Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By Diana L. Chapman.
The bullies are still there. They are there every single day at school. They are there in the morning. They are there in the afternoon. They appear after school, before school and during breaks.
They slink around when kids walk home. They show up when kids take the bus.
And yet, despite school officials repeatedly saying they have this issue under control  across the nation – there is nothing further from the truth. One out of four students in America faces bullying, according to many websites that follow the issue. This often causes psychological damage – and yet, it continues on like a badge of honor for those doing the deeds as it has for decades. We apparently can’t find a solution
Anti-bully campaigns run at school. School officials talk about it. But I’m still not finding them taking it seriously enough.
Therefore, I don’t think James Willie Jones has anything to apologize for, especially since his daughter was humiliated and allegedly knocked in the head and had her ear twisted – along with a condom tossed at her head.
As far as I’m concerned, there are no excuses anymore to let this reprehensible behavior continue on the playground, in the classroom or anywhere else for that matter. That’s what adults are supposed to be for – to stop this action.
Too often they don’t. And then we wonder why kids show up at schools shooting.
This is the reason why when James Willie Jones lost control over teasing and taunting of his 13-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy, I don’t blame him one bit. Where was the bus driver when students started taunting her and throwing condoms at her? Why was there no adult to stop this?
So Jones took matters in his own hands on Sept. 3 in Sanford, Fla. He jumped on the bus and confronted the kids who “allegedly” did the bullying. He cussed and screamed and threatened, because he didn’t want his daughter injured anymore ---emotionally.
What did that get him? Yes, he apologized, but I don’t think he needed too. He’s just another parent who has tired of the taunting, the teasing of a girl who already has enough trouble to confront in her life time.
I’ve witnessed such behavior when I was at school and later when I was a career-oriented reporter. I found bullying unbearable. The worst case going back to the mid-70s  in Glendale, CA in middle school.
Not once, have I forgotten it. I watched a developmentally disabled girl, about 12 tormented as a horde of students first circled and then mobbed her after someone posted a sign: “Kick Me,” on her back.  The group of hecklers followed her all the way across campus. Her eyes were round with fear.
Desperately, I tried to make my way through the crowd to pull the sign off. By the time I got there, a school official came up and said curtly to the girl:  “You have a problem girl.” He turn her around, yanked the sign off her back and told her to go on her way.
That was it. Nothing happened. No speeches in the auditorium. No discussion of this matter in anyway.
That girl was so completely helpless, and terrified, it was horrifying.
When it happens around me, I don’t stand for it. A few years ago, I went to pick up my son from school. A bus dropped off a bunch of high school students outside where they walked  home from that location.
One older student popped out and another one right before him. The older boy rolled up a newspaper and started whacking the younger boy on the head repeatedly. The youngest looked completely humiliated, befuddled and miserable. Grabbing the newspaper from the oldest student’s hand, (while the bus driver sat reading behind the wheel) I asked the tormentor what he thought he was doing.
“Playing,” he said. “I was just playing.”
“Sure, you were,” I responded, adding that I’d be writing his principal. “Go ahead,” he said with a smirk and walked off. I asked the other student his tormentor’s name, which he gave me – and immediately wrote a letter to the principal that night and faxed it.
Later, I received a call from the top administrator explaining there was nothing he could do. The bully argued he just playing and he believed him. It was my word against the students. It was outside of another school and not on his campus. He could do nothing.
Great. That’s really good. Didn’t he wonder why someone would go so much trouble to report it?
That’s how far we’ve come in the past four decades. Do nothing. It’s just easier.
Certainly, I believe people have no understanding of how much damage this does. Later, I had a friend tell me her son’s grades in third grade suddenly plummeted from As to Cs and Ds.
That’s odd, I told her. Something had to go wrong. Grades are a great indicator that something is up with your child. “Bring me his report cards,” I told her, “and let me see what’s going on.”
Viewing (I’ll call him Tommy) his grades, the teacher had written “child comes in crying at school every day. Parents must meet with teacher.”
“What was happening?” I asked my friend. “This is unusual for a child to cry every day.”
“Well,  Tommy said some boys were bothering him,” the mother explained, “but the teacher didn’t seem to think it was that.”
Oh, yes it was. Tommy – who spoke three languages and was extremely creative – was being horribly taunted by four boys every day for his accent and was constantly ganged up on. Being immigrant parents (legal I might add), they felt all they could do was go to the teacher.
“The sooner you get him out of there, the better,” I told Tommy’s parents. Tommy was a ridiculously creative and an artistic boy who could write a good story. He was, like many of us, sensitive to the taunting.
As soon as he left that school, his grades went back to As. He made new friends and was happy again. The parents are so proud of him now – as they should be.
Yep, bullying is still here, alive and well, and no matter what school officials say, it’s up to all of us – all adults – to understand it’s still not being taken seriously.
Whatever James Willie Jones did that day loading up on the bus and losing complete control, it’s a cinch one thing will happen -- his daughter will not be teased again anytime soon.
Nor should she ever be.
Show up and clean trash off the beach this Saturday at the annual Coastal Cleanup Day at Cabrillo Beach.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium helps to sponsor the event from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants are encouraged to bring a bucket or reusable bags and gloves.
For more information, visit: or call (800) Coast 4-U.