Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Child Bullied Out of School Because of His Appearance

I am going to say right up front that I am not a fan of Dr. Drew, but I feel that this story simply must be seen.

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Dr Drew: Is he in new school because of the bullying?
Mother: Yeah
Dr. Drew: He's had to leave his school because of the bullying. Is it as bad at the new school?
Child: very bad
Dr. Drew: Very bad. Oh it makes me sad.  I heard a story where he asked you mom if he's human. Did he really?
Mom: Yeah
Dr Drew: Tell me about that
Mom: He came home from school one day and he asked me if he was a human being and I just said, why are you asking me that. He said because the kids at school, they refer to me as an alien.
Dr. Drew: So that must have cut through you like a knife.
Mom: Yeah it really hurt. It really hurts when you don't know what else to say, like I mean
(mother and son both begin to cry)
Dr. Drew: Oh buddy come here. Move over guys, I have gotta sit next to this gentleman. You slid over. Oh I'll sit in the middle. I'll sit in the middle. Oh goodness gracious, come here dear.  Allison you got mom? Alright I got Josiah. Okay, this has got to be changed. Right?
Mom: Yeah
Dr. Drew: Okay, first of all, hopefully this is a wake up call for everybody at home about bullies. It's not superficial, it's not just kids being kids, it's violence. Okay, and we all have to get involved in putting a stop to this.
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Child: I hate going to school. People talk about me because of my big ears. Kids are mean. They call me big ears, monkey ears, santa claus's little helper, an alien, dumbo the elephant and I can fly because of my ears. They run up behind me and flick my ears. It hurts especially when they pull on it.  All I do all day is just is try to not get bullied or teased.
Mom: He stays in the stall in the restroom when the other kids are in there just until the whole restroom clears out because he doesn't want them to talk about him.
Child: I think that my mom wants to help me control the teasing and the bullying cause she knows that I am going to go through this for forever.  I don't know what to do now. Sometimes I wish that I was not born. 

Watching this video absolutely broke my heart.  I felt for both mother and child, as I have been a bullied child, and a parent to a child that has been bullied. He is clearly such a beautiful child and the pain of not being able to protect him from those who attack him, for something he is not able to control must be hard to deal with. The very fact that he questions his own humanity, tells us that bullying is not just some harmful childhood phase that kids just have to survive through. 

What bothers me the most is that as parents, we are told repeatedly from the schools that they have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, and yet it continues to happen.  As I was watching this video, I could not help but wonder if someday I would be reading a story in the newspaper about this very same boy committing suicide someday, because he could no longer cope with the violence he was forced to negotiate everyday.  Bullying can sometimes end in death for the victim, and at the very least, in many cases it leads to emotional scaring that lasts for life. 

It should be clear by now that despite the assurances that schools give, bullying continues to happen.  We cannot depend on them to protect our children or to make real change.  I firmly believe that the only way that bullying is going to stop, is if parents sit down and speak to their children about the harm that bullying causes.  Children need to know, that bullying is wrong, and if the schools cannot get this message across, then it is up to the parents to do so.

My oldest child has been bullied for being Black and for being fat.  Though he puts on a good face, I know without doubt that his self esteem continues to suffer because of it.  His father and I do our best to give him positive re-enforcement, and to tell him that he is beautiful and smart, but I know without doubt that the cruel words of his fellow students continue to linger. 

I write about bullying because I have experienced it, and I can see first hand through the experiences of my oldest son how much it really and truly hurts.  For many, if bullying does not rise to physical assault, it is not considered an issue, as though the purposeful dehumanization and eradication of self esteem does not constitute violence. This is something that Dr. Drew and I agree on.  Bullying, no matter how it manifests, is violence and must be taken seriously. How many times do we have to see shows like this, or read stories about beautiful children committing suicide for us to take this seriously as a culture? It is my absolute nightmare that my child would make the decision that death is preferable to life because of bullying. 

We culturally continually say that children must be protected because they are vulnerable and yet, we do so little to truly protect them when they need our aid.  Even having a loving parent, who is willing to go to hell and back to protect them is not enough to stop bullying.  This is a social problem and one that is not solvable by the individual families of the child that is being bullied. Giving them the advice that they have to stop showing that they are hurting, so that the bully moves on, or telling them that this will toughen them up, does not help the child or stop the situation.  The only way to really help these children is to talk our kids about why it is wrong to bully, and demand that schools live up to their so-called zero tolerance policy for bullying.  No one should have to live with the kind of violence that bullying entails.

I hope that this precious baby boy can find a safe space to grow and learn.  I hope that his mother is able to hold the schools he has attended accountable for their inaction, and most of all, I hope that he learns that he is a beautiful child, in spite of what his bullies have said and done to him.