This is a guest post from Amiyrah Martin. She lives with her husband and three children in New Jersey. Amiyrah owns the popular web site 4 Hats and Frugal.

“Sorry for the delay, Mr. and Mrs. Martin. This will only take a few more minutes.”

Our son’s guidance counselor seems agitated but appreciative that we were on time for our meeting. My husband and I have always loathed parent-teacher conferences, so having to wait even longer to have the last one of the night immediately frazzled us.

“No problem” I said with a faint smile. With my husband on one side of the counselor’s door and me on the other, we crossed our arms and waited for the overbearing parent taking up our time to finish. There was only one issue: the counselor forgot to close the door all the way.

Inside were a father, his son, the guidance counselor and the elementary school principal. The principal’s voice was very recognizable, since I’d had many meetings with her during the school year about our son, his being bullied in school, and how concerned we were with the insane amount of work he was pressured to do in his third-grade year.

Needless to say, we were one step from homeschooling our boy. She’d promised to make some changes, since she could see how intelligent he is, and how much of a bright light he was in school. He was a good kid who never caused any trouble. So, of course, he suffered the most in all of his classes.

As we waited, I kept all of these things in mind. There was so much I wanted to share with the principal and the guidance counselor, and I needed my husband to join me this time so I wouldn’t lose my cool. Little did we know, what we were about to hear would make us both extremely angry.

“Sir, your son was suspended because of his use of a derogatory term on the school bus. No matter what you say, this ruling will stand.”

“But my boy would never say that. How do you even know that’s true? He told me he didn’t say it.”

“Well, sir, we had many of the children say that he’s repeatedly called other kids on the bus that name. Even the bus driver said that she had to reprimand him a few times for harassing other students by using the term.”

“ My boy would never say nigger. He don’t even know that word. I mean, we don’t say it at home, so he learned it from one of them kids that say it all the time. And even if he did say it, those kids are always running the in the streets after school. Their parents give them keys to the apartments and they don’t never pick them up from the bus stop. They make noises and block the cars. Nobody watch them and they mess up the whole neighborhood.”

“Sir, I have not heard of any children blocking anything or messing up neighborhoods. Be that as it may, that has nothing to do with this. Your son used a disgusting word, repeatedly, on a bus full of other children who can be influenced by his actions. He is suspended. If I had my way, he would be expelled. That behavior is deplorable and I hope that you will take him home and explain that to him.”

“Can you at least take the suspension off of his record?”

“Absolutely not, sir. I think we’re done here.”

At this point, my blood was boiling. In this small school, my son was interacting with other children that had no issues calling other brown boys and girls “nigger.” He was eight at the time. Just eight. I was lucky enough to not have anyone call me that name until I was a teen and could defend myself. This was unreal to me, and I was pretty much terrified to look over at my 6’1” 250 pound husband after hearing the conversation.

As the dad and his son exited the room, they both looked at my husband and me. I could see the fear in the father’s eyes as he realized that we had heard the whole conversation. I could see the anger in my husband’s eyes as he looked upon this man’s face. We knew exactly who he was. He was our neighbor. His son rode the same bus as our son. His son had been calling my son nigger.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t feel like striking this man dead in the face. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t want to take his son and put him over my knee. I won’t lie and say that I wanted to immediately sob deeply for our son. He never said a word about this, yet he knows how deplorable that word is, and how no one should ever call him that name. Ever.

This boy, and his father, were part of a family that constantly looked down on our family. Each morning, I took my son to the bus stop where he greeted this boy and his friends. The friends never responded back, all school year. This boy’s little sister used to be interested in playing with my little girl while we waited for her brother to get off the bus in the afternoon. Her mother constantly pulled her back, telling her to stay nearby. There was always racism there, I just didn’t want to believe it.

To be clear, this is not a black and white thing. Actually, in our neighborhood, the blacks and whites are the minorities, and the majority of the families are of Indian descent. Racism is not a black and white thing. It’s a home training thing. It’s a generational thing. Something learned from the elders you interact with everyday.

So, after that encounter, and speaking with the principal and guidance counselor that evening, we made our final decision about homeschooling our son. While we love being able to nurture his passion for learning, we also want him to be a kid for just a little longer. Not a black kid. Not a nigger that “runs the streets” while their parents work. A kid. I know it won’t last forever, and we can’t shield him from the cruelty of the world, but if this is one thing we can do to give him a chance to be himself before given a label by small-minded people, so be it.

94 replies
  1. Mary Gray
    Mary Gray says:

    I am very sorry this happened to your son. It is tragic that any young kid has to endure any kind of racism, verbal abuse, or name-calling in a place where they are supposed to feel supported and encouraged.

    On the other hand, I am glad to see more nonwhite families homeschooling, and I like seeing all the press they’re getting. The more the general public perceives the homeschooling movement as the diverse movement that it is — both in terms of race, class, motivation, etc., the less justification they’ll have for dismissing and/or attacking it. Maybe they’ll even be more motivated to take the chance and try it themselves, see how amazing it is, and the movement will grow and grow.

    P.S. I am a public school teacher. I used to think homeschoolers were weird freaks who couldn’t deal with reality. Then I had a son who started kindergarten — he acted like a bumblebee in a jar — and I began to feel pity for the freshman boys I thought, rather than just annoyance. My husband quit work to homeschool our bumblebee, and I stayed teaching in public schools because my insurance is better.

    I love hearing everybody’s homeschool stories.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I love that you are homeschooling your son. But, I am horrified and saddened to hear about what your child had to endure. Time for the deschooling process to allow your son to heal from all the bullying and negativity and reignite his love of learning!!! My daughter hasn’t been in school for over two years and she still complains about the experience, so it may take awhile for him to fully heal.

    Side note: I understand the want to “take someone over your knee” but am hoping that is not something you actively participate in and was just something you were feeling due to the situation and not something you would ever act on. I’m not trying to start a spanking debate, but I’m not a fan. That phrase stuck out to me, but I’m trying to not let it overtake the main points of your post.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      I love how you encouraged her with homeschooling her child, and advocated for her son’s healing from the negative experience and expressed sadness over his horrible experience. That is awesome. Thank you for empathizing and encouraging.

      Side note: She did not say “beat”, etc., no mention of abuse. Simply correction. To share your positives and then chastise her for what may/or may not her method of discipline, because it is not your preference is simply not caring, nor is it fair. People have the freedom to choose what they believe is the best method of correction to best prepare their children for life. As mothers we second guess ourselves enough without extra commentary on preferences. If she reads your comments, my guess is the negative correction and chastisement will probably overshadow the compliment that you gave earlier, esp with “I’m trying not to let it overtake your main points”. Sort of how I imagine my latter comments may have overshadowed my previous compliments about the care you did show. Funny how that works.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I’m sorry to have upset you, Kim. I have been following this blog for a few years and have never been told to only leave positive comments. Last I was aware, Penelope also was against this form of discipline and I was shocked to see That she would be ok with a guest poster talking about “taking someone over my knee” and I feel that any form of hitting is violence. Just because they are children doesn’t make it ok. I am still feeling a little unsettled by the thought of it. Just because it isn’t against the law to hit your kids via spanking does not mean it is ok. I will never be ok with it.

        Again, sorry if that upset you or anyone else. Tone is everything, sometimes that doesn’t come across in a text of words, but in my mind my tone for that Side Note was very caring and heartfelt, not angry or chastising.

        • Teryn
          Teryn says:

          It’s about common courtesy and kindness which your comments often lack. I am being very blunt here because you seem to enjoy that kind of communication. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to share it, especially when it is about word choice in a post that has nothing to do with what the post is actually saying. It is not helpful for anyone.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            Whoa nelly! YMKAS’s comments are often (almost always) blunt, but never lack kindness in intent. When she first started posting ages ago I was taken aback too. But I got used to them and can read them for how they are intended. At first I thought she was male because they were so direct and she didn’t have a photo. When I found out she was an INTJ it all made sense! :D

            For you say “It is not helpful for anyone.” is, I think, simply nonsense. I am an INFP and would never post some of the stuff she says, even if I think it. And sometimes gasp and think “oh boy!” This was one of those times.

            Amiyrah wrote “I won’t lie and say that I didn’t want to take his son and put him over my knee.” The “I won’t lie” part generally proceeds something that most people won’t say for fear of the reaction of the reader/hearer. I had the same reaction that YMKAS did. But I would never say it. I don’t know if this family uses corporal punishment or not, but there is definitely the implication that they may. Given the “black discipline” debate going on these days, it was all the more likely that there would be an unfavorable response. That was a choice the writer chose to take. Penelope has received a ton of blunt responses to what she has written about her personal life and choices. I would assume anyone guest posting would know that and know that they are exposing themselves to the same.

            A lot of the debate is semantics. The poster chose to say “put him over my knee” I chose to say “corporal punishment” but what we mean is “hit children.” If that is how YMKAS reads it, then…

            I won’t lie and say when I read how that poorly parented little punk bully did what he did that a part me didn’t also want to smack the stuffing out of him. But it did, and it still does. But, for clarification, I will add that I do not think that children should be hit for any reason.

            Full disclosure: I am going to LA for two weeks to visit my cousin. YMKAS and I have been FB chatting a LOT for about nine months. The first thing I did after checking fares was to map his house to her door. Under an hour! We will be seeing the Socialized’s several times in the next couple of weeks.

            We have actually talked about my propensity to get my feelings hurt and hers to be blunt, but I KNOW she always means well. And I think that most long term readers of this blog have determined the same thing. At least I hope that they have.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            Upon further thought, YMKAS’s bringing up the topic was not out of line. Because Amiyrah did not make it clear as to whether or not she spanks her children (her right to leave it ambiguous, of course), YMKAS’s comment gave her the opportunity to clarify if she wasn’t aware of how it would read. If I had mistakenly implied something that went against my beliefs then I would most certainly want to know.

            Also, while the gist of this is about the homeschooling aspect, a main point is how parenting choices affect the behavior of children outside of the home. She commented that racism was “a home training thing” I agree. But of course the way one discipline’s ones child is too. By all accounts is sounds like she has a wonderful son. And that is great! But, regardless of how she disciplines her children, if she is secure in her choices, then I don’t see how YMKAS’s comments are going to overshadow the support that she has received.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Ouch! That response, teryn, seems awfully mean spirited.

            Until the owner of the blog, Penelope, asks me to stop commenting then I believe that I am free to share what I wish!

            I love this community and feel like most of the commenters here are my friends. I have developed friendships with them off of the blog and will be meeting one in real life soon.

            To use your advice, you are also free to not respond to my comments, right?

            Yikes.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Mbl I am thinking I should change my handle to “the Socialized” after seeing it written down. Lol.

            Finding other unschoolers has been almost a totally online experience for me until recently and I’m happy to get to meet mbl in person next week and introduce her to my crazy kids. Next up I’m sure will be karelys. :)

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            “I should change my handle to “the Socialized” ”

            Oh Sweetie! Methinks not everyone would agree!!! :D

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            Really?

            Maybe it’s in the eyes of the reader, but I never read her posts as coming across as negative, demoralizing, or mean spirited. Quite the opposite, in fact.

          • Teryn
            Teryn says:

            You are right. I don’t usually choose to respond to your comments but today I reacted at seeing you nitpicking over someones word choice that had nothing to do with the spirit of the article and then when someone called you on it completely rejecting their opinion. We are all accountable for the way we come across online. I don’t know you personally so I can only judge what I see on here. If your comments are not intended to be condescending to others I’m just letting you know sometimes they are perceived that way by me and perhaps others. I’m sure you are a lovely person in real life so I doubt you want people to see you that way online. And MLB, you are right that I shouldn’t have said her comments are not helpful to anyone. Just because I feel they are often provocative does not mean that other people who know and love her do not appreciate her blunt outspokenness on here. In general I like people who are genuine and say what they think but when it comes to blog comments I think people are often crazy. I respect those that can listen to what a writer is actually saying and respond with thoughtful insight to the topic at hand. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to share about this kind of hatred that was shown towards her son. I have an 8 year old boy as well and I felt her words strongly.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Teryn,

            My 8yo also suffered from bullying and from teacher abuse. I pulled her out of school when I noticed too many detrimental changes in her.

            Don’t you think it’s a little bizarre to attack a person on a blog? I wasn’t going after anyone. I was asking, or hoping really, that there wasn’t corporal punishment going on because it wasn’t clear. Not once did I nitpick or attack any individual. I was questioning an activity. An activity that is one of the few things that I am passionate about and not able to ignore it.

            I would just like to move on from this, as all this attention on me is what is really detracting from the point of the post. Just so you know, I have received many emails from Penelope telling me she loves my comments, so I’m not sure what to tell you other than feel free to ignore them from now on. This blog is part of my community, I like it here, I don’t plan to stop commenting either.

      • mh
        mh says:

        Deciding that YMKAS needs a strong dose of harsh lecture from an internet stranger… that’s priceless.

        And blunt outspokenness? Crikey. YMKAS has a clear and direct way of expressing comments that I appreciate. Maybe people who prefer every conment to be prefaced with a mincing “well-this-is-only-my-opinion-and-it’s-probably-wrong-so-just-ignore-it-and-I’m-sorry-in-advance-if-this-hurts-your-feelings” statement aren’t quite ready for the big girls’ internet. Stay over at HuffPo and Jezebel, dears.

        For this, the feminists fought. So women could demand that people deal with them on a preemptive hurt feelings basis, instead of as rational creatures.

        I’ll play. “Just in case this might come across wrong,” there is no place among freedom loving people for those who want to use force or bullying to silence people with whom they disagree.

        I weep for the future.

  3. KT
    KT says:

    I sobbed as I read this post. All too often our children, no matter their race or background, are ambushed in the public school setting without even realizing they’re being ambushed. You are a wonderful mother, and your son is very lucky to have you to guide him. Congratulations on your homeschool journey, even though it started from that horrifically ugly place.

  4. UnschoolingMama
    UnschoolingMama says:

    One thing I worry about with homeschooling my son is how to teach him about social justice and anti-bias and white privilege being that we are white, and our friends are all mostly white. We live in a very diverse, large city, and if he attended the public school down the street, he’d meet many kids who had different backgrounds from us. Though research suggests that kids self-segregate after early elementary school years….

    I also am sorry your son experienced such horrible actions, and I’m glad he will be able to get out of that environment.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Great piece of personal empowerment. I’m happy you took a stand and stood up for your son! What a tough kid he is to have been going through that and not brought it up. It’s so refreshing to hear the honesty about what’s really happening in the schools. I’m also impressed with how the principle held her ground!

      So, what is going on in our public schools?
      It is absurd. I didn’t expect the level of issues I dealt with, either. My son attended a well-to-do PS on the UES. He was beat up by a giant bully! Literally, beat to the wall. AT 5. We spoke with the principal, but she was more concerned with the accused facing the accuser and forced them to have a chat about it face to face. My son was petrified and I was livid when I found out this is how they ‘handled’ the situation. I actually had to go to the mother in after hours to deal with it. So we pulled him after a couple more weeks and put him in a different school where the teacher was highly regarded. Well, the teacher was a very abusive person that would go to great lengths to twist events and bribe the kids with candy for completing assignments! No wonder the kids excelled in her class! It’s was absolute nuts. I felt like a crazy person wondering why things weren’t ‘falling into place’ like I thought they were meant to when you put your child in school- trust in the system etc.

      I’m still in shock over it, really. We didn’t give up on schooling just yet, but it was a huge wake up call that had me wondering what the purpose of schooling really was. I didn’t recall it being like this when I was younger, but then again my parents probably didn’t care too much. Maybe we just came across some bad seed situations, but it kept happening when we thought we were doing the best thing for our son. My friends left their kids in the school even when their kids were getting beat up. It’s hard to see there are more options when you are trained to believe this is how things work. It took a lot of education and reflection to decide that unschooling/homeschooling was the way to ensure my kid would have a productive and happy childhood. It may have been a rough road here, but I’m so happy we finally ‘saw the light’ so to speak.

      • kina
        kina says:

        Were you at PS6? My son was severely bullied in another NYC public school as well. By several kids and the school and the DOE did nothing. In fact, they were intimidating and isolating us through the entire process, lying, scheming and covering up. We eventually pulled him out. One of his abusers was an Africa-American girl. Instead of taking responsibility, her parents called US racist to deflect from her doings. The NYC public schools are beyond dysfunctional and disgusting. Now Mayor DeBlasio is taking is a step further and has made it official that the bullied won’t get any type of consequence or even punishment. I am not going to allow my child to be collateral damage so they can keep their cushy jobs at his emotional and physical expense. This is why I am suing them. And I wish more families did the same instead of just walking away. Their lack of ethics and total disregard for the law is truly disgusting. The admins belong in jail and the bullies in a special program with increased monitoring so they can’t harm any more children.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Yes, we were. I’m really sorry to hear about your experience, as well! I was too busy with a new baby at the time to consider suing over it, but in hindsight that probably would have been the action to take besides just taking him out. I’ll have to look into the options and see if we could still pursue a case against the DOE. I’d imagine it is pretty pricey to take them on. It’s a shame, but not at all surprising that they are implementing a worse policy.

          His day to day went something like this:
          At one point I dropped in on my son during class to find him talking to a stuffed turtle in the corner of the room. I asked him what was going on and he explained that whenever he had an issue with an assignment or another kid he was instructed to go talk to the stuffed animal. After that, it didn’t take us very long to take him out :)

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Talk to a stuffed animal? omg, do these people know anything about child development??? I am being blasted today with too many unsettling things. Charter schools forcing kids to pee their pants instead of using the bathroom, parents upset over paper being torn up, and this post and comments just makes me nauseated that this happens in schools today.

            My kids teacher used to suffer from migraines, and some days she would still work with the migraine. I heard a year later from my kid that the teacher used to yell at them all the time, these are 5 year olds at a private school. I was paying tuition for this!! My trust in people is waning today.

            So glad you guys and all of us acted on our instincts. I will always regret that I waited too long after the signs started showing up that something wasn’t right.

    • Kim
      Kim says:

      The problem is that schools are the last place a child will learn about cultural diversity. The reason that kids integrate so well with kids outside their ethnic group in the elementary years is because kids are forced to be the same and act the same by learning the same things. Once they get older and their worldview is more established, they naturally desegregate in the latter grades. Forcing a bunch of kids from different neighborhoods and keeping them in one box does not equate to learning about and appreciating diversity.

  5. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    German sociologist Georg Simmel wrote that while people as individuals may be intelligent, in groups they tend to the lowest common denominator, because that is where they share things in common.

    So of course when you gather children in strategic concentration in government custodial facilities they learn tribal behavior. Another good argument to home-school and make sure your child doesn’t get socialized by the kids at school.

    • Caroline
      Caroline says:

      I very much agree. I conducted an exercise with 10 groups /teams of 4 to ten adult professionals who were in competition to make the best strategic decision as a team to survive a hypothetical tsunami. They each individually made their strategy without talking and then discussed the issue as a team and made a team decision. The decision quality went down for most teams after discussion And only one or two teams outperformed their smartest member. The team with the smartest member in the entire room (i.e.who scored best as an individual) was the team that got the worst overall score as a team. Someone with bad ideas dominated and the smart girl was way too quiet.

      Your tribal behavior comment is so true. Although I have seen a couple kids in a co-op get their feelings hurt from simply wanting to feel accepted and unsure of themselves and how they might fit in , their parents are present and there wasn’t any bullying. It’s far different from a culture of survival of the fittest.

  6. Katarina
    Katarina says:

    Thank you for your post. May every moment of every day be blessed. Parental instincts are powerful things.

  7. MBL
    MBL says:

    Ugh! Just ugh! I am so very sorry you have had to deal with this. What is wrong with some people?!

    It sounds like the principal handled the meeting with the jerk well. But why weren’t you ever told of the, apparently, many occurrences witnessed by many people?

    I think that is what takes many parents by surprise. You were involved parents who were on top of things. The school knew this. Your child knew you would go to bat for him and STILL you found out by chance.

    We had a much milder version happen to us. Three years ago my daughter was in first and was being teased/bullied and didn’t tell us. The teacher didn’t know and was actually making things worse and kept telling me everything was “great!” And my daughter talked to me CONSTANTLY about everything else, so I thought things were fine. I felt so helpless and angry when she finally told me what had been happening. She is still pissed about what happened there. We are champion grudge holders!

    I hope that your story will be a wake up call in that even highly involved parents can still be taken by surprise. Thank you so much for sharing.

    And again, just UGH!

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      We had a bully situation as well as teacher abuse. Of course I didn’t pull her out for that because I didn’t know then, I found out a year or so after she felt safe again. I pulled her out because she was sick all the time, losing her creative free-spirit, and crying during drop off to the classroom. I regret waiting as long as I did and it still bothers me as well. Ugh.

  8. Ashley
    Ashley says:

    That’s horrendous.. here in Ontario (as anywhere) there is racism but I would like to think it’s much much less of an issue than in the States, probably because there is just so much diversity in cultures that we’re surrounded by it all the time, it’s normal to have Hindi, Iranian, Spanish neighbours.

    BUT bullying is a huge issue in schools here, and as a learning consultant nearly every other call I get is a parent at the end of their rope saying they want to homeschool because of ongoing bullying. Sometimes I lamely suggest trying another school, but homeschooling has so many other advantages that frankly it’s probably the best thing they can do regardless of any bad school situation!

    Also, I too feel horrible for your son. It’s 2015 for heaven’s sake. Haven’t we learned to move past something as trivial as the colour of skin?? I really hope he’s been able to shrug this off with no psychological after-effects. He sounds like a great little guy!

  9. Linda
    Linda says:

    I’m sorry this happened to your family. My daughter was bullied in school, as well. If you lock people up all day and treat them like prisoners, they will act like prisoners. I don’t believe school should be mandatory…

  10. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    The reasons the OP home schools her black son are similar to the reasons I homeschool my white Hispanic son.

    My wife, thanks to the Cuban heritage of her father, is visibly Hispanic, sufficiently so to experience outsider treatment at her all-white middle school. Sufficiently so that upon buying our first house in Boston, most neighborhoods were ruled out. Boston, for those who don’t know, is historically very segregated, and a Hispanic woman still wouldn’t be safe walking alone in many neighborhoods.

    We sent our son to public school, as did all of our friends who didn’t leave the city. Because of the Lottery system (the remnant of court-ordered desegregation), none of them went to the same school. Our son went to a school within walking distance of our house, though most of the students, including him, were bused in.

    We were all hopeful and happy. That lasted almost two weeks. Then the bullying began. In the cafeteria, on the playground, on the bus, waiting for the bus… My son came home with torn clothes, with missing clothes, with bloody clothes. Always he said it was bullying, always the teacher said she’d deal with it, always the principal said there is no bullying.

    My son, despite the best efforts of my pale German blood (seventh generation German-American, and the first not to grow up speaking German at home), resembles his mother more than me. He does not have pink skin and blue eyes; he has honey-brown eyes and a fine tan. Nobody will likely discriminate against him in our increasingly multi-cultural society, but he also won’t stand out like I do on a Dominican street corner.

    In a school system as heavily segregated as Boston’s (80% black and Hispanic), he looks white. And when he was bullied (80% by black and Hispanic kids) that is what they called him, “white bitch.” In our parent assembly, when a parent spoke out to bemoan “all these white parents trying to take over a black school,” there was applause, and no protest from the principal. In my single meeting with the principal and a higher administrator (who was black), the principal suggested that my allegations of bullying might be motivated by racism. My son, the victim of bullying so severe that it changed his personality for years, was crammed into a box with the angry Boston Irish who threw rocks at school buses in the seventies.

    Like the OP, I am not satisfied for group violence and prejudice to be the way my son understands who he is. I am happy he now gets to understand what it means to be German and what it means to be Hispanic from us rather than the choleric and abusive inmates of the BPS. He is coming to love all parts of his heritage, and, as his personality returns to normal, to see others first for what they have in common with him, not for the differences so many would like to foreground, for whatever advantage they see in division.

    • Amy K.
      Amy K. says:

      I am so happy this happened to your son. Sounds horrible.

      My son was bullied at a diverse school, and guess, what, the groups of bullies was diverse too! Ring leader white, followers of all races. There were also kids of all backgrounds who were sweet to him, but of course it wasn’t enough for us to keep him there.

      How is the diversity in your homeschooling community? What I am finding is that there is some racial/cultural diversity, but not much in the way of socioeconomic diversity. It’s mostly white-collar parents, even if they’re on the lower end of the income scale. But as they say, YMMV.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        Happy?

        Are you a ghoul who feeds on human suffering, or just a multitasker with fat fingers and an out of control spellchecker?

        • Amy K.
          Amy K. says:

          Omg. So sorry. Sorry. Sorry was the word!!!! Not sure how sorry turned to happy. Sorry about that, sorry about this. Sorry.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Amy K, I thought it was a typo since it didn’t match the rest of what you were saying. Stupid autocorrect bests us all at times.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Commenter,

      Thanks for sharing this. How completely awful and distressing it is to hear your son’s story, the OP story and everybody’s stories. I must live in a bubble here in SoCal because it is “cool” to be mixed race here. So when I hear these stories of discrimination for any reason I get SO angry… like HULK angry.

      I did not know Boston would be a place where entire neighborhoods are set up to be discriminatory. I know it happens in the South. My husband’s friend used to work for Lockheed in Alabama, and he and his black friend went into a church to attend a service, and the pastor, in front of everyone there, asked them to leave. WTF!!! Then housing issues. The rent for the friend was a normal rent price, and the black friend’s was triple!!! This is insanity!

      My kids look mixed as well. I’m as white as white-out and my husband is Irish, British Native American, African, and Asian. My kids all look like they have different fathers, even though they don’t.

      I just hope in my lifetime that discrimination, racism, and bullying ends. It is so primitive.

  11. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    I had no thought of the spanking thing, so I went back and read it. You know, she also mentions thinking of slapping the man in the face, maybe she does slap her husband around every once in a while? Could we not draw the same conclusion if we follow the logic in these comments about taking a kid over her knee? Nobody has mentioned it might be wrong to slap your husband, maybe it isn’t, I try to get my husband every once in a while, but he is too quick.

    Anyway, it is interesting in a post about bullying, there is bullying going on in the comments. And often it feels like there is intellectual bullying going on here. “Being your kind of pushy is bad and small-minded, being my kind of pushy means I’m smart and open-minded!”

    Conclusion:If you can’t take physical bullying in school, then go someplace else; if you can’t take intellectual bullying in the blog-o-sphere, then go someplace else.

    Now that I am writing this it is occurring to me that perhaps for the kids who bully, it is good for them. They enforce in their own minds that they are part of a particular group, and that group is better than others. Wouldn’t that be good for a kids sense of self? I would be interested to see statistics on how bullies turn out as adults; it may be similar to the statistics that boys who get in trouble in school are higher earners. Certainly having an intimidating presence can be a benefit in certain occupations. Perhaps the parents biggest dream is for their kid to be a state trooper, or prison guard, or drill seargent, or paving crew foreman….I am sure I am missing some.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      My husband has a few bullies that he works with and their careers are not advancing while everyone else around them is.

      I wonder if bullying is a way to keep status quo, don’t want the boat rocked, don’t like changes, or to cover up wrong activities like in the good ol’ boy networks in various service jobs.

      I have been cyber-bullied a few times, it never feels great.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      I’m continuing on this path with trepidation in spite of the fact that I am scared of the response I might get. Numerous times I have refrained from posting on various threads because I am scared of certain frequent posters who are willing to cross a line that I am not. I do in my head, but I don’t put it out there and feel like a coward instead.

      “You know, she also mentions thinking of slapping the man in the face, maybe she does slap her husband around every once in a while? Could we not draw the same conclusion if we follow the logic in these comments about taking a kid over her knee? Nobody has mentioned it might be wrong to slap your husband, maybe it isn’t, I try to get my husband every once in a while, but he is too quick.”

      The reason I didn’t draw that conclusion is that I think it takes a greater leap to think that she might assault her husband (about whom she was “terrified to look over at my 6’1” 250 pound husband after hearing the conversation”), than that she would spank her child. Why it is okay to “pop” a child to “correct” them and not a spouse is a mystery to me. To be clear, I don’t think EITHER is okay.

      When I read that she was “terrified to look over at my 6’1” 250 pound husband after hearing the conversation” I did not make the leap that he had hit her before. The reason being, that what they had overheard was so egregious and so enraging that parental instinct could drive a LOT of law abiding citizens into wanting to commit assault. I firmly believe that if this family does use corporal punishment (I still don’t know) that they are doing so because they believe that it is the right thing to do.

      My parents spanked my sister and me. I don’t think they did it because they thought it was the right thing to do. I don’t think that they thought about it all. They didn’t question it at all. When I was two I bit my mother. She bit me back. When my daughter bit me my mother suggested that I bite her. I didn’t take her advice. But oh how a part of me wanted to. But I didn’t think that was the right approach.

      Things have, on some level, veered from the specifics of the post, but on another are completely on point. For me, one of the most valuable things about PT’s blog is that it opens up avenues of (mostly ;)) intelligent discussion. All topics are fair game. And domestic violence is one of them. It would be a shame if there were a “tangent police” enforcer here. While it has already been addressed further up, I do think telling someone to shut and leave is whole different level and should it come up again, I will probably jump right back in.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I do think it is ok to go off topic, that is what discussion are all about. Sometimes, my comments are just to say how cute a photo is, or that I liked a particular link.

        I think everyone’s tangents, stories, anecdotes are welcome. I would never personally attack an individual or tell them to shut up and go away and that their comments are stupid, even though maybe at times I have felt that way. I would rather engage in the discussion than shut it down.

        I also think it is ironic, that on a post about bullying, I end up getting bullied and told to essentially shut up and keep my thoughts to myself or leave the blogosphere.

        • Teryn
          Teryn says:

          My intention was honestly not to get you to shut up or stop commenting. I think it is a beautiful thing that you have found a community on here. What I wanted was for you to listen when people call you out on your comments which I have seen several times in subtle ways and to change the way you communicate. Obviously I did that in a very blunt and not helpful way to you and I regret that. It is my issue that I tend to bully people I feel are bullies. They don’t hear the subtle exhorts to consider others feelings so I bulldoze in. This is something I need to work on. What is the right way to deal with a bully? Obviously we can ignore the situation but that ultimately doesn’t change anything.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            How was I a bully? I don’t engage in bully behavior. Yes I am often blunt, yes I could be more even and I can try to do that. I think I do that already. I completely filter my thoughts before commenting, so my original comment was indeed toned down.

            That won’t stop me from ensuring no violence against children, which is what I think particularly upset you. You disagree with my perspective of corporal punishment, correct?

          • Teryn
            Teryn says:

            You chastised the author about something that was not the point of the post by saying you hoped she doesn’t participate in it. You also said that was distracting you from hearing the rest of the article. The comment felt unkind and condescending to me which someone pointed out but you just defended your right to say whatever you want irregardless of others feelings. That is being a bully to me. I responded in kind, saying what I thought with no regard to your feelings. As to spanking I do not discipline my kids that way but I love and respect parents that do so it is not a black and white issue for me. That honestly did not even enter into my response. I have felt other comments of yours were condescending before on other posts and I was tired of people tiptoeing around it because you didn’t seem to be hearing them. You have good insights to share as well. It’s obvious you are passionate and thoughtful about many things.. If you can share that passion without making others smaller I’m sure I could learn a lot from you. I’m usually only on here a couple times a month so if you want to discuss this further please e-mail me at k1ngko@yahoo.com I may not get it otherwise.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Teryn,

            You seem to be applying a double standard here. One, where I received a harsh critique from you, but not Kim who personally went after my comment. It is very difficult for me to take someone seriously who applies a certain standard for me, but not for someone else. This is confusing to me.

            I understand that you didn’t appreciate *my* comment specifically, but that doesn’t change what transpired. It doesn’t change that someone else tore apart my comment. All you saw was what I said and you chose to pile on.

            Bullying, is not being curt or condescending. Bullying, is not bringing up topics of conversation (regardless if others think it is irrelevant). As someone who has been on the receiving end of bullying, I can tell you that having a conversation about something does not equate bullying. Bullying, is AGGRESSIVE behavior TARGETING an individual or a group in an effort to silence, demean, intimidate, or dominate them.

            You seem to infer a great deal from my comments that were not my intent. Making someone feel small? How did I make you feel small? For someone with a large INTJ personality, a lot of this is just baffling to me. Part of me wonders, if I had been born a different gender if that would make what I said more understood, no one complains when men speak the way that I communicate.

            It is hard for me to want to engage you via email when I am so misunderstood by you, I’m not sure what good will come of it.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Teryn,

            Upon further thought, I do wish to “repair” this situation, I am just not certain I want to start it with email quite yet since I am so utterly confused by this situation; however, I am willing to take a baby step towards some sort of remediation over this and share my instagram, if you have an account feel free to follow. I am @lizziecreates

          • Teryn
            Teryn says:

            I think Vi is right that bullying is not really the correct term here. Being condescending or chastising is not necessarily bullying unless someone feels they can’t share or participate because of it. It could still be hurtful though. I guess it depends on the strength of the people you are dealing with. I can understand how confused you might be by the double standard of calling you out and not other people. That is for two reasons. One is I was reacting out of a previous belief I had about you from reading this blog every so often. Your comments have not made me personally feel small because I don’t comment often on here but there have been several times that I have read your comments to others and thought ouch on their behalf. I find even when I agree with you I feel like I’m going over to the dark side. Ha. I guess that had built up and finally spilled over. Secondly, you comment so frequently on this blog. I believe that gives your voice more weight than the random negative poster. It also makes it difficult for anyone to disagree with you because you usually engage them back instead of allowing their opinion… On another note it’s a specific pet peeve of mine when people make assumptions or take issue with something a writer is not actually saying. Being a writer is a vulnerable position because people will not hesitate to tear someone’s writing apart without considering that the writer is a person with feelings. To a certain extent I understand this, when the criticisms are about what is actually said. Or if someone can share their opinions off topic in a non personal way. It was because you specifically commented to the author and made it personal to her that I felt you were unkind. If you had said, It makes me uncomfortable when people use the phrase turned over my knee and continued to share your opinion of spanking that would not have been a problem for me even though I would have thought it was sad you walked away from her genuine and beautiful post with that to say. But then again I have my own hangups, specifically related to disability so there are certain phrases that would likely offend me as well. I will look you up on Instagram. I keep my social media to people I have met in person but I think it would be good for us to both see each other as real people.

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            Well, this went way off topic really fast. All I gathered was that YMKAS appreciated the article and wanted to clarify wording within it. Many parents, unfortunately, don’t see the harm in corporal punishment or are aware it is problematic, just like many don’t see the harm in school. Honestly, I was a bit offended by the loose wording regarding corporal punishment as well. I don’t respect people that hit kids, not at all. There are more mature and appropriate ways to guide children.

      • mh
        mh says:

        MBL,

        I often don’t post because I self-critique, too.

        I’m a bit jealous you’re going to LA and get to meet YMKAS. I think you both add a lot to the comments here. I haven’t gotten to read much of Penelope’s blog lately and I miss it.

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          Oh my word! Your comments are your FILTERED thoughts!?!?!? LOL

          Tidbit: you could have saved yourself a lot of typing by just saying “like MBL” rather than “well-this-is-only-my-opinion-and-it’s-probably-wrong-so-just-ignore-it-and-I’m-sorry-in-advance-if-this-hurts-your-feelings” ;) (Why yes, yes I do use winky faces to minimize being misconstrued. And I seldom go to HuffPo or Jezebel. Is that where all of my people are?!?!)

          • mh
            mh says:

            You crack me up. Yes, this is my internet-best manners.

            By the way, I think YMKAS has good online manners, never getting personal with people and staying steady.

            Maybe I could start using the winky faces.

            Except I have a relative who seems to have some kind of obsessive-compulsive emoticon disorder, and I don’t want to be like that. ;)

            There, see, I *can* do it.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          You guys crack me up!

          mh, I also have a relative, ahem: my mom, who will send me a text that says “Hi how are you?” followed by about 20 smiley, winky faces after it…

          hope that is ok to post! I know it is off topic. ;) ;) :) :)

          p.s. anytime you are in socal I’m down for a social visit.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Bullying is a character issue that, in most cases, stems from the home. And in the real world, character is everything.

      Just yesterday my son split up a boy and his older brother at a park. The older brother was choking and punching the younger brother to oblivion. The dad just sat there and watched and then later commented to me that my son ‘had a good head on his shoulders’. What? Why did he sit and watch? If I hadn’t been playing with my little one and noticed, I would have stepped in. Wouldn’t anyone? Why didn’t the father help his kids? The poor kid was devastated, crying and upset and yet left to his own devices afterwards.

      Most parents of bullies I have dealt with are very harsh and demeaning towards their children. It doesn’t take long to put two and two together. My son and I have had long talks about children who have bullied him, and the relationships we have witnessed between the parents and the children. While in no way do I condone their behavior towards him, it has been a lesson in compassion, as well.

      • Betsy
        Betsy says:

        As a former public school teacher, I can say with confidence that in cases of bullying the apple is almost always right next to the tree (so to speak.) The parents would come in for a conference and all would be so clear.

  12. mh
    mh says:

    I’d be in favor of allowing every interaction between students and teachers, and students/other students to be recorded. It is a public school system paid for with public dollars. The children and parents have no right to privacy from the school. Why should teachers, administrators, and bullies have privacy?

    Record it, put it on the internet, and walk away.

      • mh
        mh says:

        They rely on secrecy and isolating the complainers. Of people realized how widespread the problem is…

    • Betsy
      Betsy says:

      I think this is a matter of time. It will come sooner in states with no unions. As a former teacher, I wouldn’t mind – I have nothing to hide. Maybe it would encourage some students to better behavior!

  13. bea
    bea says:

    I’m glad you got your son the hell out of there. Reading stories like this just chip away at my soul for so many reasons. How many of us refer back to our experiences in school and wonder how different our psychological and emotional landscapes would look if we hadn’t endured suffering at the hands of terrible people we had the displeasure of being around more often than not, day after day, month after month…

    The suspended kid’s dad. Phew. I grew up knowing lots of “dads” like that. I was raised in the deep south. My parents divorced when I was very young because my mother came out (quietly) as a lesbian. I went to a Baptist school from 7th grade until I graduated high school. My father insisted I go to this school. My mother was guilted into going along with it, I think. I had to endure an endless “whisper campaign” about how my mother was a pervert and a deviant human, how we were going to hell. I was systematically blackballed from being elected into school government, from participating in various clubs, most parents would not let their kids come over to my house, all because my mother was gay and living happily with her partner of many years. I kept the extent of it from her. I knew she was awesome and most everybody at my school were terrible people masquerading as “good Christian folk.” I kept my head down and got good grades, so there weren’t really any overt signs of trouble that anybody could see. I even managed to find a small tribe to run with. But I remember feeling defeated and constantly disappointed by it all. I hated that feeling of being trapped with a bunch of people that I wouldn’t even want to stand next to in line at a grocery store, let alone sit in a room with 7 hours a day.

    My daughter goes to a small hippie Montessori school. It has been great and she has been very happy. However, it only goes up to middle school, and she has just one more year there. I keep getting asked where we will be sending her afterwards, and I say, well, probably nowhere. As progressive as my community is, this answer never fails to shock.

    I hear stories like Amiyrah’s, and I think back to my own experiences, and I would rather walk through fire covered in kerosene than put my daughter in a situation where her delightful, wee soul was pecked at and possibly damaged, maybe even in ways that are easily dismissed or overlooked altogether.

    I know it’s not realistic to think that our kids will never be in the line of fire of racist, discriminating troglodytes, but I also think that we should get out in front of them with a scythe (metaphorically speaking) as long as we can, clearing the way for them to grow up and mature to the point where bumping up against terrible people won’t be so damaging to their young, formative selves.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m being overly dramatic here. But I do know that the knot that formed in my throat when reading this post has eased considerably while writing this comment…

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Bea, I found your comment to beautiful, tragic, and profound. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I am so very sorry for what you had to endure.

      PT, thank you creating a place for this. ALL of this.

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        And thank you Amiyrah for your courage to post so honestly about such important topics. Again, I am so, so sorry for your family’s experiences.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I can’t even imagine having to go through what you endured. I just want to give you a virtual hug or something.

      I was bullied just for being the new girl in a new private school, 8th grade. Scarred for life. I have been cyber-bullied, personally attacked online just for sharing a piece of myself. It feels like shit. Not fun.

      My goal isn’t to shield my children from bullying, but to raise them to be above it. To confront it by being the best person they can be.

      I love this quote: Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Gandhi

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        I was bullied for having red hair, fair skin, and freckles. And it sucked. But I am grateful I didn’t grow up in the “kick a ginger” era. Just the “slap you around like a red headed step child” one.

        And with that I still can’t truly imagine what this family, and others, have endured and will continue to live with until people…well, I don’t know what it will take.

        Sigh. Pass the Prozac and tissues please.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I like mh’s idea of invading these people’s privacy at these institutions. Cameras ON AT ALL TIMES.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          My husband loves redheads and freckles!!! My 8th grade year was probably the worst year of bullying. A few fights, lots of gossip, spitting in my food. All I had, or will ever have, is my intellect to fight back, and that gets people even more pissed, found out the hard way.

  14. mh
    mh says:

    Amiyrah, you write well. I hope homeschooling works well for your family. You are the kind of mom who can make a secure and welcoming learning environment. Please keep writing here and keep us posted on how it goes.

  15. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    I bullied a girl in fourth grade at a private school, ganged up on her with my best friend. I’m not sure how long it lasted – a week , two weeks, or months, but it was a daily sport at recess to verbally attack her. Her friend defended her one day and asked us why we didn’t like her. As I write this, I now remember the teacher asking us why we didn’t like the girl but that was it. I was never reprimanded. The teacher seemed timid and afraid of our twosome. It was ironic that my mom befriended the girl at some time during the year, and I recall telling my mom how much I hated the girl. My mom seemed disturbed by my comments but dropped the subject as she didn’t seem to know that I was harassing the girl. My mom is the most empathic person I know and modeled compassion and standing up for the underdog all my life yet I was cruel in my playground world that year. Two years later my mom encouraged me to befriend the outcast of the class, which I did the following few years and enjoyed a special friendship. I was bullied in eight grade when the boys formed a secret club against me; these were the boys, classmates and friends with whom I’d spent all my formative years to that point . It stifled me, and yet these experiences are seen in our culture almost as a rite of passage. As I watch my daughter who is five sometimes be unkind to others, I’m glad I am nearby to correct her and not separated from her and her interactions for 6 or 7 hours a day. Five months after taking her out of pre-k, I heard her say (for the first time) as she thought back on her schoolday recesses : “I just don’t understand why Janet doesn’t like me.”

    • bea
      bea says:

      Thanks for writing this, Caroline. I appreciate you honesty.

      This whole thread has been a thought-provoking one. I wonder about this particular “rite of passage” refrain when it comes to explaining away enduring terrible behavior at the hands of another person. Or the other popular “kids will be kids” platitude. But I am also kind of wary at how the word “bullying” has taken over our lexicon to describe a range of behaviors, from sustained ill-manners or rudeness to targeted physical intimidation or violence.

      Regardless, I talk openly and often to my daughter about the concept of bullying. She’s a very sensitive one, that. I want her to be able to parse her emotional reactions with respect to other people’s behavior towards her (behavior of the not-so-nice variety), to understand the difference between, say, having her feelings hurt versus feeling like her personal safety is in jeopardy.

      I mean, I want her to get the hell away from kids who are mean to her AND kids who might push her or hit her, but I want her to understand the origins of her visceral reactions during these types of situations so she can gauge a proportional response (slowly back away or run like a cheetah in the other direction).

      I was recently saying as much to a friend of mine, right after she evoked the “kids will be kids” bumper sticker (we were having a serious conversation about her child being picked on, and in turn, picking on other kids), and she said something to the effect that “well, you can’t always run away from people that aren’t treating you well, or fairly, or who are just constantly being jerks to you.” Sure, I get that. Fair enough. But I also think that even so, I want to teach my daughter how to spot “mean” people, or terminally rude individuals, or dicey situations, or whatever, so she can figure out how to minimize her exposure to them.

      I absolutely don’t want my daughter to steep in less than optimal social situations or relationships, or damaging ones, (at school, or on the playground, anywhere) in a way that makes her feel humiliated or trapped or powerless. I sure as heck don’t put up with that as an adult.

      It’s odd to me that we will readily advise friends to not put up with an insulting boss, or a toxic work place, or abusive boyfriend, but we routinely expect our children to show up day after day to social “pressure cooker” school environments, even when we have plain evidence that things aren’t going well for them, or are hurting them, all the while justifying our inaction and inattention by muttering the mantra “kids will be kids.”

      Is this thread officially hijacked or not? I can’t tell anymore!

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        Bea, you are such a beautiful writer. Do you have a blog or anything? I think your daughter hit the lottery in the mother department.

        ” I am also kind of wary at how the word “bullying” has taken over our lexicon to describe a range of behaviors, from sustained ill-manners or rudeness to targeted physical intimidation or violence.”

        When I talk about my daughter’s experiences I tend to write “bullying/teasing” to indicate that it wasn’t physical, but still wrong and damaging. I think that kids today see all mean behavior as such.

        I talked to my Special Snowflake (9) about this post including how it had gone off the rails. I told her about yesmy’s comment and how she questioned something that was possibly alluded to but in no way substantiated which prompted someone else to tell her to go away. SS said “So yesmy started it?”
        I explained that her comment precipitated it and I wouldn’t have made it, but no, she didn’t “invite” the response.

        She then asked where yesmy stood on the issue and what I would do if we already had set plans and I found out she had a different opinion. Would I still meet with her. It was a great discussion.

        She is on scratch a ton and there are a lot of anti-bullying projects. I asked her what bullying consisted of and she said comments like “that is ugly,” “looks stupid,” and sometimes people use bad words. I asked for an example and she replied “Your project sucks!” I stifled a giggle. The rules on scratch are to be nice and give credit. Mean spirited unhelpful criticism is not allowed and it reported and uses can get banned. I definitely think this is a rather liberal usage of the term “bully” but I suspect the nuance will come later. And I do talk to here about the different levels and impact on people.

        Regarding “kids will be kids,” I do not think that is an acceptable excuse. But I do think it is true. Some kids suck. Some people suck. I have experienced sticking up for a child who was being teased. I knew I would get teased instead but it would deflect from the other child so I did it. I did not anticipate that he would join them. I was 6. I don’t think he was a bad kid, I just think the “whatever it takes to stay with the herd” gene is still alive and well in some.

        I witnessed it when my daughter was 6, but luckily, she was oblivious that the girls were whispering about her. I saw a girl who had been ostracized seize her opportunity and high-tail it up to the gaggle and join in.

        Happy Hour can’t come soon enough.

        • bea
          bea says:

          Thanks, MBL. I don’t have a personal blog, but I write a fair amount of work-related stuff. Mainly, I think I just express myself better in writing sometimes, especially when it comes to difficult topics like this.

          I try to be a good mother. I do. But I can tell you I struggle to raise my shy, sensitive girl child. I am the opposite of sensitive. I can be brusque and remote, while my daughter is brimming with empathy and has a terribly obliging heart. She is also a pleaser yet introverted, and quirky as the day is long (we are kindred in our introversion and quirk).

          I think that she is the sort of child that could be targeted by some seasoned tormentor, and who would suffer in silence until her heart was breaking. I could be wrong about that, but it is what my instinct tells me and I am not inclined to take my chances.

          So that, more than any thing else, is influencing our plans for her post-Montessori. The middle school choices around my community are less than appealing, and they’re also very big and crowded. I just picture my girl getting swallowed up in a sea of rough, uncharted waters. And it scares the crap out of me.

          We’ll likely be homeschooling and supplementing with some STEM co-ops that have cropped out around town. She does well in small groups that rally around a topic she has an affinity for (coding, minecraft, music, minecraft and minecraft). I have this idea that we will introduce her to lots of social situations that she’ll thrive in, so she can build the confidence she needs to branch out as she gets older and matures.

          My daughter has started doing this thing where she’ll ask me something like “tell me about a time when you were my age and you acted very brave” or “tell me about a time when somebody hurt your feelings.” Man, we have had some amazing discussions as a result of this little game she’s initiated. I have told her about being ostracized because of my mother’s homosexuality and how I learned to navigate peoples prejudices, as well as confront some of my own. I remembered one time when I was a little terror to my next door neighbor, all because he swatted at my cat (who, to be fair, was a total bastard). It’s prompted discussions about how good people can do mean things and how mean people can do good things. And that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but typically, people to intend to hurt your feelings, or damage your reputation, or control you through fear, these people are not the ones to be friends with, even if they ooze charm and court you.

          Is there anything that stings and wounds a parent more than seeing their child hurt by another child, or by a careless adult? It’s so complicated, because in an instant it can become not just about our kid’s feelings, but it can throw us back to every time we were hurt as kids, or hurt somebody ourselves. I think about how to protect my daughter constantly. And one strategy that we’ve come up with is not sending her to a regular school. Ever. I mean, did anybody here ever ride a bus to school? I witnessed horrors a la Hunger Games on the bus. No. freaking. way.

          I ended my internet sojourn yesterday with a beer and this blog, and now I’ve started out my day with coffee and this blog. I see a pattern forming.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            bea,

            I have enjoyed your comments as well, so glad to know I get to read more of them now! I think most of us here, share in your struggle with what to do and why homeschool was our only option. For me it started out in a frenzy and chaos and found its way into unschooling.

            Those STEM co-ops sound great! I would love something like that near me.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Caroline, I too appreciate your honesty. I love that you have opened up an opportunity to discuss both sides of this issue. I love that you mention that your homeschooling of your daughter is not just to protect her, but instruct her regardless of which role she plays. I frequently cite the ability to watch from afar and let children work things out while still being right there to step in as necessary to avoid a Lord of Flies reenactment as a major benefit of homeschooling.

      If I may, did you ever apologize to the girl once you experienced inexplicable bullying yourself? I’m just curious since you note the complicity of adults not intervening but I’m not really reading a lot of remorse. I realize that we all have different ways of processing things and expressing ourselves and you are definitely taking steps to break the cycle. But I did find it curious.

      From a bullied perspective, my crime was to have red hair, freckles, an unusual name and to be smart and quiet. The nerve! I never retaliated because I refused to “go there.” In elementary, I remember a girl who teased me all of the time. She had a tough “don’t eff with me” vibe and a large burn mark over her neck and chest. I never found out what had happened, but I remember listening to her and thinking “Seriously? You literally have a target on your chest that I could aim for” but I never did. I remember wondering if parental neglect had played a part in her scar.

      I don’t think I will ever understand why someone would single someone out to harass. But I appreciate the opening up of lines of communication. Is it too early to drink? I am in Central Time.

      Apologizes to mh for my “please don’t misconstrue my intent” wording.

      • bea
        bea says:

        “Is it too early to drink?”

        I had the same thought, MBL, followed by “well, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

        Seriously though, this post seems to have really touched a nerve with quite a few of us. I have appreciated all of the narratives and perspectives here, despite the difficult subject matter.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Yes, it’s not fun having to relive the worst moments of one’s life. It wasn’t fun having kids spit in my food and drinks at lunch time. It wasn’t fun being called a slut. It wasn’t fun getting in physical altercations.

          I often wonder why I didn’t say anything to my parents until I came home with a scratch on my face.

          The principal meeting didn’t seem to help. Putting myself and my main agitator together like we were at Camp Inch in the Parent Trap was the worst idea possible and only made matters worse.

          I wish I would have said something, by all accounts my parents would have let me homeschool if I had asked. We switched schools the next year and I did end up homeschooling my senior year of high school.

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            For me, I said something in elementary. Nothing was done. Why bother trying again.

            In the 8th grade my GT language arts teacher (half the day since it was 3 blocks) hated me. No clue why. Other parents told my mother about her overt bullying. Nothing was done. I considered suicide but I couldn’t do that to my grandmothers.

            In the 7th or 8th grade we had to sit in the cafeteria to wait for the bus. A girl who had been held back for 2 years decided one day that she would get up (not allowed) and walk around and around my table slapping me across the face each time she passed (um, also, not allowed.) I just sat there. My friends just sat there. What were our options? Obviously the supervision was spotty and her behavior wasn’t exactly subtle. This girl was scary. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t escalate if I told anyone. This was the ONLY interaction she and I ever had. Ever. I felt guilty that I helped to enable her to abuse others. But not guilty enough to overcome my survival instinct. It never happened again, but it was enough affect my life.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            mbl,

            If I had been your friend and witnessed that I wouldn’t have done nothing. I stick up for the underdog. That’s why when the, alluded to but not specified, comment that could have potentially indicated hitting children caused me to say something.

            I’m curious what your response was to miss snowflake when she asked those questions. ;)

          • MBL
            MBL says:

            I appreciate that! I really do!

            But if you did stick up for me, then what?
            As I said, we were not allowed to walk around and it was clear from even the hall outside what was going on if anyone had bothered to look. There was supposed to be a monitor (warden) but wasn’t always. This was a “good” middle class, predominantly “right” side of the tracks middle school. This girl was an anomaly with a “nothing to lose” air. If everyone else feels like they have something to lose, they are kind of screwed. If she had’ve targeted you because you stood up for me, I would have felt awful. I really do see the situation as hopeless.

            That is SPECIAL Snowflake to you. I told her that it was a really good question. I said that I felt that I knew you well enough that I would go ahead and meet with you and see how things went. But that Disneyland was a big enough place that we could part ways if it seemed appropriate. She thought that was a sensible hypothetical plan.

            As distasteful as I find conflict, all of the lines of inquiry on this thread have been beneficial to me.

            On her blog, Amiyrah has some great posts on how to talk to your kids about racism. And an update on homeschooling. FYI, her entire family is as ridiculously gorgeous as she, so jealous types–you have been warned!

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I feel like drinking after all of this too. It is cathartic to get all this out, but also a little sad. I hope these individuals, bullies, eventually matured their way out of abusing people they don’t like.

  16. MBL
    MBL says:

    I’d love to hear stories of people who have successfully dealt with bullies without anyone withdrawing or being withdrawn from the location.

    Have many people seen the movie Bully? An administrator is shown proudly forcing a child who has been bullied to shake hands with the bully and she thinks she is doing an awesome job of fixing the situation. It is sick.

    I simply can’t imagine that I would have come out alive had I grown up in the current era with the cyber component throwing flames on the fire.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      What do you mean by successfully dealing with bullies? Do you mean creating a tolerant relationship between two children?

      Since pulling my son out he is able to better assess and assert his boundaries with other children. We live in the city, so coming across difficult children in different situations is not uncommon. Just this week there have been two instances in which my son attempted to solve a bully situation. One girl at a park wouldn’t let my son join in on a game and was acting pretty hostile, so he walked away asking about it and played by himself for a bit. I said ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but play over here for now.’ He later saw the same girl bullying/yelling/harassing a baby! So my son walked over and started telling her off, ‘What are you doing?! Why are you so angry? This is a baby! You need to stop bullying him and other kids!’ He held his ground and was defending other vulnerable children. Again, the parent was no where in sight.
      Then he had the instance I mentioned above (or below?) of the brother getting completely obliterated by his older sibling and my son stepping in to help.
      I don’t know if this answers your question, but my son hasn’t become best friends or even friends with previous bullies.

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        That is a good question. I guess I meant some resolution that didn’t exacerbate things and allowed both children to feel safe in that institution. Forcing them to shake hands and insisting that the perpatrator “apologize” is not my idea of satisfactory. But I do not mean that they need to become friends. I wonder if that is possible.

        You son sounds great. It scares me that there is a chance that if a child were in school and stepped in, they might end up disciplined also if they couldn’t “prove” that they weren’t involved in the fight.

        Thanks for your reply.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          I don’t think school allows for realistic problem solving between kids. They might force kids to shake hands, but that deeper issue is still there isn’t it?
          It’s also quite hard for the bully to overcome their own stigma of being a bully, once other kids are aware of it.

  17. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    In response to MBL and Bea . . . I never apologized. I didn’t feel remorse in elementary or middle school. I don’t recall anything unusual after fourth grade in my behavior toward her. I honestly never considered myself a bully until I wrote the post. Mostly I was caring, which I think my peers would say. I think she attended my small bday party in fifth grade . . . But yes I’d like to apologize if I saw her and find out the impact. I dont think I had pushed or hit or touched her btw, mainly chasing. What’s interesting about the lexicon: I typed my entry last night in bed when my daughter had her head on my shoulder. My daughter pointed to my text and said: read that to me, exactly as it is ( I was about five sentences into it . . . ). So I did (using the word ‘bully’ as written and confessed to her that I had been mean “when I was little” to someone. (She didn’t ask how little, whew.) today my 7-year-old step grandson said he’s less into shark books and now reading ” the diary of a wimpy kid”. So we started talking about bullying. He said when the second grade bully grabbed him by the collar and yelled insults in his face, he did something “genius” by tripping him. My daughter was listening and then said : ” I was bullied , pushed on the grass and off the slide.” “Janet?” I asked. “Yes.” I hadn’t known that what I thought was a funny little relationship between two four year olds was really my daughter admiring a girl who daily bullied her. The teacher alluded to something in our parent /teacher conference about Janet being immature, but I had no idea of any pushing or getting hurt. My point in all of this is to rethink the assumption that it’s normal for children to be without a parent’s supervision for 7 plus hours a day all week. For whatever reason bullies bully, I do believe that the childhood developing brain Is not fully able to empathize. I have all seen a kid with a terrible mean streak turn out more than fine.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Caroline,

      Thanks so much for your response. And for sharing the conversations you had with your family. I know the feeling of holding my breath hoping that certain follow-up questions don’t come!

      Maybe this post should carry a trigger warning! I remember (I think it was K or first) being at the birthday party of girl who was mean to me. Purposefully excluded me, etc. I don’t know if it was an ‘invite the whole class thing,’ or she was on a mission or what. She did have a super cool basement though.

      Regarding the childhood brain and the ability to empathize, I think there may be a Piaget standard window thing, but I know that mine developed before “the window” and my motivations were misunderstood because of that. I found that out from a conversation with my mother a couple of years ago. I guess it can go the other way too, if someone is on the late developing side of the window. Indeed, all the more reason for greater parental/adult guidance than schools can provide.

      Thanks again.

      • Caroline
        Caroline says:

        MBL,

        That really does makes me sad to think of you in K at a party where the birthday girl was mean to you. And thanks for sharing and your comments.

        This post has triggered some soul searching and why in the world I targeted this girl at that 4th-grade time in my life. She was a newcomer, and I had been at the school since I was three. I was also powerful in the sense that I was the most athletic and well-liked. I adored my best friend and lived in a completely uninhibited world, was never self conscious. Regarding one person’s comment that bullies have bully parents, it wouldn’t be the case with me and my mom. However, my dad was mean to my mom and it was the year that I decided to hate him or at least exclaim to him that I hated him. I also wrote poems about anger that year or year before and started to defy my mom’s rules about makeup and shaving my legs. I was more interested in the rules of the fifth-grade most popular girl.

  18. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Good for you, Amiyrah. Good for your son. I am SO tired of hearing parents claim that as awful as it is that their child is being teased/bullied in school “that’s real life and they need to learn how to deal with it.” NO child should ever have to deal with the daily demeaning, hurtful, and sometimes hateful bashing that often occurs in school. Well done. Now, if only my son’s friend’s mom would do the same and pull him out of his school, where he is the minority (he’s black and he’s 8) and is teased daily. Instead she told me that the other kids “have learned they can’t tease him because of his skin color so they tease him about his nose and hair instead.”
    Penelope, thank you for posting this on your blog. This is a major issue and one that needs to stop. Parents need to stop subjecting their children to teasing and bullying. Oh, and by the way, yes, this local school does claim a “zero tolerance for bullying.”

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