My fourth-grader always looked forward to having her violin lessons every Wednesday, because she enjoyed the lessons and was becoming very skilled at playing the violin. Therefore, you can imagine just how surprised I was, when her music teacher told me that my daughter had requested to be excused from the class a week earlier, for no specific reason. What really made me worry was that this week, her teacher mentioned that my daughter seemed to be in "bad shape."
On our way home, my daughter told me about an alarming incident that had happened to her a week earlier. A boy deliberately tripped her, made fun of her, by calling her 'fat' and refused to play with her. My heart broke to see her sad, and to think that this was not the first time she had gone through such a demenering ordeal. What made me furious was that, whenever I reported such concerns to the school, no action was taken.
I resorted to taking legal action against the parents of the bully and the school administration, for not taking an the initiative to stop the bullying. I’d had enough with the school, and I was not going to allow my daughter to go through such humiliation again. I assured my daughter that I was on her side and that I would handle the situation.
The advice from our family lawyer was to take my daughter to an educational psychologist and psychiatrist, to assess and write a report on her mental health. If the report proved that my daughter had suffered psychological harm, we could forward a claim to begin the court process. However, the lawyer also asked me to consider an out-of-court arrangement, because the court process is always lengthy, tedious, and expensive.
With that said, I decided to go through with the school’s complaint procedure, to see if we could find an immediate solution. I called my daughter’s teacher and set up an appointment. At the first meeting, I expressed my experience of having my concerns downplayed by the school. I was concerned about my child's safety, and I needed to know that someone could help bring the bullying to a stop.
The parents of the boy were invited to the second meeting, and we had the chance to talk in person about what was going on. Surprisingly, the parents of the boy had no idea that their son could behave in such a manner. In their opinion, their son never reported anything of the sort to them. Notably, they did not make excuses, shift blame or get confrontational. They were genuinely sorry, and they promised to support efforts with the school to stop the bullying.
My daughter, along with the boy, began talking to the school's guidance counselor. This allowed the two children to communicate about what was going on, and to work together to change their situation. What's more, my daughter felt she had a safe place to go whenever she needed to talk to someone. I kept an eye on her to make sure that she was adjusting well and recovering.
With a change of heart, the boy became conscious of his mistakes and made peace with my daughter. Nonetheless, the school withdrew his playground privileges for two weeks; in hopes he would learn that bullying had consequences and that the school would not tolerate such behavior.
The school began a peer-mentoring program, where older students received training in order to become ‘playground pals,’ in order to give support to the younger students. In that way, everyone at the school learns that bullying is not acceptable. In addition, the school's guidance counseling department organized individual and group sessions for children, based on listening and behavioral therapy.
The sessions include dealing with anger management, social skills, how to react acceptably, building resilience, improving mental and emotional health, and find ways to calm oneself. The school also encouraged staff members to be trained, as well as, lessons for students. This is in attempts to inspire both staff and students, to come up with ways which would make the school more inclusive.
Parents of the school were grateful that the school, eventually, chose a different route in handling the issue, instead of going with traditional methods of punishment: detention and exclusion. Such practices did not help the children understand why their behavior was wrong. Now, there has been steps taken towards a better place for kids to feel safe and heard.