As a parent of two children who have gone through a bullying episode, I can tell you that the emotional, mental and physical stress can be overwhelming for both children and parents. After all, as a parent your natural instincts tell you loud and clear to protect your children against the forces that cause them pain — whether it's mental, emotional or physical.
In our case, it was verbal abuse by other students toward our two boys, who were 12 and 9 at the time. They were both subjected to name-calling (they were called things like "fatty" and "crybaby") and false accusations by other students. Although not physically harmful, it was causing mental and emotional distress to our children. This was hard enough to prove, as they would have had to carry a recording device to record everything said during the course of the day in order to "catch" the bullies.
Our children had no trouble making friends, but because of the verbal bullying by some students, they found it very difficult to keep friends. This was mainly because their friends were afraid that they would be the next target for these bullies. They also refused to stick up for our children when asked by teachers or the principal if anything that was reported to them was true. The worst part was when the teachers and principal would defend the bullies to us. Pretty soon, they started to just ignore our complaints entirely.
It was then that we decided to ask our local school board to have our children transferred to a different school. This was another battle all together. My daughter was going to attend junior high and we thought this would be the opportune time to have our two boys transferred to different schools at the same time. This, however was not as easy as it seemed. As the school year progressed, so did our battle with the school board. The school year was three quarters over by the time we were finally able to get our boys transferred to their new schools, but they only did it after my husband and I agreed to the conditions that the school board put forth. Because we wanted our two boys transferred, we had no choice but to agree.
The impact that this whole episode has had on our children has left them scarred, but as they say, time heals all wounds. It took a full year for our boys to recover somewhat from this experience. Our youngest boy was emotionally upset and had frequent episodes of crying. Our oldest boy would just shut down and do nothing for his teachers: no writing, no reading, no homework, nothing. Sometimes I resorted to doing his homework for him so he would not get into trouble with his new teachers, but he would do it most times, reluctantly and with help from me.
I thank God for both my boys' new teachers and principals — they had the patience of Job when dealing with our boys. They were understanding and caring, and those two traits got our boys to open up somewhat and start to trust again. (We're still working on that one!)
Since then, the school board has implemented the use of video surveillance cameras in our schools, which has become an even more controversial subject among many parents and students — but this is another topic for another blog!