Friday, October 25, 2013

The Permissive Culture Behind Bullying

Nothing licks the red off my lollipop faster than a meme or status saying things like, "We will never be able to stop bullying" or "Teach kids to fight back, anti bullying laws are creating a nation of victims."

Perhaps this is because I'm a special needs parent and those zero tolerance, anti bullying laws, protect my child and thousands just like him.

Let's get some things straight, shall we?

Bullying is first taught at home. The culture of bullying is then further propagated by people who look the other way or even encourage it. You might say you aren't one of "those" parents or people, but honey, trust me, you are. It is highly likely that you're telling your child, "That weird kid is just that- weird." You're teaching your child, without ever know about the kid who your child is bullying that it is okay to make fun of or even beat up that other kid.

Don't think so? Allow me to demonstrate.

Morgan was bullied pretty severely in first grade. Not just verbally, but physically. This was an ongoing issue throughout the entire first semester and part of the second. At one point, he had his ass thoroughly kicked by two boys, gravel shoved in his mouth, and was told he was retarded. A third boy watched for teachers. Two of the boys, the ones who were caught, were suspended from recess for two days, if memory serves.

I requested a conference with the parents. It was denied by them. No one wanted to be told that their little darling had beaten up a special needs kid.

Another time, Morgan got into the car, smelling of urine. I thought he'd had an accident and I had not been notified, which was odd. It wasn't until another mom told me that her child had been peed on that I thought to ask Morgan if the same thing had happened to him. He answered in the affirmative. I was livid.

A little boy spit on Morgan in music class. Now, that raised some eyebrows because there were so many witnesses.

Throughout the semester, Morgan kept coming home with bruises- deep tissue bruises, all unexplained except that he was "clumsy." He kept telling me that "those boys" or "that boy with the red coat" were punching him or jabbing him in the halls on the way to class. I asked if he'd told a teacher, which I knew he had. Apparently, since he wasn't very articulate, no one, aside from his wonderful homeroom teacher, believed him. And so, I raised hell.

This kept going on, despite me raising hell. And believe me, there was a lot of hell raised.

A lesson on genies came up. I asked Morgan one night, if he had three wishes, what would he wish for? "Not getting picked on, walking to class and not getting tripped, or hit, or punched and biffed into the wall, and no one making fun of me."

I'd had it. I called the principal and demanded she actually speak to me, but not before I raised more hell at the school with her vice principal. I asked her to put herself in my shoes, as a parent. How would she react? And would she define any of this as assault instead of bullying? Because I damn sure was.

I also offered to press charges against the school. There were plenty of grounds for me to go on.

Suddenly, Morgan was happy. I asked why? He said that the bullying had stopped. No one was calling him names. The bruises stopped come home. The nightmares didn't stop, but the real nightmares, the ones from the daytime, did.


Now, after reading this, how would you respond as a parent? That school had a zero tolerance stance on bullying. I wasn't the only parent jumping down throats. I was told the only thing that had happened to my son which could be deemed true assault was him being spit on. What a laugh.

If you have been the "me" in this case, know your child's rights and keep raising hell. Don't stop. Schools can be held liable for this, and so can the other parents.

So, yes, perhaps we are creating a culture of victims. However, the some of the victims are the actual bullies because their parents are teaching them that this is okay. Whether they state that emphatically or not, the permissive air is still there. They might think that they aren't doing this, but how many times have they made fun of someone in front of their child? Or said, "just kick his ass!"

Do me a favor, if your child is ever accused of bullying another child, don't shirk your moral obligation as a parent and human being and turn down a requested conference with that other parent.

Your kid could have bullied my kid. Or one just like him.

*As a side note, I found out, right before we moved, that the "boy with the red coat" was my neighbor. He came over to my neighbor's yard one day when we were all playing soccer. Morgan froze. He whispered to me, as I asked him what was wrong, "That's the boy with the red coat, Mommy." 

The father of that boy and I struck up a conversation. I mentioned to him how badly Morgan had been bullied (he was standing under our tree, trying to make himself small). I told the dad how unfortunate it was that I had repeatedly requested a conference with the other child's parents and how they had refused.  I also said that I would love to have a word, outside of school, with that child's parents and explain to them that Morgan's autistic and how those repeated instances of being beaten up had traumatized him. How I wished that the other parents could see that my son wouldn't hurt a fly. How he's a great kid and never deserved this. How, as his mom, I wanted to press assault charges, but understood that the "yellow haired boy with the red coat" likely just came from a bad home and "isn't it a shame when parents don't take responsibility for the way their child acts?" That father grabbed his kid right then and there and said, "boy, we need to talk." I never saw him again. But I think he grasped the concept.

11 comments :

  1. I am staring at the screen thinking of what kind of response to give but all I can say is AMEN

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  2. Reading this just broke my heart, poor Morgan. I have a 10 y/o kiddo on the spectrum, and he's been bullied at school of and on for YEARS. I complain every time, and it gets better for a short time, but I'm basically told that Zach isn't their "only" student, they can't see everything, they can't punish what theycan't see, etc. The thought of ttreating another human being, a defenseless child, a LITTLE BOY for God's sake...I can't wrap my head around it. To steal someone's dignity...That mindset makes me so angry that I shake. Zach is now in a GREAT school, with supportive teachers and accepting (for the most part) peers. I hope that Morgan is in a better place as well. Thanks for sharing this.

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  3. As the father of an autistic son, I saw this frequently in first grade. Unfortunately, it came from another special needs boy, who had other developmental issues. The biggest thing that you mentioned in your post, and one that ALL parents need to learn, is the word ASSAULT. Instead of talking to the school about bullying, using the words assault and legal action generate immediate results. more than the schools want to look the other way, they do not want to be involved in any sort of legal actions, and clamp down hard on bullying when they are in fear of a lawsuit. I completely agree that bullying must stop, and parents must take action, but as we cannot be in the schools with our kids 24/7, we need to hold the schools accountable for protecting our children. Very well written, and very well done.

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  4. We had "boy with the red coat" moments in kindergarten. Even with a yearbook, my son wasn't able to point him out. Feeling helpless doesn't even begin to cover it.

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    1. We tried the yearbook trick, too, but Morgan's facial recognition skills limited him ability to pick that child out.

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  5. I think that the problem is a lot bigger - bullying isn't just taught at home, it's the way our country operates. Foreign policy? Bullying. The way that we treat the poor? Bullying. Disabled? Our policies are bullying. Mentally ill? Bullying. It's pervasive and the people who are able to see the forest for the trees are usually the people who have been on the receiving end of it. I endured a lot of it and now I have an autistic son and my biggest fear about helping him to navigate the world is bullying. Signing off from another home with a zero tolerance bullying belief. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Unfortunately, the "bully/s" parents can't admit to their angel ever doing anything wrong and will turn the blame back to anyone or everyone but their own. These parents are usually bullies themselves and need a swift kick in the ass!! Hopefully enough parents will teach their kids right and will watch out for special needs kids or any kids being bullied!! Good luck!!

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