Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hot topic: Bullying

An SF K Files visitor has suggested the following topic:

"How about a topic re bullying? Maybe related to weapons in school? Also related to having huge gaps in age and ability in a class due to reshirting? I'd be interested to hear what folks have encountered public and private, all grades even youngest, and what the school, teachers, parents did about it. What worked and didn't work. "

Also be sure to read the Chronicle story, "S.F. school district sued over alleged bullying."


  1. If the girls have "mean girl" syndrome what do the boys have? How does bullying typically manifest for boys?

  2. Picture "Lord of The Flies" and you will grasp all.

  3. Don't know about boys, but my 5th grade daughter was the target of "mean girl/queen bee" syndrome in her class. It broke my heart since some of the girls were friends she knew since k. As far as i can tell, the addition of some new girls in the classroom last year created a lot of churn in the relationship equilibrium of the class.

    I discussed with her teacher and then documented as best I could and shared with site counselor and student liaison. They were on top of it pronto and worked with the clasroom girls, and for those doing the targeting, spoke with their families. As a result, the bullying ended pronto. I was relieved and although there's some awkwardness with families of the girls that did the targeting, I am grateful that my daughter had the opportunity to learn about what friendship is, who her friends are, and hopefully about herself.

    Earlier this year, her school had convened a "SCAT" (school action climate team) consisting of faculty and support staff to address school climate issues and develop a systematic and effective approach to dealing with diverse but related issues, including bullying. Also a very caring second grade teacher will periodically host "lunch bunches" in his class, convening small groups of kids who may be having social conflict and can benefit from a fun social setting to deflate the situation.

    The whole "mean girl" culture is so insidious and passive/ aggressive malicious. It makes me sad that this seems so nascent to girls and that we have to work so hard sometimes to teach them to support each other.

  4. There was a classic "mean girl" in my daughter's public school third grade -- signature line: "Who said you could play?" She even said this to my daughter in my presence.

    I'm friendly with her parents. They were troubled that she was having social problems but were in total denial about the issue -- in fact, they believed it was racism. The girl is mixed-race (middle class), and I swear the kids were completely oblivious to that. Anyway, the parents moved her to private school, and friends with kids at the new school said she became the mean girl there.

    "Lord of the Flies" would be extreme, but in general boy bullying uses physical intimidation and girl bullying uses verbal cuts.

  5. so what's the best way to help your child deal with it, if for instance the school isn't as involved and on top of things in terms of dealing with the mean girl stuff?

  6. civil rights lawsuit

  7. To 4:42 -

    I've been thinking about your post, and I don't quite know how to handle encounters like this. Did you respond to the girl who said that to your daughter? What is the appropriate response? My gut response would be to chime in with , "I DID!"

  8. I would have responded right away:

    It isn't up to YOU to say, is it? She doesn't need YOUR permission, your highness.

    And then I would have gone to the principal and teacher immediately and reported it.

  9. I intervened and told her she couldn't exclude, but didn't push it further. I probably should have, but it was a seat-of-the-pants reaction. Also, I already knew from the mean girl's mom that she was having problems, obviously as a backlash against her meanness, and that made me (overly?) reticent.

  10. I would give her teacher and the principal a heads up. Mean Girl bullying often goes undetected since its passive. Point out how these things can spiral out of control quickly if its not nipped in the bud. Provide suggestions. How about staff discussing what bullying is, how to recognize it, and provide clear cut steps for students to take. I've found that girls sometimes don't recognize Mean Girl activity as "bullying", including the girls doing the bullying.

  11. Has anyone ever been talked to about their child bullying? How did you handle it? Did your child change ways? I just wonder if these things are truly cleared up or if they just go deeper underground.

    Who feels like their kid would say if they are being bullied?

  12. We are actually having an issue now, but with a boy at my son's school (they are in kindergarten). Of 4 friends, this one boy calls the shots and has twice now told my son he can't eat lunch with them. My son is sad and hurt and doesn't really understand that kind of behavior. We've discussed it, and he's been told to tell the other boy to mind his own business, my son can eat where he wants, etc. but I wonder if I am handling it the right way. I feel conflicted - want to tell his mom, but also want my son to stand up for himself with this boy.

    Any advice? I thought this was more of a "girls" thing.

  13. 5:43

    No, it's not just a girl thing

    in first grade, one boy kept telling my son that my husband and I were DEAD, and wouldn't be picking him up after school. It really freaked my son out.

    Don't make a Kindergartner handle that sort of thing on his own. Tell the teacher, tell the principal. They should put a stop to it, have a talk about bullying to the whole class, without bringing the name of your son into it or using what happened to him as an example. And the teacher should speak to the boy who is being the bully and not mention your son's name but say she has heard that he is saying things like that to kids and that he has to stop doing that.... would he like it someone did that to HIM? etc.

  14. "one boy kept telling my son that my husband and I were DEAD, and wouldn't be picking him up after school"

    Whoa. That's one seriously disturbed child. That level of sadism is scary, for a 1st grader.

  15. It could be that the boy had a real life situation like that - that is, someone he knows parent/guardian died and did not come pick the child up.

    Its sad but some kids are exposed to this type of trauma.

    Alternatively, it could be that his parents/guardians use that line of speech to scare him (get him to comply).


  16. We had a bullying situation in my child's school and told the principal who took immediate action with the instigators and their families. My own kid can be a follower and copy saying the mean things. It seemed contagious in the classroom with more kids being mean and more kids feeling victimized or isolated. It seems a bit like they are trying it out, seeing what the response might be but don't necessarily know how harmful it is. What can help at home to reinforce that mean talk, the mean girl thing, is not okay? Suggestions?

  17. I don't know of any specifics for at home, save for talking to your daughter about "passive bullying" and pointing out to her that by either not calling out the bullying, by joining in, and or remaining silent and turning a blind eye, she is passively supporting the bullying.

    One thing that seemed to really work work at school, is that a team of staff and teachers "acted out" different bullying scenarios skit-style during small group assembly to catalyze discussion about bullying (have you ever seen this happen? have you experienced being bullied? is it right? what's wrong about it? what can you do?)

    also, there's a book specific to girl world bullying by Rosalind Wiseman called "Queen Bees & Wannabes", best known as inspiring the movie "Mean Girls." It breaks down the social hierarchy of girl social relationships with tips on how to help your daughter, whether she be the victim of bullying or the class bully.

  18. Schools are busy with all types of priorities. Although bullying is founded upon by any administrator or teacher, few schools have implemented strong programs to fight bullying. As parents, we can be strategic in spearheading such efforts and making a huge difference.

    When our school created a diversity committee it was a surprising mix of families including gay, Muslim, Jewish and others. Each was concerned that their child might be made fun of because of their family structure, religion or disability.

    What came out has been a “united nations” of concerned families, working with staff to create a safe school environment.