Friday, April 25, 2008

License to Bully

Some of you may recall this post from two years ago about bullies on the school bus. Since that time, we've been dealing with other bullies in our condo community. I've had to call the police three times this school year due to actions taken against my son, and I'm sick of it.

Yesterday, our local paper published a letter that I wrote, hopefully to get the attention of other parents in the area and to call attention to the complacence of the police.

Here it is:

Parents: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know About Bullies

Since the beginning of this school year, I have learned something I never knew when it comes to protecting our children: Your son or daughter can be harassed and assaulted by 12 and 13 year olds, but until those kids are over 16, or until they physically injure your child, the [local] Police can do nothing more than write up a report and talk to these kids and their parents.

If the assault takes place on school grounds, the school can suspend them. If it takes place on the bus, an incident report is written up. But if it takes place when your child is walking home from the bus stop, you’ll get “I wish there was something else we could do” and that’s about it. Once you let the school know that you’ve met with an attorney, they will agree to put your child on an “overflow” bus that drops him off at your door. (What is wrong with this picture? Why isn’t it the delinquent children that get put on the “special” bus?)

The assault can include throwing your child to the ground, punching him, sitting on him, menacing and even exposing genitals to him. It can include taunting, mocking, and verbally harassing your child, even in your presence.

The parents of these kids are either of the “my kid would never..” ilk, or bullies themselves. Some are alcoholics and some of these kids clearly need psychological and/or medical help.

But in the meantime, your child can be on the receiving end of some very destructive behavior that leaves him or her in a hyper vigilant state, fearful of playing outdoors and unable to enjoy a leisurely walk home from the bus stop on a beautiful day.

We all know about Columbine, about Virginia Tech, about the recent beating of a Florida girl that wound up on You Tube. Whenever these horrific incidents occur, you hear the refrain, “The signs were always there.” People begin to recount the behaviors that had been seen an ignored for years leading up to the “big one”.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my child to be a victim of “the big one”. I don’t want to wait three years, and I don’t want to get the call telling me that a 12-year-old who is twice his size has broken his arm. We need to protect our children now, and hold these bullies and their parents accountable.