Recently in the Juneau Empire an article was written about bullying involving a paddle. There was a small blurb in the article about a student left in seizures on the locker room floor during a separate bullying incident. As the mother of that victim, I would like to address the topic, bullying/hazing and give a more accurate account of the details that were in the Empire article.
My son was the victim of bullying three times, at various times throughout the year. Upon moving to Juneau my son was given a “welcome” (not) by being paddled 14 times by 14 seniors in the summer months. My son did not tell me, or another trusted adult, and the bullying (hazing) continued.
In January, my son was stripped of his clothes leaving only his underwear in place while in the locker room after physical education class. His clothes were hidden from him in the lockers around the PE locker room. He was not beaten. He did not have a seizure. He was left, in his underwear, to find his belongings in time to catch his bus. Again, my son did not say anything, and the bullying (hazing) continued!
My son ended his school year by being hit with a shoe so hard — again in the locker room — that the shoe’s imprint was still on his body at day’s end.
This time I did not give my son a choice to remain silent; instead, I took all his electronic devices away from him, marched him into the school and told him he was grounded with no sports or devices until he told the school what happened. He told the school, which held the other boy accountable by employing the discipline grid they have to address such incidents.
Unfortunately, the harassment did not end there, as my son’s peers — and in some cases adults — did not believe that reporting such incidents was the right thing to do.
We are moving this next school year, for family reasons, NOT because of the above incidents, as was implied in the article. That said, when deciding about this move, these incidents and the way my son’s so-called friends have treated him throughout the year made our decision very easy.
Who is to blame? The kids, parents, principals, coaches, teachers. … The schools were put in place many years ago to educate our children in math, English, history and science, and everything else is a bonus —and we as parents should be thankful for that.
The teachers were put in place to guide student learning in the state standards, but due to lack of state funding, there are not enough teachers and adults to monitor both boys and girls locker rooms. The parents had children and are supposed to raise them the best they can with love and support and teach their children about morals and values of life.
As parents, we want to help our students find their voices when they are victimized and help our children learn about community and respect when they participate as aggressors.
Coaches were put in place to teach our children the fundamentals of a sport and grow their ability; sports are an extracurricular activity. Coaches have the responsibility to create a culture of respect and help their athletes develop as young men and women. Again, who is to blame? And where does the responsibility lie?
In everything that has happened to my son, I have had complete support from the principal, teachers and coaches. The only people I have not had support from are some of his peers and some of their parents. Again, whose responsibility are these children?
The students involved in my son’s occurrences have owned up to their end, and in our opinion accepted responsibility and learned from this. As adults, as a community, when will we?
We have to help our children find their voices and support them in doing the right thing even when it’s hard. We should be sharing our stories accurately, not exaggerating them with each retelling. We need to create a culture of respect, not one of fear.
If forced to answer my own question of who is to blame then I choose to blame us, the parents. We give curfews, allow our children to use vehicles and don’t know where our kids are.
My husband and I pay the bills; it is our right to look at all texts being sent and received, it is our right to check all of our son’s social network accounts.
We are the parents; we are responsible for our son’s actions and whereabouts.
I have seen and heard some horrible things doing this, but we do it and fix the things that involve the off-path behavior that affects his morals and values. By doing this and taking responsibility for our son, we know what he is doing and where he is at all times.
It isn’t, as implied, always tied to teams or school allegiance. It isn’t about boys or girls, town or valley, football or tennis. It is a culture that we have allowed to fester and it is one that we can change. As you blog, comment, talk with the person in the grocery line, ask yourself, “Do I know where my children are?”
If you do not have children, challenge yourself with a question: “How can I be a part of the solution?”
• Heather Conn has a master’s in Elementary Education and a master’s in Special Education.