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Bullying is a crime

Bullying is a Crime, Not a Rite of Passage

By Chris Jordan

Sticks and stones will break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.

Remember that nursery rhyme from when you were a kid?

The thing it, words do hurt. They cut deeply. They wound the soul in ways from which it is never able to recover.

I have one son who is bullied at school. It isn’t the overt, punch you in the face, stuff you in a locker sort of bullying (though he has also experienced that) It isn’t the sort of bullying that can be caught on tape, replayed later to astonished gasps. It is the quiet, taunting sort of bullying. It is the name calling, the whispering, the faces. I call it the Chinese water torture method of bullying. Each individual incident is seemingly inconsequential. Why don’t you just brush it off? Ignore it. It’s just words. She’s just a girl, what is she going to do to you?  But added together, the weight of each individual drop, it becomes too much to bear.

I suppose my son is an easy target for bullies, if I were to try to be objective. I believe he most likely has a mild form of Aspergers, a condition on the Autism spectrum. He is very, very smart and what some would call nerdy. He doesn’t understand why other people don’t immediately understand what he is talking about. He feels compelled to point out to everyone and anyone when they are wrong. This does not endear him to his peers or teachers, who are the ones bearing the brunt of his corrections.

He is not into the popular mainstream teenage things. He shuns what most kids his age think of as cool. He prefers to wear collared polo shirts and khaki shorts. He reads science textbooks for fun. He is slightly overweight and uncoordinated. Some days I feel like all he needs is a sign on his back saying “Kick Me.”

But what they don’t see, can’t see, is the kid I know. The one with a heart of gold who would never intentionally hurt anyone. The one who will play with his younger siblings. The one who when bullied says, “Why are you so mean?” because he just doesn’t understand it. The one who views the world in black and white, with unwavering rules. My heart breaks when I think about what life must be like for him at school every day, the subtle torments.

The bullying has been going on for the entire school year, though my son did not tell me anything about it for many months. His behavior at school has also deteriorated. He changed from being quiet and laid back to being angry and argumentative with his teachers. I chalked most of it up to puberty. Puberty turns previously rational beings into stark raving lunatics. Now I think it is just him lashing out, getting out his frustrations in the only way he knows how.

*****

Over and over again we hear on the news about children who are being bullied to death. Children who are robbed of their self-esteem and ultimately their will to live. We hear of tough zero-tolerance bullying policies that schools have in place. And yet things don’t seem to change.

“With bullying reaching a crisis level in U.S. schools, University of Texas at Austin sociologist Robert Crosnoe has completed one of the most comprehensive studies of the long-term effects on teenagers who say they don’t fit in.”

While so much content on television and the Web is about outrageous acts of bullying and physical aggression, much more is hidden in the social warfare of school. Things like backhanded compliments, snubbing, looks of disapproval and disgust in the hallways.

“It sounds so silly especially compared to those classic forms of bullying,” Crosnoe says. “But these are the things that really matter in the long term because they are subtle. They can get under a teenager’s skin and become a preoccupation causing them to doubt themselves and distracting them from what school is supposed to be about.”

*****

My son has reported this girl who picks on him every day, and her friends who stand by and laugh, on more than one occasion. He has filled out incident reports. The girl has been brought in to the office and when questioned filed counter incident reports against him. The principal has pretty much thrown her arms up at this point in defeat. She brought them both together into her office and told them to stay away from each other. How exactly that is supposed to work when they must walk down the same hallways, I am not sure.

Yesterday afternoon my son came home from school visibly upset. He had gone outside to where he gets picked up and realized that he had forgotten something. All of the doors to the school lock from the outside except for the main door. He knocked on the glass door from which he had just exited and the girl was in the hallway with her friends and some other kids. She told everyone not to open the door for him. She laughed at him through the door. He had to walk all the way around the school to get back in and when he did she was there to taunt him some more.

I told him to report it to the principal. And he told me that the principal has said he is not allowed to write up any more reports. That she is tired of the he said/she said. If he writes up another report he will be suspended. She doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.

I want to tell the principal that I know he isn’t the easiest kid to deal with. My son isn’t instantly likable. My son has issues. His issues make issues for his teachers. I know that she is counting the days until the school year ends and he moves on and she doesn’t have to deal with him. I understand that. But the bigger picture is that my child has the right to go to school and not be bullied. He has the right to walk the hallways with someone shouting “retard” “faggot” “loser” at him, without people “accidentally” bumping into him. He has the right to sit in a classroom without someone rolling their eyes at him every time he speaks.

As adults we don’t put up with this sort of abuse from other people. We would not tolerate it in our workplace.

I am waiting for my call to be returned from the principal of the middle school. I wish I could be like her and just not deal with it, but I can’t, won’t, allow my son to be made to feel like he is inferior.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

 

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Fairly Odd Mother
Guest

This pisses me off so much on many levels. The principal will suspend HIM for sticking up for himself? That is pathetic. 

I wish I knew what the solution was, but I’m certain that ignoring it isn’t the answer. Good luck advocating for your son. And good luck not grabbing that girl by her scruffy neck and giving her hell.

Suebob
Guest

“And he told me that the principal has said he is not allowed to write up any more reports…” doesn’t she realize what a dangerous situation she is setting up by saying this? Just by saying that, she could dissuade a child from reporting serious abuse, especially a child that believes the rules are black and white. Gah.

SoMo
Guest

Girls are the meanest creatures on earth. My daughter, who is 8 yrs old, has had similar problems from time to time. Usually she befriends a couple of friends and the others come around to not picking on her. Mostly I have given her comebacks for the things she tells me they say to her. If this was my situation and it had gotten to this point w/the principal saying she would suspend my son, the victim, I would be down there first thing in the morning and give her my 2 cents. That is ridiculous. So, if she was… Read more »

Mama Moose
Guest
Mama Moose

I too have been in a similar situation in High School. So has my brother. We both ran away to different schools – which obviously doesn’t solve the problem but even looking back (now that my sister is the situation and only in middle school) I cannot for the life of me see what a better solution is. I think parents know when their kid is a bully, I think they help to shape them into what they become and that it is ultimately their responsibility to curb their kid. School days are awkward and hard enough, kids really don’t… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

Have you considered taking you son to fill out an incident report with the police? Bullying IS a crime in most states. No one should have to live with it just because the school isn’t equipped to handle it.

Cary
Guest
Cary

I am so sorry Chris. Big hugs to you and your family. I would also ask for the parents contact information. They may have no idea that it is going on, and she is most likely reacting to something in her own life. If you can do anything to alleviate this before high school starts the better. You may also want to contact the high school principal, counselor, vice principal to see if they have any suggestions. If not than at least this will be on their radar, and maybe he can find an ally for the future. Good luck.

Heather
Guest

I am so sorry, I have seen bullying in our elementary school, it starts to young and they are ghosts that never really leave. I hope the principal does right by your son.

Zoot
Guest
Zoot

Chris – man…I know where you’re at. My kid was bullied so bad in middle school. Horrible HORRIBLE bullying. I’m not sure if it still happens now, he may just not tell me, or he may have more control over who he’s hanging out with and just surrounds himself with his peers. Either way…he seems okay now. He’s grown out of the chub, medicated the acne, and found some self confidence. But man…those years…I would not go back to them for anything. It was awful. Hang in there, hon. Mine was less of a bookworm/science type and more of a,… Read more »

Emily
Guest
Emily

I was bullied and I was lucky we moved often enough and I could switch schools and the student body. Now I’m sort of a gypsy and I don’t like to stay in any place too long – guess it’s perfect that I’m a military wife then 🙂 I think it’s not a big enough deal at the moment since school is almost out, but if he has the same principal next year, I’d go to the superintendent if it continued. It wears on you, just like you’ve seen his grades and behavior disintegrate. I just lost my desire to… Read more »

Stacy
Guest
Stacy

So sorry your son is having to experience this with no support from the adults at the school. Just read an interesting article on Salon.com about a book that posits that the geeks and outsiders in high school become more successful adults. That the very quirks that make them outsiders as teenagers are what benefits them as adults. Not that it makes it an easier to live through high school.

I haven’t actually read the book, but the topic is interesting. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins

Erica
Guest

Insert two 10 year old girls into this situation and I am experiencing the exact same thing. I think all principals must go to the same school…and learn he said she said type answers. My daughter is in a classroom with a little girl who is obsessed with her. She will stare at her then when my daughter looks at her she makes the “loser” sign or says fat girl, etc. Every night I pick up my daughter, she bursts into tears. I have called the teacher, the principal, the counselor, begging them to please do something. Their answer…”Stay away… Read more »

Brigitte
Guest
Brigitte

Being permanently scarred from being bullied myself, I had hopes for the new rules many schools have. Sadly, they don’t seem to have anyway to enforce them, especially with the most subtle forms of bullying. The principal seems to still be the same species of idiot that was hired for principals when I was a kid: blame the person who spoke up! I can’t believe there’s been NO progress in that area. >:-(

Kate
Guest

The principal should lose her job considering she isn’t doing it.

I am so sorry to hear he is being bullied. I will never understand why people can be so cruel to one another.

Hope it gets resolved when you meet with the principal.

My brother was bullied and it definitely sticks with you for life.

Maggie
Guest
Maggie

In Feb 10 I pulled my 4th grader out of his Parochial school for similar situation. The principal blamed my son whop was lashing out (yes, inappropriately) at his bullies. We had this problem the year before, it seemed for most of the Fall but came back. The teachers chose not to let me know problems came back 2 weeks before Christmas vacation until the last week in Jan. In retrospect the teachers emphasized that other kids were getting into the act. letting me know the whole class was involved, but I did not pick up on this until after a few unsatisfactory encounters… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Wow, this brings me back to my days in middle school. That’s horrible. I feel so sorry for him. Unfortunately, some people who work with kids, such as his principal, are just completely incompetent and should be immediately fired. I went through a lot of the same stuff with adults at the school I went to not doing anything about it… I wish kids weren’t so cruel.

Maureen
Guest
Maureen

Chris,
I have gone back and read the post from your blog that you linked to and forwarded it on to others a number of times. It is so beautifully and honestly written. It brings tears to my eyes every time. I hope your meeting with the principal helps. Your son will know that you will always fight for him. Good luck.

Cair
Guest
Cair

Chris, I am so sorry for your son, and for you and the rest of the family.

I hope the principal grows some and finally deals with this issue.

Gad, I really dislike girls who are mean like this. My daughter has some in her class, but now that they are in HS people are seeing their crap and they are becoming less powerful. I was delighted to see that when they ran for class officer they lost. Ah, gee, so sad. NOT.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

Wow.  So sorry for your son.  The schools pay all sorts of lip service to anti-bullying, but I think that is bull (pun intended). My daughter was purposely pushed down on the playground by a student 2 grades higher than her (and another student witnessed the event).  She had to go to the nurse to have thorns removed from her hands and chin.  I was not informed that she visited the nurse, and her teacher did not let me know of the incident (which, of course, occurred on a Friday afternoon).  I left messages for the nurse, teacher and principal… Read more »

Mari
Guest
Mari

Thanks for sharing Chris. I am so sorry you have to deal with this. We have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying here in Mass. – unfortuantely it doesn’t always work but most educators know that they will be held accountable if they don’t follow it. That principal should be ashamed of herself. As you mentioned the consequences of bullying can be devasting – maybe you should remind her of the Phoebe Prince situation here in Mass. The poor girl could not take it anymore and she took her own life – the staff at the school never did anything to… Read more »

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

I am appalled that the principal is “giving up” on this situation. WTF. This woman needs to do her job… and do it well. Put an end to this disgusting behavior. Pronto. If it means calling in the parents, so be it. Wishing all sorts of good and positive energy your way (and to your son!) that this can be handled and put to rest. I have two sons who will enter middle school in the fall. God help the kid(s) who decide to make them targets for bullying. I, like you, will not stand for it. Period. Good luck,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

My brother killed himself after being bullied throughout high school and finding no friends in college. I remember he used to be a shy but incredibly happy kid before he entered high school when he changed into a painfully shy, depressed, and very angry young man. I don’t think the people who bullied him will ever know what they did to my family. Please, support your son, don’t EVER ignore it or tell him too, fight the good fight and maybe change a little piece of the world.

***********
Isabel: I am so sorry Kate.

Maeana
Guest
Maeana

Have you thought about going back to homeschooling with just this son? He sounds like he could pretty much learn all he needs to on his own without the stress of going to a school where learning and questioning aren’t valued. He’d also have an amazing teacher who understands everything about him. It sounds like sports aren’t an issue for him, and the only social he’s getting is negative. I say this because he sounds so much like my oldest. It breaks my heart to think of him going through what your son is going through.

Lil
Guest
Lil

Because of the mean behavior of the local public middle school kids, I moved my son to a small private school after 6th grade. Now he’s back with those same kids at the public high school but it seems they’ve passed out of that middle school mean stage. Hopefully your son will find that the same is true for him when he moves to high school next year.

Like in some of the other comments, I think I’d be all over that girl, her parents and the principal in this situation. Happily school is almost over for the year.

edj
Guest

Oh this is so heartbreaking! I applaud you for getting involved. In my own situation, my daughter tells me my son is bullied and my son says he isn’t. (they’re twins) It’s so disturbing! I think the bullying is subtle and maybe he misses it. He is such a sweet kid; unfortunately, that often equals classic victim. Anyway. Keep us posted on how your situation turns out.

Melody
Guest
Melody

I plan to pull my two girls out of public school the year that they enter middle school. I do not want them to learn what their peers will teach them.

Katie in MA
Guest

I would tell the principal that if she is 100 PERCENT SURE that the bully isn’t the issue, then fine. But she better be because if something happens, if the *unspeakable* happens, then you’re bringing her unwillingness not only to her superiors and the school board, but to the media and to every parent who will listen. “Not wanting to deal with it anymore” is unacceptable. That is NOT in her job description.

Katie @ Overflowing Brain
Guest

When I was in 4th grade, a girl who had bullied me for years, told all the kids in her class that I had AIDS.  This was like 1994 and we were too young to really understand what it was exactly, but that rumor cost me the very few friends I still had left.  I was like your son, very smart, usually too smart for my own good and a little overweight. When my mom, who was a teacher at my school, spoke with the principal for the 30th time, the principal said that she wasn’t going to discuss the… Read more »

Brianna
Guest
Brianna

Hi Chris, I’ve been reading your blog for years (and years) but have not commented – until now. I’m a middle school teacher in Canada and I teach children who are very much the way you describe your son – intelligent, curious, driven, and not always aware of social cues or what is considered ‘cool’. From a teacher’s perspective, these students are some of the most interesting, engaging and passionate people I’ve met, and I’m intensely protective of them. I am so sorry to hear that your son has to go through that. School should be a safe place, and… Read more »

JJ
Guest
JJ

There’s an odd thing that happened along with “zero tolerance” (which seemed to just mean that adults didn’t have to actually think or ask questions in a situation). That was that bullying was suddenly seen as “requiring two people.” That is, even if one child is always the victim, the child is seen as somehow equally responsible. The bullies quickly learn this and feel free to go on with their actions. The victims quickly learn that the people with the power don’t seem to want to help them and stop complaining. The administration considers the problem solved, when it’s just… Read more »

wendy
Guest
wendy

First off the principal has not right to push this under the rug. She has policies and rules to follow as well. Don’t stop at her. Go to the Superintendent and the School Board, this is a huge national issue. You are blogger and published author, she should be afraid of you. The fact that a school district does not know how to deal with a child with possibly mild Aspergers even though not truly diagnosed and I use the team Aspergers lightly. I use the term loosely because we have narrowed the realm of “normal” to such a small… Read more »

tiffany
Guest
tiffany

OH MY GOSH! you might have just described my 9 yr old son. I just had a sit down this afternoon with his teacher over him getting bullied at school. He has a boy and a girl in his class that call him names like geek and nerd and tells the other kids to not play with him. He now refuses to go on the field trip to the park in 2 weeks and wants to stay at school instead. She said she will talk to the offending kids and have the other teachers observe whats going on and report… Read more »

Claire
Guest
Claire

Chris-
Fight, fight, fight for your son. Take it to the Supt., take it to the school board, take it to the press.  Take it all the way to the TEA. Your son deserves to learn in a safe environment.

A kid at CyFair ISD killed himself earlier this year because of bullying. TEA can not and will not allow bullying to continue. Go beyond the principal, who clearly has no idea how to deal with this situation.

eko
Guest
eko

I am SO sorry for your son.   I can NOT imagine dealing with these type of girls – nor ever having them as children! (I have all boys) — and that is NOT to say girls will be girls…but some ARE!  a group of them taunted me IN church.  I think someone I KNOW of — but who kind of ignores me for some reason – (an adult woman) must have seen what they were doing, and did nothing.  I was dumbfounded and really did not know how to handle it – other than pray.  I thought I was… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Do you know about http://www.stopbullying.gov?  According to that, if the school isn’t keeping your child safe, you need to report it to your state or county governing body.

I really hope you are able to resolve things at your meeting, we went through a year long training (parents, teachers, and students) at the Catholic school my children attended up until last year.  It was very helpful.

Erin
Guest

I filnally pulled my son out of 3rd grade in the middle of the year. I felt like no matter how hard the school tried they could not stop all the secret taunts that my son was getting. I homeschool him now, something I never thought I’d ever do. But when your child needs you, you’ll do anything to help him succeed the best way for him. It’s been great! Good luck, I hope that girl gets busted!

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

While it sounds like the principal is negligent, what about the other adults in the school?            No other staff or teacher has witnessed this?  I’m very sadden that so many adults fail children- basically because it’s messy and requires standing up for what is righti instead of what’s easy.

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

High school was not a happy time for my younger daughter. I found out after she’d left the school that she was being bullied not by students, but by teachers and the guidance counsellor. The principal at the time was only interested in the “star” pupils – the straight-As, the music festival winners, the drama stars, the athletic stars… and my daughter is learning disabled, so even if I’d realized while she was at the school, nothing would have been done. It’s a good job I only had two children. If I had even had a third, I would have… Read more »

laurel
Guest
laurel

we all know about bullying being unacceptable, but i think it gets put in the too hard basket too often. personally i think this sort of thing needs a bigger focus at preschool and elementary level. i would suggest when the principal comes around, that both your son, and the other bully kids get seen by a counsellor (not the usual lame high school ones, but a proper one) to find out how both are feeling. maybe that will help to at least have them feel heard, and perhaps come to their own solutions with guidance. the bully wil be… Read more »

Lyssa
Guest
Lyssa

As someone who was bullied all through middle school and high school, thank you for standing up for your son and I’m sure that he appreciates you doing so.

kris (lower case)
Guest
kris (lower case)

i see this kind of crap all the time at my sons parochial school. it is like the school allows a couple of kids to be the sacrificial lambs of the school. neither the teachers nor the principle seem to be able to see the bullying or to stop it. it is like they shift the blame to the kid. this is my sons last year at that school i am tired of watching this sort of thing go on.

meredith
Guest
meredith

I’m so sorry your son has to go through this. Your post helps me understand a friend of mine who has a daughter in a similar situation but she doesn’t always share what’s going on with her daughter, just enough to know that the kids in our town’s middle school are very very hard on her. A change of school is being considered.

Lindy
Guest
Lindy

My daughter went through this in elementary school. Part of the problem was that the mother was a friend of mine so I just blew it off and figured it was typical behavior. I was wrong. When it got to the point where this other girl was drawing her finger across her throat like a knife when she saw my daughter I finally did something about it. I went to the mother and spoke with her and she was very apologetic and made her daughter apologize the next day. Her daughter had been doing this to another girl too and… Read more »

Julia
Guest
Julia

This upsets me in so many ways. I have raised my daughter and son to be respectful to think of how that would make them feel it if was said/done to them… I bet you her parents are not aware… I hope her parents are not aware. My kids would be grounded for LIFE!

jL
Guest
jL

If the principal is going to take the stance of “I’m tired of this and your son is not allowed to file any more reports” then she should let you know that in writing [which you can then let the superintendent know].
If she is not willing to give you her new “policy” in writing, then clearly she knows that there must be a problem with her policy.

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

You need to go to the Superintendant. Don’t let this go on. If you have to, file a police report. It’s not okay. I know you know that, but don’t let that Principal get away with laziness. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for your son. 🙁

Sallie
Guest
Sallie

This made me cry. I’m so sorry that your son, or any child, has to go through this. I’m going to sit my kids down today and share this with them and reinforce to them the importance of just simply being kind to others and treating others the way they want to be treated.

Cy
Guest
Cy

Chris–I’m so sorry and also so scared for my own son who sounds a bit like yours. He has a kid in gym, who he has to dress near, who says inappropriate things to him everyday. We’ve grilled him endlessly and asked if he wants us to intervene. He’s very sweet and sensitive. I have been worried about our junior high since he was about 3 years old! I hope your update on your own blog leads to a resolution, although in my opinion that candy ass principal needs to be fired! Is your son off to high school? Will… Read more »

Alisa
Guest

We just finished taking care of my son’s bully, who had not been only terrorizing my son, but most of his grade level and the one below him. My best advice is to document every.single.thing. To be told he can’t file a report is illegal, to threaten to suspend him, when nothing has been done with this girl is also illegal. Check into your student handbook. Those are the exact legal terms you’ll want to use, also “call” an attorney. Most times, that is what does them in. We also filed a sheriff’s report and while they won’t do anything… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

I’m the lunch lady at an elementary school. Home school and independent study are good options! Kids are so cruel to each other. So sorry your son has to deal with this, glad you are advocating for him, and making the school accountable.

Cate
Guest
Cate

Ugh, we could have almost written this post about my nephew who has Asperger’s and no filter whatsoever. It also doesn’t help that he’s a head shorter than everyone his age. When they finally went in to confront the principal, she said, and I quote, “I hate this age!” The WTF are you doing as a middle school principal?