Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Bullying and Knowing When to Step In

The title of this post makes it sound like I will have all the answers to this topic. I'll just tell you now that I don't, not even close.  So if you were excited to read this and find out how to handle bulling in your own child's life, then stop reading right now.  Just letting you know.

A little background: Jack has been riding the bus since the first day of school. In fact, he had wanted to ride the bus TO school but I said no. One of the few times I have put my foot down. I will drive my firstborn to his first day of school, sheesh.  But he did ride it home, and was the only one in his class who did. Since then we have had days where I've picked him up, for whatever reason, but the bus is his main mode of transportation.

And I love it. I love putting the younger boys in their coats and loading them into the stroller at 4:00 to walk to the bus stop. I love seeing the bus turn up our street and knowing it's Jack. I love greeting him at the bottom of the steps with a big hug and a kiss hello. (Complete honesty means I need to tell you that only happens sometimes, most days he gets off the bus with the question: What did you bring me to eat?)  Every time we start our walk to the bus, it makes me feel like I live in a small town. Silly, I know, especially since we cross a major road, but the act in itself reminds of where I grew up.

But soon after school started, the bus ride home became something of a problem. It seems that a couple of kids on the bus were not so nice to Jack. But they were fellow kindergarteners, including one from his own class.  They were kids he considered friends, and wanting to be included, he would always try to sit with them or near them.

At first it was 'little' things. Not giving Jack candy when it was being shared, or telling him he was evil, which in retrospect should have been when I stepped in. Instead, I tried to encourage Jack to sit somewhere else on the bus, find another friend, read a book, look out the window.  ANYTHING that would distract him from this group of kids. But everyday he would get off with another story, or the complaint that no one would sit with him even when he asked them too.

But then last night as we were snuggling in bed, he told me the kids on the bus had taken his stuff.  Even when he asked for his backpack and lovey back, they wouldn't return them.  As we left the room, Brandon told me that the day before the same kids had said to Jack they were going to kill him.

That was my breaking point. And yes, I know some of you may have stepped in earlier, but I always struggle with when to let Jack work things out and when to intervene.  This morning I stalked the teacher and her intern before school, literally.  We parked next to them and followed them into the school at which point I said I needed 5 minutes of their time.  This was increasingly awkward because last week I asked the student intern how old she was and if she was single. But that is another story.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Can (the intern) walk Jack to the bus after school?"
Teacher: "Sure, no problem."
Me: "Great because one of the students in this class said he was going to kill him"
Teacher: "WHAT! Oh, no, we have a zero tolerance rule to bullying. Let me tell you what will happen to those kids.
Me: Gulp
Teacher: And for the future, anything that happens that you are concerned about, either in class, or on the bus, please call me or email me right away. I am here, not only for your child, but to support you. There is no such thing as a 'small problem'
Me: I think I love you.*

*Just kidding, that would be really weird.

Within minutes the teacher was meeting with the principal to plan next steps for these children and their families.

I walked away, once again, questioning if I should have stepped in sooner. Did I cause Jack unnecessary stress by not taking the situation seriously? Should I have him stop riding the bus and begin to pick him up every day? How do I let him know he is an amazing boy who does not need to be treated that way by so-called friends?

A friend of mine said, "I want our kids to all be really young again!". And while, at that time I thought I was going to lose my mind, I agree with her.  When the biggest worry was protecting nap time, or how much TV is too much.

I would trade these problems for those, any day.


Michelle said...

I've tried to write a comment three times the end, my feelings are this: point those kids out to me. I want to give them a look that will scare them all the way down to their soul. How dare they be mean to J like that? I am so Oh-Cho Bear right now. That's slightly less than Mama Bear, but no less mean.

Good job, stepping in! It's a hard call. Kids not sharing candy, mean. Not letting him sit with him, mean. Threatening to kill him? No freaking way. GRRRR!

Randy said...

I don't know what they do at First Student but when I drive big bus the kindergartners have to sit in the the first seats on either side of the aisle that way I can hear what is going on. I do this because they are young and it is probably their first experience on a bus. And I agree, you should have stepped in earlier. In our district, they get the bus driver involved from the start!