It’s that time of year when some of my younger clients are getting anxious about Back to School. Especially the children who have been traumatized by bullying…
then retraumatized when school officials do not take actions to restore feelings of trust and safety within the victim.
I went to a Discussion Group on July 9 through Howard County Public Schools about their policies and procedures for bullying. In my opinion, the current policies are not restorative and are unjust to victims – and they need to be changed for our children to be safe in school to learn.
During the July 9 discussion group, at my table was a mother whose child was in elementary school. He had been physically assaulted many times by the same child in his classroom. The same bully who had targeted him with physical aggression also made numerous verbal threats to harm the child. The teacher in the classroom showed concern about the child who was aggressive and that the other classmates should try to be patient and understanding of his “emotional issues.” The bully was never suspended or expelled, nor was he required to go to a specialized school for children with emotional or behavioral disturbances. The bully and the bully’s family never had to apologize to the victim or the victim’s parents. Nor was the victim or the victim’s parents advised as to if or what disciplinary action was taken to rectify the problem.
The victim’s family on the other hand went through many inconveniences. Because their child was scared and traumatized, they started the victim in weekly therapy. The child is now moving to a new school to get a fresh start away from the bully; however, the school system would not allow the sibling to move with him… so now the parents of the victim must drive their children to two separate schools. Meanwhile, the bully goes merrily to his same school with no public consequence.
After the mass shootings that happened early in August in Ohio and Texas, the former Secretary of Education went on the news. I heard him say that many public-school systems are so concerned about lawsuits that they have minimized suspending and expelling children with behavioral and emotional problems. There are also not safeguards to report violent behaviors so that children with aggression will receive help until they can return to school in a safe manner.
There is no place for violence in our schools, and if we tolerate physical and mental violence with no public consequence what makes us think that it won’t escalate into worse violence in our society – including mass shootings?
The problem with how our school system is failing to respond to violent behaviors in the classroom is that other children in the classroom are not able to feel physically or emotionally safe in the classroom. Why should taxpayers whose children are behaving properly have to deal with ongoing problems with bullying and an unsafe environment for their child, possibly to the point of even needing to move schools, seeking trauma therapy, and other intervention?
Meanwhile, there is no public consequence to the child who is displaying aggression!
This is so backwards it is difficult to comprehend!
Another problem is that the bully in many cases is publicly harassing the victim in front of the class or on social media. The victim of bullying is publicly shamed.
However, when HCPSS does an investigation the disciplinary action is kept confidential not only from the public, but even from the victim and the victim’s family. How can there be any sense of justice for the victim? I have had many clients who have been in this boat – and I myself have sat in this boat with my own children… and it is a terrible feeling.
I sent an email to the school superintendent on July 9 with numerous suggestions for change and a request to meet with the superintendent. However, I have not received any communication as to what changes (if any) will be implemented as a result of my email. I will be going to a Board of Education Meeting on September 19, 2019 to begin public addressing these mental health concerns in our community.
In the meanwhile, I will be sending out a public survey to get your opinions as to what changes should be made within our Maryland Public Schools when it comes to mental and physical bullying and aggression in our schools.
Bottom Line: Children who are aggressive need mental health help outside of our regular public schools while the children who are in school are emotionally and physically safe to learn!