Monday, May 3, 2010

Dealing With Bullies Part 1 or Assault = 1/2 Day ISS?!

Last week one of my boys came home and said he needed to tell me something and made me promise not to get mad at him. Dontcha just hate it when they do that? Well, I knew I needed to know what it was so I said I would try not to get upset depending on what it was. Here's what he told me:

That he got three people in trouble in his second block class. That they all got referrals and might be suspended or given ISS. 

I asked him how did he figure that it was his fault that these students got in trouble. HE told me this story:

A girl in his class said she wanted to put make-up on him and he told her no. She proceeded to try to apply the make-up anyway and he got up to walk away from her. She came after him with the make-up still trying to put it on him and he put his hands up in front of his face. A boy who is quite a bit bigger than him grabbed his hands and held him while this girl and another girl put the make-up on him. (Their goal didn't seem to be to be to make him "pretty" just to get the make-up on his face even though he had repeatedly said he did not want this to happen.)

Did you notice that he indicated these kids being in trouble was "his fault"? Yeah, that's because the girl who started all this told everyone that he said, it was"OK". And whether  A.) they believe her for some reason or B.) she's one of the "cool kids" or C.) they don't want her to decide she has a problem with them, my son is now the one who is looked on as the "problem" in all this. That is a problem to me! I am really angry that this happened in the first place, even more angry that it took place in the classroom and especially angry that the problem is being perpetuated by this child's obvious lack of remorse and placing the blame on my son!

The school's response? This I hope makes EVERYONE angry. I don't think I have to tell anyone that this is a case of assault. I have been told that it is definitely assault by the Principal, the School Resource Officer (AKA - Sergeant for the Sheriff's office who patrols the school), and everyone who I've told this story to. So, the school's official word on how they handled it is, "It was taken care of" and they can't tell me what that really means because it's confidential. In other words I am not allowed to know what disciplinary actions were taken against the other students because they are minors. I have since begun to believe that is a load of horsecrap created to protect the school system.

What I do know is that these same three kids were back in the classroom, second block (so about 10:30), with my son the very next day. This tells me that three children ,the Principals and the resident Police officer of the school agree, assaulted my child received 1/2 day of either In-School Suspension or Out-of School Suspension.

Does this seem right to ANYONE?! Because it certainly does not seem right to me. I am on a mission to get some  things changed and to get justice for my son. Right now he still sees himself as less than worthy of being treated with respect. The first red flag was when he told me that "he got some people in trouble". No! They got themselves in trouble! I refuse to bow down and just accept that the discipline that was given is enough. It's obvious to me that it's not enough by the fact that this girl is able to place the blame for her actions on my son and he is accepting it and just hoping this will all go away. Kids are still going around saying "Well, _____ said it was OK!", basically excusing the behaviour of the kids involved.

So, what are we doing about it?
  • The first thing that I did was to call the Principal, the Assistant Principal was the one who actually "took care of it", but when I couldn't get her I spoke to the Head Principal. She basically said she would look into it, pretty much blamed it on the Substitute, and refused to tell me the discipline that was given. Oh, and strongly suggested that maybe my son would want to stay home the next day because he "was probably embarrassed". Um yeah, I think we all know now why she thought it might be a good idea for him not to be there the next day. She knew he would tell us that those kids were in class.
  • The day after the incident Rick and I both went in and requested to speak to her, the assistant who handled it, and the resource officer (who happened to not be in). Nothing really was changed, we were told once again that they were looking into it, they couldn't tell us what discipline was given, and that yes, the same sub was back again that day but they expected the regular teacher back the next day. Head Principal also tried to excuse the other children's behavior by saying that _______ had allowed them to put his hair in ponytails in the past and that he also had allowed makeup (he denies the past makeup and says the girls play with all the boys' hair, and different girls - not the one involved here). Rick made sure to make the point that no matter what was allowed in the past that when he told them no this time he should have been left alone. They could not deny this. They both also admitted that, yes, it was a case of assault and we can press charges and we can also sue the school if we don't feel they handled it correctly. (As of May 3 I have not heard back regarding their "investigation")
  • I also called the Sheriff's office and talked to the Resource Officer who also confirmed that it is assault and let me know that, contrary to school policy, she was not notified when the incident happened but the next day, I believe after we met with the two principals. She said that she would be talking to the parents of the students involved and would let me know how that went. She also re-confirmed that we could press charges and that we have a year in which to decide to do so.
  • I was given the name of a lady at the County Schools Central Office who is the contact if you feel that the school did not handle a situation like this correctly. Well, we certainly don't feel it was handled correctly! I spoke with her this morning and am waiting to hear back from her after she contacts the school and speaks with the principals. I get the feeling that she has never had to deal with something like this and doesn't know how to proceed.
Our school district has a supposed "Anti-Bullying Policy" that no one in the school system seems to know what it is. When you ask them what it is they direct you to the County's Schools website. Then you can't find it there. We had to call and speak to the receptionist only to be told she needed to find it herself and then call us back and direct us how to find it. So much for their strict stance against bullying, when we did find it we learned that it basically leaves the decision on how to handle things up to the individual schools. That is not a strict bullying policy, that is a cop-out, and kids are the ones who are suffering because of the school systems inability to take a stand. Not just the kids who are being bullied but the ones who are doing the bullying. I do believe "kids will be kids", but I also STRONGLY believe that it's our job as the adults in their lives to teach them what actions are wrong. I believe that some wrong actions have been committed and no one is stepping up to teach these kids the lesson they need to learn.

Especially in light of recent news stories about kids who were bullied, I can not "just let this go". I have other children who will be going through this school in years to come, one who is already there and one with special needs who will attend there in a few years. I hate to imagine what things may be like if something isn't done NOW. What might it be like for Liza if things at that school only get worse? This is a fight I refuse to give up on.

If you are just as incensed over this as I am please share this post with everyone you know. There has been a miscarriage of justice and I intend to see it made right if I have to make more noise than I have ever made in my life. 1/2 day of ISS or OSS is NOT enough for an assault on another student. A serious message needs to be sent to the entire student body to ensure that something like this (or worse) does not happen again! No, I have not shared the name of the school but if you know how to use Google you can probably figure it out. I want my entire county to know about this and if needed the rest of the USA.


Joanie Fitzgerald said...

I am so proud of you Melissa! Never in a thousand years would I have seen the shy girl I knew in the past taking such a stand. I pray that God will bless every step you take during your time over these present trials. :)

MoonDog said...

my 13 year old daughter went to the dean after months of a couple girls harrassing her and teasing her. She only started this school end of november. So when they brought in the girls involved and one threatened to cut her. the liason officer was involved and the girls were suspended for two days and two days ISS and the one who threatened had to write an apology note. they were given "severe" consequences. the dean is about a month from retirement. Like he even cares at this point. I was also informed that this girl will be searched for a few days. and do you know who told me all of this(except the "severe consequences") was my daughter. you go get em mama.

Melissa said...

Katie, that's the part I forgot to mention - if Austin hadn't come home and told me I would never have known. That is not not the first time I have known them to not tell parents things like that. What is up with administrators letting kids get away with things like this?! And thinking they don't have to inform parents?

Jefferson Hunt said...

Write a letter to the newspaper. The pen is mightier than the sword, and schools hate bad press. Call the school board and tell them you are going to do it. Be sure to name names - the sheriff, the principal. And, contact the probation office. They really heat things up. You go girl! They will fear you when they see you coming.