Mexico, Guadalajara Day 1

We arrived after a very nice flight. I say whoever gave me ativan all those years ago was a moron. Xanax is way nicer, doesn´t make me too weird and I can still spell.
Neto met us at the airport so we didn´t have to figure out how to make a phone call from the airport.
First meal, tacos from a corner taco stand, heavy o the grease, lots of unidentifiable meatish bits, good salsa verde and roja with cilantro. We ate them at the hotel )Las Sabilas for anyone who wants to go look it up. I´ll figure out links maybe later. It is beautiful here, lots of water noises and plants everywhere. Best first day of family travel ever. Only one beggar child, and he looked clean and well fed, so I wasn´t broken hearted.

next installment

I’ve heard that people want the rest of this story, and since it has no real ending, I’ll tell you where we’re at right now as well as I can.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to tell it without invading my son’s privacy too much.  I haven’t really figured out a great solution to that problem, but  I do feel a need to own up to a little bit of parental cluelessness.

After meeting with the education director (equivalent to the assistant principal at most schools), I started to realize some things.  First was that Jasper really did bring much of the negative attention he got onto himself.   This will be a blasphemous thing to say in the realm of bullying, but I believe it to be the truth.  Second, was that he was really angry, but not necessarily because he was being bullied.  Jasper sat in the director’s office and talked about these girls through clenched teeth, in a raised voice, glaring at the director.

He talked about how furious they make him in basketball practice because they talk to each other while the coach is giving directions.  When she asked if he could ignore it he said  he couldn’t .  She asked if he could move to another part of the gym.  His response was a moment of clarity for me. “The coach can put me in a different line, but then someone in that line will make me mad.  He can’t keep me away from everyone!”  The director and I looked at each other and then at Jasper to hear if he was listening to himself.  He wasn’t.

The director asked if he couldn’t let the coach make the corrections and he threw up his hands, “The coach doesn’t do anything!  If he tells them to be quiet, they just do it for a few minutes then they start talking and giggling again.”  I asked if they were talking to him, or about him.  They weren’t.  “Well Sometimes they do.  But  they’re just always talking.”

I gently suggested that the fact that there weren’t enough corners in the gym to separate him from everyone who made him mad, might be a hint that the problem was his and not all the other kids’, or the coach’s. He didn’t buy it. We  have been having the conversation on an almost daily basis about focusing on what you can do differently, not on what other kids should do differently.

The director excused him after a little more talk and broke the news to me, “Tomorrow we are sending contracts out for next year to invite students back.  We can’t send one out for Jasper.  I’d like to give it another month, but at this point he’s a really negative force in the school, ”  They’ve always made it clear that the school is not equipped to deal with behavior problems, only learning ones.

The next day, he came to me puzzled about a kid in carpool who had snubbed him.  I drive the car pool a couple days a week and I had come to dread his irritable snappy attitude.  The other kids did too.  So when he said, “David was really kind of rude to me today.”  I had to break the news to him just as it was dawning on me.  “David was rude to you because you are mean and snappy to everyone in the car pool. You’re mean to everyone including the driver.”

I was getting emails from teachers about his argumentativeness, and I was generally bummed out.  We had an appointment with his psychiatrist just to check up. He was obviously down when we went there and had lost weight.  She talked with him and with me and we decided to eek up his current anti-anxiety/anti-depressant drug.

About a week after raising that dose, he started to say that kids were nicer to him at school.  He laughed out loud at silly things that kids in car pool said, and his teacher commented about how much less he was arguing in class.  We didn’t tell anyone the change we had made, but it clearly made a difference.  Around here, I noticed that he has started to laugh again.   It’s amazing to me how we were able to slide back into having a depressed angry kid and willing to blame everything around us, including the school.  I’m thinking about writing a second letter backing down just a smidge.

I still say there are things they could have dealt with better, but the problems Jasper was having were going to follow him to any school he went to.  His depression (that’s the best name they have for it)has always manifested itself as anxiety and irritability, and his slide back into it was just as natural as can be.  It wasn’t until I saw him out of my own context (in the office at school) that I realized he was troubled from the inside.  And it wasn’t until he started feeling better that I realized how bad it was.

I feel very lucky that we stumbled on a medication that really works for him and that raising the dose was enough to pull him out of his funk. I was starting to run out of parenting tricks and get very depressed myself.

And now…

Jasper and I received 2 apology letters yesterday. They were very nice, with no cross-outs or anything.  Here are excepts,with the spelling intact..

Dear Ms.Morgan,

I’m really sorry for being mean to you and Jasper. I’m really sorry that I swore at Jasper and called him mean names and made fun of him.  I will stop doing that and not talk to him any more.  I’m also very sorry for being mean to you.  The reason I said you were like stocking me is because when you where writing to me I didn’t now who you were.  I felt like you were getting in my buisness, but I guess you were doing the rite thing for me. I feel realy bad for like what I did.  I just don’t want Jasper being mad at me even though I think he is.  I’m very sorry for what I did and hope you forgive me please! with a happy face and a heart

Dear Jasper,

….Sorry that I made fun of you all the time.  I shouldn’t of done this.  I will learn from the mistake I made.  I will never swear at you again.  Sorry for what I did and I hope you forgive me.


I think they were very nice and I remember making Jasper write similar notes and what a battle it was.  Especially with kids who have reading and writing disabilities, wrting a letter is a really difficult task.  Do we acknowledge the notes or drop it?

Not my typical storytelling blog, I’m updating people about the continuing saga

Here are excerpts from two emails from the head of the school.  I haven’t heard anything about what specifically is going to happen at school.  I did call the mom of Ellie, who was entirely appropriate and decent.  They asked that I send them copies of what was posted to Jasper, which I did.  Here are the letters from the school:

Lisa,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We were not aware of the depth of the problem as you have described it in your email, and I appreciate being made aware of it.  We will follow-up in more detail as we look into the matter.  I would say, however, that I do not agree with your assertion that we don’t take bullying seriously.  We do, and we are active in working with students and parents if this is an issue.  I don’t think that whispering, elbowing and pointing are part of the our school experience for the vast majority of students.  Unfortunately, as evident by your email, it has happened to Jasper, and we will look into this and take action as we need to.   I will again reiterate that it is the exception at our school when this happens; it is not part and parcel of the experience.

I should also say that I believe that some of Jasper’s relationships are much more complex than perhaps the way you described them in your email.  I am sorry that you and Jasper feel that teachers and administrators here have been unresponsive.  Over the course of this year, Jasper’s teachers and I have spent a great deal of time with Jasper and with other students involving relationships and behavior.  I feel like we have been very responsive when we have been notified of a situation.  There are always two sides of every situation, and it will be important to understand the other side as well.

Again, we appreciate you providing us with your input.  We are concerned with some of the behavior—both here and through the use of technology at home–as you have reported it to us, and we will follow up with you as we look into this matter some more.

He’s right.   I was a little vitriolic towards the school.  I could have done that better.  Then later in the day:

Lisa,

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the email you sent this morning.  We will be working with the students at school, but I also think it’s important that you share the emails that you received from Ellie with her parents.  I know that if my child was sending this type of email, I would want to hear from the parent of the child receiving the emails.  Would you be willing to share the emails that were sent to Jasper with Ellie’s mom?  I think we will have better luck changing behavior if we approach this from multiple angles.

I will also be sending a letter to all parents asking for their help in controlling technology at home.   We also are in discussions with the St. Louis Park Police Department to have a police officer come in to discuss cyber bullying and the risks of becoming too involved with technology.  I think it’s important for you to know that we contacted the police department last week about this, so it is not the result of your email.  It is something that we feel is a potential threat to our students.


I’ll update the blog with new information if there is any.  I’m not sure how I feel about the response I’m getting from the school, but it does seem to be evolving in the right direction, so I’ll wait.


Dilemma Addendum

After posting my dilemma, we had a few new developments and I thought I would update the blog so as not to leave people hanging. Read it if you like. It isn’t one of my best.

Tomorrow I will post the response from the school and a bit about my conversation with the mom.

Dear Ms. B and Mr. A,

This is an uncomfortable letter to write. My 15 year old boy is being bullied by two girls, one of whom is years younger than he is. I’m not sure what he’s done to get on people’s radars in such a negative way, but I’m sure he is not without blame. We have tried hard to encourage him to deal with this by ignoring it, talking to school staff or just laying low and trying to let things roll off his back. He says that teachers and administration are mostly unresponsive.

We were warned that the small size of this school was the reason for more than the usual drama. I don’t buy that explanation. I think there is more that can be done to stem the kind of whispering, elbowing and pointing campaigns that are currently part and parcel of the school experience. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it seems like there are professionals out there who do. They should be enlisted to help. I suspect that filling the open position for school counselor would be a good start.

Let me be specific about 2 cases which are related and involve the type of smear tactics and intimidation I’m writing about.  I’m going to give a bit of a history here, and it’s a bit long, so forgive me:

First, I mentioned to a mom (John’s mom, to be specific) that Jasper wouldn’t be allowed to go to a party at her house where an adult would not be present. She said she trusted her son completely. I explained that I knew that the last party had a lot of making-out (without mentioning names), and I just wasn’t comfortable with that, and it was my policy to not let teenagers have parties without an adult present, especially mixed company.

From that point forward, John, Amber and James hissed at Jasper about his big mouth for telling me about what had gone on at the last party (at Amber’s house). They did this for weeks. Amber actually grabbed Jasper and scratched him on the back and neck hard enough for him to still have scabs a week later. She has physically assaulted him more than once in school.

I’m not naive, but I know my son is. He used to tell me things, but now he says he can’t, because I opened my mouth. This is not a good thing.

I will accept responsibility for speaking to the mom in the atrium where kids could hear me. I should have said Jasper couldn’t go and left it at that. I thought that parents had a code wherein we shared what we knew when we were lucky enough to know it. I was mistaken, but the response from Amber and her cohort is unacceptable. .

Secondly, Ellie  has been fixated on Jasper in school, at basketball and on-line. I should have had him block her on Facebook when these messages turned up on the 19th of January:

u r STUPID BITCH!!!!”

Who the fuck put tape all ova thr face?? u cuz ur a FUCKER and u like 2 give bj! :)“

In response, I sent her an email and told her it made her look ugly to say such things in public, and please stop. She apologized and I accepted her apology. She emailed me again saying she didn’t want to get in trouble, I told her everyone makes mistakes, and not to worry. She emailed me 3 or 4 more times and I finally stopped replying. A few days later Jasper told me she was telling people that I wouldn’t stop emailing her and staring at her, and it was giving her the creeps.

Jasper complained that Amber and Ellie were trash-talking him together, which I didn’t take very seriously, because why would Amber be talking to Ellie (a 6th grader) about anything, much less Jasper, right?

I sent an email to the basketball coach:

Just touching base about Jasper. I know he’s a difficult kid, and that you have no shortage of those.  He has been very emotional lately and he would like to drop off the team.  I told him he can’t make that decision after having a bad day, so he will be thinking about it over the weekend.  He is unable to blow off teasing and normal obnoxious teen and pre-teen behavior.  We’re working on that, but I thought you should know he is getting very upset and it would be great if you could run some interference if you notice it.

(Thu 2/05/09 8:28 PM ) sent to coaches G and R

Ellie continued to bother Jasper, but on chat, where the whole world wouldn’t see. I did see one and I copied it:

From Ellie 2-13-09

when we were on the bus and u and samantha wer sitting by eachotha sry but u 2 r rly bad at like doing that kida shit jaems and amber r way beta and u gys tickle eachotha thas werid u gys r mad in hell thas wut amber says and me and every1”

Notice Ellie referring to what Amber says.

Samantha (Jasper’s girlfriend at the time) broke up with him last week. I sent a note to Mr. R letting him know that Jasper was a little raw and I expected that especially Ellie and Amber would pick up on this and focus their energies on him.

Jasper has been getting some internet and phone harassment from kids at school, so we want to make sure it isn’t part of that.  (Wed 2/18/09 2:38 PM )sent to Mr. R

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Jasper.
Today he and Samantha  broke up and he’s pretty brokenhearted.  If you could keep an eye on him, specifically Amber and Ellie have taken it upon themselves to harass him in school and on line.  If you could pass the word onto his other teachers and the basketball coaches, that would be great.  Just to keep an eye on those two, as they seem to have a cruel streak which Jasper’s pretty vulnerable to right now.
I plan to [talk to] Ellie and Amber’s  parents about the outside school stuff, but I haven’t formulated that yet.
(Thu 2/19/09 10:45 PM ) sent to Mr. R

Here’s my bottom line: I realize that I should have dealt with this much more directly by talking to Ellie and Amber’s parents. I didn’t do that. I did think though, that given the size and nature of the school, letting staff know that there was bullying going on would put an end to it at school. It has not. I want Amber and Ellie specifically instructed that their behavior is absolutely unacceptable at this school and will be punished if it continues.  I want follow-through.

I must say that Jasper is making remarkable progress in his reading ability. He neglected homework one night last week because he was engrossed in a book. This is a big deal for us and we credit the school with much of his progress. We are spending Jasper’s college fund to send him here. It is a sacrifice and a stretch for us. I don’t think our expectations are out of line for what we expect in the way of discipline and social graces. I expect that students will be reprimanded and have consequences for inappropriate behavior when it is impulsive. I expect stronger consequences in cases where the behavior is targeted, premeditated, repeated and meant to intimidate. I expect that intimidation around telling adults will not be allowed. I’ve never encountered a school whose response to bullying seems so absent.

Please give this matter some attention and let me know what we can do from our end.  Thanks,

lisa morgan