear it isn't. I'm one of those people though that would try anyway. You have to draw the line on costs but a letter from a lawyer certainly wouldn't hurt. Does anyone know whether you could get a restraining order? Many systems are broken but there are always ways in the "backdoor". I remember a story I read about a father that ended up breaking the bullying child's arm...COMPLETELY by accident, and how he felt that he was capable of doing that. His daughter had suffered considerably to the point that her hair was falling out. He tried the school, the parents (who were bullies themselves). Finally he tried talking to the child. Becoming frustrated with the child he grabbed his arm in anger and he ended up breaking it. It's sad that sometimes you have to revert to this but predators are amoung us, we have to survive. Please all do not assume I am condoning violence, I am NOT. But I do understand the frustration and anger that accompany bullying. Solutions that work would be welcome from all. What did you do to conquer bullying of your child?

patricia hunt's picture

this is what should get the school's attention. File for a hearing with your state's dept of ed. Don't bother attending any more sped meetings or meetings to discuss how to handle the 'problem'. Request a hearing based on the fact that your child's educational needs are not being met, as I really doubt your child is capable of learning thru this peer abuse.
Take your child out of school and make sure you give the school ten day notice and state that you are planning to request that the city pay for another school, hopefully free of bullying, in writing, keep a copy, etc. Go to the police and file a complaint. I would not go the restraining order route yet, I doubt it will work and it will be a hassle for you.
Basically, take it out of your local school because they probably aren't going to do anything. I ended up taking my son out of school and only wished I had done it earlier. We have no money but we have our son.

Rosie Riveter's picture
Rosie Riveter
significant other is spec. ed teacher, parent of two grown children

Very nice Pat. This is a really good solution. Wish I had it years ago. I was lucky, my daughter's bully moved away.

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