This is the sixth post in a series about my son’s recent experience with bullying at school.
After our inspiring meeting with the school counselor, we picked out a handful of the awesomest parents we know at our school and wrote them this email:
We are writing to ask for your help in making change at our school.
Our third grade son, Sam, has been bullied for his differences since he started kindergarten. Primarily he’s been targeted for his gender expression, but recently it’s also moved to body type and other issues. Sometimes it’s his classmates harassing him; other times it’s children in higher and lower grades.
We have attempted to work with the administration for the past four years, requesting both immediate help for Sam and a school-wide anti-bullying curriculum. The school responds effectively to acute problems—the classroom teachers, especially, have been fantastic—but there has been no effort to do the work necessary to prevent the bullying from happening in the first place.
To give you two examples of what Sam has faced: he has been kicked and yelled at in the bathroom by younger students who were alarmed to see someone in the bathroom they didn’t think was supposed to be there. Sam was forced to show his genitals to an older student in the boy’s room, to prove he had a right to be there. These things are not the fault of the kids involved. They are the fault of an administration who—alerted to Sam’s previous problems in the boy’s bathroom—did nothing to teach kids how to respond appropriately to this situation.
In recent weeks, the bullying has escalated for Sam, and he is now being harassed by kids in third grade who have never bothered him in the past, in addition to kids who have a history of bullying. We don’t fault these kids, or their parents. But we wonder, just how bad does it have to get for Sam before the administration thinks it’s important to address the problem on a larger scale?
Kids are bullied for many different reasons; Sam is certainly not alone in the world, nor at our school. Bullying affects every one of our children, and every one of us as their parents. None of us want our kids to be bullied, to bully other children, or to stand idly by as their friends are hurt. We have, for the last four years, considered Sam’s bullying to be our own private issue. A friend and fellow parent pointed out recently that this is not the case—that we are all affected, that we can reach out to ask for help, and that asking for help—to a broader group of people than we have in the past—is the right thing to do. Not only to protect our child, but to help build a more loving, accepting community.
This morning we met with the school counselor to discuss our options. He was incredibly supportive. To our surprise, he recommended that we convene a group of parents to discuss how to move forward with bringing anti-bullying curriculum to the school, and he offered to host this meeting.
We are inviting you because you are parents who we believe are concerned about this issue. We are not so much interested in discussing specific instances of bullying, but rather brainstorming solutions to help the school develop policies and procedures for future bullying prevention work. We also need fellow parents to help the administration understand that this issue is important not just to our family, but to the whole community.
And you know what? Every. single. one. of those parents wrote back with words of support, encouragement, and/or a commitment to get involved.
My heart is just about a-bursting.