KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Roaring Mothers Get Results

An update about the bullying of my first-grader, Jared, on the school bus:

Friday (26 October) morning, Jared's teacher, Mr. D, talked with the assistant principal, Ms. E. The two adults pulled Jared and "Joe," the other boy, out of class briefly to hear both sides. Jared confirmed what was happening, but being reluctant to get Joe in trouble—because he likes Joe when Joe isn't hitting him—he said that the bullying had happened only recently, instead of since September.

That afternoon, both the teacher and Ms. E called me. Ms. E told me what Jared had said, and I told her that no, the bullying had been going on all school year. She called Joe's parents and spoke with them, stipulating that if Joe hit, poked, or tripped anyone on the bus, he would no longer be allowed to ride the bus; his parents would be required to drive him to school.

My husband Ed spoke with Joe's parents face-to-face Sunday, and it went well. (Ms. E had warned me, however, that in her experience, nearly all parents react defensively in these situations, even more so when speaking with the parents of the alleged victim than with school officials.) The parents promised to have a long talk with Joe about not hitting Jared or anyone else. Joe's older brother, "Tim," volunteered to his parents that he had seen Joe pick on Jared several times earlier in the school year. (Tim himself has been a victim of a school-bus bully in the past; instead of talking with the bullying child's parents or with the school, Joe and Tim's parents simply stopped letting Tim ride the bus and started driving him to school.) Ed says that the entire conversation was calm and not defensive or accusatory. We felt that because Ed had befriended Joe's father through past walks in the neighborhood, he should talk with him in addition to Ms. E calling the parents; we didn't want to put the entire burden on the school to handle the situation. Plus, we like to set an example for our children about speaking up for oneself civilly.

This week on the bus, Joe has not hit, poked, or yanked on Jared until Jared fell off the seat. Jared is happy and is now pleasant, rather than growly, when he gets off the school bus in the afternoons.

Jared did admit to us that he hit Joe back once in the past after Joe hit him. We explained to him that hitting someone won't stop the other person from hitting, that we do not approve of his hitting anyone, that the proper response to being hit is to ask the other person to stop and then to tell the bus driver (if applicable) and his teacher, and that if he does hit back, that will likely be the time that the bus driver/teacher turns around and sees what is going, thus landing Jared in trouble.

Jared is very grateful ("because Mr. D sticks up for kids"), and so are Ed and I. We have e-mailed Mr. D, with a copy to Ms. E, to tell him so.

Updated at 2:31 p.m.: As soon as Ed and I found out about the bullying, I had a very strong urge to find a way to ride the school bus with Jared and put a force field of protection around him just by virtue of my being there and being identified as his mother. Not that my being on the bus would be allowed, mind you.

Jared's being bullied pushes so many buttons for Ed and me. We were both misfits, in different ways, as children in public schools, he here on Long Island and me in Texas, and we were both bullied in school. And I was bullied by my parents, as were my siblings. Ed and I are determined to stop the cycle of violence, at least for our family. We'd like to stop it for others too.


Imperatrix said...

That's a great ending to the bullying saga. I agree that I would never have approached the parents, for the reasons the administrator gave.

I'm glad for all of you that now Jared riding the school bus is not a source of stress.

Stephanie E. said...

I'm so happy for Jared and for you--and even for the bullying little boy who is maybe going to learn to get along better with other kids and in this world because of your efforts--that it's working out so well. How wonderful that the parents and school were receptive rather than defensive. You're incredible parents. Your kids are as lucky to have you as you are to have them.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks, Stephanie. Ed and I try to be the kind of parents that we each wish our own parents had been for us—sort of a reverse role-modeling.

Unknown said...

What a relief to get results! I'm glad to hear this.

Jennifer said...

I hope this continues to work for you both. Joe probably will need reminded of the no hitting rule in a few weeks when the rule isn't fresh in his mind. At least that is my experience...

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