I want to take a moment to discuss something that I saw on Facebook recently. Normally I don’t discuss specific items found on social media on the Mixtape, however what I saw disturb me and I want to give parents a heads up in case something happens where you feel compelled to take matters into your own hands. This whole video and post may very well be fake. Nevertheless, there is a teachable moment here. Kids get picked on in school and sometimes kids get bullied; it happens. Contrary to what many politicians say, and make you think, or educators say about this, kids are always going to get picked on. When I grew up, we played the dozens on a regular basis. There was a level of sharpening to it. On one hand, you could call it bullying, but on the other hand, it made us sharper off of our feet and showed us the need to stand up and speak for yourself when “attacked” verbally. Often times the ones doing the picking tend to be the friends of the kid that’s facing the “aggression.” Bullying is something that happens as a result of getting picked one; I do understand that, and the best way of preventing bullying from happening is preventing kids from getting picked on. However, if you think you’re going to stop every child from getting picked on and even bullied to a certain extent, you’re kidding yourself. The job of an educator is to do their best to educate kids on respecting one another. The idea is not to stop bullying when it happens but rather discourage it before it manifested itself. Educators aren’t always as successful and some young people will engage in bullying behavior. Social media unfortunately almost guarantees that kids are going to be picked on and/or bullied both inside and outside of school.
While you have every right to be angry if your kid is getting bullied or picked on by any kid, whether they’re in the same grade or they’re older or younger, you have to use your discretion and commonsense when going about addressing the problem on behalf of your child. As the parent, you are the child’s advocate. Advocacy is strategic, methodical, and under control – even when others think otherwise. What you don’t do is take it upon yourself to approach the offending student who is doing the harm to your child. That is an absolute no-no. There is no circumstance that justifies you doing that. You are not that levelheaded that you can handle that kind of confrontation; a confrontation with a young person who has inflicted some harm to your child. Don’t give yourself that much credit. In this particular video, according to what was posted, a young girl tells her godmother that she’s been bullied or picked on by a young man in her class. On a day when the god mother visited the school for some sort of activity with the students, she took it upon herself to go to the young man and instructed him to leave the goddaughter alone. The video doesn’t have any sound but looking at the body language you can tell that the godmother is “handling business” and the young man listened to what she had to say… what else was he going to do? This is a problem. It’s a problem because the godmother is not the parent of a little girl and she’s confronting a child who is in no shape to defend himself against a grown adult. No teacher would anticipate that conversation was going down in front in the classroom, however if confronted by the young man’s parents, the teacher looks Ill-informed and out of the loop. If I were the young man, I would have gone home and told my parent everything the lady said.
What made this whole incident worse is that someone had the bright idea to post this on social media. Parents and guardians must stop with this self-righteous promotion of their “parenting” skills. Parents will get on social media all the time and post videos of them “disciplining” their children or handling a situation on behalf of their children in the name of proving to their network of friends and family that they are a good parent or that they’re following through on their parental obligations. But the reality is that these parents don’t look or portray themselves in a positive light. While one can sense their concern and care for their children, the exhibition of that concern and care is misguided. In this particular incident, the worst case scenario happened. Apparently the mother of the young man who was spoken to saw the post and commented on the post. Now you have a bigger situation; one that can erupt at the school. Unfortunately, I saw a similar situation erupt at my workplace just this year with two parents who had a physical altercation because one parent felt the need to confront a student over a matter of picking on their child. I say this with all sincerity; I understand the desire to handle things for your children, however there is a way that you go about handling things for your children. You must do things in decency and in order. I understand that it takes a village to raise a child and that other “family” members can advocate for your child. Please note, members of the village that the other child belongs may have a problem with folk in your village approaching their child. The last thing we need is village on village crime. When confronted with a similar situation of your child being picked on or bulled in school, here are some action steps you should take to address it…
- Contact the teacher(s) where the bullying is happening upon hearing that the bullying is taking place. The teacher is the first line of defense. You must make the teacher aware of it so they can be proactive and address it immediately. Also, you want to be sure to give the teacher an opportunity to address it before going above their heads. Failure of a teacher to act can cause serious repercussions for them professionally, so they do want to ensure that your child is safe and has a good academic experience.
- Contact the administrator in charge and informed them of what’s happening. You should contact the teacher first and follow-up with contacting the administrator. If you pick your child up from school, the easiest thing to do is to speak to an administrator and the teacher at the end of the day. If your child takes the school bus then you may want to make a phone call to the teacher or administrator. I suggest you also write a well-crafted email with a read receipt attached detailing what’s been happening with your student and request assurances that the matter will be handled with effectively and expediently.
- After your initial report follow up. Follow up with the teacher, the administrator, and the HIB coordinator. All schools have to have an HIB coordinator. HIB stands for harassment, intimidation and bullying. The HIB coordinator has the task of investigating such matters to see if what’s been happening constitutes harassment, intimidation or bullying. Stay on top of these individuals to ensure that your child is receiving the justice that they deserve and that their academic standing isn’t jeopardized due to fear of being intimidated or bullied by anyone.
- Request a meeting with the parents of the offending student and a restorative conference for your child and the offending student. You want to make sure that this behavior doesn’t happen again. You want to make sure that any bullying stops with your child and that it doesn’t continue with another child. You also want to teach your child and the offending child that this is unacceptable behavior and they are valued member of the school community. Communicate how you feel and what’s been going on with your child to the offender’s parents (with school officials mediating the discussion) and provide an opportunity for your student and the offending student to make peace and restore whatever part of their relationship is broken. This is not about making friends with everybody. It is about making sure that whatever animosity resides is squashed. Even if your child and the offending student don’t talk anymore and are not friends as a result of this entire incident, you’re looking for them to be cordial with one another when confronted by each other for whatever reason and for the bullying to cease.
- DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES POST ANY INFORMATION RELATING TO THE SITUATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I cannot stress that enough. Posting on social media can compromise the integrity and progress being made with regards to the situation. It also makes you look reckless, because even if you post something “positive,” you have potentially started a back-and-forth that could completely ruin the resolution or potential resolution forged by you, the parents of the offending student, and the school. Even if you were to say something nice about the student as a relates to what happened, any parent can plausibly argue that you are violating the confidence of the entire matter and just a mention of what happened can paint their child in a negative light. Your intentions may be well but the best thing for you to do is to keep this information close to the vest and not post it on a public forum for the world to see. Lastly, I am not completely sure of the laws on this, but I am sure that a parent can take some sort of action for you posting a picture of their child on social media without their permission to do so.
You must remember that when your child is in school, everything you do is documented. Every conversation that you have, every move that you make, and every word that you say can and will be used against you for the sake of self-preservation; whether it be by school officials or another parent. You must be wise when dealing with matters of your child’s education and safety. If you’re upset at something that happens to your child, get angry in the privacy of your own home, around no electronics and around no children. Once you’ve cooled off then begin to map out your plan of attack. Your child has years ahead of them within the grade school experience. Now is the time to build up currency and credibility for the moment when you do have to come out of character – because there may come a time. However, every situation is not worth crying wolf and displaying it for the world to see.
Let’s continue to push towards the mark!