04 August 2008

Bullying: Rite of Passage?

Do you think bullying is a rite of passage? Is it preventable? What do you think of programs in schools to prevent bullying?

I would tend to think that the coercion my son G experiences is closer to bullying than friendship, but it isn't handled that way by the school. Hey G, throw those papers out the bus window! Come on! I dare you because it would be *so cool.* Or, G, what do you think will show up on the computer if you type in "sex?" Want to see?

Oh, yeah. I was told G would have a teacher RIGHT NEXT to him watching him while he was online, but I guess not if I don't get these promises in writing. But the district flags stuff like that and he didn't get away with it for more than 10 minutes. I have rescinded all permissions for the computer.

I got a LOT of grief about this with Patrick's classes last year because apparently they do everything by email and compose essays on the computer, etc. So I let Patrick. Fine. I have pretty well gotten to the point at home with Patrick that he is free to use the computer during waking hours any time he feels like it when he has no other work to do. But no, not G. G feels its unfair that we don't trust him. I've told him and the middle school that the Ancient Greeks did JUST FINE with a clay tablet and a stylus, so they should feel blessed that I'm modern enough to go for lined paper and a pencil. Pocket calculator, even. Ask me in another 2,000 years about the computer.

I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of grief from the school about the internet and computer use next year because he's moving on to Junior High, but what are they going to do, tell me he can't go to school otherwise?? Bwa ha haaa. But in any event, I think what the other kids do to him is bullying. He doesn't have the defences others have to figure out when he's being manipulated, but friendship manipulation doesn't qualify as "bullying." And guess who gets into trouble when he does something stupid he wouldn't have otherwise?

But I'm a little leery of expanding the definition of "bullying" to include online friendships that the parents know about and sanction. The case of the 13-year-old committing suicide after an online relationship went sour is sad, but I don't think should be prosecuted criminally. If anything, the parents should be held responsible for not protecting their daughter from "boys" online. (I know you can't be in all places at all times, but if you're going to prosecute somebody let's start with the parents.) If you've ever seen "To Catch a Predator" on TV, you know that there are even more dangerous things out there than a woman pretending to be a boy and typing things that break a kid's heart.

You know, that's really another form of bullying... the predators or potential predators making these kids feel "special" so they can take advantage of them.

While I'm at it, it's also bullying when a medical professional asks you things about your home life during a child's checkup. It's bullying when you ask me in the emergency room if I have a "safe home life." I'm bullied into answering this question (and dang, if I didn't have a safe home life I'd be bullied into lying) and others that have *nothing* to do with the medical problem at hand. And HELLO, pregnancy is not a medical problem that needs preventing, so shut up already about birth control. WTH is your problem getting all into my life like that? How about you deliver the baby, do a surgery or advise me about my tonsillitis without getting into that subject? Because it isn't relevant.

Ditto on asking me about my child's bedtime routine during well-child checkups. If I haven't brought up "bedtime is a problem for this child" during my kid's checkup, then mind your own flippin' business! Same thing with potty training and asking my child "how things are going at school." NOT MEDICALLY RELEVANT, PEOPLE!!!! "Medically relevant" means treat the rash or set the broken leg. Don't start chatting with my kid about how many friends he has at school. You make me nervous that you're on a fishing expedition.

Bullying used to be really awful in school, so far as I remember. But can we be honest and say there is NO WAY, no matter how many programs you put into place, to eliminate it? I think especially because the definition the schools use for "bullying" is so off. I remember well enough that Patrick went to school and was constantly whispered about and called "Patrick-ina" (ok, his real name, if you add -ina, becomes the feminine form). He got tired of it, walked right up to the ringleader and said, "I'm not afraid of YOU, fat girl."

Guess who got into trouble? Guess who got labelled as a bully? Oh, and this same child got into major trouble later in the year for drawing Osama bin Laden sitting on a bomb. We need to love our enemies when we disagree with them, you know. Zero tolerance for those feelings of hate.


  1. We have a terrible bullying problem at school. This one person likes to wake kids up in the morning and make them brush their teeth, do school work and chores!...oh, wait. Never mind.

    Seriously though, when I worked in the public schools I saw a lot of the subtle types of bullying you are talking about. It's rather sad.

  2. About doctor bullying, last time I was at my prenatal appt. the doctor looked at me all weird and kept asking me if I "felt safe" at home and if I "was sure". I tried to make it lighthearted and say "my husband is nicer than me ha ha" but that is just creepy.

  3. I don't think bullying is a rite of passage. I hope this is something my kids don't have to go through.

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