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My son is 11 years old in the 5th grade. He has been given most of the usual acronyms associated with social difficulties; ADHD, OCD, NVLD-ONS, and AG. "Twice Exceptional" is the euphemistic term for academically-gifted kids with social learning disabilities. We have dealt with problem situations at school since kindergarten. I have been mostly distracted all of this week because my son was written up at school for finally defending himself against bullies who have been tormenting him all year. It had just been verbal up till now, calling him stupid, etc. but on Friday one of them pummeled him with a ball and he hit back. The mom of one of these kids is very involved at school, and her boy is in all the advanced programs. I am now experiencing what it is like to call out a person with power and clout on these issues. I can only imagine what the mother of Romney's victim felt when she heard of the abuse her son endured and the lack of response from the administration. In my case, because of this woman's ability to speak immediately and directly with teachers, the focus has turned from stopping the abuse to "preventing (The Bullies) from having to walk on eggshells" for the rest of the year out of fear of accusations by my son. Confronting and dealing with bullying is a complicated and delicate issue, and even more so when you give power to one of the parents over the other. Perhaps John Lauber's mom never heard about Romney's attack, because her boy had long ago learned it was hopeless to confront these people. I know if she did, her heart was broken for her inability to confront the perpetrators. I imagine like me, she was torn between accepting defeat and pulling her kid out of that school, or staying in and helping her kid stand up for his individuality and dignity. Romney's dismissal of his behavior is a slap in the face to all families that struggle with this issue every day. Those of us that hear over and over that, "Kids tend to exaggerate at this age." and "I can only do something if I see it." and "If they fight back, it is no longer a bully issue, it is a conflict issue." It is hard enough to deal with bullying at face value. It is truly no fun to have to accuse a child of bad behavior when you know your kid has to associate with them going forward, and you as a parent have to face their parents at some point. Try adding  the son of an automobile executive-turned-governor into the mix. Romney's parents never had to fight to be heard, or accuse someone more powerful than they of an injustice to their children. Romney hasn't either. When I read all the personal stories of middle and high school bullying horrors, I am terrified for my boy and hope that I can continue to help him get past these years with his creativity and individuality intact. I wish the Republican nominee for president had used this unfortunate moment in his past as a teachable moment and acknowledged that in retrospect, it was a horrible thing to do. Instead, he contributed to the emotionally damaging and potentially deadly myth of "boys will be boys" and "I was just joking". I can forgive his teen-aged self for what he did. I cannot forgive him now for refusing this acknowledgement.

Originally posted to science geek on Fri May 11, 2012 at 08:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by KOSpectrum.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You are your son's champion (17+ / 0-)

    Please do not be intimidated by other parents who seem to wield more power.  Go up the chain of command at the school.  Start with the teacher, go to the principal, the phycologist and the school board if necessary.  Bullying will stop if the covers are ripped off and it is exposed.  

    Ask specific questions about how they want your son to react if someone bullies him.  When can he defend himself?  What is appropriate consequences for bullying behavior.  Get as many details as possible.

    Then come up with a game plan with your son.  If he is not comfortable with confronting or asking it is your job to do it.  Don't be afraid or intimidated about calling each and every incedent out.  

    Document each incident on a journal or log.  This is crucial.  Without a log it is difficult for people to see the scope of the problem.

    My son has ADD and specific language learning disabilities.  He is now 30 but I can telll you, it was not easy.  Was it worth it, absolutely.  My son is the best mechanic in the area.  He learned to play on his strengths and minimize his weaknesses.  I am so proud of him.

    My Brothers Keeper

    by Reetz on Fri May 11, 2012 at 08:45:46 AM PDT

    •  thank you for the support! (7+ / 0-)

      I have started keeping a journal now thanks to advice from folks like you and I will keep up the fight.

      •  The high school I was in tried to amateur (11+ / 0-)

        diagnose my issues. They made assumptions and altered class schedules for me as well. Part of this was due to a teacher bullying various students in each of his classes. he was an older retired military teacher now teaching ROTC so he was usually seen as beyond reproach.

        My parents (mother mainly) wound up forcing the issue and took me to get an outside evaluation form a center that specialized - not in diagnosing problems - but in evaluating the child.

        The county was required to pay and or contribute to these evaluations - something the county did not publicize or want to admit to.

        My diagnosis? Several variant IQ tests and other psychological evaluations later, they described my primary condition as bored and unchallenged. Some of the teachers were in shock when various IQ tests came back with me in the low 140's on each test.

        Once the teacher's realized I was not lazy, and they had 'forced' support from the administration, they were able to adjust things so that I was being challenged in school. Once I had a challenge academically, the perceived laziness disappeared and they had an A-B student who could do Straight A's with a tad bit of applied effort.

        Keep fighting. Sometimes when I child perceives themselves as different from their peers, it is because they actually are. Knowing that, helping them socialize becomes 1 step easier because you can understand more fully what those differences are.

        -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

        by Vayle on Fri May 11, 2012 at 09:11:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  This is such awesome advice. nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      science geek, DvCM

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Fri May 11, 2012 at 10:28:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was thinking the same thing, (6+ / 0-)

    in regard to romney.

    Just imagine if he had said:

    "I was a jackass when I did that, and have felt ashamed
    and remorseful about this incident for almost 50 years."

    If mitt had handled this in a sincere way, I'd have some
    respect for him.  But no...he blew it yet again.

    I hope things improve for your son;  there are few things
    that hurt more than seeing your child hurt.
    My best to you.

  •  I was 'the new kid' because we moved around a lot. (11+ / 0-)

    Invariably, the bullied individual maintains the status quo by putting up with the bullying behavior and silently dealing with it.

    And too, when we fight back against those who torment us, those who have been bullied are also targeted for breaking the same rules whether or not we are the instigator.

    It's rather difficult to accept that we're going to be punished for defending ourselves. What the people in authority fail to understand is that when they fail to manage the discipline properly in these situations, that they push those defending themselves into situations where action must be taken.

    I've heard the "I'm so disappointed in you speech" a few times because I dared to defend myself. We're supposed to depend on those in authority but we're supposed to suck it up and defined ourselves, but we're supposed to not react at all, so the vicious cycle goes and those who should be doing more to prevent these behaviours get to dispense punishments after the fallouts from these situations.

    The last time I got the "I'm so disappointed with you speech in school, I let those who had failed to prevent the situation know how disappointed I and others were with them. They don't like it when you make it known to them you see them partially at fault for failure to engage. They especially hate it when you discuss it with others and do not keep it to yourself.

    Please don't let institutionalized bullying acceptance based on hierarchy prevent you form doing what you need to do.

    -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

    by Vayle on Fri May 11, 2012 at 08:51:10 AM PDT

  •  Self-defense martial arts (5+ / 0-)

    build confidence and self-esteem, and one painless take-down can also save a young bully from being an adult bully.

    Good on you for this diary.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Fri May 11, 2012 at 09:01:29 AM PDT

  •  If Bullying continues in your son's (7+ / 0-)

    school, the administration is at fault.  If education is on-going, there should be no time or opportunity for the bullying to occur.
    Bullies are abusers.  They pick on the perceived weaker kids because they are cowards and risk averse.  If a stronger person (authority) intervenes, they will back down.  If not, the bullying will become habitual.  Repeat offenders are not born.  The are the result of habit turned into obsession.
    I'd suggest you either get a commitment from the school that bullying will be stopped, or take your son out of the school.
    The administration's failure is not a consequence of your not being sufficiently involved.  Lack of parental involvement is a cop-out by lazy administrators. I put in 17 years as a parent, school volunteer and guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children and I made absolutely no difference. The only thing my children got out of the institutions was how to negotiate recalcitrant systems to get the information they needed.
    Good luck to you.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Fri May 11, 2012 at 09:02:04 AM PDT

    •  Why should her son have to leave??? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      science geek, chimene

      If her son leaves school, the bully wins.  The Bully knows this and will have a great victory in his mind about it as I'm sure Romney did when the kid he tormented left.

      File a restraining order against the Bully.  Have a copy sent to the school and to his mother.  The mother will have to explain to the Bully that he is to stay away from your son or he will literally go to jail.  If your son ends up in a position where he has to retaliate, you can approach the school saying that they have the restraining order on file and failed to act.  That the bully is a menace and subverts authority and should be asked to leave.

  •  Thanks SO MUCH everyone! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wayoutinthestix, jan4insight

    Your empathy and support mean so much to me. The advice and perspectives will be so helpful going forward. I am a rare diary writer and was a bit wary of posting this, but I am so glad that I did! I need to stick my head into some work files for a while, but will be certain to read all of your wonderful comments as soon as I can!

  •  Adding to Reetz's advice... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science geek, chimene, ladybug53

    In California, the state constitution provides for a "safe and peaceful learning environment" for all students. Because of this, if you document your child's experiences and go up the chain of command that Reetz gave you and do not get the situation resolved for your son, the state WILL settle out of court with you because they have not met the requirements. I have that straight from a department of ed employee. I don't think getting a settlement from a cash strapped state is the best thing financially, but I think that it puts pressure on the state to change.

    If you aren't in CA, you might have a look at your state constitution and see if there is a similar provision.

    Also, radKIDS.org is a great organization which added an anti-bully component to their classes last year. In Orange County CA and in parts of Utah radKIDS classes are taught through the school system and the entire teaching staff gets training on zero victimization instead of zero tolerance. It is unreasonable to expect kids to not physically defend themselves. radKIDS are taught specific ways to do that, and trained to run when they can get away. That might be a good way for you to change the climate at your school. If there are already local radKIDS instructors they might be willing to help you with that.

    It is difficult going up against someone who is inappropriately using their power. I'm sorry that you and your son are in this situation. But you can prevail. If it gets too hard you can write about it here and get support. I'm sending hugs for you and your boy.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Fri May 11, 2012 at 10:38:46 AM PDT

  •  My heart goes out to you and your son (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science geek, chimene, ladybug53

    I worked at my kids school for 17 years and I have seen every kind of parent......good....bad....and indifferent.  The ones who are like this mom you speak of, well, they are the worst.  They always want to cast their children in the best light.  And the kids that are bullied by their child, well, they usually blame them.  It's heartbreaking and sickening.

    Your son deserves to be treated like a person who matters.  He deserves love and kindness and respect.  And he should NEVER feel like being bullied is HIS fault.  That is horrifying to me.  To blame the victim.

    I wish you and your son all the best in getting fair treatment at his school.  I wish I could be there to help you.  Hugs.

    The woman with the maroon hair had fallen to her knees and was asking the sky, “What I done wrong, God? Tell me, Lord. I been good.” “You’re kneeling on Rex’s grave!” Ignatius shouted.

    by gracielove on Fri May 11, 2012 at 11:20:41 AM PDT

  •  Gifted and Talented, Learning Disabled. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science geek, chimene, ladybug53

    There.  You've got a label for your son that you can work with.

    Talk to the principal about whether your school district has a GTLD program.  If he or she isn't forthcoming (some of them don't pay attention) contact the school district and find out directly from them.

    Despite the fact that the Americans With Disabilities Act mandates that schools test for learning disabilities, they often pull the silent treatment when parents ask for resources.  Changes are, there are resources available to get your child tested.  Keep asking for them.

    I transferred my GTLD son out of his middle school into one that has a GTLD program.   He was suspended for two days due to an altercation in the gym with another boy.  It is unclear who started what, but my son was a little socially slow (and frankly, he can be an annoying kid at times) and troublemakers were pulling his behavior down.  Essentially, he was verbally harrassed until he physically acted out.  Ironically, the fisticuffs resulted in some temporary "street cred" that kept the bullies at bay for awhile, but he started getting harrassed and pushed around by girls.  

    Despite all this chaos, he made the honor roll during his first quarter.  I immediately contacted the GTLD coordinator for the school system and she had him tested.  We transferred him as the second quarter started.  He continues to make the honor roll and is so much happier and contented in the new school.

    The unfortunate truth is that no one will ever advocate for your son more than you will.  Imagine what it must be like for kids whose parents don't know or care at all.

    Another thing...my second son got everyone's attention when he flat-out refused to take the state standard assessment tests.  I came to the school and reminded them of the thousands of dollars I had spent to get my first son diagnosed for ADD and executive function disorder.  I told them that if the SATs were that important, perhaps they could get the system counselor over to test my youngest.

    Amazingly, heaven and earth were moved that day.  More kids should go on learning strikes.  Just a thought.  Your son has more power than he thinks he does.

    Get him some books to read.  My son really enjoyed Henry Winkler's Hank Zipzer series.

    I have no strong thoughts on Mitt Romney's teenage behavior other than to say that it is our responsibility to evolve and grow as the years go by.  What keeps this story alive is that Mitt did not address it in such a way to convince people that he has moved beyond it.  Forgetting about something implies that you spent absolutely no time learning from it.

    The goal with your son and his bully is to provide them both with the opportunity to grow and improve.  Both boys need that opportunity and I hope they get it.  Good luck to you and your son and Happy Mother's Day!

    •  Wow, you have nailed it! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimene, ladybug53

      How perceptive you are. And the description of your son's experience mirrors mine almost exactly! Sadly, we don't have GTLD programs in our school district. We put him in a charter school that was supposed to be GTLD, but the bullying by the kids and inflexibility of the staff caused us to move. Kids at that school tell his only friend there to this day,"You are almost as bad as he was." His Mom is trying to move now too. You are right about the administrators keeping things from you until you insist on knowing. We do have academically-gifted schools and programs, and we are working on that, but adding the LD makes it more difficult. They will not acknowledge his well-documented LD because despite this issue, he scores over 95% on the End of Grade tests. At one point this year I remember wailing to my husband in frustration, " We should just let him fail, maybe then they would help us." What is really sad is we are in one of the best-rated public schools in the country in one of the best school districts. Like you, I shudder to think of those kids in bad school systems or with parents not able or willing to help them. So much wasted potential.

    •  I like the learning strikes idea! (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe all of us with the kids that the schools rely on to bring up their End of Grade scores should boycott until we get some help with bullying and lack of enrichment for our kids!

  •  We were in the same situation 15 years (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chimene, science geek, ladybug53, marykk

    ago. Our son was also dubbed "twice special." They said he was ADD as well as being gifted. That diagnosis changed when we found a psychiatrist we felt confidence in. He's now considered Asperger's Syndrome, although that just puts him on the autism spectrum. In any case the first diagnosis would have meant that the school would want him taking Ritalin. We've since found that any such stimulants freak him out, for want of a better term. He became frantic the few times we tried such drugs.

    In any case he too lashed out at a kid at school.  That got him put in an anger management group run by the school counselor which only managed to make him more angry! There were 15 school officials at his IEP meeting. It was not comfortable. They even said they'd have an aide watch him on the playground, but I figured the aide would resent it and even if she didn't it was likely that she'd be unable to perceive when bullying was taking place.

    We really didn't want to, but we felt we had no choice but to homeschool our son. It wasn't ideal, especially considering a stint with the local homeschool group. They didn't like the "e" word (evolution) and were just to the right of Attila the Hun, in a Christian sort of way.  

    Sadly, the memories of bullying, even by teachers, has stayed with him. His excellent memory which suits him for learning has also made it impossible for him to forget what happened to him.

    I hope you can find a solution for your son. You may find resources that we did not have. I know how hard it is to feel powerless before those with greater social status. I hope for the best for you and your son.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Fri May 11, 2012 at 08:43:32 PM PDT

    •  I have thought about homeschooling, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lily O Lady, ladybug53, marykk

      but that would mean completely giving up on my career. There are many more great resources these days for homeschooling and it is not as dominated by the "anti-evolution" folks anymore. Asperger's has been brought up for my son, but he is probably a little farther out on the spectrum than that. We have not yet tried ritalin, I am waiting as long as possible before doing that. Thanks for your insight and advice. You are a fantastic advocate for your child! I am glad he is doing so well now and it gives me hope for mine.

      •  I've heard of parents who have worked (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, science geek, marykk

        and homeschooled, but I honestly don't know how they did it. They might have done some sort of shift work so that there was parental supervision at all times. That could very well be out of the question for you.

        Oh, I didn't mention that he got his associate's degree in database management on Thursday (age 23). We sent him to a technical college, but waited probably too long to find someone to teach him math, since I was an English major. If we'd had him take the GED as soon a possible or even tried for a waiver to take the test at an earlier age, he might have had a sense of accomplishment earlier on.

        The tech college was most workable because of his high anxiety level which a more traditional track might have exacerbated, and so that he wouldn't have the additional worry of student debt.

        Good luck with your search for solutions for you son. Have you googled special programs in your area? Public schools are important, but they are community run and if you live in an unenlightened area, they work harder covering their own butts than covering your son's needs, even if they don't see it that way. It's just human nature.

        "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

        by Lily O Lady on Sat May 12, 2012 at 06:34:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Technical college is (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lily O Lady

          a great option, these days in particular. Please don't be hard on yourself for waiting on things like teaching math, etc.  You have obviously done everything you could for your child and he has turned out great!  Thanks for sharing your stories and experiences. It means a lot to me to know that others have walked this path.

  •  Have you discovered (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    science geek

    Wrightslaw?  Great resource, it was a godsend for me.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sat May 12, 2012 at 12:03:00 PM PDT

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