Friday, April 8, 2011

My child was assaulted so badly by a bully at school that he stopped breathing....and the school did not call me.

I think that schools routinely ignore bullying behaviour. The problem seems especially bad in Florida.

Last December a fight broke out in a 7th grade classroom in West Palm Beach, and the teacher stood by and did nothing while a student was pummelled during math class. A classmate caught the fight on a cell phone, and both the bully and victim were SUSPENDED from school.

Schools are getting more violent in Florida. Why doesn’t anyone notice that students are being bullied and assaulted?

Some schools are better than others in preventing bullying. Many schools “tolerate” bullying and even blame the victim. They don’t care about bullying and tend to ignore it.

When my middle boy was in 6th grade at Seminole Middle School in Florida another 6th grade student had been making credible death threats toward my son. He said several times that he would bring a knife into school and slit my son's throat until he bled to death. Often in the school hallways this bully would slam my son's head against the wall. 

Then one morning during PE the bully grabbed my son by the neck, kicked his legs out from under him, and body slammed him hard on to the ground. As a result, my son was unable to pull air in, and two students ran to get the teacher saying my son was “on the ground and not breathing”. He had to have his rescue inhaler as the assault had triggered an asthma attack.

The assault happened at 10:00am and no one from the school even called me. I didn’t find out about it until 5:00pm when my son came home. When I asked the school why they failed to notify me about the attack, they stated they have 70 kids in that PE class and they “can’t call every parent every time a kid needs their rescue inhaler”. Well, I should know if he used his inhaler so I don’t over-medicate him, and yes I should know if he has been assaulted at school and goes into respiratory arrest. Was the school certain my son didn’t need any further medical attention? This statement shows the school downplaying that my son was assaulted during class.

What happened next is the awful way the school handled this.

Of course this happened on a Friday, so I had all weekend to fret about it. I called the school on Monday to find out the details from the PE coach, and then made an appointment with the assistant principal (principal not available).

This is what happened next.

PE was first period. I did not feel my son was safe during PE, so I dropped him at school at the beginning of second period. I was determined not to place him in PE until I felt he would be safe at school.

Assistant Principal (AP) called and said that my son had to make a written and then oral statement to the School Resource Officer (school cop) so the police could check for discrepancies to see if my son was lying. AP told me it this was mandatory and I was not permitted to be present during his police statement, even though my son is a minor. I refused, and instead I made an appointment to see the AP who then became irritated with me.

When I arrived at the school a large Sheriff’s Forensics Unit truck was parked outside the school and a couple of police were talking into walkie talkies. I showed my driver licence to the secretary proving that I was the same person I was a few days ago when I turned up for a teacher conference. I asked her if the science class was studying forensics. She told me that a student sitting in the office had been beaten up, and the forensics unit were at the school to take photos of her injuries. I asked her why the school didn’t call an ambulance for an injured student and she said “we never do that, we always call forensics instead”.

I went into the 6th grade house and it was a zoo. An ill child, sniffling and looking pale, sat in a chair and covered his mouth and nose with his clothing. He said to me that he felt like he had pneumonia. The 6th grade house secretary got off the ‘phone and said to the sick child “your mother says you’re good to go to class”. I felt bad for the child, because he was obviously ill and would spread illness to the other students. I waited a long time and found out that the AP forgot we had an appointment.
Finally, when we saw the AP, he listened to my son’s statement. He then gave him a Police report to fill out and told me, again, that it was mandatory for my son to fill in a police statement. I told AP my son was a minor and would not fill it out.

AP refused to tell me the name of the bully due to confidentiality. My son was not sure what his name was since there were 70 kids in the class, so he had to identify the kid’s photo off a school computer screen.

All I wanted the school to do was to separate these two boys. Put my son in another class, or even if the front office, just take him out of PE. AP said he would talk to the other student and call me back.

A couple of days later the AP called me back, and this is what happened.

The AP said that he had spoken to the other student and he believed the other student when he said that he was “messin’ around” and this student thought my son was playing also. AP told me that he reminded the student that Seminole Middle School was a ”bully free” zone, and he should not play so hard with other students in case they mistake it for bullying. The other student told AP he now understood that he should not play rough with other kids. AP told me that the "bully's" story was more “credible” than my son’s, therefore no action would be taken, and if I didn’t put my son back in PE immediately, he was calling a truant officer and would have me arrested.

AP said the death threats were not to be taken seriously, since they had only my son’s word for it. The other student told the AP that he didn’t threaten to kill my son. 

Since the school was refusing to separate these boys, I told AP that I was withdrawing my son from Seminole Middle School immediately. AP told me that didn't believe that I would pull my son from school (just watch me). He said he would have the Principal call me.

The next day (Friday) I went to the local school board and filled out a withdrawal form for my son, and returned his textbooks to his school. Since the school refused to provide a safe learning environment for my son I was going to home school him. 

Pulling my son out of the school system wasn't a fun thing to do. I knew that I was effectively ending many friendships he had while he was in the school system. As the Southern US has a school busing system due to racial desegregation and most of his friends lived in different neighbourhoods which were miles apart so most of them only socialized at school.

The Principal didn't bother to call until almost a week after I withdrew my son to persuade me to send him back to Seminole Middle. I know the school wanted him back because he scores well on standardized testing which gives the school more money, so he is a valuable commodity to the school. The Principal told me that my son and this student were “more similar than you know”. I asked how and he said “I can’t tell you, that’s confidential”. No, the Principal was not Leslie Neilsen.

The Principal told me that my son still needed to fill out a written police report since it will help the school if there is another incident with this student. Why would they need that, since he was so credible? I again refused. I asked if my son were to return to school could he be separated from this student. The Principal agreed with the AP and told me that my son would have to continue PE (in a poorly supervised class of 70) with this student.

The school refused to provide a safe learning environment.

Since the bully was more credible and just playing, I guess my son was too stupid to remember he needed to breathe when he hit the ground.

The entire experience was to make my son feel like a criminal, while the bully was protected.

Oh, and the sign outside the school while all this was going on said “Bully Free School”. Of course it’s a bully free school if you ignore all the bullying.

This school was sought after by parents and not one of the "rough" schools in the County. When Hubby was a teacher he saw schools that were much worse than this.

I removed my son from school the day after the AP told me my son was "not credible" and home schooled him through 6th and 7th grade. Excellent decision!

My son was lucky that I was able to pull him from school and home school him, but many parents are unable to do this.

I think the reason we are having so much school violence in Florida (and elsewhere in the US) is because of rampant bullying which the school ignores. 

Instead of victim blaming they need to take the problem seriously.

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