Friday, September 8, 2023

Walter's Mother

 I couldn't stand to think about Chris. I didn't know his situation at all. I wondered if he had someone at home who had his back. Or was he a kid from a chaotic family who would wind up getting lost in the shuffle, being bullied day in and day out, suffering in silence. 

I couldn't stand the thought of it, so I went to facebook and posted a post.

There is a kid named Chris who attends Beaty. He was being pestered by a kid today. When he told the kid to leave him alone or he would tell the teacher, the kid slapped his face and knocked his glasses off. All parents with a kid named Chris, please talk to your kid tonight.

I talked to ours. The conversation went like this: "Did he tell the teacher?"

Answer: "Well, the kid slapped his face and told him not to!"

Me: "So the bully won."

Grandson: "Well...."

I said, "Did you tell a teacher?"

Hung head.

Me: "You NEVER witness someone being assaulted and not do something about it. You always tell. ALWAYS."

Last year at the end of the school year, we heard all sorts of reports about the behavior of kids. Looks like it is starting out to be much the same.

IF YOU HAVE A KID NAMED CHRIS, OR IF YOU KNOW A KID NAMED CHRIS WHO WEARS GLASSES AND IS PROBABLY IN 7TH GRADE AT BEATY, HE NEEDS YOUR HELP.''

I was very surprised when that post was shared many times. Maaaaany times. 

I received a private message from Chris' mom the following evening. She had no clue and was grateful to know. The bullying had been relentless since the beginning of school and she had no idea it was even happening. 

We talked. 

This morning there were new comments from three of Walter's friends, all of them insisting that there was more to the story. 

I responded with: 

"Step out and let the adults handle this. Your friend has no right to put his hands on any student in that school. If you don't understand that, you'll find yourself learning the same lesson the hard way. You're also giving the school a nice start to a list of who they need to be keeping an eye on. It doesn't matter what happened, there are right ways and wrong ways to handle things. Your buddy handled things the wrong way. There are consequences for that."

Much to my surprise, one of the kids responded that perhaps I was right.

I gave him an 'atta boy!' for that.

The post went to the school superintendent, and then to the principal. The police are involved. The mother is not pressing charges, but wants to be sure that the boy understands that this is unacceptable behavior and if it happens again, there is proof that this has been explained to him. 

Mostly what I was pleased to see was a good round table discussion on how to empower kids to step up and to speak up if they witness bullying. Parents were having those talks with their kids. The school was involved. Someone thanked me for bringing the issue to the masses. "It takes a village!" she commented. It does. We all need to be looking out for our kids. 

Along came mama. "Look I am that child's mother how about you grow up Debby and get a life you want to talk about bullies about look in the mirror the story was taken water out of proportion and everything now back off"

Explains a lot, doesn't it? 

I didn't respond to her. I wanted to choose my words carefully, being mindful of the fact that I'd had a productive conversation with a seventh grader already. All those responses from parents talking to their children, addressing the topic. All very encouraging to me. All I had to do was respond from my head, not fly off with some knee jerk response. 

I did comment that the poster who commented that 'It takes a village' was right. I also commented that if the comments were read, we would all plainly see why the village school was struggling. Not everyone wanted to be a part of that village. 

That was all. 

The other parents did not let her off so easily, calling her out by name, and pointing out her contribution to this problem. 

Walter's mother disabled her facebook. 


30 comments:

  1. I almost commented on this last night, commending you for the positive job you have done and are doing. I don't like being the first commenter, but here I am again. This resolution is why I dislike FB. It was good the affair was brought to the attention of everyone who would solve it reasonably. That includes the principal and the police. But, sad that Walter's mother was dragged into the court of public opinion and judgment. If she had been approached by the principal, the police, spoken to confidentially, she may not have lashed out.

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  2. Joanne, the bully was never mentioned by name. I knew. The mother knew. The school knew. I consciously did not bring him into it by name. Not one comment said his names, although his three friends posted their comments by their names, no one mentioned Walter's name. His mother was the first clue to his identity. The comments all dealt with the issue of bullying or bullied kids.

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    1. I want to make it clear that mama dragged herself into the court of public opinion. She id'ed herself and by lashing out at everyone and this is exactly how people responded.

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    2. I guess my problem is the way FB can wind up a mosh pit. I had such a problem once, and simply went directly to the principal and the police. But that was in the 70's, way before FB.

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    3. I didn't know Chris or his family. I wanted to make sure that a kid dealing with a hard time had help to navigate that. The community passed the post (as printed in orange above). That's how his mother found out. At the same time, it was forwarded to the school superintendent, which is how it got into the school's hands. But it wasn't a mosh pit, not at all. It was more like people coming together and discussing a problem. There was no vilification of anyone, although one man felt that we should let the kids fight it out and not punish them for fighting. (!!!!!) But it was really about parents vowing to sit down with their children and really discussing bullying and the fact that it shouldn't be ignored whether it was happening to them, or to someone else, etc. There was a lot of talk about teaching kids to stand up for each other. There were parents who remembered what it was like to be bullied. Those parents really spoke directly to the students who were defending their friend. The fact that I spoke plainly to a kid who replied with "MB ('my bad', I found out later) You're right." I really got a happy feeling about that. It just felt so...like we were solving something, maybe. It was a pretty cool experience. Mama Bear did change the tone, but she put herself in that mosh pit. Not one person had done that.

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  3. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and express an opinion about an incident with which I have no personal experience…. It seems unlikely to me that the repeatedly bullied kid was actually provoking the attacker…. On the other hand, kids in trouble lie to their parents all the time, and bullies’ sidekicks sure could be motivated to lie for their friend.

    I have wondered for ages what the secret to reaching a bully is — and if it’s even possible.

    And I wonder if any bullies have a parent capable of responding properly; maybe that inability is key to the problem in the first place…

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    1. Oh he absolutely was not. The bully was taunting him relentlessly at the lunch table. The kid repeatedly said to leave him alone. He kept on. The victim yelled Stop! and threw a raisin. Whether it was intentional or just in a fit of rage, I don't know. The bully is using the raisin as ' But HE started it.' His mother is buying that line of nonsense evidently, as are a couple of his friends.

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  4. 1.) You did the correct thing, getting this event out in the open was the right thing to do. 2.) It may well be that Chris had not told his parents about the slapping incident because he was too embarrassed. 3.) Now his parents and the parents of other children know what happened and are talking to their children, and other conversations on the subject are happening in the community. 4.) The school and the police are involved. 5.) With regard to Walter's mother, her behavior sheds a lot of light on the reasons for her son's actions. 6.) Like I said yesterday, this kid's behavior needs to be stopped immediately before someone really gets hurt. Good on ya!!

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  5. You win the Hero parent (or grandparent) award! That's really good how the Village started talking with their own kids to explain bullying. It's also sad how the bully's mom is a bully herself. It'd be nice if the school counselors could help her. You created a beautiful ripple of teaching many how to approach this threatening kid. You've probably saved a few lives in the process, if not now, in the future. Linda in Kansas

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  6. Thank you for doing what you did. I was horribly bullied throughout school and what made it worse was that none of the adults who were supposed to help ever did. That causes so much long-term damage and I really applaud you for helping a child who wasn’t able to help himself. I can guarantee that what you did will make a difference to this boy for a long, long time - thank you.

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  7. I follow a woman on Facebook who calls herself "The Educated Debutante". This week she related something that had happened to a ten-year-old girl who attended a school in South Carolina this past week. Her school started 3 days before she came home from school and killed herself. She had been bullied so badly and was so unhappy in those 3 days she chose that way out. Maybe it was a continuation of what happened last spring before school let out. I don't know. Her widowed father and brother are faced with a life without her because some children thought it would be 'fun' and cool to torment a beautiful young girl. Horrible consequences to a cruel game.

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    1. We had two students commit suicide in the same month. In another case, a boy committed suicide. His father later took his own life.

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  8. I wish that society had taken bullying more seriously when I was at school - not that I was ever bullied or deliberately took part in any bullying. But I remember the relentless teasing - even the teachers joined in with some of it - that went on which we would nowadays consider unacceptable. I often wonder what happened to poor little "Ozzy" who seemed to be the butt of everyone's jokes.

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    1. I wonder too. Can you try to find him on social media?

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  9. You did a good job, bullying has to be brought out into the open. How many children have gone through school being bullied because no one spoke up?

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  10. You did well and right.
    A bully is a coward it is said. Looks like a sad family situation

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  11. I think about well-known adult bullies in public life (e.g. Weinstein), and those I came across at work, and wonder what they were like as children. What were their home backgrounds? How did they learn such behavious, and from who? I don't want to sound as if I'm making any excuses for their unacceptable actions, but the bullies need help too. It must be difficult to un-learn such behavious.

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    1. Change only happens when a person sees a need to make the change. Most bullies never see a reason to change because their bullying behavior gets them exactly what they want.

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  12. I see very cruel adult bullies using our local FB community page to attack anyone who asks a simple question or point out an issue that they don't agree with. I read but don't participate in any discussions as I learned from my school experiences to just keep my head down.

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    1. There are a lot of keyboard bullies, aren't there.

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  13. It looks like your actions contributed to identifying the situation and hopefully leading to a solution.

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    1. At the very least, a mother knows her child is struggling. At the very least the school is watching out for him. At the very least the bully is dealing with consequences and knows that he is being watched. Bullies don't like being watched by people in authority, because the like being the authorities.

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  14. I think you have won improvements already. Bullies don't like to be called out. Keep on with the struggle.

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  15. I think you did the right thing, Debby.

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  16. So many kids are committing suicide owing to bullying. I hope this situation remain resolved in the long term. It is my experience, that most schools just pretend to handle the problem. It crops up again and again when one thinks the problem was long solved. Eventually, they begin to portray the victim as the 'problem' because they cannot effectually handle a committed bully and his parents.

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    1. Also keep a close eye on your grandson as he may become the focus of the bully's fury. And his band of friends. The attack ma y be social ostracism rather than physical

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  17. I would worry also about William. This has probably not been solved on Facebook. As I recall the Bully also verbally attacked him with intimate personal knowledge that he shouldn't have had (small towns right?) I don't know how any of us got through middle school.

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