Bruised by a bully

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 25, 2009 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara -

What advice do you have for how to deal with persistent bullying in younger grades? My son has been coming home with tales about one particular boy in his class since Pre-K, and the kids are now in first grade.

My son has rarely been the target and it has never been anything I couldn't counsel him through. "Use your words, tell him you don't want to play with anyone being mean, walk away, ask a teacher for help," etc. But now it has gotten more serious, and the offending student has inflicted physical violence on my son. It happened during the lunchtime recess when there aren't any teachers present, only "lunchtime Mom volunteers," and it happened just before the bell rang.

The other side of the problem is that I am casually friendly with the other kid's parents. I happen to know that their feeling towards their son's aggressive behavior is that "that's just how boys are." We are in a small private school and there is only one group/class of each grade level for Pre-K through Grade Eight. So we're in this for the long haul with the same group of kids.

I want to see this stopped - why am I hearing the same couple of names of kids acting out over and over again during a two year period? The administration can't possibly be oblivious, especially since I have heard that the parents of "the mean kid" definitely had a sit down with the principal last year during Kindergarten. I assume that most of the parents are just dealing with it quietly at home as we take our turns with our children being the target.

Now that my little guy has actually come home with a bruise inflicted from a series of hard kicks, I'm all done with dealing with this in a casual way. What's the best way to move through and hopefully, past this?

From: RH, North Easton

Dear RH,

Because you are in a private school, you have the best ammunition ever: your checkbook. If the school can't fix this -- that is, ensure that the school is a safe place for each and every student -- there is no reason for your child to be there, no matter how good the school is in every other way. That starts with better monitoring on the playground, the lunchroom, the classroom. You have every right to expect and demand that volunteers -- as well as teachers! -- be trained to monitor, prevent, and intervene when there is bullying.

Of course, this is true in a public school, too, but sad to say, you have more clout in a private school. In either case, this must be dealt with systemically; don't be satisfied to have the school only deal with the particulars of this one situation, otherwise it continues to put your child at risk, as well as every other child in the classroom who learn that these behaviors are tolerated.

Start with the head of school or principal and move from there to the parent association. And while you want to respect your child's privacy (as well as the privacy of the bully), this is not an issue to be swept under the rug. (Of course, private schools also have the luxury of being able to counsel a family out of a school, which may or may not be a good solution.)

There was a time when a child coming home with bruises was looked upon by some parents as a rite of passage. Today, that kind of response is not acceptable or appropriate, and private as well as public schools across the country have embraced anti-bullying curricula. Even in this midst of budget cuts, school administrators recognize that these programs not only make their schools safer but also go a long way to creating a more civil society as these children grow.

Since bullying isn't just physical, the best programs address issues of social competency that teach children what to do whether they are victims or bystanders. The curriculum with which I am most familiar is Open Circle, but there are many others, far too many for me to mention here. In fact, there are so many that even American Girl has gotten in on the action.

Meanwhile, here's one article I've written about how to stop bullies.

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26 comments so far...
  1. The mom should take Missy Jenkins' book at missyjenkins.com to the school and tell the administrators to make it required reading, as many schools nationwide are doing. Missy was an innocent victim, paralyzed by a school shooter who was tormented for years by other kids. Her book is changing school cultures, which is what every school needs to fight the bullying problem.

    Posted by Stopthebullying September 25, 09 08:17 AM
  1. Barbara - you raise a good point by pointing out the this family may have good "ammunition" in the form of their checkbook. The sad fact is, though, that the parents of the aggressor child may have even more ammunition in the form of a larger checkbook.

    On the whole, I have found our children's private school to be responsive in dealing with bullying issues, far more so than the dismal response we got at our neighborhood school. The low student-teacher ratio and Open Circle curriculum do help. But, whether true or not, there is a strongly-held conception that the children of very wealthy parents will never be "counseled out" of the school. I would advise RH to consider going to the school administration with a group of other parents if this is the case. At a minimum, you could push for a teacher or administrator to be present at all times, including recess. It is clear from RH's letter that the aggressor child is aware of the times they are not present.

    The aggressor child will likely remain at the school, but the school should be able to commit sufficient effort and resources to protect his classmates and modify his behavior. Don't stop trying until they do!

    Posted by RAB September 25, 09 09:16 AM
  1. If the school has a guidance counselor, they are another good resource. My son has had trouble both being bullied, but also annoying and teasing others. Although I was tempted to let things take their course (i.e. let him go on teasing others until someone punched him and put him in his place), I instead contacted the guidance counselor. She has been working with both boys about ignoring teasing and treating others with respect. The supervision at the table where they wait for the bus (the usual place they get into trouble) has also been stepped up. This combination of education and increased supervision seems to have gone a long way toward solving the problem. My son still needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut, but he is improving, and the other kid knows that adults have him in their sights as well.

    Posted by BMS September 25, 09 09:52 AM
  1. I truly hope that the parents of this targeted child can hold the school administration accountable.

    Any time a child comes home with the story that he/she was hit at school, TAKE PICTURES OF THE STRUCK AREAS. Have the date/time imprint set ON if using digital.

    It then becomes a very straightforward matter to print and attach this evidence to a letter addressed to the school principal.

    The letter should state that a parent sent their child to school whole and undamaged, and that the child came home with clear signs of physical blows. The letter can identify who the child reported to be the hitter using non-confrontational terms such as "reported", together with the names of which adult was identified by the child as being in charge at the time the blows were struck.

    The letter MUST contain the clear statement that a parent expects the school to maintain a safe environment for the child and that the police WILL receive the letters and photos should more blows be struck. This applies to public as well as private schools.

    This might come across as hard-nosed, but this letter indicates that talking to the system has clearly failed. The very calm statement of legal obligation with pictures gets the message across a lot better.

    Leave it up to the school to call the hitter's parents in for another conference. You should avoid ALL social contact with them, as the hitter is getting the clear message from his parents that "social" acts include physical abuse.

    I had to learn this procedure the hard way, but it works much better than any other way. I had to deal with an abusive 42-year-old neighbor who had a continuous lifetime record of abusive behavior that strongly resembled a child bully, and whose parents still ran to his side whenever he was arrested for violating multiple restraining orders. The camera began as self-defense and turned out to provide the police with enough evidence to lay charges and force the abuser to move 500 miles away.

    I also wrote these parents a letter to let them know that there was a 1-year-old child without a father because they were sheltering their son from the consequences of his behavior. They expressed more concern about returning his overdue library books.

    Posted by Irene September 25, 09 10:03 AM
  1. Call the administrator immediately have a sit down and insist they deal with this issue ASAP. Your son is being abused by this bully! His parents need to be brought in as well and told, shape up or ship out!

    Yes, your checkbook is your ammunition, but once your kid leaves, there will be another. This kid has issues, based on the parents saying "boys will be boys" -- there is no doubt where that attitude comes from. Why are you still friends with them???

    The school has a responsibility to protect the children it educates.

    If you get nowhere, call the superintendent of the school district, the mayor's office, and the dept. of education. There is no reason any child should come home with bruises...

    I am very sensitive and passionate about this type of situation - I know of a child who ended up with serious injuries because of a bully...

    Posted by salli September 25, 09 10:13 AM
  1. Another parenting responsibility. My dad was a loving and attentive father (put in lots of volunteer time coaching my sports teams, took us on great educational vacations, etc.). My brother and I were recognized early for our athletic ability and size. We were bigger, stronger, and faster than almost all the kids in our class.

    One thing I vividly remember and took to heart growing up was my dad practically threatening my death if I ever bullied anyone. He was adamant about this. If I ever got in a fight that I started for a silly reason, I was a goner. I was so afraid of the consequences that I would never think of bullying anyone. Also, my parents would take the word of a teacher over mine 99.99% of the time. That has changed this day and age.

    I settled all my scores on the athletic field. I would also let my dad know if someone was bothering me (it was always an older kid a few grades up). He made it plainly clear that if it came to defending myself, this was okay. He also on several occasions knocked on some doors and spoke to the parents of the offending kid and made it clear in no uncertain terms what would happen if their child kept picking on another kid several years younger.

    So ... I'm now a parent of a 3- and a 4-year-old. I will never rely on the school to take care of this problem if it ever occurs. Encourage your kids to communicate with you at all times. And if your kid starts to bully, you need to nip it in the bud immediately.

    Posted by TR September 25, 09 10:26 AM
  1. Why are you not on the phone with this kid's mother immediately!!! Call her and tell her to tell her kid to keep his hands, feet, and eyes off your kid. I am a mother of a 6-year-old boy and let me tell you, I would have taken care of that the first week ... NOT two years later. Make a fuss. If he is being bullied, it could affect him as a teenager and even adult.

    Posted by Judgenot September 25, 09 11:36 AM
  1. I would threaten to sue the school and/or parents of the bully if this doesn't get addressed ASAP. I know of a private facility where this occurred and the school kicked the kid out immediately. Unfortunately, we, as parents, need to flex our muscles when necessary.

    Posted by Lauri September 25, 09 11:44 AM
  1. TR, that's all well and good, but it doesn't help the parents of a child who is being bullied by a child whose parents seem to think that bullying is OK.

    We have a similar bully in our lives. I'm fortunate that (as far as I know) his bullying is not physical, but he's still a bully, and his parents think he does no wrong. We've tried the principal and school guidance counselor, but didn't get any useful help.

    The best response was actually from a teacher, who did some lessons on bullying with the whole class. She had some role-playing scenarios set up, and for one of them she assigned one of the 'targets' to play the role of the bully, and assigned the bully to play the target. The scenarios gave all of the children tools they could use to avoid being bullied, and by third grade, the problem has mostly gone away.

    Posted by anonymouse September 25, 09 12:03 PM
  1. teach your kid to kick him back. the best way to quiet a bully is to put him in his place.

    might makes right.

    Posted by justkidding September 25, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Hey, it's me here, the LW. Just an update since I wrote to Barbara - I spoke to my son's teacher (because I believe you should always follow the line of command and go to the teacher BEFORE the principal) and she is now aware of what is going on at lunchtime. We're only three weeks into school, so in her defense, she is just getting to know the kids herself.

    What I'm saying is that this kid has been "the mean kid" to everyone in the class over a two-year period with two other teachers. This is the first time he has ever really done anything to my child other than a couple of small exclusions from games or whatever. And that stuff stings, but it's also somewhat normal, and I have never felt it necessary to bring the teacher or headmistress in to solve every tiny thing that happens between kids. They DO need to learn some coping skills.

    By asking my son every day to tell me something good that happened today as well as something bad, I tend to get the info out of him as to what is going on in the class in general. I'll ask him something like 'So, is Billy always mean to Johnny?' and I'll get an answer like 'Well, he's mean to everyone, but he's ESPECIALLY mean to Johnny.' I've not been pleased to hear a consistent report about how "the bully" behaves week in and week out, but it has never really directly affected us before, and so it was not my battle to fight. It is now, and I certainly will.

    But my larger question is - does the administration really not know what is going on with these kids? They're 6! This is first grade! Does threatening with my checkbook really do anything when there is a waiting list a mile long for an open spot in this class? Why should the offending kid get to stay and torture other kids, kids whose parents are maybe a little more hesitant to speak up, and we would be the ones forced out of the situation? I will not let that happen!

    Posted by RH September 25, 09 12:46 PM
  1. Good answer except for the part about respecting the privacy of the bully. A more effective approach is a public campaign to make the other parents aware even if you have to name names, publicly humiliate the bully's parents, and ostracize the bully. Bullies and their enablers generally need to be forced ( a term they understand) to yield.

    Posted by zing September 25, 09 01:35 PM
  1. Her son needs to learn to defend himself, any bully looks for a weak target that won't fight back.

    He needs to fight back, he might lose that fight, but that bully will know he's not an easy target and move along.

    We all like to say violence isn't the answer, and that's right most, but not all of the time, bullies don't understand words, they understand fighting back.

    Posted by JT September 25, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Good luck with this my son was bullied for years until we finally moved to another town, the kid threatened to kill him and everything else. I did everything, went to the school, went to the teacher contacted the other kids parents (they were losers who could have cared less). The school could have cared less, denied it was happening, other kids in the class saw it happening and would tell us (families were friendly outside of school). I wrote letters made calls was basically told I should stop making waves. It was awful. The more waves I made the more they seemed to take it out on my son by letting it continue. Actually had one jerk of a teacher tell me my son probably brought one incident on himself because we came back from vacation at Disney and he wore a Steve Irwin hat to school. THIS WAS FROM A TEACHER…..

    Finally told my son to deal with by clocking this kid every time he touched him…that was awesome they refused to deal with it and my son was punished every time he defended himself. I wish I had better advice for you but I tried it all and got nowhere.

    This was the Peabody school system, the Burke school; the principle was Maxine Edmunds the sorriest excuse for a human being I have ever dealt with. I’m sure she’s retired now and living off the tax payers dollar. I’d just like to let her know that in spite of her, my son who is grown now seems to be getting along fine.

    And seriously I wish the best of luck with this. It will not be an easy battle.
    R

    Posted by RAD September 25, 09 01:47 PM
  1. RH, I think you answer your own question in the last paragraph. If there are plenty of kids waiting for a spot in that class, why would the school hang on to a troublemaker? If the only reason is that Bully's parents are generous with donations or something like that, why would you want to stay at such a place? Perhaps the school doesn't realize the full extent of Bully's reach, if other parents, like you, haven't squeaked very loudly yet. That's another reason for you to take it up with the head of school as well, not to undermine the teacher but as an FYI to the admin., that you are paying close attention to how they handle Bully now that he bruised your kid (!), and you think other parents may have issues with Bully too. Don't leave them room to claim later, "If only someone had told us how bad it was..." etc. Good luck!

    Posted by Serafina September 25, 09 02:11 PM
  1. RH, I think you need to go to the head of the school. If this bully keeps moving on to new targets, and the parents don't speak up because their child isn't being abused right now, the behavior is never going to be fully addressed. You're right, getting out of the school just means the bully will have a new target in the kid who takes your child's slot, and your child's life is disrupted by having to change schools. It's always good to go to hiigher ups with suggestions, rather than just complaints, so perhaps you could suggest they plan an info session for parents on dealing wtih both sides of bullying or bring one of the anti-bullying programs to the school. I'd also either stop being friendly with the parents of the bully or use your interactions to try to educate them that bullying is not acceptable - maybe you could read an anti-bullying book and recommend it or pass on articles about raising compassionate boys. Maybe they will get the picture.

    Posted by Kris September 25, 09 02:18 PM
  1. Money is generally the universal motivator. If word gets out that this school tolerates bullying, then it will hurt their reputation and then their wallet. (Especially since some private school kids are public school kids who needed a change of environment - a/k/a previously bullied elsewhere.) If they don't do anything, you can start making the issue a little more public.

    For example, "Anti-Bullying Meeting to be Held at Fancypants School" - just get it into the local paper and start from there.

    The Internet is a powerful weapon. Ask the president of Hyatt Hotels.

    Posted by just_cos September 25, 09 02:18 PM
  1. The DSS is your friend here. If your kids come home with bruises, file a report. The school then has to answer for it.

    Friends of ours did this with an afterschool program where the program director's son was permitted to bully her daughter and other children and it was brushed off or covered up. She took pictures of the child's bruises and noted that the proper forms were not filed for an accident or incident.

    Things changed very fast after that. The director was fired. When responsible adults can't explain bruises, trouble starts quickly. When adults make lame excuses that sound like abuse is going on and being covered up (must have ran into a door, etc., had those bruises when she got here, kids are clumsy, etc.), consequences happen fast.

    Posted by infoferret September 25, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Get your child involved in martial arts. It will teach him confidence and the ability to fight back without necessarily hurting anyone. Plus he'll gain a lot of respect from the other kids. No one will bully him anymore!

    Posted by anastasia pleasant September 25, 09 02:49 PM
  1. Judgenot, Schools don't let parents talk to each other anymore. It has to be done through the school :( But then you have a principal like my daughter's former, who let bullying go until last spring, when one child was held down and beaten by four others. When the parents went to the police, principal finally took the bullying by the 4 (the "usual suspects" in that school) seriously. But his solution? Oh, so serious! /sarcasm -- He didn't allow 3 of them to attend elementary school graduation. Wow, that'll teach those kids! I'd take the parents, the principal AND the school district to court. // What helped my own daughter was martial arts lessons. She's never used it, she doesn't want to, but when the suspects learn she's studying something that involves a lot of kicking, man did they stay away from her after that!

    Posted by reindeergirl September 25, 09 03:24 PM
  1. I might add that schools are required to log incidents and report injuries to the parents. If the school failed to send a note home explaining how those bruises got on that kid, well, the school needs to be reported for not logging incidents properly.

    Posted by infoferret September 25, 09 04:52 PM
  1. RAD,

    My daughter's former principal told me that my daughter "was no angel." I asked, "What do you mean? If she's bullied others, you never told me, and I want to know." He said, "she likes to hug her friends."

    I said, "You know something, Mr. [name redacted by rg]? She IS an angel - and so's her mother."

    Fortunately, she spent only two years in that school. We are in a very poor district, and the principal lives in one of the wealthiest communities in the state, where there's more $$ for bully-prevention projects. I am trying to save money to move out of here. Sometimes that's the only solution - but it shouldn't have to be that way.

    Perhaps one day I'll write and publish a memoir, and rip his sorry a-- in it. He didn't know how to deal with bullies, and always, ALWAYS claimed his hands were tied by the school department. He made a goodly number of childrens' school-times miserable, and I don't think he ever really saw it.

    Posted by reindeergirl September 25, 09 06:20 PM
  1. I've found that "children who were never spanked/disciplined at home" were targets of all their classmates - from bullies to the regular kids - and the "picked on never spanked child" thinks he can say or do anything that he wants.

    Posted by Seabell September 25, 09 06:33 PM
  1. My husband and I, and our son and daughter, all have black belts in jujitsu. Problem solved. Get them enrolled in classes immediately. Schools cannot be counted on to stop bullying because they don't feel they're paid will enough. Also, lean on your local school board big time until they adopt an effective anti-bullying policy-and enforce it. infoferret is right: schools are required to report incidents and injuries.

    Posted by Heather Czerniak September 25, 09 06:53 PM
  1. You are entirely incorrect, Seabell. It sounds like you're trying to make a case for abusing children, which spanking is - abuse. // The child who faces corporeal punishment is the bullier - s/he acts out. Also, the neglected child. My daughter is in a school where it's the norm for children to come from families of 10 or more children. No, it's not a religious academy, it's a poor district where birth control may as well be something from another planet. These children have to compete for attention from their parents, and are often responsible for child-care, in spite of their young age. // The slap, and the lack of attention, is where bullying comes from. // Spanking must be outlawed, on the federal as well as state level.

    Posted by reindeergirl September 26, 09 10:37 AM
  1. Hi RH in North Easton,

    It's good you take the bullying seriously. The research is finding that bullying has a serious impact on children, particularly with long-term exposure. If there's any doubt in your mind, check out the headlines over the past year at www.heygrrrl.wordpress.com and www.heygrrrl.com, web sites where I post the day's headlines on bullying, including this article. Sadly, too many children are not helped in time before violence occurs. I'm glad you are going to take steps to help your son.

    Posted by Margaret September 27, 09 07:47 AM
 
26 comments so far...
  1. The mom should take Missy Jenkins' book at missyjenkins.com to the school and tell the administrators to make it required reading, as many schools nationwide are doing. Missy was an innocent victim, paralyzed by a school shooter who was tormented for years by other kids. Her book is changing school cultures, which is what every school needs to fight the bullying problem.

    Posted by Stopthebullying September 25, 09 08:17 AM
  1. Barbara - you raise a good point by pointing out the this family may have good "ammunition" in the form of their checkbook. The sad fact is, though, that the parents of the aggressor child may have even more ammunition in the form of a larger checkbook.

    On the whole, I have found our children's private school to be responsive in dealing with bullying issues, far more so than the dismal response we got at our neighborhood school. The low student-teacher ratio and Open Circle curriculum do help. But, whether true or not, there is a strongly-held conception that the children of very wealthy parents will never be "counseled out" of the school. I would advise RH to consider going to the school administration with a group of other parents if this is the case. At a minimum, you could push for a teacher or administrator to be present at all times, including recess. It is clear from RH's letter that the aggressor child is aware of the times they are not present.

    The aggressor child will likely remain at the school, but the school should be able to commit sufficient effort and resources to protect his classmates and modify his behavior. Don't stop trying until they do!

    Posted by RAB September 25, 09 09:16 AM
  1. If the school has a guidance counselor, they are another good resource. My son has had trouble both being bullied, but also annoying and teasing others. Although I was tempted to let things take their course (i.e. let him go on teasing others until someone punched him and put him in his place), I instead contacted the guidance counselor. She has been working with both boys about ignoring teasing and treating others with respect. The supervision at the table where they wait for the bus (the usual place they get into trouble) has also been stepped up. This combination of education and increased supervision seems to have gone a long way toward solving the problem. My son still needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut, but he is improving, and the other kid knows that adults have him in their sights as well.

    Posted by BMS September 25, 09 09:52 AM
  1. I truly hope that the parents of this targeted child can hold the school administration accountable.

    Any time a child comes home with the story that he/she was hit at school, TAKE PICTURES OF THE STRUCK AREAS. Have the date/time imprint set ON if using digital.

    It then becomes a very straightforward matter to print and attach this evidence to a letter addressed to the school principal.

    The letter should state that a parent sent their child to school whole and undamaged, and that the child came home with clear signs of physical blows. The letter can identify who the child reported to be the hitter using non-confrontational terms such as "reported", together with the names of which adult was identified by the child as being in charge at the time the blows were struck.

    The letter MUST contain the clear statement that a parent expects the school to maintain a safe environment for the child and that the police WILL receive the letters and photos should more blows be struck. This applies to public as well as private schools.

    This might come across as hard-nosed, but this letter indicates that talking to the system has clearly failed. The very calm statement of legal obligation with pictures gets the message across a lot better.

    Leave it up to the school to call the hitter's parents in for another conference. You should avoid ALL social contact with them, as the hitter is getting the clear message from his parents that "social" acts include physical abuse.

    I had to learn this procedure the hard way, but it works much better than any other way. I had to deal with an abusive 42-year-old neighbor who had a continuous lifetime record of abusive behavior that strongly resembled a child bully, and whose parents still ran to his side whenever he was arrested for violating multiple restraining orders. The camera began as self-defense and turned out to provide the police with enough evidence to lay charges and force the abuser to move 500 miles away.

    I also wrote these parents a letter to let them know that there was a 1-year-old child without a father because they were sheltering their son from the consequences of his behavior. They expressed more concern about returning his overdue library books.

    Posted by Irene September 25, 09 10:03 AM
  1. Call the administrator immediately have a sit down and insist they deal with this issue ASAP. Your son is being abused by this bully! His parents need to be brought in as well and told, shape up or ship out!

    Yes, your checkbook is your ammunition, but once your kid leaves, there will be another. This kid has issues, based on the parents saying "boys will be boys" -- there is no doubt where that attitude comes from. Why are you still friends with them???

    The school has a responsibility to protect the children it educates.

    If you get nowhere, call the superintendent of the school district, the mayor's office, and the dept. of education. There is no reason any child should come home with bruises...

    I am very sensitive and passionate about this type of situation - I know of a child who ended up with serious injuries because of a bully...

    Posted by salli September 25, 09 10:13 AM
  1. Another parenting responsibility. My dad was a loving and attentive father (put in lots of volunteer time coaching my sports teams, took us on great educational vacations, etc.). My brother and I were recognized early for our athletic ability and size. We were bigger, stronger, and faster than almost all the kids in our class.

    One thing I vividly remember and took to heart growing up was my dad practically threatening my death if I ever bullied anyone. He was adamant about this. If I ever got in a fight that I started for a silly reason, I was a goner. I was so afraid of the consequences that I would never think of bullying anyone. Also, my parents would take the word of a teacher over mine 99.99% of the time. That has changed this day and age.

    I settled all my scores on the athletic field. I would also let my dad know if someone was bothering me (it was always an older kid a few grades up). He made it plainly clear that if it came to defending myself, this was okay. He also on several occasions knocked on some doors and spoke to the parents of the offending kid and made it clear in no uncertain terms what would happen if their child kept picking on another kid several years younger.

    So ... I'm now a parent of a 3- and a 4-year-old. I will never rely on the school to take care of this problem if it ever occurs. Encourage your kids to communicate with you at all times. And if your kid starts to bully, you need to nip it in the bud immediately.

    Posted by TR September 25, 09 10:26 AM
  1. Why are you not on the phone with this kid's mother immediately!!! Call her and tell her to tell her kid to keep his hands, feet, and eyes off your kid. I am a mother of a 6-year-old boy and let me tell you, I would have taken care of that the first week ... NOT two years later. Make a fuss. If he is being bullied, it could affect him as a teenager and even adult.

    Posted by Judgenot September 25, 09 11:36 AM
  1. I would threaten to sue the school and/or parents of the bully if this doesn't get addressed ASAP. I know of a private facility where this occurred and the school kicked the kid out immediately. Unfortunately, we, as parents, need to flex our muscles when necessary.

    Posted by Lauri September 25, 09 11:44 AM
  1. TR, that's all well and good, but it doesn't help the parents of a child who is being bullied by a child whose parents seem to think that bullying is OK.

    We have a similar bully in our lives. I'm fortunate that (as far as I know) his bullying is not physical, but he's still a bully, and his parents think he does no wrong. We've tried the principal and school guidance counselor, but didn't get any useful help.

    The best response was actually from a teacher, who did some lessons on bullying with the whole class. She had some role-playing scenarios set up, and for one of them she assigned one of the 'targets' to play the role of the bully, and assigned the bully to play the target. The scenarios gave all of the children tools they could use to avoid being bullied, and by third grade, the problem has mostly gone away.

    Posted by anonymouse September 25, 09 12:03 PM
  1. teach your kid to kick him back. the best way to quiet a bully is to put him in his place.

    might makes right.

    Posted by justkidding September 25, 09 12:05 PM
  1. Hey, it's me here, the LW. Just an update since I wrote to Barbara - I spoke to my son's teacher (because I believe you should always follow the line of command and go to the teacher BEFORE the principal) and she is now aware of what is going on at lunchtime. We're only three weeks into school, so in her defense, she is just getting to know the kids herself.

    What I'm saying is that this kid has been "the mean kid" to everyone in the class over a two-year period with two other teachers. This is the first time he has ever really done anything to my child other than a couple of small exclusions from games or whatever. And that stuff stings, but it's also somewhat normal, and I have never felt it necessary to bring the teacher or headmistress in to solve every tiny thing that happens between kids. They DO need to learn some coping skills.

    By asking my son every day to tell me something good that happened today as well as something bad, I tend to get the info out of him as to what is going on in the class in general. I'll ask him something like 'So, is Billy always mean to Johnny?' and I'll get an answer like 'Well, he's mean to everyone, but he's ESPECIALLY mean to Johnny.' I've not been pleased to hear a consistent report about how "the bully" behaves week in and week out, but it has never really directly affected us before, and so it was not my battle to fight. It is now, and I certainly will.

    But my larger question is - does the administration really not know what is going on with these kids? They're 6! This is first grade! Does threatening with my checkbook really do anything when there is a waiting list a mile long for an open spot in this class? Why should the offending kid get to stay and torture other kids, kids whose parents are maybe a little more hesitant to speak up, and we would be the ones forced out of the situation? I will not let that happen!

    Posted by RH September 25, 09 12:46 PM
  1. Good answer except for the part about respecting the privacy of the bully. A more effective approach is a public campaign to make the other parents aware even if you have to name names, publicly humiliate the bully's parents, and ostracize the bully. Bullies and their enablers generally need to be forced ( a term they understand) to yield.

    Posted by zing September 25, 09 01:35 PM
  1. Her son needs to learn to defend himself, any bully looks for a weak target that won't fight back.

    He needs to fight back, he might lose that fight, but that bully will know he's not an easy target and move along.

    We all like to say violence isn't the answer, and that's right most, but not all of the time, bullies don't understand words, they understand fighting back.

    Posted by JT September 25, 09 01:46 PM
  1. Good luck with this my son was bullied for years until we finally moved to another town, the kid threatened to kill him and everything else. I did everything, went to the school, went to the teacher contacted the other kids parents (they were losers who could have cared less). The school could have cared less, denied it was happening, other kids in the class saw it happening and would tell us (families were friendly outside of school). I wrote letters made calls was basically told I should stop making waves. It was awful. The more waves I made the more they seemed to take it out on my son by letting it continue. Actually had one jerk of a teacher tell me my son probably brought one incident on himself because we came back from vacation at Disney and he wore a Steve Irwin hat to school. THIS WAS FROM A TEACHER…..

    Finally told my son to deal with by clocking this kid every time he touched him…that was awesome they refused to deal with it and my son was punished every time he defended himself. I wish I had better advice for you but I tried it all and got nowhere.

    This was the Peabody school system, the Burke school; the principle was Maxine Edmunds the sorriest excuse for a human being I have ever dealt with. I’m sure she’s retired now and living off the tax payers dollar. I’d just like to let her know that in spite of her, my son who is grown now seems to be getting along fine.

    And seriously I wish the best of luck with this. It will not be an easy battle.
    R

    Posted by RAD September 25, 09 01:47 PM
  1. RH, I think you answer your own question in the last paragraph. If there are plenty of kids waiting for a spot in that class, why would the school hang on to a troublemaker? If the only reason is that Bully's parents are generous with donations or something like that, why would you want to stay at such a place? Perhaps the school doesn't realize the full extent of Bully's reach, if other parents, like you, haven't squeaked very loudly yet. That's another reason for you to take it up with the head of school as well, not to undermine the teacher but as an FYI to the admin., that you are paying close attention to how they handle Bully now that he bruised your kid (!), and you think other parents may have issues with Bully too. Don't leave them room to claim later, "If only someone had told us how bad it was..." etc. Good luck!

    Posted by Serafina September 25, 09 02:11 PM
  1. RH, I think you need to go to the head of the school. If this bully keeps moving on to new targets, and the parents don't speak up because their child isn't being abused right now, the behavior is never going to be fully addressed. You're right, getting out of the school just means the bully will have a new target in the kid who takes your child's slot, and your child's life is disrupted by having to change schools. It's always good to go to hiigher ups with suggestions, rather than just complaints, so perhaps you could suggest they plan an info session for parents on dealing wtih both sides of bullying or bring one of the anti-bullying programs to the school. I'd also either stop being friendly with the parents of the bully or use your interactions to try to educate them that bullying is not acceptable - maybe you could read an anti-bullying book and recommend it or pass on articles about raising compassionate boys. Maybe they will get the picture.

    Posted by Kris September 25, 09 02:18 PM
  1. Money is generally the universal motivator. If word gets out that this school tolerates bullying, then it will hurt their reputation and then their wallet. (Especially since some private school kids are public school kids who needed a change of environment - a/k/a previously bullied elsewhere.) If they don't do anything, you can start making the issue a little more public.

    For example, "Anti-Bullying Meeting to be Held at Fancypants School" - just get it into the local paper and start from there.

    The Internet is a powerful weapon. Ask the president of Hyatt Hotels.

    Posted by just_cos September 25, 09 02:18 PM
  1. The DSS is your friend here. If your kids come home with bruises, file a report. The school then has to answer for it.

    Friends of ours did this with an afterschool program where the program director's son was permitted to bully her daughter and other children and it was brushed off or covered up. She took pictures of the child's bruises and noted that the proper forms were not filed for an accident or incident.

    Things changed very fast after that. The director was fired. When responsible adults can't explain bruises, trouble starts quickly. When adults make lame excuses that sound like abuse is going on and being covered up (must have ran into a door, etc., had those bruises when she got here, kids are clumsy, etc.), consequences happen fast.

    Posted by infoferret September 25, 09 02:47 PM
  1. Get your child involved in martial arts. It will teach him confidence and the ability to fight back without necessarily hurting anyone. Plus he'll gain a lot of respect from the other kids. No one will bully him anymore!

    Posted by anastasia pleasant September 25, 09 02:49 PM
  1. Judgenot, Schools don't let parents talk to each other anymore. It has to be done through the school :( But then you have a principal like my daughter's former, who let bullying go until last spring, when one child was held down and beaten by four others. When the parents went to the police, principal finally took the bullying by the 4 (the "usual suspects" in that school) seriously. But his solution? Oh, so serious! /sarcasm -- He didn't allow 3 of them to attend elementary school graduation. Wow, that'll teach those kids! I'd take the parents, the principal AND the school district to court. // What helped my own daughter was martial arts lessons. She's never used it, she doesn't want to, but when the suspects learn she's studying something that involves a lot of kicking, man did they stay away from her after that!

    Posted by reindeergirl September 25, 09 03:24 PM
  1. I might add that schools are required to log incidents and report injuries to the parents. If the school failed to send a note home explaining how those bruises got on that kid, well, the school needs to be reported for not logging incidents properly.

    Posted by infoferret September 25, 09 04:52 PM
  1. RAD,

    My daughter's former principal told me that my daughter "was no angel." I asked, "What do you mean? If she's bullied others, you never told me, and I want to know." He said, "she likes to hug her friends."

    I said, "You know something, Mr. [name redacted by rg]? She IS an angel - and so's her mother."

    Fortunately, she spent only two years in that school. We are in a very poor district, and the principal lives in one of the wealthiest communities in the state, where there's more $$ for bully-prevention projects. I am trying to save money to move out of here. Sometimes that's the only solution - but it shouldn't have to be that way.

    Perhaps one day I'll write and publish a memoir, and rip his sorry a-- in it. He didn't know how to deal with bullies, and always, ALWAYS claimed his hands were tied by the school department. He made a goodly number of childrens' school-times miserable, and I don't think he ever really saw it.

    Posted by reindeergirl September 25, 09 06:20 PM
  1. I've found that "children who were never spanked/disciplined at home" were targets of all their classmates - from bullies to the regular kids - and the "picked on never spanked child" thinks he can say or do anything that he wants.

    Posted by Seabell September 25, 09 06:33 PM
  1. My husband and I, and our son and daughter, all have black belts in jujitsu. Problem solved. Get them enrolled in classes immediately. Schools cannot be counted on to stop bullying because they don't feel they're paid will enough. Also, lean on your local school board big time until they adopt an effective anti-bullying policy-and enforce it. infoferret is right: schools are required to report incidents and injuries.

    Posted by Heather Czerniak September 25, 09 06:53 PM
  1. You are entirely incorrect, Seabell. It sounds like you're trying to make a case for abusing children, which spanking is - abuse. // The child who faces corporeal punishment is the bullier - s/he acts out. Also, the neglected child. My daughter is in a school where it's the norm for children to come from families of 10 or more children. No, it's not a religious academy, it's a poor district where birth control may as well be something from another planet. These children have to compete for attention from their parents, and are often responsible for child-care, in spite of their young age. // The slap, and the lack of attention, is where bullying comes from. // Spanking must be outlawed, on the federal as well as state level.

    Posted by reindeergirl September 26, 09 10:37 AM
  1. Hi RH in North Easton,

    It's good you take the bullying seriously. The research is finding that bullying has a serious impact on children, particularly with long-term exposure. If there's any doubt in your mind, check out the headlines over the past year at www.heygrrrl.wordpress.com and www.heygrrrl.com, web sites where I post the day's headlines on bullying, including this article. Sadly, too many children are not helped in time before violence occurs. I'm glad you are going to take steps to help your son.

    Posted by Margaret September 27, 09 07:47 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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