We hear a lot about bullying in the news today but back when it happened to Matthew, it was still pretty much swept under the rug. I want to share Matthew’s story with you because I think it’s important to think, and talk, about how we help our Special Needs Kids move on…
When Matthew was in the 8th grade he was bullied most of the year by another Special Ed Student. This student was put in on campus suspension several times but I never knew about the bullying until the end of the year. Matthew came home with the knee torn out of his jeans and a badly skinned knee. He told me that he was playing around with his friends and fell. It happens. I didn’t think anything of it until the following weekend.
We went out to the movies and dinner with Matthew’s two best buddies to celebrate my birthday. At dinner they told me all about the bullying.
All three of them were being bullied. Matthew’s two buddies understood what was happening but Matthew didn’t. To him, anyone interacting with him was a friend. He didn’t know the difference between nice and mean. Especially since this kid didn’t seem to get into any trouble that Matthew could see.
Matthew’s buddies told me that when Matthew fell it was because the bully was on top of one of his friends and hurting him. He wouldn’t get off so Matthew pulled him off and the bully pushed Matthew down while the third friend went for a teacher.
I drilled the boys thoroughly over dinner and then that evening I spoke with one of the Mothers. She was shocked that I didn’t know. She knows Matthew and understood that he did not understand what was really happening but was surprised that the school had not said anything. Me too.
On Monday morning I called and spoke with the Vice-Principle and found out that indeed this had been going on. When I asked, somewhat incredulously, why I hadn’t been notified, I was told that they could not violate the other student’s (the bully) confidentiality.
So my son gets harassed and pushed around and eventually hurt because they were protecting the bully.
Who was protecting my son?
Toward the end of Matthew’s freshman year he tells me that the bully is now in another Special Ed class and that they spend a lot of time with this class.
I immediately met with Matthew’s teacher and explained the situation to her. She understood and promised to keep a close eye on the situation. I believe she did and we didn’t have any further problems with the bully.
We had another problem.
The bullying situation came up several times in conversations between Matthew and his buddies and his teacher. She always brushed it aside and said they should just forget about it. You know, forgive and forget.
OK, I agree with the forgive part but not the forget part. Matthew and his buddies used the bullying incidents as reference points in conversation. They often use one situation as a metaphor for explaining and understanding another. So when we would talk to them about safety on campus, Matthew would pipe up and say, “So we don’t get bullied like we did with John.” (not his real name) Matthew’s teacher would always say things like, oh, you need to just forget about that.
There are a couple of problems with that. Matthew started to question whether he was the one who had done something wrong. He also became unsure what to do when bullied because his teacher had told him to just forget about it. Yes, she had told him to tell a teacher if it happened but he became confused by what he saw as conflicting information.
I kept a close eye on Matthew’s relationships with the other students. He ran Cross Country and Track and had 2 regular ed classes so he was out and about on campus a lot. It was gratifying to see a large number of the kids keep an eye out for him and my concerns for his safety became the same sort that every Mom has.
The point of my telling you all of this is that we must not forget. We can’t sweep problems under the rug and hope they will go away. Yes, we must teach forgiveness but if our child learns by remembering an event and then applying it to a new situation, then we can’t forget.
And we need to know that those we trust to care for our children are truly listening to what they say. That they are dealing with situations honestly and openly. That they aren’t just taking the easy way out so they don’t have to talk about difficult subjects.
Have you dealt with similar situations? I’d like to hear your feedback, just leave a comment below. Thanks.
I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.
– Rachel Scott
The first student shot at Columbine. Rachel’s Challenge was started by her Father. Check it out at RachelsChallenge.org.