Monday, October 4, 2010


Mollie writes:

There is so much floating about the cyber world about bullying that I just have to include my own 2.5 cents worth.

When my boys were in grade school, there was an enormous amount of bullying going on.  The "Call of the Wild" in elementary school is where most peer bullying begins.  Boys compete on the strangest levels.  Who has the most baseball cards or who has the coolest TMNJ accessories was often the source of many arguments.  Girls weren't exempt either, since who had the longest hair, pinkest bedroom, or sexiest Barbie wardrobe ruled the roost at school.

It begs the question - why is the ethical life of children so vacant?  I know that the 80's and 90's were vacuous times, with society devaluating children, childhood and life in general.  But it seemed to me that bullying hit its zenith when my kids were young.

A friend of mine, Kay, carries the scars of this.  Her son was bullied in school, and it was impossible for her to address this issue with the teacher and principal of the school.  Time and again, often with me in tow, she went to the school hierarchy to register her complaints about this situation, and time and again, she was turned away.  Since our sons were in the same class, I'd hear about the beatings, whacking, name calling and other acts of bullying from my own son.  Since we belonged to the same "Mothers' Underground" I went with Kay to meetings so that she would have a witness to her efforts.

All we ever heard was the strong encouragement on the part of the Principal and the teacher that this 8-year old had to stand up for himself.  The teacher in this class was so frightened, herself, of the bully AND his parents that she refused to step in.  So much for leading by example!

I felt Kay's frustration.  There is this terrible onus one carries when you stand up for what is Right.  And it would have been Right for the kid who was doing the bullying to come to terms with his anti-social behavior.  It would have been Wrong for Kay's son to have to give the kid a licking since our whole point in the bulllying issue was "Might does not make right."  But try explaining that to an educator in the 90's.

John and I moved in the 90's, and changed school districts.  I just didn't have the heart to be a witness to this atrocity.  Kay and her family moved, too, changing school districts.

It was the best we could do during these trying times.  A change of environment was all the kids needed to see that the bullying was wrong, not just for themselves, but their parents.  Seeing your parents take on the school bureaucracy was also, we hoped, therapeutic.  Leaving that bully to torment other kids in the absence of Kay's child was a terrible down side, but we had to be honest, that child was doomed to flourish with aggressive parents and wimpy educators.

Kay's son is doing just fine, BTW.  He graduated from high school as a student body officer, was an honors graduate from college, and is now enjoying the rewards of a life ethically followed.  But I always wonder, what happened to the bully?

We have our Dylans and Erics and Kips, the fodder of school bullying, taken to a surrealistic levels.  I understand that these boys were teased and bullied relentlessly in elementary and middle school.  For heaven's sake, both Kip Kinkle's parents were educators in the same school district that Kip shot up.  They were also  his first victims.  Dylan Klebold's mom was also an educator.  Yet she appears to be stunned by the outcome of ignoring school bullying and violence.

Being the victim of bullying does not condone acts of violence.  Kay and I were successful with our children because we spoke up.  We didn't believe then, nor do we believe now, that striking back was an option.  Parents forming an alliance together with the school staff would have been much more pro-active, but it wasn't an option then.

It might not be 'cool' to be an involved parent angered by classroom bullying, but it's the Right thing.  Dealing with bullying needs to be a social imperative.


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