It absolutely amazes me how children mistreat one another. While I always think about how great it can be to be a kid and that the pressures of childhood pale by comparison to what we experience as adults, incidents like the one that my older daughter is going through right now reminds me that we all have it hard some times, regardless of our age, sex, color or ethnicity.
My older daughter Molly is half way through her grade 8 school year and is preparing to enter the whacky world of high school in the fall. She attends a middle school that is about 15 minutes away by foot. The school is populated with a mixed bag of students from every walk of life and every socio-economic background. Molly’s group of friends is fairly large and varied. Some of them my wife and I have met, others we have not. Some of them are nice…others, clearly aren’t friends.
On two separate occasions, Molly has been pestered by a group of young boys in her class with comments that could be deemed to be racist. In my mind, any harassment of this kind, either verbal or physical could be characterized as bullying.
She had a similar experience in grade 7 with a bunch of boys and the principal at the time effectively dealt with the problem and Molly was ultimately left alone.
This time around, the name calling began almost as soon as school started.
Our daughter does not like confrontation and instead of reporting the incident to her teacher (who is oblivious to what is going on behind his back) or reporting to the principal, she chose to just keep her mouth shut and try to deal with it herself by ignoring the boys.
Six months later, the boys have not let up.
Upon hearing the latest episode from Molly, my wife and I decided that despite Molly’s objection to us saying anything (as of the posting of this blog, she is royally pissed at us), we would reach out to the principal and put a stop to this behavior once and for all.
The Toronto District School Board has a “zero tolerance” bullying policy in effect. However, its only enforceable if administrators are aware that there is a problem.
Fortunately for us, we seem to have a principal who is very responsive when it comes to this kind of behavior and is also very sensitive to our daughter and her request for keeping as far removed from the process as possible. She doesn’t want to bring attention to herself but clearly needs help to solve this problem.
While I have no doubt that the principal will be effective with appropriate disciplinary action against the boys in question, what concerns me even more is that this kind of behavior exists in the first place.
While I would agree that children pick up ideas and beliefs in the “schoolyard” through their own social network, I would hypothesize those ideas are implanted before they reach the “schoolyard”. They are developed and honed elsewhere. While children are influenced heavily by the media and what they see on TV and on the Internet, they are even more influenced by their parents and the kind of environment that is created for them at home.
Is a child who lambastes a fellow student with racial slurs taught these beliefs by their parents or is it a lack of proper parenting and nurturing that drives them to look elsewhere to establish their belief-system?
Are we, as a society, too busy to properly teach our children right from wrong? Do we even care how our children form and create their own beliefs? Or, dare I say it, are we still filled with this anger and hatred towards others because they are not like us?
Molly is a tall, white-skinned girl who is model-like in her appearance. Oh, by the way, she happens to be jewish. While it is not as blatantly obvious that she is a member of an ethnic minority, what must it be like for a child who is part of a visible ethnic minority?
I don’t have any kind of solution to share with you. I am just angry, concerned and shocked that this silliness is still so prevalent in our society. Its even more shocking that in a city as richly diverse as Toronto, that this ignorance even exists. You might say that I am naive and unaware of the ways of the world…but hell, this is the new millennium. Have we not had any progression in the fight against racial injustice?
Has your child been exposed to racial attacks at school? If so, what has your experience been?