Your Voice Matters

This is a simple request. If your life has been affected by bullying – whether you were bullied, you witnessed bullying, you stood up to bullies, or you were the bully yourself, I want to hear your story. I’m including a form, right here, that will deliver your story directly to me, and me only.

You can send your story anonymously, you can include your name, your location, it is all up to you. If you give me permission to use your story on my blog, check the box. If you give me permission to submit your story to our school administration, as an attempt to begin the necessary steps to make a change, check the box.

I want to hear you, I want to hear how bullying has affected your life. You matter, your story matters, and your experiences are valid and vital.

When They Start Listening

Dear Community,

I am here to put my thoughts and goals down in one place. So many things have been said over the last couple of days, and I am thankful that many people are coming together to have the conversation about bullying, and the dangers of bullying. School should be a safe place for all students, and without doing something about bullying, school doesn’t feel safe for the children targeted by bullies.

First, I want to preface this with my goals/approach with my son. I hope, after hearing what we are doing with him and for him, you will rest easy. My son was expelled for the contents of his journal. The discovery of his journal was multifaceted – the first page, the one turned in, was removed from his journal, after a student took it from his bag to look through it (while he was in the office). Then, when questioned about the page, my son told Mr. Meek about the rest of his journal, and Mr. Meek removed the journal from my son’s backpack and looked through it. (At one point, the student that physically assaulted my son also laughed in his face and told my son, “We got your notebook, you’ll be in more trouble than me.”)

Mr. Meek was right to be concerned about the drawings, the vulgarity, and the anger expressed in my son’s journal. In fact, I’ve never said it was not cause for concern. I have repeated the words a therapist said to me, that if he went through all the notebooks in the school and expelled students all on these grounds, he would have no student body. Mr. Meek said my son could not attend Luther Middle School again until 7th grade, unless he attended in patient treatment. I asked him what our options were if my son did not qualify for in patient treatment, and he said we would not be allowed back until 7th grade if he didn’t go to in patient treatment. Period.

I made the phone calls, completed assessments, and found that my son does not qualify for in patient treatment. In fact, in a moment that was less than professional, one of the mental health assessors said, “If I were you, I would sue the ever-living **** out of that school, that principal, and anyone involved in such an awful decision.”

We have a counselor coming to our home and we are in occupational therapy in a clinic. We are making our narrative about overcoming, even when we struggle, even when life isn’t fair, even when someone or something gets the best of us. We are working toward healing. We are praying for the guidance of our good, good Father as we move forward. We know who we are, and by the very grace of God, we know whose we are.

So, for your peace of mind, and reassurance, my goal is not to send my son back to your school this year. I know the narrative, as it stands, is inciting much fear in all parties. Until we get past that fear, it is hard to have the bullying and mental health conversations that take us from where we are now, to a place of understanding, action, and lasting change.

I also think it is worth noting that at this time, I have no intention of suing the school. It’s been suggested to me by teachers inside and outside of the LPS District, a mental health professional, a police officer, and countless parents that have listened to our story. I do not believe suing the school is the right catalyst for change, and I refuse to believe that the only way to make them listen is to financially burden a school operating in a financial deficit. Court costs money, money I believe should be spent on our students and the teachers that serve them.

On to my next point – the reason and goal behind why I am still involved in these discussions and why I am petitioning for change in the LPS District.

My why: Bullying affects the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystanders for years after school ends. In fact, we are learning more and more that bullying in school affects a person, usually quite negatively, through the course of their entire life. I want to prevent bullying in LPS, and have an appropriate action plan to intervene when it occurs. Denying and rejecting the idea or accusation that bullying is occurring in the schools is only allowing it to continue.

It is enough of a problem that another mom has removed her son from the district to protect him because the school would not act on his behalf or help make school a safe place for him to learn. You can read more about their story here.

It is enough of a problem that a mom reached out to me, through her friend, to confirm that bullying is an issue in the Luther schools. She didn’t want her name known, or her child’s name known. She was afraid of how much worse the problem would be for them. Her concerns have fallen on deaf ears enough times that she doesn’t see any point even reporting the issues any longer.

Victims are voiceless in this battle, currently.

So you know my why, now let’s start a conversation about how.

How to Change the Narrative

When they start listening, then maybe they can start to see how we can change the narrative in the Luther Public School District.

The current narrative is one where the bully wins, the bystanders don’t need to speak up because action is not taken, and victims are ignored. That narrative will continue to shape the people who are growing up in this environment. Into adulthood, these people will carry beliefs about how they should treat others, how they should allow others to be treated, and how they should allow themselves to be treated. Let’s give our kids a healthy narrative for how to treat others, how to be treated, and how to allow others to be treated.

I believe an anti-bullying campaign needs to be launched in the school district that deals with the issues from multiple angles. I think a speaker or series of speakers/assemblies should be held to start the conversation. I think we should put tangible items in the hands of kids, faculty, and parents – conversation starters, reading material, posters, jelly bracelets, t-shirts, etc.

I think we should make sure parents are made aware of the issue via all communication avenues available – phone calls, emails, text messages, and they should be brought into the conversation. This should not be done as a blame game, or pointing fingers about whose child is taking which part in the bullying dynamic. Instead, this should inform parents and give them tools and resources to have conversations at home. Many parents believe bullying won’t affect their kids, and they often don’t know how to start these conversations. Let’s help them talk to their kids about how to treat others, how to be treated, and how to allow others to be treated.

I think the most important part of making this puzzle complete is bringing students into the picture, and giving them ownership. This is their school, their conversation, their fight. They should be given the platform to have conversations about bullying. This platform needs to be facilitated in assemblies, small group settings, and the classrooms.

Bullies need to learn a better way, and this education needs to come without assumptions about their home lives. The bullied need to gain a voice, and be given an appropriate way to express how being victimized makes them feel. They need a chance to create something healthy from the hurt. They need to know they will be heard and action will be taken on their behalf. The bystanders need to learn that intervening can save someone from heartbreak, and can even save their life. They need to learn that they aren’t just tattle tales for reporting the things they see or hear, and that they will be taken seriously.

If we can guide the students in LPS to take ownership of the bullying dynamic, and break it apart, we can see lasting change. This type of change will be carried on in years to come, and the LPS District will be a safe source of education for more kids in the future. There will not be room for an elite group of students that are hailed for particular strengths or talents, while students of other talents and strengths are allowed to be pushed around because they are viewed as weak.

We can empower our students to choose kindness when dealing with one another, to accept one another, and to coexist with peers they don’t always understand or agree with. If we can start these conversations, and break down the walls created by fear and ignorance, we can begin rebuilding a unified, strong community. We will have to work together, and we will have to choose kindness. We will have to find a way to communicate through and past the issues we don’t agree on. We will have to remember, as we have these conversations and make these changes, that as parents dealing with fellow parents, we are fiercely protective and greatly naive in regards to our own children. We will have to rise above our instinctual nature to protect and our desire to believe the best, we will have to step back and clear our view and our vision, and we will have to own our part as we lead our youth to own their part.

I believe that we have it in us, and I believe these changes can come to fruition. I pray for eyes to be opened, hearts to be softened, and grace to abound.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13