Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dear School District 36 (Surrey),

HWSNBN mentioned that you called last evening regarding the incident yesterday when Darth Vader moved the chair on Luke Skywalker and he subsequently fell backwards and hit his head. Luke is very clear how this incident took place. He states that Darth pushed his light sabre off the table and when Luke leaned over to get his items Darth moved his chair so that he fell backwards. Darth made some sarcastic remarks to Luke (such as ... "ohhhhhh your light sabre fell.......).

This is not the first time Darth has been involved in specifically targeting Luke. In December I observed Darth purposely trip Luke. Darth was sitting in the chair closest to the inside door. When Luke passed to go to the library Darth stuck his foot out and tripped him. This was deliberate and Obi Wan Kenobi address it with Darth.

Somewhere along the way this child has been given the messaging that his behaviour is acceptable and tolerable. I recall that the Surrey School district has a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to bullying - however Luke has had his incidents of bullying minimized and on several occasions he has been assigned blame. I believe that by assigning blame to the bullying victim you only empower the child who has assaulted the other child. Perhaps this is where some of the messaging that Darth's behaviour is acceptable is coming from.

The behaviour that Darth has displayed to Luke is just mean and very typical behaviour of a child trying to gain acceptance from another child in his peer group. As an educator you are well aware that these tendencies do not bode well for that child's ongoing positive social development. I am speaking of the gang mentality between the 3 Republic boys. Any child who would purposely hurt another younger child while trying to gain the acceptance of a peer should be a growing concern to the adults around him.

We have been very clear to Luke that he is responsible for his own behaviour and not the behaviour of those around him. With this as our background we are teaching our son to be responsible for his actions.

Neither Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi or myself observed the incident yesterday. I believe Luke's recollection of events as he has nothing to gain from telling an inaccurate story. The other children involved do have something to gain by minimizing their involvement or observations.

I am not convinced that consensus building conflict resolution is the best way of addressing bullying at this age / grade level. The children are still at a juncture were they believe in teacher and parental authority. They need to be advised about which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. There is no grey area when dealing with this kind of issue - the messaging needs to be consistent and clear. That kind of behaviour will not and should not be tolerated.

These are teaching moments for every child in a classroom. Unfortunately for Darth Vader, he learned yesterday that if your friends fib and you lie about an incident then you will get away with your mean spirited actions. Luke Skywalker has learned that people will get away with harming him and humiliating him in class even when he speaks out and tells the truth.

I am wholly disappointed in the reaction from the school in regards to the bullying going on in the classroom and on the playground this year. This latest event is just another example of how some children believe that they have the right to dominate and harass and embarrass other kids. This belief is not being challenged by the authority figures in the class and it repeats itself again and again and again.

I am also aware of the fact that I am continually being called to the school to deal with the aftermath of SOMEONE else's kids bad / assaultive behaviour. It is my son coming home early due to being punched in the head, being pushed into a puddle, stomped on or caused to fall and hit his head while the offender walks off and enjoy the rest of the day. Perhaps their parents are not even being notified that their child has assaulted another kid in class. For the record sometimes saying sorry is not enough to absolve a child for a bullying behaviour. 'Sorry' is an empty statement if it is not followed up with positive actions and change in behaviour.

In short I am not impressed and hope that next year bring a more stringent adherence to the Zero Tolerance around bullying.

Just a Mom in a Galaxy Far Far Away

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