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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

No place for bullies

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I've always told my children never to bully other children. If there's one thing I absolutely cannot tolerate, it's a bully. Someone who uses their size, might or influence to belittle or hurt others either mentally or physically.

I'm not foolish enough to believe my children have never made a cruel remark to someone else or said something they should not have. Sadly, I think many kids do it without realizing what they're doing is classified as bullying. They don't see the damage that it can do.

As a matter of fact, I've tried to encourage my children to stick up for kids who find themselves targets of bullies.

That's gotten my children in trouble at times at school, but as a parent, I can live with that.

All of my boys tend to be smaller in stature. Blame it on my wife's genetics. So they've been easy targets for some of their classmates growing up. My two oldest went through elementary school in Rock Valley, and when we moved to Spencer, found that some of their new classmates - in particular, some of the popular boys - wanted to test their limits a bit.

My eldest was confronted in the hallway of the old Spencer Middle School after going to the bathroom. Two of the "popular" kids caught him in the hall on the way back to class. They took his favorite hat, poured liquid in it, and tossed it into the garbage can. This wasn't his first run in with the young men, but it was his last. He let a few expletives fly and challenged them both. Ready to fight if necessary he stared them down until a couple of teacher ran into the hall.

When they saw who the two boys were, rather than taking them to the office to settle the issue, all three were simply told to go back to their classes.

One can only wonder what might have happened had the two bullies not been popular kids, but instead a couple of skateboarders. One can only wonder.

Now, that bullying has come to the forefront of the national discussion in the wake of school shootings and publicized suicides, we've gone to the other extreme.

One young lady was forced to sign a bullying policy after she and a friend were teasing one another in class. There was no bullying, just two friends mutually goading one another. But one of young girls was hauled in and made to sign the policy.

I know this girl. Have coached her a number of years in a number of sports. She's the exact opposite of a bully and is about as friendly to her peers as anyone I know.

So that doesn't seem to be a solution.

The true solution starts at home. Many times, the kid is a pretty good mirror of what they see at home. Not in every case to be sure, but as someone who has been coaching elementary age young people for more than 15 years, little turds tend to be pretty good indicators of bigger turds at home. The old saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," is truer than some may think.

So because we can't force parents with young bullies to get their bully under control, I've given my kids permission to defend themselves, their siblings, their friends and any stranger they may find at the mercy of a bully. Never are they to start trouble, but they may help resolve it as necessary.

They've been easy targets. If telling them it's okay to defend themselves and others makes me a bad parent, well I guess I'm a bad parent.

*You can go to the Daily Reporter Facebook page and see the preview for the motivation for today's column, a new film dealing with the issue of bullies.

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Our son has ADHD and is not very big also and is not one of the "popular" kids. He has been doing activities he liked since grade school but quit in high school because of the bullying. He has been bullied at school since elementary. In elementary he got beat up during recess. He got knocked down, kicked in the shoulder and head and even had shoe marks left on his face and we had to take him to the doctor for his injuries. In middle school the bullying continued. One boy would always bully him and even threw punches. The third time this happened, I went to the school to let them know what happened again (the school didn't even know that any of this took place this time) and I was told that since my son hit back, that if it ever happened again, the police would be called. Now with him in High School, it is continuing. We have been dealing with it for most of this school year. We have always raised our kids to never start a fight, but if you have to, defend yourself. Now our son got punched at high school, and he hit back. I got a call from the school two hours after it happened and was told that I would have to pick him up at the police station. I would have liked to been called right away!!! I was told by the police officer that he understands that you should defend yourself, but just don't do it at school because it is the school's policy to call the police. Our son was given a citation for assault and it is now on his juvenile record and he has to talk to a probation officer. He also received a three day out of school suspension. My thinking is, that is a nice vacation. Why not in school, in the office all day? Much better punishment. We have always been told by all his teachers that he is a great kid with a big heart and they wish they had more students like him. We know that he is not perfect, no kid is, but we think that he does not deserve to be bullied the way he is. More needs to be done in the schools about bullying. I don't think it should be the policy to call the police right away. I would think that the school could handle some of this themselves, maybe not always, but most of the time. We as his parents, could have done the punishing. I did go talk to the school authorities about this incident. I asked if it was ok to bully and as long as you don't throw a punch, you won't get in trouble? I was told, "oh no, we have policies about bullying too." Really?? We have been dealing with this since elementary school and we haven't seen much done. Just really tired of it all !!!!

-- Posted by involved parent on Sat, Mar 3, 2012, at 10:25 AM

My daughter and neice, who both attended Spencer HIgh School were frequently shoved into their lockers by upper classmen when they were freshmen. It was a popular sport back then, and I always wondered why in the world they didn't monitor the frosh lockers when this has happened for years and years.

-- Posted by Molly Weasley on Sat, Mar 3, 2012, at 5:27 PM

When our son was in eighth grade, unbeknownst to us, he had a back and forth, tit for tat, prank war -- he, the giant, autistic, new boy against a popular boy and four or five members of his posse. I don't really know what went on throughout the year, but it seems that it was what you might expect of boys attempting to settle their issues outside of a teacher's nosy eye in an 8th grade locker room. It had never caught a teacher's attention until May, when it did.

Boy 1 -- the instigator of this year long hazing of my son -- brought some money -- $150 -- or so he said. He brought his confirmation gift money and was flashing it around the locker room. Why would he do this? Yes, stealing is always wrong, but why invite it?

What we were told is that the last part of PE class came around and our son managed to sneak into the locker room and steal the money. Except he did not have the money on him and denied knowledge of it when asked. The principal called us and asked us to let him know if unexpected riches or purchases came to our home in the next little while. Done.

I checked backpack, pockets and his room. If my son has these sorts of problems, I'd have far preferred to know at 14 when it was school based than at 20 with a call from the jail. The money never turned up, but Boy 1 and his parents were very, very upset by the loss of it and were urging the principal to do something about it. We received a pleasant visit from the police at home. The money needed to turn up by about 24 hours from then, essentially during the following school day, or there would be further police involvement.

I wish we could have sat down directly with the other parents, but we were not told officially who they were, though our son identified their son and some of the other boys. Our son did, to his credit, admit to taking it after a long talk with his dad. He said he flushed it down the toilet -- that his only motivation was to get Boy 1 this last time.

Okay, okay. Enough. We paid up the $150 even though there was no evidence there was nearly that much cash. We talked very clearly and sternly to our son that this is the ONLY time we bail him out of a situation like this, that the only reason we were doing it now was because he had never been in this sort of trouble before AND we felt Boy 1 was partly at fault for flashing his money around. Yes, stealing is always wrong, but if Boy 1 had been my son, leading a posse in harassing a new boy, and flashing his cash around just to act big, he might not have seen that money for the summer.

We did punish our son at home and he did have to work out the money we paid out. We didn't get up and say, "Not my kid," or "poor thing -- he's autistic." If we had a failure in any way, it's the fact that due to his size and impulse control issues, we have been very stern with him from an early age to never be physical with or intimidate another person. If I had it to do over, I might have enrolled him in martial arts to learn self control and also walk softly and carry a big stick -- the skills -- with would-be bullies.

Should he have taken the money? No. Of course I felt ashamed to know he had done that. Am I a little proud that he stood up to a posse of five for the whole school year, meeting their evil plots one-for-one until the last one turned into a very bad idea? Yes. Yes I am. Bullies will not stop because of an assembly or a no-tolerance rule, or a school wide ethic. Bullies will stop when their targets effectively stand up for themselves. Kids who bully (heck, adults who bully) are individuals who are hurting inside. A decisive move from the person they harass and intimidate could redirect their behavior.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Sat, Mar 3, 2012, at 5:38 PM

involved parent, have you checked the state guidelines on in-school suspension, particularly full days? In the school I work at, we simply cannot do in-school suspension, especially over a number of days, because law requires us to supply at least two employees specifically hired to supervise in-school suspension (two, for liability purposes). There has to be a designated area as well. Teachers here have pushed for this to happen (we agree that for many kids, sitting at home does not have the desired consequence), but our district has not or cannot allocate us the money to hire two new employees. We don't have many suspensions, relatively speaking, and probably not enough to warrant the expense in the district's eyes. There may be a (however convoluted) reason behind the school's decision to send him home.

-- Posted by notinia on Sat, Mar 3, 2012, at 5:48 PM

Notinia -- I realize you are, well, living out of state so this is not directed to you. At one point here in Spencer I was given some kind of disciplinary procedure handbook which says that a student given suspension must be ready between some horribly early time in the morning and some far later time -- a very long window -- for a van to show up at each student's home to take that student to Graettinger to the Boys and Girls Home where the student would attend the school day with the residential students at B&GH and, I suppose, other students from the area similarly transported to Graettinger for the day.

I was not terribly worried about my children being suspended from school -- at least not more than once -- but I gave them an extra admonishment that they would be in deep trouble at home if they were in trouble at school, blah blah blah.

Anyway, I wonder if that is actually happening, still happening, if in the case of a fight the two or more parties serve the suspension and the van ride together, and if this solution is cost effective and/or a deterrent to the worst of suspension-level behavior.

-- Posted by AmyPeterson on Sun, Mar 4, 2012, at 12:21 PM

Amy, I do not think that Spencer Schools does that anymore.

It is fine that my son will be home and he will not be left here only, but I just think it would be worse punishment to have to be in school, in a room, looking at the walls all day. And he is in deep trouble here at home as well. I just don't always agree on how some things are handled at the school.

-- Posted by involved parent on Sun, Mar 4, 2012, at 10:47 PM

Interesting, Amy, I wonder if they actually do that and if its an effective deterrent. You're right, I do not work in the state of Iowa, so I'm not sure about staffing regulations when it comes to in school suspension. I was just curious whether that may be a reason why local schools do out of school suspensions.

-- Posted by notinia on Mon, Mar 5, 2012, at 10:12 AM

I have to say that I do agree that things don't seem to be working right in the schools with bullying. I do have to add that I have a son in the special ed room and he rides the special ed bus. I have NEVER had a real issue with him being bullied!!! I praise the special ed crew for this! He would not know how to defend himself and it has been one of my fears for a long time. I do have a 8 year old son who when riding the bus last year was constantly being attacked by various other students. One time he was being hit in the head and students were taking his backpack, when he tried to get away from them he was wrote up on the bus. His older cousins rode the bus with him and told the driver what had happened but he wasn't hearing any of it. I called the bus barn and let them know he would not be riding the bus for a week due to all the problems and that I would see how things went after that. Shortly after resuming the bus my son was at the school waiting to get on the bus, a boy starts hitting him in the head, his older female cousins tells the boy to leave him alone, so the boy starts hitting her in the stomach, her older brother tells the boy to leave them alone and to pick on someone his own size, so he then attacks him. My sons cousin hit him back and got kicked off the bus and suspended from school. what happened to the other student?? I found him walking down the street, nothing had happened to him. I went and talked to the school the next day and got nowhere, needless to say my son doesn't ride the bus anymore, but that does little to assume me it isn't happening in the school or that the school is going to do much about it if it does happen again.

@ involved parent I feel for you. That is horrible that your son now has this on his record for defending himself. And kids aren't supposed to defend themselves at school?? So they are just supposed to accept it??

@Amy- I have so many issues with your story... don't get me I totally agree with you. but for 1- what was the kid even doing with that much money at school? if he or his parents didn't want it lost he should never have had it there in the first place. I'm betting this family of boy 1 is either well known or well to do or both. I KNOW police would NOT do anything like that for one of my kids! Chances are they probably wouldn't have acted the same way either if the roles were reversed in your sons case. Actually I KNOW that because a neighbor kid came right into my house this summer and stole all my sons ps2 games, his ds games, his gamecube games and his entire gamecube system!!!! I filed a report, guess what happened?? nothing!!! and i later found out we are not the first family this kid has done this too!!! I only got some of my sons stuff back due to going to his house and getting his younger brother to give it to me, as the kids were left unsupervised!

I am also proud that your son stood up to his bullies and in a smart way! Didn't lay a hand on them! Just beat them at their own game! I do also believe stealing is wrong but I think this situation taught all the kids involved a lesson!

I understand that kids will be kids and we will never fully eliminate bullying from happening, but we need to do something more effective to get a grip on it. There really isn't anything here from preventing what happened in Ohio from happening here!

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Mon, Mar 5, 2012, at 8:48 PM

Wow, sounds like a lot of small town corruption going on.

-- Posted by clayfarmer on Mon, Mar 5, 2012, at 9:31 PM

I'm not sure about corruption. I truly believe it would happen in any town. I still believe the police department does a good job. They probably tire of dealing with the "childish school drama". I think that if the community can help the school come up with some way(s) that would really help with the bullying issue that is what is going to help most. If the parents at home make it clear they will not have there child acting like that at home and the school has a good system in place I feel things will greatly improve. Sad part is for now that the system in place now doesn't seem to be the best (I admit I don't know what the best would be) and that not all parents care if their kids are bullies.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Tue, Mar 6, 2012, at 12:40 PM

And the saddest part is, bullying goes on in the real world among "adults" as much as it does in the school world.

How many neighbourhoods have one family that everybody nices up to because they don't want the flak that comes along with running afoul of them, or their brood?

How many children run wild through yards and in outbuildings because if the property owner says anything the offenders' parents manufacture a fresh batch of trouble for the innocent property owner?

When the old man (or mother) is a cyote, is it any wonder the child is a little whelp of the parents' own ilk?

While it is a noble and commendable goal, these programmes in the schools, I feel that we will never remove the bullies until the adults among us stand up for themselves and root out the problems wherever they exist. If you see a neighbour that rides roughshod over the rest of the neighbourhood, don't hide in the house and ignore it, because inaction implies consent! Gather together and support one another, and show the offender that when they trifle with one, they trifle with the whole assembly! If undicilplined children are a problem, take video footage or photographs of improper behaviour, log each event, and encourage the rest of the neighbourhood to do the same. Then, proof is close at hand if the authorities have to be summoned.

Repeat as needed.

-- Posted by Surfsup on Thu, Mar 8, 2012, at 3:20 PM

If someone bullies my kids, I go straight to the source. Them and their parents or parent. You can't wait for the school or the police to intervene. It won't happen. If you need help, call a friend to go with you. Don't lose your cool, just explain in no uncertain terms that the bullying better end. If not, get more people involved. If your kid bullies and you don't stop it, that's pathetic.

-- Posted by trybeinghonest on Sat, Mar 10, 2012, at 1:28 PM

@trybeinghonest- I agree with your idea. however i have found that most of the kids that are bullying my son come from homes that apparently see no problem with it. The child that hit my son, my neice, and my nephew especially. They saw he wasn't doing anything wrong and in fact said they would press charges next time! and hes the one that hit all 3 of them before he was hit back! I just told them that if it happens again I will make sure to press charges and left it at that. So far so good with that child, but my son also hasn't rode the bus since then either.

-- Posted by AshlyMeyer on Sun, Mar 11, 2012, at 3:40 PM

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Randy Cauthron
One Man's Perspective