Ever been at a point in your life where you're doing so many things, and yet... ?
My son turned 13 last month. I remember it not being such a magic number for me, and it seems so for him, too. He's getting his first official head-shaving within the week for repeated disrespect, inattention to directions and general nastiness. He also got an advanced lesson in aura cleansing and meditation formation, so I'm not 'just' a hair nazi, here. In discussing the length of what will remain of his hair -I thought this was a no-hair-left-behind action, he asked me to 'leave something there so he wouldn't be bullied so harshly'. This led to his admission that a classmate has been calling him a child rapist and asking him if/when/how many rapes he'd committed for the day. He informed me that this behavior has been going on for 'weeks' in the presence of his classmates and teachers.
So, while I've been adjusting to my mother in law living here, and learning more than a few things about her family's structures that will make my life ve-ry interesting for the forseeable ... stressing over religious differences among my house's residents ... celebrating two clients' births and helping them with related issues ... helping other clients with their diagnoses ... and otherwise maintaining proper functioning of a household during the Holy Days season (which is my base job, no?), my son has been processing this atrocity against his soul.
Perpetrated by a child HIS OWN AGE, in their classrooms, daily, in sight and hearing of their teachers, without reproach, correction, or intervention of any kind. My son says "They know. They've heard. They won't do anything. Why repeat it? Nothing will change. It will likely only get worse."
This would be outrageous standing alone in his life. But it resonates with countless incidents already in his memory. He's absolutely right in his assessment. It also shows, clearly, exactly what FCPS means when they tout their Zero Tolerance Policy toward bullying. No past issue has ever been satisfactorily resolved, mainly because the people trying to get things done don't have the authority to do them and get blocked by supervisors who do. The reason for this is statistics on bullying are meticulously collected and reported to higher-ups AND accessible by the public. What doesn't get labeled 'bullying' need not be reported and therefore isn't subject to action. The penalties are stiff, the attention is fierce -or perported to be, anyway. I've never seen it. I don't think I know a parent who has. Certainly no one was suspended or SAFE'd for the incidents I know about. We parents hear a lot about the LACK of bullying in PS classrooms in this system. Anyone with sense knows better.
To this foundation of shameful inadequacy, add the fact that he's in a magnet program where such behavior can get a student expelled from the program. Think of it as a football/cheerleader team mentality applied to academics. Not only do the children have the attitude that no one can touch them, but host schools' hands-off approach reinforce the belief. NOBODY wants offended magnet parents, bad behavioral statistics or bad publicity so you get stolid inaction.
Don't get me started on 'guidance counselors' either. It's sad, because some of them might be passable, or even -dare I exaggerate- good. May one of those 'good' ones pass a child's path when they need them, but to date, in my 35 years' experience with this school system, I've heard tell of ONE helpful GC. Not personal experience, mind you, but he did help my brother out, and I will give him props for that. My son has yet to be so blessed. This is a strong component of why he has said nothing, and is reluctant to see what I do about the situation. He's seen some stuff in his years in this program that would send some parents to their attorney's office. So what's supposed to be a 'first line' of support for bullied children is a farce at the best of times.
So, when I'm finished with this blog, and I've prayed Gratitude to Legba for the right words to approach this issue with a system from which I have no expectation of cooperation, I am left with considering my options.
In the bigger picture, though, I find myself smacked squarely with the reality that my son is as isolationist about his school life as I was about mine, for similar reasons. My son has decided that this kind of harrassment is 'just a part of living with these people.' He says nothing in school to avoid repercussions. He doesn't tell me, because he knows I could Vodun the whole lot of them, and he doesn't know quite where to begin imagining what that would entail. He also knows the rest of what's going on around here, and is thinking he's doing his part to provide some peace.
My son turned 13 last month. I was looking for some sign of recognition of the milestone. Since he didn't display this self-found sense of self-control, perseverance and thick-skinnedness in my presence (hence the hair cut), I didn't know he's grown up in a way I'd have preferred he not have to. I suppose it's a good thing he didn't plough the kid back to 1876, but I'd be almost glorious to be in his principal's office answering for his actions -and addressing their cause. This is why children have parents, yes? It's a proud disappointment I feel that I missed this step in his growth. To be sure, he'd have been grounded for three eternities, but might it have facilitated a resolution better than 'putting up' with continuous harrassment? I will likely never be in the principal's office because he lost his temper and cleaned some nasty-mouthed skrunk's clock for his disgusting words. I can deal with that, really.
But I do NOT want him to suffer in silence and grow up believeing that silence is his only option. Being the 'bigger man' is not always about ignoring an assault. To look at it another way, my son's speaking out may have the effect of getting this bully help before he speaks against someone who caps him outright. The people they live with daily are nowhere as permissive with disrespect as their school system leads them to believe.
For those wondering, I have asked him every year at registration time, whether he wants to continue in this program. His response? "There are stupid people everywhere, Mama. At least I know these stupid people. I'll stay here and finish up in an environment I know." He's right about this, too.
I am grateful to Legba, for bringing this situation to my attention. I am a vigilant listener. I did see that he was having issues, and we have been very diligent in intervening. The magnitude of this particular issue, however, took some prodding to expose. So, if the threat of a hairless pate is what is necessary to get my son talking about what's really going on, so be it. He now has some very useful tools, a soon-to-be-clear Karmic Store, and one truly Angry Black Mama going to wreak Change on a situation.