Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hot topic: Coping with a tough school yard

This from a reader:
My son is a Kindergardener at a public school that is challenged with a low income population and a large student body. The play yard is rough at times. He was held down and punch by another Kinder student. He ended up with a bloody lip. When he reported it, it went nowhere. When I followed up with the office, it went nowhere. I have written to the Assistant Superintendant of the district and heard nothing. Do any of your readers have any suggestions on how to cope with a tough school ground?


  1. This is horrible. In kindergarten? I am so sorry for you and your child to have gone through this. Do you think it is just the school? Perhaps you can request a transfer. I was under the impression that most kindergartners have a separate recess but regardless, even if child was older, still horrible. I would write a letter to the superintendent of schools and then follow up with calls. This sort of thing is why I pray we get into a private school.

  2. If the principal is truly doing nothing about this, that sucks! My advice would be to demand a meeting with the principal and the parents and also include the kids. It's important to address bullying right away before the victim/bully roles become set. If it goes nowhere, keep calling and writing the principal and the superintendent.

  3. I have to ask what school

  4. I am very sorry to hear about your family's experience. Our son is still in preschool but from the time he was a young toddler a family friend (only three months older) bullied him whenever they were together. It was difficult but I realized that I had to advocate for my son if I wanted him to trust me enough to come to me with problems/issues later on in life. We pretty much cut off all contact with the family, after our attempts to limit visits and supervise them better didn't actually improve things for our son. It sounds as if you are committed to advocating for your son and I just want to encourage you to continue doing so. If you do not get a satisfactory response from SFUSD I suggest that you contact one of the television stations. Unfortunately, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. You and your son deserve better than this. It's funny because I want our son to go to public school but my husband is adamantly opposed to the idea on the grounds that "they just aren't accountable." Unfortunately, when I hear stories like this I have to agree with his point of view.

  5. I think in some school bullying is being more directly addressed. We're receiving information (via email) from the nurse about how to address bullying. There hasn't been any incident, I think it's just a proactive effort to be educated, to know how to talk about bullying to one's kid(s) and how to move forward within the school context. We're at McKinley - with kids in K

  6. This incident is not typical for San Francisco public schools. Bullying is not tolerated in my school, and there are consequences for acts of violence. We might not be getting the full story here: perhaps there were consequences / reparations / counseling for all parties, or something, but the parents of the child still have reason to fear their child will be hurt again. It should be possible for the parents to get answers at the District Office level.

  7. To think that only a public school has this type of instances is blind. I would much rather have my child come home with a bloody lip than the mental scars of non violent bullying. "your daddy doesn't love you that's why you don't have DC shoes".

    I agree with the others that you must take up this fight until you feel your child is safe.

    I disagree that it's a public school thing.

  8. 9:13 p.m. I am sorry...the nurse? How about the principal...what a bad reflection on him/her for passing this off to someone not even with the appropriate instruction or in the field of education children.

  9. 9:14 p.m., fact or rumor. In public school there is a lot of focus over what you wear and your shoes. Many privates, require a uniform ...debunking your erroneous theory.

  10. Oh goodness, here we go. The public is as good chip on the shoulder arguments. Please let this one go, the parent has a real issue.
    If it were my child I wouldn't put up with it. Honestly, it's hard to believe the principal let it go but if true then you have to go to the wall on this one. I'd start with the other child's parents. Talk to them about the incident and get some reassurances and concrete action. I'd also talk to the other childs teachers and have a sit down with the principal. If the response is negative or the principal would not agree to act, I'd escalate it. To be frank, I'd inform the school and the board that I was going to take legal action. Then, if a solution was still not reached, regardless of the cost I would follow through with it. I am so sorry about what happened. At that age though, you are the only advocate for your child and he is depending on you. I hope you come up with a solution.

  11. Please ignore 9:14 on this thread. It's a serious thread and the poster is attempting to make untrue wisecrack swipes at private schools. It's pathetic.
    At our school, yes it's a private, there was an incident a year ago of a second grader bullying a K student. At one point he pushed a little guy into a table at lunchtime. It was witnessed and reported to the parent. Both sets of parents were required to come in. For a two month period a weekly report was filed by teachers on the situation and counselors met with the bully once a week to discuss it. It was made clear that further episodes would be met with suspension then expulsion. As far as I know, there has been no repeat offense. It seemed like a pretty good solution.

  12. A terrible thing to happen. Maybe empowering your son would help as well as escalating to the Super/Principle. There must be some adult on the yard that is responsible. Drop by during recess and observe what is going on in the yard, talk to the people on the yard and see if they can help.

    BTW I'm amazed that two kindergartners could coordinate an assault against another. I hope it was just a freaky occurrence and not the norm.

  13. What I fear is this goes to the lack of funding in schools to have adequate supervision during lunch and recess. Very sad. I hope your child is okay and I would try to reach out to anyone who will listen, perhaps send Rachel Norton a message, she seems to be a response member of the school board and her website shows up on google with contact info.

  14. My brothers were bullied in elementary school. When it would occur, my mother would go to the school and refuse to leave until the principal met with her.

    It is the principal's responsibility to deal with this. If they don't, you make them deal with it.

  15. I would urge you to write a letter to the principal and teachers threatening legal action if this issue is not addressed. I would also send a copy to the superintendent's office and let them know you will be contacting the media. Do you have a picture of your son's cut lip? I too would like to know which school we're talking about.

  16. You can also call SFUSD's Office of Family Voice and they will help you get resolution from the principal. It's at 415-241-6150.

  17. Our school (private) had to expel a kindergarten girl a couple of years ago because she was hitting other kids and efforts to work with the child and the family were not successful.

    On the SFUSD web site you can see that there are rare public school expulsions at the elementary level, though it's difficult to discern the causes. Good luck with this, and if it's not resolved at the school level, you may be able to go through the district to get a transfer to another better-resourced school with more supervision. Several years back, friends had their older child touched inappropriately by a teacher. In exchange for an agreement not to sue the district, the parents got their choice of any schools in the district K-12 for both kids.

  18. Insulting that you equate Low income with violence and misbehavior.

    This is subtext for "a black kid hit my kid"

  19. Uh, I just said that at a private school, a girl was expelled for hitting kids. How exactly is that code for "a poor black kid hit my kid"?

  20. What's so insulting about that? It's the truth. Perhaps you did not grow up low-income but I did. There was always a set of kids (both boys AND girls) who resolved their problems with physical violence. Did you see the video showing the group of girls who beat up another girl at at Seattle bus depot? Few who grow up low-income was surprised by this video. I have experienced mobility (thanks to college) and live in an upper middle class neighborhood (not in SF) where I have NOT witnessed any such behavior at my child's elementary school. Other problems? Yes. Physical violence? NO.

  21. Confession of a Kinder Bully mom:

    My son had issues hitting/kicking his classmates. We started working with our son, moved on to the principle, then the teacher, then the yard minders (usually teachers).

    In the end my son was labeled a bully. If he looks at another kinder the wrong way, they run off and tell on him. Most of his incidences of 'hitting' was when the boys were playing a game and he took it a little too far. He didn't understand his own strength.

    Anothre incident was a classmate asked him to defend her from her older brother (who gave my son a black eye).
    Personally, I don't think he's a bully and I'm a little upset with the way the school handled it. We worked with him, we have him attending social skills classes and in reality he DOESN'T need this. But its like the dog that bites a child, once labeled you have to try to address it.

    My advice to the other parent: (as previsously stated) Advocate for your child. Don't stop with no reply. Call, email, show up, repeat, until you get some response that this is being addressed. I would hope that it is and you're just not aware. I can't believe that any school administrator (public or private) would tolerate violence on the playground.

    There is so much violence on TV.. I'm talking about comercials during baseball games. That its impossible to shield our children from it, the children need to learn their own limits and adjust their behavior.

    I would not recommend that anyone run around labeling children and blaming anyone unless you're labeling your own child and blaming yourself.

  22. Please, low-income is not a code word for black. There are many low-income kids in SF that are of many different backgrounds. The poster also noted that the school is large is that a code word for something?

  23. before people put the gloves on:
    9:50 was resonding to the OP who says this happened to her kinder due to the schools challenges of low income population and large student body.

    Can we just help this parent deal with the situation at hand and not judge their assesment of situation that they may or may not have all the facts.

    (I'm the confessions of a kinder bully and I forgot to add my son goes to a private school with a total student body of 70 children preK-8)

  24. The only way to cope with a rough school ground is to have adult supervision. Does anyone have experience with organizing parent volunteers to supervise during recess, and could they offer suggestions?

  25. I am the poster and I want to thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions. I do not equate our school's low income with race. Race was not a factor, aggression was. I did not say what race we are. Please don't read into this.
    I do see the economics of our school as a factor since there are fewer adults on the play yard than necessary and parent involvement is rather low. Our PTA is smaller than a wealthier school and our ability to respond to the staffs need for support is diminished. I also feel that for some reason, no one at our school seems to be following through with the zero tolerance policy of SFUSD.
    Thank you again for your suggestions.

  26. If there is a PTA at the school, they might be able to help organize volunteers to supervise on the playground. It's would be a way for parents who don't have much money to contribute.

  27. Sorry, I posted at 10:50 and your comment came in while I was writing. It sounds like the PTA may not be able to do much, but perhaps they have a contact list and could try to reach out to parents and ask them to volunteer for this? Playground supervision is a way for parents who don't have money to contribute . . . but I expect it depends on the parents' resources.

  28. I would also contact the Principal and the Supervisor. Let them know that you intend to handle this the same way you would an assault charge with the police if this happens again. I strongly agree with taking digital pictures with close ups and date and time stamps. I would also try to use the contact list and talk to the parents of the "bully." Use a calm voice but let them know the steps above you plan to take if another incident arises.
    I am also a McKinley parent and one of the reasons we choose it was the segregated play area for K and first graders. My husband and I were also bullied and will take legal action if necessary if this ever happens with our kids.

  29. To the original poster: keep on advocating for your child, and don't give it up, as the others have said. If you can (I know it is not always possible to be this parent due to work, etc.), try to organize a yard brigade for lunch.

    To the general commentariat: I've been in public and private schools myself. I know of physical violence that occurred at private schools (this was in the 70's) but it was rarely in the open, perhaps because the kids knew it was not part of an open culture that would be tolerated. I certainly saw more physical violence at public school (again back in the 70's), in a largely white, working class schoolyard, where I suspect it was more tolerated--I cannot recall any zero tolerance policies or anti-bully classes back then.

    What I remember mostly is that the emotional abuse was greater at the private school, the kind the adults didn't know about so it was easy to get away with, but the ostracization was extreme. Parties where all but one child would be invited. Days in which all the girls would wear a certain color except for the one child who was left out. And on and on. I know all this because I was the ostracized child, a scholarship kid from the aforementioned working class neighborhood.

    I guess my point is that the forms of child-on-child abuse probably do differ somewhat due to cultural norms that do have a basis in class and other factors. I would say though that SF is so diverse that maybe those differences are harder to parse than they were where I grew up, where it was mostly white kids, but working class versus country club kids.

    But most of all I want to say that anyone who thinks that bullying doesn't happen with all classes and backgrounds of kids, no matter how privileged, is truly and deeply wrong. I know of a series of (emotional) bullying incidents that happened last year at a well-regarded private school here in town. It happens *everywhere.* And the emotional stuff can be worse because the parents and teachers don't always see it. But when they do learn of it, they need to take action. And have anti-bullying programs in place to start with (Tribes, etc.).

    Finally, to the mom whose kid was labeled as a bully--you have my sympathy. Most kids who act out have their own problems, and some of them are actually being teased and ostracized before the hitting starts. Part of "taking action" in bullying situations needs to be finding compassion for all the children involved and helping the children find a way out....it can be tough. All of us who are justifiably upset when our children are bullied may find ourselves on the other side someday (sweet girl becomes mean girl in middle school, etc.).

  30. I am surprised more people aren't recommending going directly to your child's teacher. I don't know if the child who hit yours is in the same class, but your teacher may have the best (closest) perspective on what is happening, could talk to the other child's teacher, etc. - especially at such a large school, where the principal may not know all of the kids.

    We are also at a public school - a large one, with a diverse student body including a large cohort of low income kids - where no physical bullying is tolerated. (Emotional bullying is addressed, but obviously it's easier for it to slip under the radar.) I know a parent who was upset last year and felt her kindergartener was being bullied (by another kindergartener, we have separate recesses). She spoke with the principal and it turned out that the problems were not so much bullying but (a) general rough play among a group of boys and (b) a particular child not understanding the limits of horsing around and taking it too far. The school dealt with the situation promptly and the child who was complaining of being bullied is doing fine now as far as I know.

  31. School yards can be difficult environments for a small number of adults to control. One solution my kids' former elementary school found was to have a volunteer coach from Sports4Kids help create and supervise a better atmosphere during recess. Sports4Kids is a nonprofit headquartered in the East Bay that provides services to low income schools (which nearly all SF public schools are). I think Sports4Kids may actually have a new name, but it should be pretty easy to find through Google. They have received quite a bit of press, even nationally, I believe.

  32. What 11:40 said: go to the teacher as well as the principal. Getting to the parents may help, although from what you describe this is systemic. More structured play at recess can help, if you can organize it or convince others (teachers, volunteer parents) to organize it. Teaching to resolve conflicts by e.g. playing rock, paper, scissors can also reduce fights.

    Also, enroll your kid in martial arts if they're not already. It'll give them confidence in their physical ability, which may deter the bullies.

  33. One thing to be cautious of is not getting the whole story from your kid. My kid, who is very physical, at the beginning of the school year told me "XYZ kicked me". At first, I thought XYZ was bullying him.

    But then I realized (during a school event) that him and XYZ roughhoused. A lot. And my kid was *initiating* the roughhousing.

    Boys do have trouble with limits of roughhousing at this age.

    But also, boys can be very cruel to each other. If it goes on, don't just look for addressing it within the system but also give your kid some pointers on how to take care of himself. Doing martial arts may work, like I suggested above: I was bullied at school, and would have been bullied much less if I'd learned how to throw a punch.

    More playdates outside of school with other kids may help your kid get other kids to stand up for him. Shyer kids with fewer friends are much more susceptible to being bullied.

    In some school playgrounds, there's a real taboo on getting a teacher involved, so your son may have to look to himself and his peers for defense.

  34. "This sort of thing is why I pray we get into a private school."

    You're dreaming if you don't think it goes on the in the privates. Hamlin's infamous for its alpha-girl culture.

  35. 1:31 p.m. I have never heard of a single incident of physical harm at Hamlin - 2 kids holding down another and punching him in the face or the knife slashing incident over at Marina School. And to top it off in this instance, the school and the assistant superintendent have been completely non-responsive If you got specfics, let us know.

  36. Are you saying Hamlin ignores playground fistfights? I bet the school would beg to differ. And no I'm not a Hamlin staffer. I've never been at the school or even met a Hamlin student.

  37. We are all so unsure if we are making the right choice: For the publics: did I sell my child out and put her in an unsafe and less educationally rich setting because I couldn't or didn't want to afford the cost of private? For the privates: does it really make sense to compromise our family time and lifestyle to come up with all the $ this is going to cost, and is the outcome really going to be any different than if they went public? [I struggled with this and chose public. Most, but not all, days I think I made the right choice]. None of us really don't know, so we are alternately confused, over-sensitive and aggresive. It comes out in all sorts of ways, including here where a concerned mom is just asking for some advice over a tough situation.

  38. This is FALSE: "the knife slashing incident over at Marina School." A Marina Middle School student was slashed on a Muni bus ON MISSION STREET, outside school time and across the city from Marina Middle School.

    By that token, the Bay School is responsible for the girl (a student there) who was nearly killed by the maniac in Creighton's Bakery on a Saturday.

  39. Regarding bullies and victims, here is an observation. Volunteering in my child's 2nd grade classroom, which had a couple of disruptive boys in it, I started noticing that there were three other boys who were drawn to the disruptions when they started. If those three boys were in the company of non-disruptive kids, they were fine, but when a disruption started, they were right there. Other boys, including my son -- and the girls -- would keep themselves at a safe distance from the disruption.

    Then our school had a meeting about bullying. I was surprised when the parents of all three of those boys -- the boys who didn't start the disruptions but were attracted to them -- came to speak strongly about how their kids were getting bullied, including real hitting, in the schoolyard. It was really hard not to say "well, it's their own damn fault" -- but you can't exactly blame a 7-year-old for not having the judgment to avoid troublesome, threatening kids. (Not just "avoid" but "not make a point of putting himself in the way of" troublesome kids.)

    Still, it was an eye-opener. I'm not sure how the parent of one of those kids (the three bullied ones) should respond -- if the kid is truly fascinated by and drawn to trouble, is telling him to stay away going to work?

  40. People are way, way too litigious (and I'm a lawyer!!) when they are threatening to sue over bullying elementary school kids.

  41. Supervision is pretty lax at most schools that are public - burbs included. I'm only jealous of my friends in Piedmont - they have a teacher, an aide and a parent volunteer on hand for 24~ish kids at recess.

    But I digress. I would definitely raise holy hell with the school. But also think about teaching your kid to defend themselves. I have one child who is a total pacifist by nature (she gets "bullied" by her toddler brother). Before school started I enrolled her in martial arts (Paresh Martial Arts on Irving at 6th to be specific). She needed to learn how to defend herself - whether it's for the schoolyard or out and about or at home. It's made a world of difference. I can't really even describe what a change has occured within her. She's still a pacifist, but she's got a world of confidence in her own abilities to protect herself. Some kids need that. Bullies usually seek out the kids they think won't fight back. It took me several painful years to learn that lesson as a kid.

  42. This type of behavior on the playground is the reason that we switched to private in the second grade. I know that not all public schools have this problem, but we felt that we would be better listened to and worked with at a private school.

  43. This is 11:23 again. I didn't write the comment about Hamlin and I have no personal information about Hamlin, but my guess is that the reference to alpha-girl culture refers more to emotional than physical bullying. As one who went to a working-class public school and an upper-class country day school, I can say that it was my experience that there was more physical stuff at the former, but then it would blow over, and a lot more emotional stuff at the latter that went on and on. I also know of physical bullying that has happened at private schools--especially boys' schools, and most especially boarding schools. Think hazing. My brother attended a boarding school in NH and I have heard chilling stories from him.

    I also know, direct from the mouths of a bullied child and her mother, of a harrowing story of emotional bullying at a local private school (not Hamlin) about one year ago. Yes, one of the schools that is well-regarded here. A day school. It was a situation that went on and on and the attacks were quite sophisticated (and electronic, that being the age we live in). It is actually not clear how much one teacher may have known about some of it, but it was dealt with by higher-ups when discovered--however it took a long time for that to happen. This girl is actually planning to attend public high school next year due to this experience, because, as she told me, she figures she has had enough of 23 kids in a class and wants a place where she can find her niche in a much larger crowd. There was nowhere for her to turn when it was happening. That was also my experience way back when.

    I am not trying to apologize for the lack of response to the original poster's incident--not at all. I just think it is naive to think that bullying does not happen above a certain income level.

    I also think it is too broad to say that "publics" are better at this or "privates" are better at that. There are publics in this town that handle this issue very well. There are also some private schools that don't deal well with bullying at all. That said--if they want to deal with it, I do agree that they probably have the resources to do so. But don't assume! If this issue is important to you, ask around to see if how your preferred school (public or private or parochial) deals with it.

    The generalizations about public and private around here drive me crazy! There are more differences among them than that. It does prospective parents a disservice to speak in such generalizations.

  44. The original post is far too vague:

    What exactly does "it went nowhere" mean? Did the school refuse to acknowledge that the incident even took place, or are they unable to figure out exactly which child is to blame? Or was there perhaps some kind of consequence for the child who attacked, but the parent of the victim thinks the consequence wasn't enough of a deterrent to prevent future incisdents? Does the poster mean that s/he requested anti-bullying curriculum and/or counseling, and the school said it wasn't necessary?

    As for those of you recommending that the poster get all lawyered up, that seems premature. Let's find out what happened, first.

  45. 11:23/5:20, what great comments -- so reasonable and empathetic with all sides.

    At the publics I toured, I saw big variations in the level of supervision. Some places had 3 parents/aides and a teacher out for recess. Some had one harassed-looking teacher and a yard full of kids. Many had Sports4Kids and/or an anti-bullying program.

    I was the scholarship kid at a fancy private school, too. I will never forget the time I was beckoned over to the popular table in the dining hall. Like an excited puppy, I foolishly trotted over and put my tray down. At which point the entire tableful of kids got up and walked away. I remember sitting there trying not to cry and choking down my food, pretending not to care, and wishing they'd just beaten me up once and been done with it, instead of this everlasting torture.

    Not that that makes any kind of bullying OK, ever. But the snobbiness about private schools here makes me cringe.

  46. On Hamlin: no, being a girls school it manifests in a different, nonviolent, way.

  47. "Then our school had a meeting about bullying. I was surprised when the parents of all three of those boys -- the boys who didn't start the disruptions but were attracted to them -- came to speak strongly about how their kids were getting bullied, including real hitting."

    They may be getting recruited into the bullying; if another kids on the receiving end at least they're not. One time I remember one of a gang of bullies, when I was talking to him one on one, blurting out that he wished I'd hit the ringleader (who was a smaller guy than
    me). I realized, with a shock, that the this guy who followed the ringleader bully was more scared
    of!him than I was.

  48. I love how (according to this blog) the psychological bullying happens at elite private girls schools. I taught at a public middle school. It was a number of years ago, but the issues are timeless. It was a racially diverse although mostly working class school. Here is what I saw:

    1. It was very ethnically segregated. There were the black kids, the white kids, the Asian Pride kids and the Brown Pride (latino) kids. They all hung out separately.
    2. The leader of the mean girls was the "rich" girl. Her parents owned one nail salon. She manipulated all her "friends", was absolutely cruel, and tormented girls outside her clique. All her "friends" followed suit and tormented as well, probably in order not to incur her wrath.
    3. There was absolutely a social hierarchy.
    4. Certainkids were tortured CON-STANT-LY. A very overweight girl. A girl with who didn't have the best hygiene. Sometimes the why was a big mystery. Interestingly, the special ed kids that were being mainstreamed were not picked on.
    5. Schoolyard fights happened once in a while but were very few and far between.
    6. The school had a process for dealing with physical aggression. But they honestly did not have the resources or skills to deal with psychological bullying. There was no blood, no scars, nothing physical to point to.

    My point is that psychological bullying can (and does) happen everywhere. No matter how rich or poor the school, one kid is always going to be cooler, one kid is always going to have the right clothes, the right attitude, be more popular, be more liked. Regardless of money, race or class, there will always be an alpha.

    I send my child to a private school. I know this happens in privates too. I toured publics and privates. At EVERY school I toured, I asked about psychological bullying. The schools that said they "don't really have that problem" were immediately crossed off my list. Some publics and some privates gave me that answer. I call bull***t. Some publics and privates gave me great, clearly well-thought through and proactive answers. Those I kept on my list.

  49. "I love how (according to this blog) the psychological bullying happens at elite private girls schools."

    According to the ex-Hamlin girl I spoke with, she had a special nook in the library where she ate her meals away from the other girls. To be honest, she had enough confidence to take it in her stride and was wise enough to withdraw rather than get into the whole social competitiveness thing, so minimal damage appeared to have been done.

    She was rejoicing at now being at a nerdy high school, where former alpha girls were all at sea, because, instead of the hierarchy being based on your ability to play n-dimensional social chess, the hierarchy was based on your proficiency with things like calculus or, umm, actual chess-y chess.

    "The school had a process for dealing with physical aggression. But they honestly did not have the resources or skills to deal with psychological bullying. There was no blood, no scars, nothing physical to point to."

    Thanks for sharing. I think psychological bullying is really hard to deal with, precisely because it's harder to perceive.

    However, it seems bullying (of all types) is taken more seriously than when I was growing up. Which is a good thing.

  50. This is a weird item, I found on the sfusd site. It concerns people who get an assignment they didn't request and want to keep it.

    It seems you have to go attend a counseling session to keep the assigned spot--which is a bit demanding, considering how much info you can get off the internet.

    If you don't attend the counseling session, do you lose the spot?

    "Question: Can I keep my assignment offer while I review other school choices during the counseling period?

    Answer: YES, if you participate in a counseling session, you will be able to keep your non-requested assignment offer during the counseling period."


  51. Sorry meant to post that in Round 2 thread.

  52. Is pyschological bullying more common among and between girls? And, to that end, boys are more commonly physically agressive but towards both genders? If anyone has any book recommendations on bullying, I would like to see if there is anything I can do so my child is neither a bully nor a victim. Thanks.

  53. This sort of thing did happen at my low-income school from time to time even in the lower grades.. I say low-income because it means that the principal, secretary, yard staff, and teachers are s t r e t c h e d taking care of all kinds of issues (late children, lack of breakfast even though we offer it they sometimes don't come in time for it, issues in the classroom, phone calls, staff needs during break (photocopies, questions, field trip forms etc.). There are no parent volunteers to assist. If it's reported in the office and the principal is there it can be addressed. But, these things can take a good half hour to dissect who did what to whom and why and were there witnesses and if a principal has scheduled meetings, reports, observations he/she must juggle all that as well. I agree that most princiapals have a system in place to phone all parents involved in these incidents, use follow up with the respective teachers and put a plan in place for some sort of restitution/punishment/enlightenment of the bully/victim. I'm sorry when you checked in with your principal you didn't get a proactive response.

  54. My brothers and I moved to a wealthy Marin suburb in the mid-80s with funny accents and dorky clothes. We did 2 years in public and then 4 years in private (as my parents hoped private would cure the ills of public). We were just as rich, just as good looking, and the same race as the other kids, but we didn't fit in. There was definitely more physical bullying for my brothers at the public school (even in a wealthy white enclave). For me, a girl, and for my older brother the emotional bullying was far worse when we moved to the private school. 2 years in, I made a wonderful friend and suddenly transitioned from a pariah to a cool girl. It was a bizarre experience and gave me a lot of perspective at a young age. We ended up with a really nice class of kids and I was able to heal from a lot of the scars from the previous 2 years. 20 years later though, I think my brother is still suffering from his adolescent experience.

    I'm now in the city with a one year old and committed to giving public school a go. We live near a public school and see a lot of kids, public and private, on our local playground. The shocking thing to me and my husband is the number of parents who are on the playground observing the terrible behavior of their kids while the chat away on cell phones or gossip with eachother. The nannies seem far more engaged than the mothers and fathers a lot of the time.

    Maybe I'm over-sensitized from my childhood experience, but I tend to step in when I see the bullying, whether it is physical or emotional. I scold the kids when they are being mean and I really get on them if I see physical violence.

    Am I over-stepping the bounds of someone who is not their parent? I don't know. Would be interested to hear thoughts from others. How do you handle it when you see bullying at local parks and you don't know the kids involved?

  55. Also, more things tend to happen on playgrounds where there is no organized play. Sports4Kids turned our school around teaching kids how to set up their own playtime. Less fights and disputes for teachers to parse after recess and happier school!

  56. 9:35 a.m. No, you're not overstepping your bounds. Bad/Neglectful/Oblivious/Self-absorbed parents don't have a right to criticize you for correcting their child who was harming another child. You are doing the right thing and don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Just to clarify, you only scold them verbally, correct? I would never touch another person's child.

  57. I would never touch another person's child and would never yell in a "scary" voice to another person's child (unless it was an emergency).

    I believe it is my job to stick up for my child if she is unable or has not yet learned how to do so herself.

  58. 11:24 am, your child is one - right? When my kid was that age, I too thought all the bigger kids (i.e. 3-5 year olds) were too agressive and cringed at the playground. Let us know in 2 years if you feel the same way. Most of them are just trying to control their bodies and their emotions but have not yet figured out a how to do so. Agree, however, that parents should be on top of it.

  59. I think bullying occurs at all levels and all schools in SFUSD. We had a similar problem. Honestly, we finally got some movement form the school when we told the principal that the next time our child was hit/kicked/bullied, we would be calling the police and not the school.

    There is a great website: http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/ that has all kinds of ideas for anti-bullying training for your school. I suggest you bring it up with the PTA and demand anti-bullying training at your school. Parents may be more receptive than teachers.

    Good luck. It sucks to have a kid that is being picked on.

  60. I hate posting this comment on this string, since bullying is a real problem in elementary schools, but I do think that there is way too much over-parental involvement in the behavior of kids on playgrounds. Yes, it is one thing to get involved when kids are 1 and 2 and 3. But I see way too many parents constantly intervening in their kids' play with other kids when the kids are 5, 6 and 7. If no one is using physical force, you really should stay out. Kids have to learn how to deal with each other. Yes, sometimes one kid is going to want to hog a slide or is going to want to go faster or slower on a merry-go-round. And that's called life. Intervening with other people's similarly aged kids because, for example, you don't think the other kids are listening to your six-year old's request to go faster on a merry-go-round is just going to rob your kid of a chance to start negotiating the difficult social situations THAT ARE CALLED LIFE. Give your kid a chance to figure it out. And this string is a key reason why -- one day, your kid is going to be in school, you won't be there, and there won't really be any adult within arms-length to help him, and he's got to know how to deal with others.

  61. Yeah, I have to say, once my kid turned 3 and had good language skills I bowed out of intervening into her hurts, except with physical violence. So I've had some amusing times watching her scream "I am three and eleven-twelfths and I want this merry-go-round to slow down!" Or telling bemused 8-year-old boys that their not wanting to give over their soccer ball hurts her feelings. And when she tattles on playdates, I say, "You and Jane know a lot of words. Go use them to help solve the problem with Jane."

    Not that that's what the original poster should be doing. Physical violence between kids is not OK, no matter who starts it.

  62. 9:35 here.

    To clarify...I actually agree about letting kids work out the normal spats themselves. Even with the 14-month old, we only intervene during rough play if someone looks ready to get hurt.

    My rules for intervening when my kid is not involved:

    1) I tell the kids it's not OK once the language elevates to swearing on the playground in front of my kid. Occassionally, if they're doing something mean right in front of me I'll say to firmly, "That's not nice" and just leave it at that. They can work out for themselves how to deal with it but I don't want them to think they're getting away without it even being noticed.

    2) The kind of physical behavior I respond to is exemplified by the girl I had watched picking on another girl for an hour who then ended up holding the picked-on girl (on her knees) in front of her by her elbows behind her back while she was confronted by 3 other kids and then kicking her in the back as she pushed her forward after she'd said her piece. Was horrified that no other adult on the playground did anything. When I scolded the aggressor and told her that I'd watched her be mean for an hour and she was absolutely not to kick other kids on the playground she actually tried to deny doing what I had just witnessed from 5 feet away! The kids stopped misbehaving after that so I didn't do anything more. Again, it just seems to make such a difference when they know they are being watched and have it pointed out to them.

  63. "Intervening with other people's similarly aged kids .. is just going to rob your kid of a chance to start negotiating the difficult social situations THAT ARE CALLED LIFE. Give your kid a chance to figure it out."

    Understood: that's why I suggested upthread that the mom take the kid to martial arts or do some intense playdates with whoever the alpha non-bullying kid is in their kid's class, so the bullied kid gets potential allies and learns to throw a punch.

    But bullying is very insidious, and a badly bullied kid carries the big "victim" markers with them from school to school. This mom is right to demand from the school a better response, and can be prudent by helping her kid outside of the school if the school's response isn't quite enough.

    But if the school carried on being neglectful, I'd record their responses, call a lawyer, and then get down to EPC, wave a letter from the lawyer under their faces and see what alternatives they offered me.

  64. having knowledge of the OP's situation.
    Things that you all should know-
    The bully is a girl with known behavioral challenges and frequent visits to the office. Class does play into this, whether you all like to think it does or not. She is from a low income neighborhood, single mom family. Violence is more frequent and more a part of handling conflict.
    This wasn't a playground squabble. The bully picked out the smaller, more sensitive kid and beat him up! The school does not have a very good strategy for handling situations like this--the communication channels were abysmal. The principal is new and overwhelmed with handling the challenges of the school. Not saying its a bad school, it is just a reality that some schools face.
    Those of you who are lucky enough to have more choices.... good for you. The rest of us can't escape the messiness of living in a diverse city and attending a public school. Some of us even choose it over the "safeness" of privates or the suburbs.

  65. My half AA/half white niece was repeatedly bullied (hit, kicked, taunted) in the 1st grade at Alamo a few years ago - by another first grade girl who (darker skin, public housing) said my niece wasn't "black enough."

    The school thought it was important to "have a dialogue" and for the parents to focus on "bridging differences" - my niece kept getting hurt.

    After she got a bloody nose, she's been in a private school even since.

    Do NOT put up with this crap!

  66. KIndergarten age kids cannot "work out" this kind of thing -if one kid is feral & from a family that uses violence; and the other is NOT - the bully needs kicked OUT.

  67. "Violence is more frequent and more a part of handling conflict."

    I meant to say violence is more frequent and more a part of handling conflict in many socio-economically disadvantaged communities. I do not know if this is true for the family of this child but it is very likely.

  68. If this is something that is ongoing (not just a crappy one- time occurence), as a parent, you should ask for an SST (a student success team). That's district speak for "I want an action plan in place." http://www.sfusd.edu/SST/englishguide.htm Bring it up with your child's teacher and the principal and call the district Student Support Services Department if the ball doesn't roll fast enough for you.

  69. My daughter was choked by a boy on the playground this year (1st grade). We were told by the staff that b/c he was from another country they would "work with him". My other daughter who is in the boys class was then assigned to sit at the same table with him, which was terrifying for her. Staff could not understand our concern. In kinder my girls were verbally harrassed by a pack of girls and would cry constantly about this abuse. We brought the concern to the school staff, who made us feel like we were being ridiculous. One my my kids had a very hard time w/one kid in particular, so when we were asked by the school if we had any preferences for the coming yr in terms of classroom assignment, we asked that she not be put in the same class with that kid. And of course, she was put in that class. We have learned to "shut up" and "put up". I do not believe things like this happen only at public schools, but it kind of sucks that any school that purports to have children's well-being in mind allows this sort of thing to go on.