Our children must be protected when they go to school, and we must speak up. But who is listening?
A California teen was recently awarded $1 million after winning a bullying case against her former Middle School.
My eldest son was subjected to bullying when he was in first grade.
Currently, he's in third grade, and sometimes, he talks about his bullying experience. I wonder what residual impacts this experience has left on him. Even my youngest had bullying fears due to the experience his brother when through.
At the start of first grade, he was concerned and wanted to know if he would also get bullied like his big brother.
To date, the memory of my son getting bullied still haunts me. I learned about it three months after he started in-person learning.
I felt raw and upset when I discovered what was happening to my kid at school.
As a parent, I often feel as though I am overprotective, and it was already so heart-rending leaving my children outside of my care. However, I also know they have to learn to face and navigate life without me always physically there.
Developing that independence is how I am helping them prepare for life.
Hence, I entrusted him to the care of a school system that did not keep him emotionally safe when he was away from home.
Without measures and systems in place to 100% reject and eradicate bullying, schools will continue to fail hurting students and their families. One child who is bullied is one child too many. And more children will continue to take their lives as a result of being bullied.
Children can be mean-spirited and beastly. Still, it is also the responsibility of the adults at schools and parents/guardians at home to hold bullies accountable and to teach our children how to be kind, decent humans.
Every child has a right to learn and play in a safe and free school environment.
The day I discovered the unsettling reality.
I noticed my son often liked to wear a hoodie to school, and there were times when I allowed it, as justified by the temperatures. Other times, I did not allow him to wear a hoodie and ensured his clothing was weather appropriate.
The day I learned about his bullying experience, I did not allow him to wear a hoodie.
After taking him to his lineup, I watched as he was about to enter class but saw him reach for his shirt to pull over his head. With this act, he subconsciously exposed his stomach and back.
I ran up to him and inquired what he was doing.
Later at home, we talked about it, and that was when I discovered his request to wear a hoodie was due to wanting to cover his head since an upper grader was bullying him about the shape of his head.
Notably, his bully was in a separate class and not present when he reached to cover his head earlier that day. Nevertheless, being at school had conditioned him to seek cover even when that other kid wasn't around.
I reckoned that day he pulled his shirt over his head; his conscious mind reached for protection without realizing he was simultaneously exposing other parts of his body.
Mind you, his head contains a beautifully smart-witted brain that is super advanced for his age.
I am not sure why this kid found the shape of my son's head a reason to tease and cause him emotional pain.
It wasn't a one-time incident, either. When I became aware and brought it to the attention of school personnel, my son's bully had already managed to affect his self-esteem.
He didn't want to get haircuts for fear of exposing the shape of his head.
I had to consistently and even currently reaffirm who he is. Having had that encounter, I go double duty on the affirmations, and thankfully he is doing better now. He is learning not to let the negativity of others and their opinion impact him.
He has also shared a recent encounter where he gave his friend a pep talk, not to pay attention to what others say but to focus on what he (the friend) believes about himself.
Another case of bullying and a $1 million award
Recently, an 18-year-old California teen, Eleri Irons, was awarded $1 million by the courts after winning a bullying case against her former El Segundo Middle School.
In her case, this young lady suffered months of bullying that included tormenting and aggression by what the lawsuit reported were three "known bullies."
She eventually transferred to a private high school after school officials and even the parents of the bullies allegedly failed to address the matter appropriately.
In the beginning, Eleri was reported to suffer anxiety attacks and even began self-arm by cutting herself due to stress from her bullying experience.
There were days she had to call her mom to pick her up early from school, and she also spent many of her lunchtimes in the nurse's office.
For Eleri, things escalated after a field trip to Knotts Berry Farm. On this trip, she stated a group of students followed her around and taunted her that day. Consequently, she returned to the bus before anyone else and was in tears.
The evening after this field trip, another parent alerted Eleri's parents that several students had signed and circulated a 'Petition to end Eleri Irons Life' earlier that day.
It was equally troubling that teachers were aware of the petition but failed to report the matter to the teen's parents.
Once her parents became aware of this petition, they reported the matter to the principal and expected them to report it to the police. Still, according to police reports, the principal failed to report this threat immediately.
The El Segundo Unified School District has acknowledged the court's rulings and indicated the steps they are taking to prevent future bullying incidents.
Notably, they have added two Student Safety Assistant positions and have a tailored security assessment for all schools.
They also referenced the implementation of a comprehensive school district safety plan — Today.com
Bullies are everywhere
Another recent news article detailed the experience of a six-year-old girl in Germany whose parents have applied to change her name due to her getting bullied. (NDTV.com)
The child's name is "Alexa." As a result, she receives constant ridicule from her schoolmates, who make fun of giving her commands, similar to Amazon's Alexa. Even a stranger made fun of her by telling the child:
“Alexa, dance for me.”
How rude and inappropriate.
As a parent, I find that my children are their little people but also parts of me wherever they go.
The experiences they have in life, whether positive or negative, do impact me, and my heart breaks for them when their heart breaks.
I have made it my duty to train my children well and to teach them values that any decent human being should possess, whether they are little people or grown folks.
Still, I know they will encounter life experiences, and that life is a great teacher to prepare them.
The act of bullying does not belong in our schools, playgrounds, parks, etc. Adults and caregivers are responsible for teaching and modeling how children ought to live.
Please speak to your child about bullying and its impact on the lives of those victimized.
Fortunately, some will live to share their stories and recover, while bullying has resulted in many children taking their lives.
It is time that we rise as a society and stand up to bullies.
Our children and their brighter future depend on us eradicating the venom and seeds of bullying from our schools.
Say no to bullying.
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