How I Turned My Son’s Bullying Into a Movement for the Greater Good
When did the bullying begin? Shortly after I moved my children to their new school, my son started telling me he was being mistreated by a few boys.
To be quite honest, I was in disbelief.
This wasn’t because he made it a habit of spinning tales, it just seemed to be happening all too soon when we had just moved to this new school. It was within two short weeks that my son started sharing detailed stories of how he was being mistreated that I decided to meet with the Principal. I was given a promise that he would look into it.
That was my first mistake.
- For starters “there is a sequence to whom you speak with first”, if the child’s life isn’t in danger you should start with the teacher.
- I should never have put all my faith into the Principal, instead of taking charge of the situation myself by researching other avenues to nip the bullying in the bud.
- I spent too much time waiting for responses from the Principal. This was one of the things that prolonged the nightmare, you have to organize a timeline of follow-ups (meetings) in succession.
After a series of meetings that fell on deaf ears, I grew tired.
I had gone over the Principal’s head and reached out to the Superintendent. When I didn’t hear from the Superintendent I reached out again, only to find out that the Principal intercepted. He had told the Superintendent that everything was ok and that he was handling it. This was the not the case.
From that point on the Principal came after us.
How they came after us. I volunteered in my children’s school, in this particular situation it was to keep an eye on them. We all know that it is customary that any person that comes into a school should sign in and out. However, that doesn’t always happen.
One of the ways he came after us was that I had to sign in and out each and every time I came into the school. I was the only volunteer that I knew that had to do that (I checked the books).
I needed to keep an eye on my children, so I complied. In a civilized manner I had asked the teacher why he wasn’t there for my son when he needed him. After that point I was not allowed to speak to the teachers which included speaking with my daughters.
My son was told that he had to come up with 500 words sharing his good memories of his time at the school. He told his teacher that he didn’t have any. My son was told if he didn’t come up with the 500 words he wouldn’t be able to partake in the graduation festivities or graduate with the other students. This was one of the ways they came after my son.
It was at the point that I showed up just outside his classroom, only to see him crying. I couldn’t figure out what the teacher could possibly be saying to him to make him turn his head towards the chalkboard and cry. I wish this was where the issues left off. The list goes on and on and on.
At the end of our two years at that school, I had tried everything that I knew to do and tried to stop the bullying. I went as far as the Minister of Education, but we were so alone. I just couldn’t stop it so we left the school.
I was left with a broken child who didn’t trust school administration and lost all respect for them.
I was desperate to help my son! I was pissed off that we were so terribly let down and unsupported. He was just a child, like so many others in these helpless situations. Instead of helping us nip it in the bud, the Principal let his ego get in the way of helping a child and called on other administration to add to our nightmare.
Eureka I had an Epiphany. The epiphany happened when I walked into a camera store. I looked up on the wall and there it was the camera that started it all.
It was clear to me that I was going to do a documentary and that I was going to ask my son to take the journey with me. So I sat him down and asked him to take some time to think about it. I wanted him to know that he wasn’t the only one, and that it wasn’t anything that he had done wrong. I wanted to try and turn a negative into a positive and try and help him through helping others. He decided he wanted to embark on this journey with me. It was after this that I started my company Benchboy Productions.
“Bullying: A Culture of Silence” comes to life. As of July 2005 that leg of our journey began. Three years later “Bullying: A Culture of Silence” came to life. Upon completion, I submitted it to a film festival. “Bullying: A Culture of Silence” garnered a nomination in the category of “Outstanding Canadian documentary” at the ReelWorld Film Festival and can be found in libraries in over 45 cities across North America,11 in the Greater Toronto Area.
As well, I have developed two anti-bullying programs for schools, “The Ripple Effect” and “Bullying: A Culture of Silence”. They are both recognized on the Minister of Education’s Anti-bullying Registry as they meet the rigorous requirements.
Did someone say she was political? On the political side, I have worked with two anti-bullying coalitions, the Progressive Conservative Education Critic and the former Minister of Education, to raise awareness of the need to keep our children that much safer in our schools. While working to meet their goals, I and the two coalitions were invited into the Legislature where Ms. Witmer read the resolution; we all watched on while it was debated, and voted upon. The Ontario Government officially passed this resolution in February 2010.
Internationally speaking. I also speak internationally and was invited to be part of the launch for the Campaign Respect 24/7 in San Mateo, California. While in San Mateo, I was asked to present and screen my documentary in a number of communities, including East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, and Pacific Sharp Park. To take steps even further, I also consult for families when they find their children in a bullying situation. I have always been passionate about sharing useful important information.
This is the abbreviated version of our story. In closing, this is not about principal or administration bashing, but simply my story and experience.
- According to the National Education Association, it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
- Young bullies carry a one-in-four chance of having a criminal record by age 30. (Study by Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann)
- Many experts fear bullying has become so widespread and common; adults are blinded to its extensive harm. *Always investigate claims of bullying.*
I think I have been able to share with you what I learned from my setbacks in respect to this time in my life. Based on the readership of “Women Who Run It,” I have no doubt that you are a group of women that can move mountains