The Mendacity of a Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy

Here is what’s going down in my daughter’s life . . . to protect the privacy of all participants, I’m using initials instead of names, and in some cases have switched initials up.

Dear School Board Rep. MM:

Re: bullying of MEF

I am attaching the e-mail I sent to the principal at TCES. My daughter, MEF, a 4th grader in Ms. GB’s class, has been subjected to bullying all year, which has now culminated in assault. We are considering contacting the police and we certainly will do the same if another hand is laid on my daughter. One of the children involved in the assault has been harassing MEF since second grade. At that point, Ms. Principal S switched my daughter into a different class. In this case, that will not be a satisfactory resolution.

TCES has a so-called zero tolerance bullying policy, which as far as I can tell simply protects the strong from serious repercussions. Given the increase of teenage and even pre teenager suicide that results from bullying, I am very concerned that the school isn’t doing more. While my daughter is not as of yet demonstrating signs of depression, she is showing an increasing desperation and sense of isolation. To date, she has tried to stand up to the children who have been hurting her, and somehow this has led her teacher to argue that MEF gives out almost as well as she gets. I find this more frightening than laughable.

Regards,

ELF___________

 From: ELF
Subject: bullying
Date: November 15, 2012 4:04:51 PM EST
CC. Principal S

Hello GB:

As we mentioned during our Parent-Teacher Conference earlier this month, we are concerned about KZ’s bullying of MEF. This has been occurring all year and today, it culminated with my daughter racing off the bus in tears. Apparently at recess, MEF was sitting alone and playing a game. Three boys (AK L, DG and KZ) marched over and spat at her (which they also did yesterday). One of them ran up and called her a “Guana [sic] Pig” and “Ninja Pig” and when two girls tried to intervene, KZ pushed MEF, causing her to fall down. AK kept calling MEF these nasty names; then DG shoved and pushed MEF into playground equipment. MEF tried to chase them away, and they screamed, “Leave foul beast.” At some point, AK said, “I hope your little ‘sister’ dies” (referring sarcastically to my son TJF, who tried to stand up for his sister during recess yesterday). At some point during this, MEF called KZ a “stupid idiot.”

At the end of this, KZ told MEF that she’d better not tell on him, or else he would tell on her and say that she was bullying him. This, of all the things I’ve heard from MEF, disgusts me the most. She admits to calling KZ a “stupid idiot” only after she was shoved, pushed, called epithets, struck, made fun of and basically tortured.

I do not want to hear what I heard earlier this year: that “boys will be boys.” No. You have a zero tolerance bullying policy. Let’s go ahead and see that policy in force.

Let me be clear: this is a clear pattern of bullying. We have spoken with you regarding DG, Ms. Principal S. In second grade, we switched MEF to a different class after he sexually harassed her. I don’t want him to ever lay a hand on my daughter again and I don’t know how else to make this clear. And Ms. GB, this is at least the fourth time I’ve raised the issue of bullying, either in writing or in person, this year. MEF loves being in Ms. GB’s class. At this point, if anyone is moved, it must be the perpetrators and not the victim.

I would appreciate if this e-mail is forwarded to the parents of all involved children. And Husband and I request an action plan.

Regards,

ELF
___________________

Mr. Vice Principal PBJ:

Thank you for calling me earlier. I’ve received the rest of the story.

MEF just got home from school and told me she was afraid to answer your question about pushing. To your “leading question” of, “Do you think it’s okay that you pushed the boys,” she didn’t answer what she was really thinking. At that point, she’d given up. It isn’t polite to argue with adults, mom.  What she said to me was, “I was trying to protect myself from them. I wouldn’t survive if I didn’t fight back. Especially when they’re spitting at me and calling me bad words. But I didn’t bother telling Mr. PBJ that because he didn’t want to hear it. They don’t really care. Why can’t you just transfer me to a different school, anyway?”

At school today, Ms. GB caught AK and KZ (I think) while they were spitting at MEF. (to MEF’s tremendous relief, Ms. GB gave them a serious rebuke). AK was also bragging that he’d lied and told you that MEF had hit AK (which is nonsense). AK thinks it’s hilarious that he’s pulled one over on you and has somehow convinced you that MEF has bullied THEM. I refer, as exhibit 1, to MEF’s near-perfect behavior record. Seriously. Go ask all her prior teachers.

Oh, and one other thing MEF did not tell you: she has tried to defend herself physically in the past. One day she hit KZ, in the stomach, at recess when he was bullying her. He laughed at her and called her a “weakling.” I fear that she will try to protect herself and will suffer harm at the hands of these boys, who are much bigger, stronger and heavier than her.

What’s happening here is a small, sweet kid is trying, really, really hard to take matters into her own hands. She is trying to create a safe space for herself. When she tried to do that and enjoy some peace, the boys invaded her space (a situation that seemed laughable to you because it involved a make-believe “command center”), spat at her, called her a PIG . . . and then she’s in trouble for pushing them? This is nonsense. Unlike some of the kids in her class, she is not a violent kid, but she’s trying to do her best “to survive,” as she put it. If you don’t act soon, someone is going to get hurt. Please work with me to keep my child safe. I am not satisfied with your response.

Regards,

ELF

On Nov 16, 2012, at 4:54 PM, PBJ wrote:

Good Afternoon ELF,

I am sorry that MEF has the perception that we do not care about what she said because we do.  As I said on the phone, our goal is to make TCES an inviting, safe space for all of our children.   We have begun taking steps to address the concerns we uncovered today and will continue to do so.   I would be happy talk with you further about this either on the phone, or, if you prefer, we can meet next week.  Please let me know how you would like to proceed.  I expect I will be here for at least another thirty minutes, if you would like me to call you tonight please let me know.

PBJ

We won’t stop.

ELF      Date:   November 16, 2012 5:01:24 PM EST

To:       PBJ

I’m far too upset–in tears– to speak to anyone more tonight.

____________

I wasn’t exaggerating. Before I’d typed this, I’d asked all three children to go outside for 15 minutes.  So I could cry.  I needed to break down, feel weak, feel this, for just 15 minutes.  Then I got my shit together, which really only happened when my husband walked across the threshold.

After I took a run, I calmed down and got back on the computer.  A friend of mine sent me a note last night.  She told me a pretty haunting story about a bully named KZ (the same KZ) who tortured one of her son’s friends so badly last year that the child transferred to another school. Yep.  The victim transferred to another school.  My friend added that she heaved a sigh of relief when finding that KZ was not in her child’s class this year. “My son is happy again.”

KZ has chosen another victim: my daughter. His parents don’t or won’t intervene. Meanwhile, the school has erected a smattering of anti-bullying signs around the hallways—the same hallways KZ prowls, searching for victims. 

He preys on the sweet kids. The ones who wear glasses, or are a little bit unique, or aren’t surrounded by a posse at all times. And he’ll keep on hunting until the school stops him. You know what sort of thing happens when the school bureaucrats don’t act?  Kids take their own lives, or they bring a gun into school and . . . well.  Columbine.

What do we do?  I’ve prayed on this a lot.  I’ve prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill me; I’ve asked Him for peace and love and I’m still praying, and pretty damn confused.  I know one thing for sure.  I will not go along with the blanket of secrecy that the school uses to shroud the misdeeds of out of control students.  I will fight, and I will not stop until my daughter is safe. So help me God.

 

 

 

 

 

 



61 comments on “The Mendacity of a Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy
  1. Catie Rhodes says:

    It makes me sad to read this. I have a great deal of empathy for your family’s struggle with the bullies. I don’t know an answer. The world has become a weird place. There is all this policy and all these laws, but I wonder if they really help. Do this; don’t do that–but who is going to make you?

    I suspect the school is blowing you off because they don’t have the power to enforce their own policy. It’s possible that all they can do is talk to the bully’s parents. If the parents choose to do nothing, the school is powerless. When I was in college, I considered going into teaching (for about 5 minutes). One of the first things we learned is how hard it is to get a kid who is keeping the other kids from learning out of your classroom.

    I remember being bullied when I was in the 3rd grade (or thereabouts–possibly I was even younger than that). The kids doing the bullying were two 6th grade boys. They were bullying me on the bus.

    Like your daughter, I got off the bus in tears one day. My dad wanted to show me how to fight these kids–and really hurt them (because that’s my dad). My mom, however, intervened. The solution was that I never rode the bus again. To this day, I don’t know which of my parents was right.

    Anyway. Hugs and good luck. Okay?

    • Thank you so much Catie. And I know, re the lack of power at the school. I keep asking myself what the solution is, and then I try to stop asking any questions. For now, we’re trying to equip Maddie with the tools she needs to defend herself. We’re advocating hard on her behalf, and keeping her out of school pending a satisfactory resolution of the problem.

      As far as your parents and who was right, honestly, I don’t know either. I’m so angry and sad. Part of me simply wants vengeance. Part of me just wants all of this to go away. I wish there was an easy solution. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts!

  2. It makes me boil over to read this. I understand your need to break down and just feel weak for a couple of minutes. I was bullied, then I fought back. My youngest son was bullied, after my intervention with the bullies parents it got worse, then he fought back. Shockingly the bullies parents were stunned when he came home in tears with a fat lip, bloody nose and in tears; my son had hit him with one of those plastic baseball bats. Yes, I told him to find something to hit him with since he was so much bigger. I didn’t realize he would do it, I just wanted to empower him after the bullies father told me my son needed to ‘grow a pair and stop being a mama’s boy’. Well the bullies parents were furious with me and my son, they called the police and reported my son. The police came over and after talking to me, my son and several other neighbor children went to the bullies house, searched his garage; found several bikes and other toys he had stolen, including my sons. It stopped after that.

    This is when you stand your ground. Demand the school intervene and do the right thing to protect your child. If it doesn’t stop here and now it will never stop. These bullies must learn the consequences of their actions and their parents must also be engaged. It is not okay. It is never okay.

    I love you are standing up. I love your daughter is brave like her mother.

  3. Tony says:

    I liked this post, then thought, what is there to like ???? I was bullied at school, because I was short, because of the job my dad did and even because of the street I lived in. It was horrid, but in those days (40/50 years ago) bullying was not recognised as a problem. You were soft, it was your fault, you needed to ‘toughen up’ (not the phrase used in those days). In those days everyone bullied someone. I did it. It was part of growing up. But in those days, bullies seemed to grow out of it. It was a kids thing in those days, and when you got to the ‘big school’ it had more or less gone. Now i think about it, I ‘like’ the post. I don’t like the subject matter. It makes me uncomfortable, as it should, and that is why I ‘like’ this.

    Here endeth my ramblings.

  4. Patricia Miller says:

    I think parents are to blame when bullying continues. The offenders that is. Go to the police and go to the school superintendant. Call your local T.V. station , talk to a news reporter, call your local newspaper. Call your Congressman. My grandson , who was in the 6th grade and living with me, his grandmother, was bullied by a black girl who was much older and much bigger. He tried to avoid her, finally after weeks of bad treatment by her he finally got into a fight with her. Both kids got expelled for 10 days. I almost went to jail , the principal saw my child as a trouble maker. In this instance I knew better. I think the teacher was also afraid of the 15 year old 6th grader who was the agressor. But i took him out of school and home schooled him for the rest of the year, and changed schools the next year. He has never had a problem since. He is 21 and has been in the Marines for 2 years. Doing great. Do not give up hope, but you must reach higher than the local school level. I learned from our city mayor that I should have recruited some help from someone higher up. The squeakey wheel gets the grease. Get an attorney and sue the school and the school district….at least go talk to an attorney, and the police in your town. Maybe even a letter from an attorney to the school would make a believer out of them….Good luck…

    • A 15-year old 6th grader?!! My gosh!! I’m so glad everything has turned out well for your young man! I’m doing many of the things you suggested and of course am keeping her out of school until this is resolved. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts!!

  5. That “boys will be boys” crap and the leading question . . . oh, oh, oh, they get me angry. So, so very angry. I have a few things I’d like to do, but none of them–off the top of my head–are constructive. I’ll think on this some more, but in the meantime, I’ll just say I’m glad you are documenting, documenting, documenting.

    I am so frustrated that, in order to avoid legal liability, this is the stance certain school professionals feel they must take to protect their schools and their reputations. These are not the most important thing in a picture involving our precious, wonderful children.

  6. My heart goes out to you and your daughter. Hurting for you, hurting with you.

  7. Jen says:

    Ohhhh El….we have been going through a very similar situation, only it is my fifth grade son who is being bullied by one girl in particular but her posse at times as well. This is heartbreaking, frightening and disturbing on SO MANY FREAKIN LEVELS! The whole…’kids will be kids’ mentality makes me sick, when my sweet boy, who yes wears glasses and cares about others, is in tears and upset from being humiliated. We were at a concert the other night at school and those teachers who OBVIOUSLY aren’t communicating with each other have placed my boy next to this girl in choir and math! I left a msg at school for the teachers and no response yet. The hallway outside the gym has the same, anti-bullying posters, I counted three of them, great message that they are following through on
    I don’t have any words of wisdom, my heart breaks for your brave little girl, please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

    • Jen!! I found your comment tucked away in my pending folder–please forgive my tardy response! I am so sorry that your little guy is being bullied by a posse . . . and the mentality of “kids will be kids” also makes me nutters. I keep thinking that our sweet children will in the long run be so much better off than the little shites that are bullying them. You know what I mean? I don’t have wise words right now either, but you and your son will be in my thoughts and prayers as well! xoxo

  8. I am so sorry, El. This is incredibly heart-breaking to me. I don’t have answers, but I do I think you have handled this situation extremely well. And what strikes me above all else is that your daughter sees an advocate in you. She sees you will stand beside her no matter what. And that, my friend, is huge. It really is. Knowing your mom stands behind you, believes you, and fights for you, can make all the difference. Will be praying for your precious child and for you, too.

  9. Its a shame when people in charge won’t take action and hide behind a wall of words. Your daughter is lucky to have an empathetic parent like you. Would getting in touch with a few other parents affected by kz and speaking with the school authorities as a parent body help? Good luck to you

  10. P.j. says:

    My son was bullied, so I know how you feel. I said a prayer for God to give you strength and peace, courage and wisdom. I prayed for your daughter, too. From what I have just read, what she is going through is such an injustice! I pray God rights this wrong being done to her, and that she can finally “be happy again”, too, like your friends child. Our circumstances may change through life, but God is still GOD…and HE is in control, and ready, willing and able to come to our rescue! DEEP BREATH, El, and Let Go & Let God. God asks in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?”. So remember, when the waters are raging all around you, and you don’t know where to turn next, and you begin to melt down, STOP and listen to the Shepherd call out to His little lamb, “Calm down. Don’t panic. Let Me rescue you.” And He will! Your family is in my prayers!

  11. Boomdeeadda says:

    That’s horrifying. This KZ kid should be expelled. I think I’d just go ahead and get he police involved. Sometimes civil action is the only answer, you have to get the parents attention and sometimes that doesn’t even work. Have you considered a new school? You shouldn’t have to, but for the sake of your daughters safety and your peace of mind it might be worth it. Hope you’ll be given satisfactory resolution.

  12. It is great you have a record in paper, as now you have a case. It is time now to take action and negotiate no longer. State in a victim’s impact statement the effects on your child, get compensation if you can (only because money makes people THINK about what is happening). And most of all – if you can(?) – get a petition to have KZ gone.

    My heart is with you. This is horrific, and unfolding here and now. Please, please take strong action. No more letters.

  13. You keep going until she feels safe at school! You are and always will be her best advocate!

  14. You are your daughter’s champion. Every kid needs a champion. I laud you for that.

  15. Andrea says:

    AElle this breaks my heart. I truly feel for you and your daughter. I’ve had similar experiences in middle school I was lucky though to have at least one friend on my side. My prayers are with u and your daughter. To the both of you stay strong and keep your heads up high, you must not resort to fighting back on their level! Ell keep talking to the principal and school board and you are doing a great job documenting. Also if possible bring up the bullies previous victim. You and your daughter are both very precious gifts. I am honored and blessed to know of you both! 🙂 stay strong! <3

  16. —I work for the school district and we see this sort of behavior all the time. It is NOT tolerated.

    Here is some advice.

    1. Meet Face to Face (not on the phone or email) NOoooo WAaaaaaY
    2. Get the social worker involved if needed.
    3. If nothing changes, contact your school superindendent. (I guarantee, the Vice Principal will then get off her / his ass…and DO something.

    Good luck.

  17. I clicked “Like” to let you know I was here, and reading. I do not LIKE this. I loathe it. But it’s part of my story, too. My boys are all smaller than their peers. (I’m a towering 5’2″, and dad is a whopping 5’6″.) They have small frames, and are smart. Add to that the youngest, who preferred music and drama to athletics. The trifecta for bullies.

    It makes me crazy that the policies for bullying are written by lawyers (no offense) instead of counselors. That they are focused on protecting the school and not the children. It’s all backwards.

    Heed the advice above. Meet with administrators in person. If they do not give you a plan to address this, then go to the next level. But protect your daughter at all cost.

  18. Elyse says:

    Hire a lawyer and go after the bullies’ parents, the school and the teachers who cannot control the situation. Include earlier teachers who let the bullies continue their behavior throughout elementary school. This is not acceptable.

    I was bullied as a kid. In many ways it made me a strong, self reliant person. But things were really different then, I think. It didn’t go as far in those days.

    The lead bully in my case got his comeuppance, though. Here’s how: http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/10/09/comes-around/ It might make you smile. And you need it.

  19. Elyse says:

    You might also consider contacting the local paper. At a minimum, you should let the school know that these are likely to be your next steps.

  20. I pray for you and Maddie. I pray for strength, for you to not feel tired, but to feel energized as your mama bear takes over. I pray that Maddie KNOW how beautiful and wonderful she is, and that she not internalize any of this, but feel only pity (in the most condescending way of course;) for those lost mean kids. She is above them, and you both will prevail – for you are braver and stronger than you think.

  21. I just concur with what everyone else has said, El. Maycee has received what I feel is borderline bullying from another girl at school, but each time the supervisor for the aftercare program has stepped in and handled it with the girl letting her know it is NOT okay. I keep my ears wide open and my voice in the mix, though, as I don’t want it to escalate. The supervisor knows my presence, and Maycee knows I have her back. I wish you so much more than just luck, and know that I am in your corner, I agree with you, and whole-heartedly want your daughter to be safe and happy. Much love, Kasey.

    • I’m so glad Maycee’s supervisor has been on the ball, Kasey. And good on you for keeping your eyes and ears open . . . often, that’s the best thing we can do. Listening to our kids and letting them know we’ll always be listening. Thank you so much for your kind wishes, and much love back atcha.

  22. Camron says:

    It seems that you place an unfair amount of blame on the school and the teachers. I see stories in the newspaper all the time about how the schools and teachers’ hands are tied. They can’t even take away recess anymore without being threatened with legal action. The real blame belongs on the shoulders of the bully and the bully’s parents. Teaching students to hit back only perpetuates a violent cycle. They should tell an adult at the school before they try to fight back on their own. I wonder…have the children had the opportunity to sit down with an adult (maybe the counselor or the teacher) and talk about the issue together? This could lead to some progress. Have you had any contact with the bully’s parents? I don’t know what action plan the school could come up with since in my experience separation doesn’t seem to solve the problem, rather it just places the problem on hold. Issues of bullying are so frustrating! I hope your daughter’s situation improves.

    • Hello there Camron. Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. I regret how little schools seem to be able to do. I reckon I’m not so much concerned with who is to blame per se. I just want it to stop, and am trying all avenues I can think of to effectuate change. I thought you suggested some excellent ideas and for that, as well as your kind wishes, I am so very grateful.

  23. I’m actually writing about bullying in my nanowrimo project for young adults. It is horrible and unjustified. The school can’t sit on their hands and say they are powerless. And the parents of the bully aren’t at the school and frankly, may not care. How do bullies become that way at such a young age? Answer – usually the parents are either absent, abusive, or toxic in some other way. I don’t think you can expect help from them until the school demands it by way of kicking the bullies out and shaking up the parents. Every child deserves a safe place to learn and if they can’t give that to your child, then they are negligent. I don’t accept that they do nothing while your child’s personality is forever changed. Keep kicking ass, EL.

  24. JudahFirst says:

    This story makes me FURIOUS! What that bully needs is a sound spanking (or 25) from someone much bigger than he is! Please involve the police to protect your daughter, El! The assault she suffered should not go unpunished and the authorities will get involve if you call them in.

    Our local public school recently had an incident in which a young man (14 yrs. old) raised his hand against his girlfriend. It was a light slap … the FIRST time he had ever done anything remotely close to this … he had been goaded by the girl who did in fact (admittedly) dish out before anything was dished to her … and someone who saw it reported him (the girl broke up with him but didn’t consider anything he did worth reporting as bullying). To show you the inconsistency of the system:

    He was accused of bullying by the school and taken from school in hand cuffs, booked, then taken to court to answer for a light slap. The girl he hit still pursues him as a friend and ended up being a character witness FOR him in court.

    What happened to him was OVERKILL, but what is happening to the bully in your story is NOTHING!! The inconsistency makes me sick. The young boy in my community should have been given a warning and his parents (who punished him until the police stepped in – since then he needed advocates, not more jailers) should have been given the chance to bring their own consequences to bear. Unfortunately for my friend’s son, his future could be in jeopardy due to a careless, one-time mistake which someone else mistakenly reported as bullying, while your administration is not listening to years of accusations of bullying by the same kid! The reaction by the school to my friend’s son is as ridiculous as the NON-reaction to your daughter’s bully.

    At the end of your post I began thinking, “Why not home school your precious daughter?” I spent 15 years home schooling my kids (off-and-on, not every year, but most), and it ended up being both the toughest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. She sounds like a gifted child who would probably benefit so much from one-to-one instruction anyway. Why not remove her from that (and other potentially) horrible situation while at the same time strengthening the bond she has with her loving family? God speed as you and your family decide what to do.

    • Thank you so, so much for your comment, my friend!! And it does sound like that case above was a bit of overkill! As far as my daughter, I appreciate your thoughts on homeschooling and we are keeping all options on the table. Stay blessed and I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving!

  25. Oh El, I am so very sorry for you and your daughter. This is a terrible situation. Sadly, anti-bullying seems to get a lot of lip service but no actual concrete action. You can say something is wrong but if you don’t treat it that way, the message isn’t received. You are incredibly strong. Perhaps it is time to involve the police. Some people only respond to legal action. It’s really sad and unfortunate. I hope you find a way through this. Sending lots of positive thoughts and prayers. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Kourtney! I agree that we as a people are struggling to find a way to address bullying . . . for sure I won’t give up fighting it, and hopefully more with love than anger. For me, that’s the key–standing up to it without completely losing my mind. Nervous giggle. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers!!

  26. Mark Knox says:

    As a father with two daughters, this broke my heart. Both of my daughters have had bullying experiences, but neither has been as severe as anything your little girl has been going through. I agree with the poster who said to make it as public as it needs to be. I work in a bureaucracy and often the only way I can get things done is by presenting situations to a wider circle of people, thereby creating external pressure on those that can and should act. It’s not always fair, but it works. I will say a prayer tonight for your family and especially your daughter. -No reply necessary; I know you are a busy mom. 🙂

  27. El: You know TechSupport went through this in 5th grade. It sucked. Eventually I got my ass over to the school and demanded a meeting with the principal, assistant principal, school social worker and classroom teacher. I brought a lawyer. Things changed quickly. They moved the other boy into another class – and before middle school, I had to make sure to write a note indicating the boys needed to be on separate teams. Tech has had 3 very good years. I wonder what will happen when the boys are reunited next year in high school. They will likely be on many of the same classes.

    We got Tech some help. So he wasn’t gearing things from just his dad and me. This also helped a lot. I have faith your daughter’s perpetrators will eventually land in an unpleasant place. Karma is a bitch.

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