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  • How I Turned My Son’s Bullying Into a Movement for the Greater Good

How I Turned My Son’s Bullying Into a Movement for the Greater Good

My story began 10 years ago when I had decided to move my children to a new school. It was in an area some would measure their success by; a family-oriented neighbourhood where million dollar homes were dead square in the heart of the city, with streets lined with mature trees. That new school brought about excitement for what was yet to come and what we thought would be a positive change.

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

Sunnie McFadden-Curtis

Sunnie McFadden-Curtis is the proud Founder of Benchboy Productions and is called an expert in her own right.After three years of researching for her first documentary to which she directed/produced, “Bullying: A Culture of Silence” came to life, inspired as a result of her child being bullied. “Bullying: A Culture of Silence” garnered a nomination in the category of “Outstanding Canadian Documentary” at the ReelWorld film festival. She then Produced her second documentary, a short called “Cyber-Bullying: Where are we going wrong?” Sunnie went on to develop two programs that she takes into schools - “The Ripple Effect” & “Bullying: A Culture of Silence” - for grades 4-12. With Ms. Witmer, the former Minister of Education, Sunnie has made it so that every calendar year the third week of November is “Bullying awareness and prevention” week in Ontario. Sunnie is part of Respect 24/7, a two year long Campaign in San Mateo, San Francisco. She also speaks internationally on anti-bullying education and shares her personal story. Sunnie consults with families when it is determined that their children are being bullied and don’t know where to turn.Her Mission is to “Hear the children and give them a voice”.Learn more about Sunnie @: http://www.benchboyproductions.com.

Comments (7)

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    While bullying has always been an issue of notoriety, I believe your response regarding your son’s mistreatment was both appropriate and necessary – all children should feel safe in a school environment. Like you, I would not have accepted the principal’s response to the situation and would not be pleased with the obvious lack of action by the authority figures – whose first priority is the welfare of their students.

    While videotaping your son’s experience was unquestionably difficult, it brought to light what the school’s response to bullying was: a case of bullying within itself. By forcing your son to write 500 words on a happy memory that just wasn’t there, and threatening him by saying he wouldn’t be able to partake in his graduation ceremony if he didn’t, it seems the administration was acting in the same manner a bully would: by scaring your son into submission.

    Of course, while most teachers and principals wouldn’t wish bullying on a child, your work on bullying is important as it exposes bullying (and responses to bullying) for what they are. Too often, news articles crop up where it seems that the school seems more concerned with maintaining their reputation as a whole at the expense of the individual person – in this case, your son. I applaud your response to bullying and your son’s courage moving forward!

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      Hi Amada thank you for your kinds words and support.
      Just to clarify “:Bullying: A Culture of Silence,: the documentary I am referring to in this article isn’t about our story. It is geared more towards educating parents, students, educators, administration etc. It is to help educate about the affects that bullying can have on individuals, recourse that one can take if they find themselves in a bullying situation and so on. By the end of our ordeal I had learned so much that we wanted to help others try and nip it in the bud.

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        Ah, my mistake then! All the best to you moving forward!

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    Olivia Mainville


    Thank you Sunnie for sharing your story. It’s a shame that you and your son had to go through all of this, but I am glad that you created something positive from the experience that will benefit others who are or who have gone through similar circumstances. Keep up the good work. You are inspiring many!

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      Taylor Brown


      Isn’t it great to see people speaking out and standing out? That’s what leads to change in the world!

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    Ladies once again thank you for your kind words.
    Having an idea of the readership of “Women Who Run it” I am no different then each of everyone of you.
    If you have taken away at least one thing from reading this article my job for this task is done.
    I ask you to please take what you have learned and pay it forward!

  • Avatar

    Jo-Ann Chizanga


    It’s so sad to think that parents enroll their children into respectable school systems that are suppose to protect them, mold their minds and grow them into intelligent young people, but instead are being let down. Children should feel a sense of security when they are around authority figures, especially teachers and principals, and to think that the innocence of such a young boy was robbed and his well being overlooked, is very sad. I really hope that this movement has spread awareness to other schools and parents so that together they can make an effort to create better and safer school environments. Thank you for sharing your story, Sunnie!

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