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Protecting Bullies, Not the Bullied, Seems to be the Rule in Our Schools

02/08/10
by Wrightslaw

In Mass, parents are reporting that their children are refusing to go to class, have dropped out of sports, stopped trying to socialize, refused to go to class and in some cases had to change schools – all because they are being bullied.

Allegedly girls with special needs are being photographed in the bathroom, then pictures posted on FB. Parents report kids are being attacked on the bus or beaten up at elementary school.

Even worse, some bullied children have attempted or threatened suicide. On Jan. 14, Phoebe Prince died of an apparent suicide after incessant bullying by classmates.

Who is investigating? It appears that the school system is investigating itself and… they “apologize for the delay.”

The school says, “There have been in our investigation some kids on their family’s – or family’s lawyer’s – recommendation that have not spoken to us,” Edward Boisselle, chairman of the South Hadley School Committee, told the Herald yesterday … But a determined Boisselle vowed that lawyers won’t keep school officials from completing their investigation by week’s end and meting out ‘severe’ punishment… I apologize for what appears to be delays, sweeping this under the rug. It’s a process. It’s not an easy investigation.”

“Separately, Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel is leading a criminal investigation into Prince’s death. Charges have not been brought.”

Last we heard, school officials aren’t law enforcement agents, nor are they trained investigators. Are chairmen of school districts and committees trained investigators?

The school did not protect this girl. The school is on notice about many other kids who are being bullied, yet they did nothing until news of the girl’s suicide broke.

“The state  Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester is “calling on every school to ‘be clear’ about the ‘conduct and consequences’ of  bullying …  “We encourage schools to take this on.”

“To be clear about the conduct and consequences of bullying?” Consequences? There are no consequences when schools don’t protect kids.

“We ENCOURAGE schools to take this on?” If they feel like it? The state Education Commissioner doesn’t ORDER them to change their ways?

Sickening. We hate to think what Phoebe Prince’s parents are going through now, and for the rest of their lives. We don’t have a sense that the Education commission, Chairman, or other administrators understand or care what this does to defenseless kids.

As of September 2009, HRSA reports that Massachusetts is one of ten states that has no laws on bullying.  Check to see if your state has laws on bullying here.

From Bullied Kids Helpless Against Attacks from the Boston Herald at http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100204bullied_kids_helpless_against_attacks/srvc=home&position=also

Many parents also report that when they informed the school their children were being bullied, the school did nothing. “One struggling mother turned in her own son, a bully, hoping the school would do something. It didn’t.”  Read Parents’ Pleas Fall on Deaf Ears from the Boston Herald at http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/columnists/2010/02/parents%E2%80%99_pleas_fall_deaf_ears

Teen Suicide Prompts Look at Bullying from the Boston Globe at http://www.boston.com/community/moms/articles/2010/01/24/teens_suicide_prompts_a_look_at_bullying/

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40 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Al 10/18/14 at 9:14 pm

    Jamie, you’re absolutely right. Status Quo is NOT working! Parents must demand the schools comply with the laws. Go to the school board meetings and let the elected officials know what’s going on and how you feel about it. Parents have power to make change!

  • 2 Al 10/18/14 at 8:42 pm

    If the Bully has an IEP, they have protection to continue bullying, and the school has more excuses!

  • 3 Donna 11/05/13 at 10:03 am

    We experienced a teacher who bullied my son horribly in 4th grade. This teacher would use class time to ask the other students if my son (who is dyslexic and has memory issues) was “behaving” in another teachers room. If the teacher’s “pet” reported anything then the teacher was punishing my son for behavior in another class. This is so mind boggling that a teacher could punish my son for behavior while he was in the care of another certified teacher’s care. My son took months to report this to me because of her intimidation. Many teachers are complicite in bullying and instead of stopping it they actually start it and encourage it. We eventually had to remove our son from public schools and are now homeschooling. Looking back I wish we would have done this sooner, the emotional toll public schools had on him has been devestating.

  • 4 Dora 10/25/11 at 8:04 pm

    When I, a concerned parent, tried to get an anti-bullying program into my son’s middle school, I was ignored.
    There were many federally approved anti-bullying programs available for a reasonable price, especially after school shootings were in the news and public awareness of bullying began to include concern for everyone (even teachers and administrators,) not “just” the victims of bullying.
    In addition, there was a veritable army of parents who were willing to help, or even make our own anti-bullying campaign, for free. Parents who had been involved the year before were told that “the kids don’t want you at school now because they want to feel more grown up.”
    For whatever reason, to date (it’s been 10 years since then) they still do not have a plan or program against bullying there. But the doors are locked. Safe ?

  • 5 Dora 10/25/11 at 7:46 pm

    My son (grown up now & done with public schools) was bullied in middle school (~2000-2001) by some girls a year older. Time and again, we would tell our son that “boys should never hit a girl,” and to tell someone in charge. He did, but the school did nothing. When he kept coming home with fingernail scrapes and bruises, we finally told him to hit whoever he felt he needed to. If he was punished at school, we would support him, maybe take him out to dinner.
    Well, his demeanor changed – he had determined to defend himself. Maybe because he looked stronger, he was left alone after that. He never did have to hit anyone.
    Ugly ugly moral : in a basic primal way, your kids are on their own at school. The school does not want parents there (they are locked out, literally!) and they will not protect them.
    Do they share the bully mentality?

  • 6 jim 09/12/11 at 12:06 pm

    My two children were bullied and assaulted for yrs by both other students and school officials, denied services and rights. After yrs my son got his transportation back, but the damage had been done by the school. Now my daughter that is 17 has been verbally and physically assaulted under retaliation of a sexual assault to her three yrs ago. Since then family and friends of the perp have tormented her and she has tried to stand tough on all of it but it has taken it’s toll on her and changed her. We requested a transfer to another school and at first home school said no, then at end of summer said they would but would not provide transportation. When her dr requested trans under 504, home school put a stop to transfer and caused first 3 days lost no school.

  • 7 annette 01/24/11 at 5:21 pm

    My now 15 year old daughter is doing virtual school without much choice, because she was bullied and harassed so much she lost interest in school, her academics, and plainly she tried everything to avoid going to specific classes all together. She has very low self esteem, and isolation is something she has turned to. She is trying to complete her 9th grade courses on line, but it is also very isolating, and she is always frustrated and sad. I look at her, and my heart breaks, knowing that a beautiful 15 year old girl should not be so afraid of what people think, and have fun hanging out with friends and enjoying her young life, well… she has no life! She has yet to like who she is, because she has been told for so long that she is ugly, fat, gross, and so much worse i can’t even repeat it. Florida school Parent.

  • 8 laura 01/22/11 at 10:51 pm

    Bullying is not only done by students…..it is also done by teachers…..emotional-psychological abuse…harassment, belittling, put downs, negative labeling, isolation in a box, denigration, mocking,blaming, humiliations in front of their peers….often the child will not tell you right away (7 years old) thinking they are “bad”, it’s their fault. I had witnesses come to me. I needed a private attorney, but couldn’t afford. Principals are “Mandated,” to investigate,report. They will protect a tenured teacher. Attorneys told me “The wagons circle, the ranks close, and the goal is to blame the child victim and find a way to blame the parent. CPS were complicit in this cover up…I was told later by a social worker that she’d been on file for years as abusive. A political case….The schools protect themselves.

  • 9 Sharon L. 11/21/10 at 8:04 pm

    Heather, This has nothing to do with disabilities but instead should be brought to the superintendent’s attention. I would put a police report together for the assault and get a copy of the injuries from the doctor, hospital. You need to insist that the school protect your son from harassment and it is their job to protect all students. Your son could have died and no one helped him. You need to document that also.

  • 10 Heather 11/20/10 at 10:28 pm

    My son came home with a head injury on Friday due to some bullies. There was 6 on my 1 son. I have been to the school on my 13 years olds behalf the day before. He tried telling a coach what happended and was ignored. he went to his last class and was real sick and had a bad headache and still no one had him looked at. He got of the bus barely able to walk and was sick as a dog. Told me what had happened and I rushed him to the hospital. He had a head injury. The school let me down in several ways. What can I do about this before it gets worse.

  • 11 Suzanne 10/02/10 at 9:45 pm

    I know first hand what bullying can do to a young girl. I had to change my daughter’s school in the 6th grade do to bullying. It would talk forever to go through all the negative effects it’s had on her. To this day, now in 10th, it still effects her. The reason I’m on here is because my daughter is now facing an explusion hearing and has to go before a judge because she was approached yet again by someone who is a known bully with drug problems on her 2nd back on probation and she fought back a broke the girls nose. This is what happens to a kid that gets bullied. Anyones thoughts, suggestions and advise would be greatly appreciated. We’ve already hired an attorney to represent her but and helpful website or if anyone else has experienced something similar to this and how it was handled. Thank you

  • 12 suzanne 08/13/10 at 2:09 pm

    Joanne at least your trying thats what counts. I would like to see more parents whose children are doing the bullying go through some kind of mandatory class

  • 13 suzanne 08/13/10 at 2:00 pm

    You are very right I have spent the last three years of Middle school with my son being constantly assaulted. I had a 504 plan and the Vice Principal even wrote it up for us 2 years ago and in it if my son ask to go to the bathroom he was to be let go.
    The Vice Principal refused him twice then instead of letting him go to the closest bathroom he made him go to the other end of school. After filing an OCR complaint and someone assaulted my son they got 4HOURS of ISS….(in school suspension) instead of a regular 1 day ISS. My son gets assaulted, I’m mad and they punish my son… they let the bullys go free and wonder why they have a problem.

  • 14 m 05/14/10 at 5:03 am

    I am long-term sub in a pullout class in Wisconsin in which an EBD student bullies a CD student: verbal harrassment and threatening.

    What does manifestation determination say about discipline when its one special ed child against another????

  • 15 Nancy 05/03/10 at 3:36 am

    Early 18 year old niece HS Student after being bullied and provoked by almost 16 year old got into a physical altercation.
    Both were suspended for fighting. bully’s mother took her student to another medical facility which apparently reported nose broken in three places and has now signed warrant for Highly aggravated assault and battery with intent to do bodily harm.
    18 year old defendant never been in a fight. 15 year old x3 and suspended from two different schools and returned to current school from alternate school. Case is hard to fight as she is covered by minor rights.

  • 16 Sharon L. 04/23/10 at 9:11 am

    I do not believe that our schools are set up to “normalize” our kids disabilities. If children are taught to understand the disabilities it hey would grow up being more accepting as adults. This problem would resolve itself. Instead the schools never talk about the disabilities making it appear “not normal”. All my children are learning disabled and have not had that many friends. It is hard to keep their self esteem up. The good news is that all my sons are grown up and have friends now.

  • 17 Sharon L. 04/23/10 at 9:08 am

    Suzette, This is not a special ed issue but a school harassment issue. The schools by law must protect their students from harassment or they can be sued. My son was being picked on by kids on the bus. He told us about it and we contacted the principal who told us she would handle it. A few days went by and our son told us the students started picking on him again (my son has dyslexia, LD and slight autism). We again contacted the principal and she again told us she would handle it. Unfortunately it happened again and we wrote a letter stating we would take the school to court over harassment to our son if it did not get handled and the letter worked. It was fixed and my son was not bothered again.

  • 18 suzette 04/22/10 at 12:10 pm

    My daughter attends a junior high in a very tight knit community. Most of the people from there are either related or friends since they were little. My daughter has severe ADHD, Mild Tourettes,and an LD. Since Kinder she has been labeled as weird and made to feel different and ostracized. She had a few friends but seems like it’s been dwindling now that she’s in Jr. High. She was put on a hit list in 4th grade and called a “B” in summer school where the girls made a point of leaving a space between her. Today I noticed her walking to gym class by herself while everyone else was walking with friends. She always getting told shut up and yesterday a girl told to shut up or she was going to punch her and that she was going to punch me too because she knew my daughter would tell me. When one bullies they all jump in. Any input please.

  • 19 Debbie 04/03/10 at 10:11 pm

    My son has anxiety and depression. He decided he wanted to buy some marijuana from school to help him with his anxiety. They school found out and suspended him. So after the teachers started making nasty comments “Hey are you high or stoned. Are you half baked. Any brains cells left.” Yes, the school is defending the teachers. So I made a civil rights compliant . Does anything really happen? I do not repeat !`do not by all means think it is ok to do drugs. Two wrongs do not make it right. I have a kid with social anxiety, the teachers are aware but didn’t care who they said these nasty comments in front of. Any suggestions out there?

  • 20 David1 03/15/10 at 8:29 pm

    Joyce,

    Your child is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

    The ongoing battle between parents and schools is the Appropriate part. The school will likely take that stand that they have a program that your child is welcomed to attend. Only you can decide how many last chances they get with your child.

    If you are considering homeschooling, we had great success using Florida Virtual School for the academics. Peer interaction is a vital part of learning. We found alternate activities in our Church and community.

    Good Luck

  • 21 Joyce 03/10/10 at 10:01 pm

    My grandaughter has been bullied for two yrs. She is a freshman. It got so bad this yr. We pulled her out of school 2 wks ago. We do not have have another school in this co. I tried 4 different counties and they would not take her. So I have to home school her. Yes, we did report it. Isnt it a law to provide her an education?

  • 22 Mom in Virginia 03/10/10 at 9:13 am

    I am a mother who currently has a child in therapy as a result of suicidal ideation at school. At intake, my son was distraught over repeated bullying . Eight days after I was called to the school to immediately remove him to medical care, NO ONE has emailed or picked up the phone to address the issue with me ( I reported the pediatrician’s findings to the school).

    I encourage all to contract CPS, as I did. In the abscence of school administration keeping our children safe, your state will address the manner for you and protect your child.

  • 23 Miriam 03/09/10 at 3:46 pm

    My daughter was constantly bullied at school till she stopped going to school and that class. The teacher saw her and made her come in class her last day. A girl started in on her, hit her and it went down hill for my daughter ever since. The bully was a pregnant 17 yr old, my daughter was a 18yr old. My daughter was very scared of her and had never been in trouble before in her life. She had been humble and meek even at home. My daughter attempted suicide after that.

  • 24 Sara 03/08/10 at 2:42 pm

    Oregon is no exception to the school failure to address bullying in a strict manner. My daughter, a 4th grader, is a victim. Name calling, food thrown at her during lunch, getting beat up on the playground, and rumors. One girl told her if she told on them again she would come into her house and kill her mother. The girl had to apologize to my daughter and she received one day in school suspension. Seriously? What about suspension? What about notifying her parents? What about getting this girl a psychological evaluation? The school administration didn’t even notify me of these incidents. My daughter told me. On top of everything else, the school district is trying to put part blame on my daughter who “tattles” when others don’t follow the rules. It’s the adults job to keep kids safe!

  • 25 Adam 02/18/10 at 3:01 pm

    I respect the work that wrightslaw does.

    The fact is that even though there are more anti-bullying laws and programs than ever before the problem continues (and seems to be getting worse).

    Trying to get action from school officials is as productive as trying to push string. And most lawyers wont even take a case unless there’s a kid who’s sustained a devastating injury.

    In my professional career, I’ve bully-proofed literally hundreds of children. You can pick up some valuable strategies for dealing with bullies on my blog.

    http://emergingcenter.wordpress.com

    I hope this helps.

  • 26 Michelle 02/15/10 at 4:51 pm

    Yet another case of protective services being used by a school to retaliate.

  • 27 Debbie 02/14/10 at 11:39 am

    I have successfully used a template I found on Wrightslaw for IEP goals to protect a child who was being bullied. It started with a goal that the student would learn that bullying is a violation, then goals that there are steps to take to stop the bullying, then to identify the person to whom harassment issues should be reported, then how to write/tell the official the situation and finally to follow up with determining what the school will do to stop the bullying and to prevent it from happening. I didn’t find it in a quick look this morning. Pete/Pam, can you direct us to the goals I mean? This approach has been VERY effective for many families. There is no blaming the victim, simply teaching that this is something that does not have to be tolerated and building life long skills to deal with it.

  • 28 David1 02/13/10 at 2:46 pm

    I am amazed at the efforts that a school district will go through to ignore an issue of bullying.

    We had several meetings with the Principal to specifically discuss issues of my child being bullied. The school district does not keep records or minutes for meetings that are held in the Principal’s office.

    The district hired a third party “Board Certified Autism Specialist” to administer an FBA for my child.

    The third party observer documented that “it seems that name doesn’t like being teased by peers for involuntary facial tics. To PREVENT being teased, name would frequently pick fights with peers”. I guess some kids enjoy being teased?

    We had no IDEA that our child was the one causing other kids to bully and tease, or that our child was psychic.

    How else can you explain being able to head off being teased?

  • 29 Dawn 02/12/10 at 2:26 am

    It is important for the parents to have occasional observation in the classroom. Sometimes, it is the school staff that is bullying the little kids especially in the developmental delay classroom.

    It may take years before discovering what is happening in the classroom unless you make observation. Kids who are in special education are not able to speak for themselves.

    I have a son who was in special education, hated going to DD classroom and I kept asking and saying to staff there is something wrong but I can’t pinpoint. One day, I went to pick up my child on the day I normally don’t pick up my child and saw the special education teacher putting a mat around my son and she stood in front of him. I heard loud scream. The special education teacher told me that her staff is the one who is doing it the most to my son.

  • 30 Barb 02/10/10 at 2:17 am

    How do you defend yourself against CPS when your child has been repeatedly physically bullied and CPS believes the school rather than the child?

    The school will ask people who are named as bystanders and they either won’t admit to seeing the abuse because they are friends of the bully or out of fear, so the school insists it can’t be happening.

    My son threatened suicide and his psychologist told us not to send him to school until she felt he was ready but CPS has labeled us as child abusers for educational neglect without benefit of trial or attorney. Neither my husband or I can work with children in NY State now because of this and we had to move our son to another school to get away from it.

    He still suffers the after effects and CPS is still watching us because he still fights going to school.

  • 31 Hadassah 02/09/10 at 7:34 pm

    It is the case that sometimes school staff investigate bullying promptly and take action to protect our kids but the more common situation is a situation wherein staff are primarily looking to protect the district and themselves.

    Filing assault and cyberbullying reports with local law enforcement, submitting formal civil rights complaints with state agencies, and filing lawsuits against the bullies who prevent our students from obtaining an education are all effective tools to gain the attention of school personnel, other students, and the parents of bullys.

    All time-consuming activities that won’t necessarily win you friends but you may find, as I did, that doing so will have a positive impact upon your own child.

  • 32 Sobeida 02/09/10 at 4:18 pm

    It is not so much the school. It is us parents that are failing in instilling moral values in our children. The school can do but so much. We as parents need to take the initiative and be parents and don’t expect the teachers and schools official to discipline and educate our children because they only can do but so much. Parents let’s be proactive.

  • 33 Wrightslaw 02/09/10 at 3:11 pm

    Joanne:

    There are so many great resources on this page for parents and kids. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/harassment.index.htm You’ll find lists of interventions, practical tips, bullying prevention training for parents, etc. I hope you have a chance to look at what’s available and put them to good use, along with the other strategies you’ve been using. Glad to hear things are getting better for you – and your son. Good luck.

  • 34 Joanne 02/09/10 at 1:26 pm

    So here is someone from the other side… Please don’t attack me. My son has been the bully – not to the extreme of some of this but he has… I have been working with him since first grade. Our school has been involved, I have gone to counseling and endless ways to get help. I recently printed off a bunch of results of kids that did commit suicide and had him read what these kids felt like and what can happen..He does have a great heart and allot of awesome qualities – he is not physical but emotional which can be just as bad.. We keep working on it and its getting better.

  • 35 Dad2Luke 02/09/10 at 12:15 pm

    It happens in CA. Son was bullied and the principal says that the bullies are 504 kids, it was just play that got out of hand. But son says that no adults were supervising so no one really knows what happened. “Deliberate indifference” is the attitude here. I fail to understand why recess should be “The Lord of the Flies” but that seems to be the case here.

  • 36 Irene 02/09/10 at 11:41 am

    I see the same thing on the Greenline with class trips. For some inexplicable reason, the teachers chastise the victim, which only emboldens the bully and makes the problem worse. Years ago, my son (now grown) was bullied, including being surrounded and spit on. The school told me that it was better that my son be the victim than someone else less able to tolerate it. When threats of violence were made, the principal assured me should would see that my son was escorted safely to his bus the next day. She didn’t. I told my son he no longer had to tolerate it and could retaliate. After he beat the bullies up, the school called me and I had to threaten to sue if they took action against my son. It stopped the bullying, at the risk of having my son expelled. The way to stop it is to deal with the bullies and not look the other way.

  • 37 Judi 02/09/10 at 9:03 am

    When my daughter was bullied, she too was blamed for encouraging it. The school will ‘handle it’, but they don’t let the parents know what has happened. When I was growing up, you behaved at school because anything the school did to discipline you would pale in comparison to what happened ‘when your father got home’.

    Schools and parents need to work together when it comes to disciplining bad behaviors. Consequences should hurt (not physically). Adults obey traffic laws because they don’t want to suffer the consequences. We need to come up with consequences that do the same for kids.

  • 38 Susan 02/08/10 at 11:58 pm

    It is definitely happening here in Virginia. Many principals turn a blind eye to bullying, even blaming the victim for provoking the bullying or telling parents that we need to cut the bullies some slack, since they come from a dysfunctional home life. All sorts of excuses are made, and the bully is given permission to continue. No negative consequences except for the victim. I have been wondering if this is planned chaos in our schools. I know of several situations in which parents who tried to get the principal to intervene to stop bullying against their child (some were outright violent incidences) but were told the principal had no time to talk to them AND, subsequently, the bullying intensified. The situation became worse after the parents tried to get it resolved. Several had to move to private schools.

  • 39 Marilyn 02/08/10 at 11:22 pm

    We feel like the school is bullying us-if they send you a notice of action that they are rejecting a option for the IEP–that the team decided–are the parents not a part of the team? We never got a copy of the plan they voted on or a invite to the meeting–what gives here?

  • 40 jamie 02/08/10 at 3:30 pm

    This is happening in California as well. I think the conflict resolution they have been doing does not work and allows bullies to get away with it. They need to take a hard stance on this. It is time to change education. Parents need to stand up to the schools and tell them it is not working.