We’re talking about the subject of bullying this week and I understand you have experience with this. Your child was bullied?
“Yes. My oldest son, who is now 15.”
“The bullying actually started in about third grade. We moved up here (northeast Philadelphia) and he started to go to Fitzpatrick (school). He’s a very sensitive kid and an easy target, basically, for kids. He was bullied pretty bad by the kids. It got worse as he got older. I actually had to remove him from Fitzpatrick and put in Labrum. At one point, I had to take him to the emergency room because he went to shake the kids hand (who was bullying him). The kid wanted to play “ok, we’ll be friends” and shake his hand, and he squeezed his hand so hard he heard something snap as he twisted it behind his back.”
That’s horrible! This was in third grade?
“No, this was sixth grade. We sent him to the other school for seventh and eighth grade. I had had it at that point because the school will say they have this “no bullying tolerance” and that’s so not true. I understand that there are so many kids per school, and it’s probably hard to govern everyone, but it’s pretty bad. They have these “things” they like to call “ball tap Tuesday”. I had to go up to school cause he was kicked in the groin. The Vice Principal said to me, “Well, ya know, boys will be boys”. I said “Really!? That’s your mentality? Let’s just let them all kick each other in a very important organ and damage it cause boys will be boys!?” That was her mentality. I went above the Principal’s head to the Superintendent because it started to occur from a teacher as well. He (her son) was in computer class and he didn’t get to finish his project because the kids had pulled the plug on him. He went up to talk to the teacher and the teacher said “they’re only joking with ya.” That’s how you handle a situation? My son and his best friend proceeded to tell me that this teacher would even edge on a fight between students.”
Was anything ever done about the teacher?
“I think that they had taken him up for evaluation because I had written a letter to the superintendent.” I had actually talked to her on the phone and said to her “If you want, you can give me a job! I’ll let those kids do whatever they want to those computers. All the money the school district puts into the schools! I’ll let them destroy them if you want. Not a problem. If I can do whatever I want like that…”
Fitzpatrick was horrible. At one point, there was a boy who my son was having problems with. The boy had threatened to beat him with a baseball bat. I requested a sit down with his mother. They said they didn’t do that there. I said “You have to do that. That happens to be a Philadelphia School District rule and law. You cannot deny me that.” So rather than have a sit down, what they did was, instead of have her sit and talk to me, they had her talk to me on the phone. My whole objective was to allow her to know the way that he was acting. A lot of times our children act out of character when they’re not around us. You know, the mice will play. This kid was teaching his little sister how to curse and tell the kids that his mom was afraid of him, that he was gonna beat her up. All this crazy stuff, I guess, to make himself look better. So I was trying to explain this to her and the stuff with the baseball bat. She just said that he would never do that, he never talked like that. I told her I just wanted to let her know, that I felt it was my job as a parent to let her know. I would expect someone to let me know if my child was acting outrageous like that. She proceeded to tell me that she had seen text messages on her sons phone that my son was cursing at him. I said “Really? I thank you for letting me know. That’s something that I will handle.” When he came home I approached him about it. What’s funny is that my son is so much like me. If he doesn’t like someone, he won’t give them the time of day. He won’t go out of his way to bother them cause they’re just not worth it. So I approached him about the cursing and he said, “No Mom. I had his phone number for a day and I deleted it cause I don’t like him.” I believe him cause I would’ve done the same thing.”
Was the other mother able to offer you any proof, like screenshots of the texts? And why didn’t she call you to make you aware before you called her about the baseball bat threats?
“No. And the school wouldn’t let me meet with her. They requested the phone conversation. I even had an advocate at one point because by law through the school district if you’re having a problem with a child, you can have a sit down with the parent and they can’t deny you that. They really tried to deny me of that. I understand why. I’m sure that there are parents in this world that act worse than their children. So maybe they want to prevent violent outbreaks. But you have to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.”
How did you help him when he’d come home after being bullied at school?
“I’d build him up and tell him all the time that kids that pick on other kids are jealous. They see something in you that either they don’t like about themselves or don’t have. My son’s just a genuinely nice kid and he’s sensitive.”
It’s terrible that you have to pull the kid that’s being bullied out of school, yet the kids that are doing the bullying get away with it.
“Yeah. When he was in sixth grade, the beginning of the school year, he was walking home and the eighth graders were throwing rocks at him. It’s so hard to get the school to do anything. At one point, the Vice Principal wouldn’t even call me back until after I wrote a letter to the superintendent. That’s when she paid me attention.”
Did this affect his grades?
“It did affect his grades.”
When you moved him to the new school in seventh grade, was it an instant change in him or did it take some time?
“It was kind of instant. I mean it took him time to get used to the school, to find people he could be friendly with. He was upset that he was leaving the other school because his best friend went there. And his best friend was bullied as well. He’s dealing with his own issues, as a teenager, with anger, due to that. It’s very sad.”
Did your son deal with any bullying at the new school?
“No. He didn’t deal with bullying there. I think there might’ve been one issue. I wrote a letter to the Principal and the Principal called me that day. It was handled. Labrum was great. His grades went up. He’s now in high school.”
There has always been bullying. When we were kids, there was certainly bullying. But it seems to have gotten worse. Why do you think that is?
“I think that people have just given up. Either parents aren’t paying attention, they’re acting that way themselves and it’s learned behavior or this child has a severe diagnosis like Oppositional Defiant Disorder and it’s not being taken care of. There could be different reasons for this behavior. And people are too busy. They’re too busy trying to have a life, run a household, then to put the time and effort into something that needs to be taken care of…”
Do you think bullying will ever stop or do you think it’ll always be part of our society? “I think it’s something that will probably always be a part of society. I think it could get better, in time, if people put in effort. I’m sure that it happened in the 20’s and even before that. But kids were petrified of their parents at one time. A lot of times people hit their kids if their kids weren’t acting correctly and you can’t do that anymore. Not that I hit my kids or believe in it. But the world is very, very different so kids tend to get away with a lot more. I’ll tell ya what, I couldn’t act any way I wanted in school! My mother did not accept that.”
Your son is doing well now?
“Yes. He’s a ninth grader now in an arts high school. He’s really doing awesome. He actually said to my mom that he’s really enjoying growing up. He said he feels like he’s around a bunch of “me’s”. I thought that was so funny, a great expression of how he felt.”
What advice would you give regarding somebody that’s being bullied, a parent or an administrator?
“Keep the lines of communication open with your child. My advice to administration is to take the issue serious. Don’t chalk it up to “boys will be boys” because there are kids out there committing suicide over being bullied! This needs to be taken a lot more seriously than they are.”