Tessia is my daughter. She is now 10 and in grade 5. Her first day of JK; she looked in the classroom and dismissed me with: You can go now I will learn everything I need to know here! Her confidence was her gift! Bright, pretty, kind of heart, always ready to help someone, always ready to be a friend, always stood for justice and what is right.
Then came grade 3 and a boy named Maleek. He was a nightmare. For the teacher, the principal, but especially for Tessia.
He called her "ugly", "stupid", "fat", "lesbian". I said good morning to him and he called me a bitch. Then he told his "In Group" that if I ever spoke to him again he was going to box me. That was our first two weeks of grade three.
His actions became more and more aggressive. He drew other "at risk" kids in and formed his own "gang". The whole school knew him. The grade eights new him.
The class did a program called SNAP - Stop Now And Plan. A response to bullying. Tessia did all the work in class and at home and participated in the class room skits. She got an "A". Maleek and his gang didn't do any of the work.
The teacher put Maleek at a separate desk in a separate corner. His "gang" would cause a distraction and he would sneak by my daughters desk and say "FU" at her.
Tessia couldn't sleep at night, had headaches, and stomach pains. Refused to go to school, or even get out of the bed in the morning. I spent most mornings in the principals office going over the last round of verbal or physical abuse Tessia had endured in the classroom or at recess.
She had to stand with a teacher at every recess. She cried every night.
She finally told us she had enough and was going to kill herself. I took her to the doctor, who wrote notes and gave advice. I talked with the school authorities. I was always assured everything possible was being done. I wanted Maleek expelled. The said they couldn't do that. Instead he sat in the office all day for his offences.
Then came the gum. During a school assembly Maleek sat behind Tessia on the auditorium floor and put gum in her hair. He then proceeded to mock her saying "Now all your long hair will have to be cut off" and some other nasty things.
I took pictures, filed another report.
I came to school to pick up Tessia only to be met by all the girls in her class screaming and crying Tessia had been hit in the face with a stack of books by a student named Mosficker.
This was unusual, this child was non-violent. It shocked everyone. The teacher was furious. Maleek's influence had spread to even the most unlikely child.
The principal who had been very supportive suddenly became unsupportive, announcing "we had no proof"! I finally lost my professional demeanour. I snapped. I left the office muttering some inappropriate adjectives myself. I went to my daughters class took her out and took her back to the principals office and parked her in front of him. I demanded that he repeat what he had just said to me - then I picked up his phone and demanded that he tell my husband "we had no proof". He didn't want to. He just sat there staring at the floor.
We wrote letters to the school trustee, the superintendent, the school board. Then we had a meeting. The principal, the superintendent, my husband, myself. They tried to snowball us. Saying it wasn't bullying because it wasn't consistent. When my husband started to answer that allegation - the superintendent cut him off. This is where his professional negotiating skills came to play. Without changing his voice or his demeanor he told her quite professionally not to cut him off, he had listened to her, and now it was her turn to listen. No one said a word.
My husband said his piece and informed them he would be back tomorrow with his daughter and they could both apologize.
He came back and they apologized. Tessia still hated school. Most of the time I sat in the classroom. One day we came to school and the kids came running up to us to let us know "Maleek had moved"! His gang still bullied to Tessia on occasion. Tessia still hated school and demanded to be home schooled.
Then came grade 4. Nice new teacher, real sweet. Very interesting class. Lots of fun projects. But Tessia was sick all the time. 4 Strep throats, two sinus infections, and one chest infection. Plus trouble sleeping and nightmares. The scars were still healing. Between November and May of grade 4 she missed 30 days of school, and was late just as many times. Still hated school, still felt bullies had the advantage. Still had conflict with certain kids that were on the rougher side. Still worked on things at home. Helping her understand everyone comes from a different background and we are not going to be able to convince everyone to be nice and kind. We just have to make sure we are kind, and not let other peoples bad actions define us.
The grade 4 teacher was very supportive. She knew every reason why Tessia was missing or late. I called it in every time. Then I got "the letter". The vice principal sent me a threatening letter about Tessia being absent so many times. She didn't check with me (I am in the school ALL the time) or Tessia's teacher. And she copied it to the school social worker AND children's aid.
Back to the doctor I went to get copies of the notes for her repeated illnesses - all 7 of them. I responded to the principal with a written letter in stern language (no bad adjectives) and copied it to the principal, the superintendent, the school board, school trustee, social worker and children's aid. The chair of the parent council supported me and was very helpful. The vice-principal verbally apologized. I still volunteer at the school, I go to parent council meetings, I attend all functions and help with all fund-raising.
Enter Grade 5. Male Teacher, Good Sense of Humour. Good class control. Promise to Tessia - if she works really hard and is not late for school daddy will take her with him on his yearly northern 12 day adventure. Tessia got up in the morning was happy (well most days) went to school. Right now she is up north with her dad more than happy to be in the wilderness!
I have a really good feeling about this year. I am very optimistic. There is a new principal. He actually smiles. There are still challenges. French class - no one behaves so the French teacher marches the class around the school for 45 minutes. Tessia hates this. She doesn't like the waste of her time or the reasons the class is in trouble. She doesn't like kids who don't follow the rules. She's learning - learning to choose her own words wisely. Not point out to other kids how bad they are and they are not following the rules. She knows her parents have her back. She has activites (swimming and archery) outside of class. She has friends other than kids at school. And according to her she has "the best MOM in the world".
What I WOULD DO DIFFERENT:
I would document more precisely and have more witnesses in writing.
I would insist a meeting with the other family.
I would insist that protecting the other child is creating a disaster for mine.
The previous principal felt this "at risk" child deserved all the help he could give.
I believe this too. But not at the expense of my daughter or yours!
During this whole ordeal we read books on bullying, bought video's on bullying, did everything we could to help our daughter. When I was her age I chased the boys with spiders. When I told her that she rolled her eyes at me and said that's not appropriate!
Hoping Grade 5 is better!
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