Bullying Series Finale

It’s been not-quite-five months since I started my series on anti-bullying work at Sam’s school, and in that brief time I’ve felt more despair, inspiration, relief, exhaustion, and companionship than in the previous not-quite-five years at the school. When I began writing, I really had no idea where things would go, and was just about ready to give up and pull Sam out of school. Just a few months later, I feel very differently.

At the end of last year, the administration promised to change the way they’d been dealing with school bullying, and made big plans—the first of which was hiring a new school counselor. I’m thrilled to report that the new counselor has experience implementing anti-bullying programs and policies at other schools. She is engaged, thoughtful, accessible, and communicative. Before school started, she gave the teachers an anti-bullying workshop, and is now planning parent education. She has asked the administration to adopt a truly zero-tolerance policy. She is teaching the kids what to do when they experience, participate in, or witness bullying. She is also going to bring Restorative Justice to the school—an alternative approach to discipline that teaches how to repair, rather than punish, harm that has been done to a person.

The school has brought in Gender Spectrum to educate all teachers about gender diversity and acceptance. They are school is talking to Keshet, the Jewish LGBT organization, about bringing faith-based anti-discrimination study resources into classrooms.

In short, the administration has either begun, or agreed to consider, nearly all of the things they committed to last year, and has done so fairly speedily. Watching their actions, I am cautiously optimistic that things are moving in the right direction.

Before writing this post, I read back over all ten installments of the series, reliving the despair, fatigue, and inspiration I’d experienced at the time. What stood out most to me about what we went through was how absolutely not alone we were. We had the support, encouragement, and ideas of the group of parents at school—without which we never would have gotten where we did. Our friends helped us realize we were not alone, gave us the energy for the fight, and lent us the strength to do the work. Their support totally changed the game, and made all the difference in our success.

And I was so very buoyed by the cheering, resonance, and thoughtful input of my readers. Without your words, I would have been dispirited before I’d been able to start. I was also reminded that if Ian had not been my partner through this, I never would have taken the work on (well, maybe I would have, but with far less grace and far more bad language than with him by my side). And most of all, if I didn’t have the incredible kiddo that I do—who represents both the need and the inspiration for this work—I simply would not be here at all.

Thank you, to all of you.

Now that things are on the right track with Sam’s school, I’m able to turn my attention to the book I’ve been trying to write for years, so my presence on this blog is going to be more sporadic for a while. While I won’t be writing quite as often, I am thinking of all of you and wishing you well on your journeys.

All the best,

Sarah Hoffman

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  1. says

    I am so glad that your school is taking such an active (proactive?) stance against bullying and a stance toward educating about acceptance. It is unfortunate that it took the death (the suicide) of a local young man, Jamey Rodemeyer, to bring to light the very immediate need for an anti-bullying/ zero tolerance campaign in my local school districts. No child should be made to feel that they are unwelcome, unaccepted. And, no child should be allowed to feel that it is okay to intimidate, torment, harass, alienate another student, another human being.

    Both of my boys had been the target of bullies (in different schools) in middle school. The problem that we had encountered in reporting incidents at my 2nd son’s school is that unfortunately the administration decided when addressing the bully to reveal who the ‘accuser’ was. The bully would get a mere slap on the hand and then had more fodder with which to bully the child. So, when more incidents arose, the child did not feel safe about approaching the administration. I understand the need to investigate both sides of the story- but, there must be a better way to handle these incidents without placing the confiding child further in harm’s way.

    Thank you for all of your diligence and dedication to making school a safe place for all children. You are a wonderful mother.

  2. Audrey says

    I want to thank you for writing this blog. I tend to receive some grief for my 5 year odl who is special needs and a tomboy. She loves traditional ‘boy’ activities and I get tired of people (mainly adults) for putting her down for either her communication skills or her ‘unfemine’ ways. I love her just as she is and wouldn’t change anything for the world. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who is tired of bullying being condoned, tolerated and accepted as normal. Making excuses, saying they are just being kids…everyone writes off instead of accepting we as adults need to teach the kids what acceptable behavior is. I am glad to hear of a school that is taking a proactive stance to change things and perhaps change the future of our nation for the better in teaching tolerance and acceptance for the differences in others.

    • shoffman says

      Audrey, I’m glad to hear that you are loving and supporting your daughter just as she is. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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