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,