The issue of bullying at school recently reared its ugly head when a mobile phone video from Australia went viral. In it, a 16-year-old boy body slams a younger boy who has just punched him. More than a million viewers clicked on the various YouTube versions of the video story.
The video shows Casey Heynes intitally taking a passive stance as a younger and smaller boy, Richard Gale, first grabs his shirt and then punches him in the face. Heynes takes repeated jabs passively, but finally picks Gale up and hurls the smaller boy him into the concrete.
In a recent interview, Gale claims Heynes harassed him first off camera. Heynes claims life-long harassment caused him to snap.
Both boys were suspended from their school in western Sydney, Australia in accordance with the school's zero tolerance policy against fighting. (Both sides of the story can be found online at several sites including the Digital Life section of Today.com.)
There have been a variety of reactions: calls for cyber bullying laws to punish people who post similar videos, heated talk radio and television debates over which kid was more wrong or right, and renewed cries to raise anti-bullying awareness in schools. The firestorm ignited from this incident has yet to die down, and many moms are using Circle of Moms to seek advice on how to protect their children from school bullies.
Karen M. started a thread on the Circle of Moms welcome page asking how to get school officials to help harassed kids. She writes, "Does anyone have any advice or success stories on how their school assisted them with a frequent bullying problem? Our school has only been open for just over a year and I was surprised by the amount of parents who had similar stories to mine about their children being bullied and by the staff's lack of interest."
Many moms offered empathy in response, and a few shared some empowering advice on how to engage school officials.
"Talk to the school and keep very detailed notes on each conversation and incident," advises Shelley D.
Charity D. agrees: "Put everything in writing," she posts in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. "I've had to do this in the past with several issues."
She details her protocol: Her first e-mail correspondence regarding bullying issues is sent to the child's teacher only. It contains a request with response within a specific time frame. If she doesn't receive a response by her deadline, she moves up the educational pecking order to contact the vice principal. If she has no luck there, her next stop is the principal, the school psychologist or the school counselor. Each time she uses written communication to document her concerns and her attempts to address her child's situation. Once this paper trail is in place and if she does not receive a response, she does not hesitate to contact school board members via their school district e-mail accounts. If necessary, she calls them at home.
"No, the school board members don't like being called at home, but once they are disturbed, I guarantee the people in charge will take notice," she writes.
Other moms say just being visible at their child's school helps engage education officials when their children are victims of harassment.
"I'm just really pushy with the principal," writes Keeley T. "I call and show up constantly so she has to do something. But that's just my personality."
The mama bear approach also works for Phyllis H., a mom posting on a Moms Of Kids With ADHD bullying thread.
"Make a royal pain of yourself at the school until they listen," shes writes. "Let them know you are serious."
For additional tips on helping children who are bullied at school, visit the National Education Association fact sheet: For Parents: If a Child Complains of Being Bullied.
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