All’s well . . . although I can’t be sure it will end well. For now, all’s well. Small gratitudes are gratitudes all the same.
It has been a week since I heard from “downtown” — the school’s district’s office that is running the music experience in July. I wrote an email to the woman I spoke to last week:
We spoke on the 13th about finding support for my daughter, J, so that she can participate in the summer music experience. I wanted to check in with you to find out how that is coming along. If you have difficulty finding an aide for her, I should be able to come up with a short list of people who would be interested in doing it.
Thanks for your help,
The response came quickly, about a half hour later:
Thank you for checking in on this. I am working with our Human Resources Department to secure an SEA; they’ll use the list of applicants for summer school. I sent an email this morning checking on the status and will let you know as soon as I can when we’ve secured an SEA for Julia.
Thanks very much, b
Later, I wrote back with the name of the person who has been her strings aide all year. We — myself and the SEA — would love to have her spend the music experience with Julia but I don’t really expect that the PTB will take my suggestion. Still, it is worth a try. I am just so relieved that I didn’t have to put on battle gear. I will send our communication notebook and ask whoever the SEA is to let me know how the class goes. I would not be surprised if there are still some lumps along the road but the big barrier to Julia’s attendance has been removed.
Relief floods in.
Just before I picked Julia up from school, I talked to her principal. He had called as I was headed to school and I was thankful that he initiated the calling. On Friday, I sent him an email about the bullying and he responded during the weekend that he would explore the issues.
He talked to all the kids who were involved in some way. Julia and her supporters told the same story, as did the fourth graders who were bully followers. The perpetrator did not deny any of the behavior and did not come up with a good reason for it. He is not a powerful or popular kid and Julia is not his only target. It sounded like some of his targets are bigger than he is and the principal pointed out to this boy that it was really not in his best interest to push around bigger and stronger kids. (One of my concerns is that Julia, for all her training to “walk away” or “report to an adult” may one day find the end of her rope and deck the bully. She is fully capable of doing that. We cannot forget that she used to fight for food and win.) The boy was told he did something wrong and that his parents were called. At that point, the boy broke down and cried although I expect it was from the anticipation of parental correction and not from the realization of his wrongdoing. The hope is that if his behavior changes the younger boys following him will back off. I know that I wrote that I wanted to punch him out, I really don’t want to bring him down in any way. Rather, I want to get him to stop doing what he is doing. He was also told that if news of continued bullying trickled down to the principal again, that being removed from the bus and suspension were apt descriptions of consequences.
I hope that this solves our bus bully problems for the semester. I am however, stymied as to the reason this boy does what he does. I know, I know the reasons in text-book phycology language but to see it played out is bewildering to me. I was either raised right or raised much too timid but the urge to exert power over those with vulnerabilities never existed in me. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I did attack one neighborhood boy when I was in fourth or fifth grade.
Tommy Sopko lived three doors down from our family and he was one of a bunch of brothers. He was in my class at St. Thomas the Apostle elementary school and had terrorized me since my arrival there in third grade. I don’t know if I had been told or it was instinctual but I knew that my stutter made me a prime target for what we called ‘teasing’ of any kind. I got out of Tommy’s way, said nothing, never reported it, cried a few times at home and was told or ignore the ‘teasing.’ Tommy was a bully, to be sure.
One very rainy morning, I was walking to school with my brother who was 2 years behind me in school, when Tommy fell in behind us and started his socially acceptable banter, except this time he started making fun of my brother — over what, I don’t remember. My brother, for any of his little brother faults, had no obvious target pinned on his back. I distinctly remember being in a irritable mood — rain, sharing an umbrella, heavy book bag and who know what little brother complaints. Tommy was on our heels, under the back of our umbrella, taunting, teasing, bullying, first me and then my brother. At that moment, I had enough and I had a weapon. I turned on him and started hitting him with the umbrella. I remember his stunned face! And then his running from us. I do also remember the powerful feelings coursing through me.
One of his parents came over to our house that evening, complaining about my behavior. I suspect that I must have left some mark with my umbrella. I can’t imagine that he would have told his parents of being beat up by a girl otherwise. I was asked why I beat up Tommy on the way to school and I think I stuttered out my reasons. I have no idea what was said, but I did not apologize (timid but stubborn), I was not punished after they left and was not told to keep my umbrella to myself.
What I felt then was a self-righteous victory over an oppressor, but it was a feeling of power. I wonder how it compares with our bully’s feeling. Could telling Julia that she is stupid feel as good as beating up Tommy Sopko with an umbrella?