Friday, November 9, 2012


Thing 2 has told me that this school is not as on top of the whole bullying situation as our last school.  At the last school, no one messes with anyone or you get sent straight to the principal.  Period.  And you are dealt with accordingly.  I've heard tell of group meetings at that school between the parents and bullied child, and the parents and bullying child, moderated by the principal.

At the new school if someone gets punched in the stomach and Thing 2 says "Why don't you go tell a teacher?  Or the principal?" She is told "No, I don't want to be a crybaby."  If she tells a playground monitor that two kids are going at each other, she is told "They'll work it out." It is just not dealt with.  She is told not to make a big deal about it.
Fine, as long as it's not my kid being bullied.

Before school started she had worried quite a bit about it, saying she didn't want to go back to school.  I started advising her to stand up to anyone who bullies her and yell, "STOP IT!"  I said that will draw attention to you by the adults near by, and make it completely clear who is hassling whom.  And it very well might scare off any bullies.  I got quite passionate about this, and made her practice yelling STOP IT at random times without laughing, which is kind of hard for her, and I'd demonstrate it and yell STOP IT at her and upset the dog, and then we'd both laugh.  And so far so good, she's not had any problems.

About two weeks ago a little boy who used to go to this school but moved away for a year, moved back.  And the teacher sat him next to Thing 2.  We'll call him Danger Boy.   Now Thing 2 feels from experience like this school is tough on new kids.  So she goes out of her way to make Danger Boy feel welcome.  She shows him what to do, where things are, and gives him a cool eraser she had.  She is the self appointed one girl Welcome Wagon.  Imagine her surprise when he sharpens his pencil and then pokes her with it.  "What was that?"  
"Get used to it," she is told.  "I'm going to sit by you all year and you're going to get that a lot."

There was a lot of little stuff, hair pulling, hard pinching, and threats, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare..."  On the playground he doesn't play with the boys, he kind of haunts the girls who play on the equipment, particularly Thing 2 and her friends, one of whom he seems to like, sort of.  We'll call her Cutie Pie.  She and Thing 2 have been getting along really well lately.  Anyway, Thing 2 told me one of the things Danger Boy does on the playground is to spin around, and whomever his gaze fell on last he would launch himself at and knock them down.  One day it was Thing 2, and he knocked her down and rubbed snow in her face.  
That's about the time I finally started hearing about it.
I went in and talked to the teacher.  She was surprised, she hadn't seen any bad behavior in class.  She'd talk to him.  She had already scheduled a meeting with his parents over something else, she'd bring it up then.  I expected he'd be talked to sometime in the next couple of days.

Thing 2's teacher went to talk to the school counselor, who we found out later told her that sounds weird and maybe he's just frustrated from the move.  She encouraged Thing 2's teacher to talk to the teacher who had him the last time he was at school here.  That teacher said it sounded unlike him... so the incident was put off until the conference with the parents, which didn't happen because they had to change schedules.  So ultimately nothing happened.  I found out later that Cutie Pie's mom went and talked to the teacher too, but got the same results we got.
Friday, the day after the conference was supposed to have happened but didn't, Danger Boy came out for recess with a sucker.  "Oh," he told Thing 2 and the girls she plays with, "I'm going to have a sugar rush!" Thing 2's friends see that she was the last one upon whom his gaze fell, and therefore his intended victim.  "Run!"  they tell her.
But she said two things went through her head.  1) surely he's been spoken to about this, and he wouldn't dare attack her after he's just been yelled at for it.  2) I shouldn't back down from bullies, he's being mean and I should stand up to him.   So she did.  He came at her, knocked her down on her back in the wood chips around the playground equipment, then proceeded to shove handfuls of wood chips into her face.  She got them in her ears, and mouth, and hair.  She seemed unclear as to if he held her hands down, or if she fought back so ineffectually but eventually some 5th graders yelled at him and might have approached him but I don't think they had to drag him off of her.  He stopped and stood up.  Thing 2 stood up, shedding wood chips, and stepped into his face and said softly but very seriously "STOP. IT."  then turned and walked away.
She and Cutie Pie waited until recess was about over, then went in and talked to the teacher.  Thing 2 was unable to talk because she was going to cry, but Cutie Pie told their teacher what had happened.  Then the two girls went out to the pick up area, where I was waiting for her.  Thing 2 was very quiet and said she just wanted to go to the car, where she suddenly broke down sobbing and told me what happened.  I got her out of the car and marched back to where the principal was doing crossing guard duty, and told him.  He said he'd just heard about it, but that Thing 2 would "not be placed in that situation again."  I wished later that I'd had the presence of mind to ask how in the world he'd just heard about it...

Later that afternoon I had worked myself into a snit.  I called my sister,  who works as a counselor at an 8th grade center to ask what course I should take.  Do I demand he's suspended?  Expelled?  She said I could demand that he be moved to another class... I asked about taking a restraining order out on him, and she said there are a couple of kids with those in her school, but it's so hard to keep them apart.  Feeling like I had a reasonable demand, I wrote to the principal, the teacher, and on my sister's suggestion, the counselor.  I almost immediately got a reply back from the principal, reminding me he just learned about this...

I emailed Cutie Pie's mom and sent her the letter to keep her up to date.  She said Cutie Pie was really upset and told her all about it.  Then she said she is social with the family of Danger Boy, and she said they'd be horrified to learn what their son had been up to.  We exchanged several emails back and forth, she said Danger Boy had pushed down another friend of the girls in this group, and had kicked her.  It would appear she never told anyone but Cutie Pie's mother.

By the time Monday rolled around I had spent most of my free time fretting over this whole incident.  I had decided to go talk to the teacher, to make sure that Thing 2 was safe at school.  Hubby was in town and went with me.
Now it would certainly seem that the boy and his parents should have been involved long before he was, and I'm surprised the principal wasn't involved sooner as well.  But I really like this teacher, and she explained how she had talked to the counselor and the previous teacher, and was going to talk to the parents but it didn't happen.  Also her email had been down all weekend and she wasn't able to reply to me.  But she said she and the principal were meeting with Danger Boy shortly, and his parents were coming in after school.  Thing 2 and he were now seated at opposite ends of the classroom, and for the next week he would be having indoor recess, and he'd be eating his lunch in the office.  The words "Zero Tolerance" have been bantered about, which I am fine with.

On Tuesday I got a phone call from Danger Boy's father.  He was apologetic, and polite, and embarrassed.  He mostly talked about when Thing 2 had been poked with a pencil, and the wood chip incident.  I didn't feel like it would be appropriate to list every little hurt she'd suffered at the hands of his son, but did indicate she wasn't the only one, and that the mother of the other little girl might be able to tell him what some of the other kids had experienced.  He did indicate that he had told Danger Boy that he could go the whole day without actually touching, let alone hurting, another kid in the class.  I thought that sounded good.
Wednesday I got another email from Cutie Pie's mother indicating that Danger Boy's mother had called her to find out what was going on.  I wish I knew when they had talked, whether it was before or after I'd talked to the father.  Because I think he might have been more apologetic if he knew the extent of it.  Apparently Danger Boy's mom said he'd told her he "bumped into Thing 2 and that she might have gotten some wood chips in her hair."  In other words they were being polite about it, but they seemed to be under the impression that a few little random behaviors were getting totally blown out of proportion.  Thankfully, Cutie Pie's mother said she corrected her pretty strongly, and told her how her daughter was traumatized by watching Danger Boy shove Thing 2 into the wood chips and ram them into her face, and how she'd choked and swallowed a couple.  She reported Danger Boy's mother had been shocked and very upset.  Good for her.

Today coming home from school Thing 2 told me that Danger Boy gave Cutie Pie a necklace, that had an owl on it.  You don't need to have anything more to do with him, I told her.  You don't need to be rude, but you can be nearly rude.  You can avoid him all you want.  
"I know," she told me.
I know it's not in her nature to hold a grudge.  If this little boy wants to play with them, I suspect the little girls will let him.  But I have told her to be on her guard with him, if he threatens her or attacks her at all again, to shout it loudly to the principal, her teacher, or me.  I don't know what they'd do, but they'd better do something.  And with how outrageous his behavior was since the moment he got here, I suspect he won't be able to turn it around overnight.  We'll see.

There was a flyer that came home sometime this week.  The counselors from the elementary school are meeting at the high school for a parent's forum about bullying.  I don't normally have time for evening meetings, but I think I may have to make a special effort to be to this one.

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