Calling All "Mk1" Experts
You may remember the story about how my son was bullied relentlessly in fifth grade and how, when the administration failed to deal with the problem appropriately, we took him out of school until they took measures to a stop to it. You may also remember that the Principal's response to this was to expell my son, the victim and how we, in response to that, lawyered up.
Best $500 bucks we ever spent.
Unfortunately, things have not gotten better in Middle School.
Middle School sucks for even the most socially adroit and popular kids. It's a time of enormous change, both physically and emotionally. There are hormones and body image issues and romance and peer pressure to deal with, not to mention the drastically increased workload and an end to the handholding and mollycoddling by well intentioned grade school teachers. It's a lot to deal with. For a kid like mine, who doesn't understand the social nuances or the strategems of Middle School hierarchy, and who doesn't fall in line with group think or pack mentality, it's a living hell. He walks around with a target on his back simply because of who he is.
We had one very serious incident at the beginning of the year that prompted us to involve the police. It was assault, pure and simple. I will say that the Administration at the Middle School has been incredibly helpful, supportive, and reactionary. The Assistant Principal has some understanding of what Diminutive One is up against and does her level best to address these issues when they arise. Unfortunately, no sooner do we get one issue resolved, than another crops up. Recently, Diminutive One decided he has had enough.
About a month ago, Diminutive One casually mentioned that there was a kid giving him trouble in the typically sneaky and covert way that bullies have. Never really hurting him, just pushing, niggling, picking, chipping away at his self-esteem day after day after day by calling him any variety of names, all of which wound far deeper than his tormenter probably even realizes. Also doing things like grabbing his book out of his hand while he's reading so he loses his place, "accidentally" knocking his books and papers off his desk, "innocently" bumping into him at every opportunity, causing him to stumble and sometimes fall.
Finally Diminutive One had enough.
The next day I got a call that he had punched the kid and would be suspended for three days. Now as I said, the AP has some understanding of how these things work. She knew he had been provoked and she did not come down on him like a ton of bricks. She didn't yell, she didn't accuse. She simply asked him to tell her what happened and then tried to talk to him about better ways to deal with bullies. She told him she hated to punish him, but she had to. He understood and he didn't mind because the other kid got suspended as well.
What he did mind, was the fact that the other kid then proceeded to spread the rumor that HE had kicked Diminutive One's ass, which wasn't true at all. Diminutive One then had to face imprecations such as "pussy" and "weakling" and "loser". Despite the suspension and a long talk by the AP with the kid's parents, the harassment continued unabated. All this was unbeknownst to us.
Until, that is, the night that he made up his mind to make a stand.
He's been taking Tae Kwon Do, you see. He knows how to get his opponent down on the ground and then immobilize him. He knows all the right places to hit in order to incapacitate. He knows how to subdue and then attack. This of course, is not the objective of Tae Kwon Do. They strive to teach discipline, self-control, respect for others, and peaceful conflict resolution.
But just in case you ever need to kick some ass...well then, it's best to be prepared. And he is.
He felt that during the first confrontation, he had struck out in anger and frustration and not used what he had been taught. He was disappointed in himself for that. So he had formulated a plan, one which he felt would send the message that he would no longer be the victim. One that would let everybody know that if they chose to engage him in a fight, he would make them sorry. First, he would get his opponent down with a leg sweep, then he would immobilize him with a wrap hold. Then he would punch him in the solar plexus and if that didn't keep him down, the kidneys. And then finally the nose. At which point, hopefully, his point would be made.
He told us all of this very calmly and it I don't mid telling you...it was a little chilling. He was premeditating violence towards another child. But as chilling as it was, I did not find it at all unreasonable. He told us he knew he would get in trouble, but he didn't care. He thought it was worth it to achieve his objective. I asked him to consider letting me go to the AP one more time. He refused. "MOM..." he said..."That doesn't help. It just makes things WORSE. I have to take care of this myself."
It was clear that his mind was made up. Husband and I let him know that we understood why he felt the need to do it, but that we wished he would find another way to settle the issue peacefully. We told him he would not suffer consequences at home, but that we could not protect him from those at school, or possibly even with the police. He nodded firmly, his blue-gray eyes flinty with determination. For him, there was simply no alternative.
I emailed the AP immediately to let her know what was going down. It was ten p.m., but I hoped she would get the email first thing in the morning. I followed up with a phone call at 8:30 am, but only got voice mail. Still, I didn't worry too much. Everybody checks voice mail and email first thing in the morning right? Around 8:45, I got an email from the Guidance Counselor, whom I had CC'd. She said she was no longer the student liaison for 7th grade, but was forwarding my email on to the new student liaison. Satisfied that someone on staff was aware, I sat back and waited.
Around 1:00 pm, the call finally came. He had done it. He would be suspended for five days. The AP was surprised, as she had no idea that things had continued after she took action last time. She realized however, that I was not surprised. She asked me if I had known what was going to happen and in turn I asked her if she had checked her email or voice mail or spoken with the Guidance Counselor that day. She hadn't and she was clearly upset that she hadn't been sought out and made aware of the situation. Someone got a tongue lashing that day, I'm sure.
She expressed great remorse that her efforts had not been successful. She thought that the discussion she had with the kid's parents had conveyed the seriousness of the situation and the need to stop it. She asked me to give her one more chance to handle it before calling in the muscle (aka: our lawyer) and I agreed. But, I told her emphatically, this needs to stop NOW. If what Diminutive One had done didn't stop it, then someone else needed to. We are done dealing with this kid, I told her. She understood. And because of our past history, which is posted prominently in his permanent record, she knows I do not make empty threats. She also knows that I will do what's necessary to prevent my kid from ending up swinging at the end of a rope.
So there we are. He was happy when he got home. He followed through on his plan and made his point. I think that up until he actually did it, he wasn't entirely sure he could go through with it. He's not a voilent kid by nature and shies away from conflict of any kind given the chance. But he was also concerned that since he would not be at school to refute the rumors, it would once again be circulated that HE had been the one getting his ass kicked. Which is one reason he made sure he had witnesses. Still, bullies are pretty good at public relations and progaganda. It's their greatest and most valuable skill, as Diminutive One well knows.
He's was at home with me all last week he's been like a different kid. He's relaxed, sleeping well, cheerful and clearly relieved of a HUGE burden. I really wish I could keep him home with me always, although truthfully, I doubt either one of us would survive that. I wish we could though. I'd homeschool him in an instant if I thought it was a truly viable option. I'd do anything to spare him the hell he goes through every day.
You know what? Forget Breast Cancer and Alzheimer's and Leukemia. Someone needs to identify, isolate and eradicate the "mean kid" gene. Let's call it the Mk1. Now that would be truly worthy of a Nobel Prize.