How I Handled the Bullying and How it SHOULD Be Handled Now…

First, I want to say here that my previous blogs on bullying sum up a lot of what I dealt with and how I feel this issue should be dealt with now… I dealt with being bullied in a different way since I endured the crap all the way up to my senior year…I cut off a lot of my classmates.  I don’t attend reunions.  There is no point.  I never got an invitation to any of the reunions anyway.  I was told that they didn’t have my address, which was a lie. They knew my mom’s address which is where anything I get from them goes.  With the advent of FB, a few of them could have notified me there, too.

Several of us in that class didn’t get invited to any reunions.  It is true.  Three of my classmates have since died–one was a friend who died from cancer.  I found out about all of them well after the funerals.  One of them I didn’t know about for over 2 years because NOBODY bothered to email me or call–and my family didn’t want to “upset” me.  My best friend was one of the three, and I had talked to her just prior to her death.  That is what did it for me.   At least NOW my family lets me know stuff.

Do you remember the Walt Disney movie “Sleeping Beauty“?  I often wonder if Malefacent did the things she did because she was treated like crap, but then again, I always think outside of the box–and we only have ONE side of that story…All the bullying I endured–not to mention the abuse at home led to that little thought.  I know a few of my classmates went through some hell that changed their lives, but we are so fragmented and diverse that very few of us communicate.  The only two  reasons I keep going back to my hometown are my sister and my mother.

My sister has great memories of the place–but her experience was different from mine.  After Mom is gone, all that will be left are the memories that one clings to, and because of my own memories, I don’t ever plan to live there again.  I MIGHT move to Weatherford or Ft. Worth, but I refuse to move back to the mausoleum, which is what that entire town is slowly becoming.  I love my sister, but other than that, I would be totally miserable in that place.  I left it for good at the age of 23 and have no desire to return there.

The only saving graces in that town were the teachers I had in school, and a few of the police officers and a few administrators and counselors that knew what was going on.  I’d break curfew and hang out in front of the station.  There were pastors, doctors and a few other people I looked up to as well. They all knew why I left town too.  All I can say is that when my book comes out, I will change the names of the town, but when a lot of my classmates figure out who was who, they will be the ones who get very angry.  I told them all (especially the bullies) that I can do more with a pen than they ever dreamed possible…When it comes out, they will know it for a fact.  No, I’m not seeking revenge on them because the fact that my life is good does that already.  I just think things need to be shared as they really were and that they need to quit trying to sell this bullshit fantasy of theirs that all was just hunky dory in that place.  It was far from it from my point of view.

Writing was my refuge from all the crap that went on and I spent many days talking to counselors about what I wrote.  They finally figured out that it was therapeutic to write a lot of what I voiced about the students who made my childhood a miserable living hell in that place. They also figured out that my fictional characters were the students bullying me.  The bullies were very fortunate that I chose the pen deal with them being that some of the bullying was severe…The kids of today have no qualms about harming the bullies because all they want to know at  young ages is that they simply want their pain to stop.  To them jail or prison is a haven compared to what they are enduring–and unfortunately many feel that violence or suicide are the only options that  they have to make that pain go away.

When I was young, there were consequences–real ones for the actions one takes.  Now the schools seem to think that what they call “lunch detention” actually works…NEWSFLASH:  IT IS A BADGE OF HONOR TO A BULLY TO BE IN THAT!  Why?  There is an ever-growing population of students who have close family members who are incarcerated.  Many of them come from gang families and are groomed to be in a gang position.  This carries over into their lives at schools as well and it must not be tolerated. Uniforms are a start. If they can afford to get designer colors and shoes, their parents can afford simple pairs of pants or slacks and a solid colored top.  I really don’t want to hear about a student’s individuality because most of the time they are always being led by someone else anyway, and if it is not the parents, then it’s probably someone else in the neighborhood–and it most likely isn’t a decent role model either…

One of the topics that will set a school administrator off is facial hair on a male student.  They will waste 30-40 minutes of learning time each day each time he doesn’t shave to try to make him shave and/or call his parents.  Offenders in a Texas prison 99% of the time are NOT allowed to have facial hair.  Instead of trying to make our schools reminiscent of penal institutions, I say let the kids dress as their parents would allow them to–within reason, and only make them wear the uniform or jumpsuit when they do stupid things–like fighting, cursing at teachers, etc…Their lunch period should not be in the same lunchroom with other students either if doing lunch detention.   They should have to be in a classroom with nobody sitting next to them, or in the ISS section in their own booth.  I get sick and tired of pscyho-babble that says that they must have that time to socialize.  They socialize almost everywhere on campus because nobody will stop them.

I think that in America schools have become not places of refuge and of learning, but of controlling and containing–two tasks at which schools fail miserably.  They are in some ways just like penal institutions and students with families in jail (or prison) will not be phased by the discipline methods being used now.  They will readily tell you that they see the same stuff going on when they go to a prison visitation. If they don’t tell you that, parents and other relatives can.

IF anyone wants to challenge my opinion on this, they should look at any offender disciplinary plan/procedure in the state they are in the state that they live in and compare it to any school’s disciplinary plans/procedures.  It will shock them as to the contents of it being like that of a school disciplinary plan with some differences. In prison there is solitary confinement, loss of commissary, loss of contact visitation (or all of it depending on what happened)  and sometimes food loaf for 3 days (if severe infractions warrant it).  So now the question just begs to be asked:  Why is the United States training its school children to be offenders?  No wonder the bullying continues!  Watching students fight day after day  in the halls on the playground is like watching offenders go at it on the recreation yard or in the wings!

To stop a lot of this, educators need to be taught (evidently) that bullying is no game.  It is not just “kids being kids” and it is causing violence and death.  Bullying should no longer be used in today’s vocabulary because it has, in recent years, gone beyond taunts and teasing.  It is now deep psychological abuse and physical assault.  It is not just students engaging in it, but there are times educators engage in this as well by saying things like “Well don’t say anything to Johnny (or Jenny) because she might run home to tell her mommy and we’ll all be in trouble.”  Yes, I know a teacher who did this.  She should lose her bloody license because what she did by doing that is set the stage for that student to be “pressured into silence” by her peers.  The result for this child is that there is a high chance that she would have been  bullied also because this teacher is well-liked by the students. Her mother withdrew her when the teacher humiliated her in class a few days after this was reported.

Note:  This is also the type of game offenders play in the wings to turn other offenders against each other–and sometimes officers do this too.  IF an educator lowers himself/herself to this level, they don’t need to be drawing a paycheck on the taxpayer dime.  They are committing psychological and emotional abuse–which is a CRIME people!  If the districts do not wish to handle it and take care of it, then they should be reported to the state licensing agency and to the police–period.  Get it documented if this is happening to your child.

Educators who know of this type of behavior are required by law  to report this also.  If you are an educator and you see this happen, and your district is doing nothing–abuse of a child can be anonymously reported.  If they end up going to jail and such, and your testimony is needed in this country–then the district cannot retaliate against you without being subject to the “Whistle Blower’s Act”. While this act was originally filed to give the power to the courts to deal with government officials who are committing various crimes, it can also be used to address people who abuse authority and/or become a danger to public health and safety.  Educators work for the state, therefore, if they engage in behavior that needs to be addressed, then this law also protects officials who actually report them.  Officials in the educational field are not exempt from RICO laws or anything else so I do not know how they could be exempt from this…Read about it here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower_Protection_Act

This teacher had gotten into a spot because another parent reported her.  The district failed to act so this parent is now home-schooling her children, who were also severely bullied.  Prior to this, the teacher I spoke of  humiliated one of the children in class (openly) and this is why the other student went to her mother. The other parent withdrew her child also (as I mentioned earlier) when the teacher started focusing her anger onto that child.

I think it is funny that the school district tried to threaten both sets of parents with calling CPS until their lawyers got court orders to  knock off the harassment and filed a formal complaint with the state board for educator certification against the district since it is not against the law to home-school a child.  I think the real reason the district decided to have a cow is that they lost $1500 per head per term  for each child taken out of school.  Between the two families involved, that is a total of 7 children.  That translates into a $21,000 dollar a year loss to the district.

This also tells me the district is less interested in stopping the bullying than it is in losing the almighty buck.  If they cannot stop the bullying, parents should be able to move their children to ANY other district without question and/or home school them–especially if it is a special needs child that is the victim.

I have seen one movie recently that deals with the bullying issue from the victim’s perspective.  It is a movie called “Mad World” with Gary Cairns II.  When I watched it, it took me back to my experiences.  I could relate to two of the characters in it, but my parents were NOT like Jevon’s parents…However I was the bookworm type.  I was the quiet one.  I stayed in my room for my safety and to hide from the world. I made good grades and such while half the bullies screwed up.  I think I could relate more to both Cory and Jevon–but I did have a classmate that reminded me a lot of  Will…That quacking thing really cracked me up and we had one kid in class who cracked me up like that when he opened his mouth.  Once in a while he teased me, but he didn’t really get whacked out like the bullies did.  I am thinking that he should be a comedian.  He would be great at it.

Anyway, here is the trailer for “Mad World”. I strongly recommend it because Cory Cataldo is the only writer I have seen that takes this issue from the point of view of the bullied and from the abused in a film–and these guys went through abuse at school and at home.

Here is the link and it is NOT edited for language and such:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v97q-QeQG0w

As a writer myself, I feel this film deserved a lot more attention for Cataldo’s way of bringing this issue to light.  The only issue I had with it is I would have totally left the political slant out of it to reach a wider audience, but that is just the way I would  have written it–and how I am writing my book.  I loved the movie though.  Because it is told through the eyes of the victims, that could be why the political slant is there…The “F” word didn’t bother me either. I’ve heard worse–but I’ve worked in a prison as a sergeant of correctional officers…THAT is one line of work I will never return to either.  The reason for that will come out in my 2nd book.

This movie is available on Netflix now. 

A good reason I like independent filmmakers is that they are really in touch with the audiences they want to reach.  This film did reach me.  Gary Cairns is also in another movie right now entitled “Lost in a Crowd”.  The cast and crew are also making a difference in the lives of homeless students in L.A.  You can see the trailer and info on that stuff here:  http://www.indiegogo.com/LIAC?a=103015&i=addr   and please share the link!

Anyone who would like to friend me on Facebook is welcome to do so.  School bullying is a topic that I speak out against regularly.   Here is the link to my FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002130892797

More on bullying…(Updated on 12/2/2011)

If you read my earlier blog on bullying, then what I am about to say may be of some surprise to you. Yes, I do feel that forgiving others enables us to move forward, but what about those that are broken and can take no more? I have my own ideas on this.

We have different types of bullying–but in all cases I feel that there is ONE common thread. Bullies go after anyone they perceive to be different and/or lesser than themselves. I think they feel empowered at someone else’s expense because either they have been bullied and now this is an outlet, or they simply feel that they are above anyone else. I also feel that all bullying can stem from resentment or hate.

Bullies are EVERYWHERE. They are in school and in the workplace. If you don’t believe me, look at all the lawsuits. Bullies all use different tactics. Some use physical violence (especially in schools) and others use either cyber bullying and/or they use a position of authority they have in the workplace to exert their will over those they perceive to be beneath their station. I also feel that bullies look at their victims as a step below the species of humanity on the evolutionary chain.

The abused tend to become abusers–but not always. Now substitute the words “The bullied” and “bullies” in that sentence. Bullying is a learned behavior–not an instinct or a mental disease. If you want to stop this in our society, then it has to be stopped at the schoolhouse first! To stop it in the schoolhouse, there are many ways–mediation, sensitivity training, etc…I think the best way is for school districts to hit the parents where it counts–their wallets. I’ll also bet, if a study were done, those conducting it would find out that the children who are bullies also had parents who were bullies when they were in school. Parents who were like that tend to dismiss their own children’s actions as “kids being kids”. This is simply false today. As I’ve said before, “kids being kids” will get people harmed physically and psychologically today–if not killed.

If districts could impose heavy fines (like $25 per offense) on parents whose children are out of control, the money could be used to do many things–fund classroom supplies so teachers won’t have to pay for it–etc…Face it–parents often don’t buy the kids what they need, so use the fines for “bullying” to provide things like pencils, paper, crayons, map colors, etc…Also parents love their pocketbooks enough that they will eventually control their children when they get tired of paying fines for their ridiculous behavior.

Kids who are bullies and get caught should also be suspended from extracurricular activities and sports for at least three weeks after each incident. For severe cases of physical bullying, charge the kids with assault because that is exactly what they are doing on school grounds! Some districts and state laws already allow for this, others do not.

Victims of severe and/or repeat bullying incidents should also be made to see a crisis counselor immediately after the incident is made known to school officials to make sure there are no suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others developing. Also, in less severe cases, transfer the bullies–NOT the victims. In fact, find out if the bullies are running in a clique and split them all up into different schools. When the cliques see that their buddies can’t go to school with them anymore, then they will back off of everyone else now.  If there is one thing a group hates it is having their social lives monkeyed with for someone’s actions.

It just seems to me that unless the case is extreme, transferring the victim should be a last resort–up to the parents. Why should the bullied child be punished? It would be more of a punishment to the bullies to separate their groups into different schools. It would also send a strong message to other students that there would be no tolerance for THEIR behavior. To me, transferring the victim is almost like punishing the victim. However, in the case of severe assault, or sexual assault of any kind, then I say move the victim to a new district to lessen psychological trauma and lock up the assailants in a juvenile facility.

Being bullied does not justify the victims taking the situation into their own hands and they need to be taught this. That is why it is important to get the victims to a counselor. When a person cannot take any more, they can become irrational and they can do things the normal person would not normally do–like harm others and/or themselves. I believe that we have to be proactive and not reactive when it comes to this subject. There are lives at stake and the last thing I want to hear about is another school shooting or bombing by some kid(or kids) who were victims of bullies who were themselves out of control.

The handling of bullying cases should be treated with no difference as to the reason behind the bullying. A bully is a bully and whether the victim is gay, straight, pretty, not pretty, athletic or not is not important here. All are created equal and should be treated no differently–whatever the reasoning behind it. This is true for the victim and the victimizer. All bullying is equally horrifying and I do not want to see it continue. I worked for 4.5 years as a corrections officer and spent over a year of it as a sergeant. Anyone can draw a parallel between the bullies who beat up kids for stepping into “their corner” of the playground and the offenders who will beat up other offenders for sitting at “their” tables or simply playing handball on “their part” of a recreation yard.

I also am a certified teacher. The same behavior exhibited by bullies in the school yards is also exhibited in the prison systems. IF you don’t believe me, then do a study. I’ll bet my last $10 that if a study is done comparing this behavior in the school with the behavior of the offenders who do this in the prisons, they will find so many similarities that it will shock them–especially when they find out how many of the schoolyard bullies are in families where one or more of its members are behind bars for violent crimes.

Our public schools should be a safe haven in America for these children, but to me it seems that they are growing in similarity to correctional facilities. At some schools, there are armed guards, fences, gates, etc…Is it any wonder that such a comparison can be made? What has happened in our culture that has made this so? I won’t go deeply into this subject here, but part of the problem lies in the devaluation of Education in America. We now have a culture that doesn’t view education as being necessary and important. Until power is given back to parents and educators to stop the mess going on–including the bullying–schools will continue to evolve into something reminiscent of correctional institutions. After all, it is teachers who try to instill social values into these children and they when grow up and get to the prison system–it’s up to the officers to do that. Am I right or wrong? I really want somebody to prove me wrong on this. I challenge anyone to do a study on it.

America really needs to start thinking and re-thinking. The clock is ticking and our children’s futures are at stake because of what society has done to them. The school system has to be changed. I think we should seriously take a look at overseas educational systems and find out what makes theirs different. What makes them work? Something is working well for them because you don’t see nearly the problems there that you see in our country now–especially school shootings and such. What are they doing right and what are we missing as a nation?

I have also thought that with all the new “Occupy” protests, that maybe parents should “Occupy” their children’s schools.  I do not see why parents cannot volunteer to monitor the hallways and such.   For students who must walk to their home from the bus or from the school, set up parent patrols to walk the kids home and ensure their safety.

There is one more thing that one might look into in order to make comparisons and ensure accountability on the part of the school administrations.   Here is my proposal.  The Prison Rape Elimination Act (or PREA) was passed in 2003.  It was written specifically to deal with victims of sexual assault in correctional facilities but it has expanded over the years to include offenders who are victims of extortion, beatings and to provide protections for offenders who have become suicidal.  You can read a little about this act here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Rape_Elimination_Act_of_2003  .

What does this have to do with school bullying?  Well, here is my perspective.  I feel that if a study were done on this, I would be proven right.  IF an offender commits suicide, there is always an  investigation into that.  If it comes out that officers or administrators ignored the signs of offenders being abused and/or made remarks to the offender like “Welcome to prison!” or “You shouldn’t have committed the crime you did to end up here!”, then the officer(s) and/or administrator(s) who failed to get help for the victim can be charged with deliberate indifference–and get jail time for it on top of losing their position.

I feel that if a study were done, many of the offenders who attack other offenders were probably either school bullies, victims of school bullies  and/or victims of abuse or neglect at home.  Now if the federal government were to expand the PREA to include public education facilities, it would open up the door for teachers and administrators who fail to protect victims criminally liable for their lack of action when it comes to protecting our young victims.

America has a growing population of gang related offenses and bullies in the public school system who have learned this behavior from family members, or have learned it by being exposed to family members who are incarcerated.  I feel that IF a study were done, there would be a strong connection here.  I really want someone to prove me wrong on this, but I do not think it will happen because the suicide rate among bullying victims is steadily climbing.  Cyber bullying and psychological terrorizing of children is becoming more common.

Since public school attendance is mandatory in this country, I have reached the conclusion that schools are no longer a safe haven for children to be educated in, but have become facilities for containment–much like the correctional facilities given the behaviors mimicked by bullies, teachers, administrators, offenders and officers–plus the upper administrations in both types of facilities.   When administrators tell parents, “Well bullying is part of school life and your child needs to learn to deal with it.”  This  is no different from telling an offender who is assaulted “Welcome to prison!”.  Do you see the connection I am making here?

We send our innocent children into public school facilities around the country with no protection given to them every single day because by law, we must do so. It is the only federally mandated institution forced upon our children, who have NEVER committed a crime or hurt anyone–yet they are getting hurt.  They are dying every day.   However, when the school systems fail to provide for the safety and well-being of those children in their care, it becomes a problem that can only be addressed by stronger regulation and litigation.  Schools that have not implemented a “Zero Tolerance” Policy for bullying, must be forced to do so and forced to enforce it.  It has to include stipulations about being caught for cyber-bullying as well.  If student’s cell phones and such have to be banned from schools, then so be it.  They aren’t allowed to have these things in a prison, so why would they be allowed here?

Dealing with the Past *about being bullied*

I often get asked how I deal with my past issues. I don’t often discuss these things with others, but people in my hometown know me well. They could not understand for the life of them how I managed to keep my marbles in tact…Seriously! I had a crazy childhood! I know many that had a hell of a lot worse, but mine was unique in that I lived in Bedlam, TX! Anyway, that’s what I called my house.

I won’t go into details. Those are unimportant since that is the past. The only thing the past can do is throw up pictures into your memory. Those things cannot hurt you. I had to let go of mine. I can tell you all personally that the hardest thing to do is the very first step I had to take, and that was to forgive people one by one.

You see, there was a big difference in being bullied then, as opposed to being bullied nowdays…When I was a kid, I got even. If they bullied me to do their term papers–I did them alright! I made sure they got nothing but “F’s” too. I took a few beatings for it, but it was worth it. They didn’t have me to another one because I told them I would do exactly the same thing. I was dismissed as being “crazy” by that bunch. I fought with brains more than anything else.

There was a boy in particular who was on the track team who used to make crude sexual remarks to several of us–one at a time of course. Sometimes he would push us down. Other times if we were wearing a skirt, he tried to lift it or pull it down in the hallway. We started talking one day. NONE of us knew the others were bullied by this idiot until one day in PE class one girl brought it up and we all began discussing the problem. Our solution: We decided to make sure he got a dose of what he dished out–together!

The coach wasn’t watching one day and we dragged him down into the theatrical prop room. In our school, costumes, make-up and every thing was kept in that place. Four of us held him down while the other three stripped him down to his boxers, put a dress and petticoat on him and colored his lips with red lip stick–the kind that is hard to wash off. I don’t know HOW the hell we got away with this, but we took his clothes and scattered them all over the front lawn of the school! He had to go out there all dressed up in his frock to get them too!

He never revealed who did it, and he never bothered any of us again either. We know his fellow team mates on the track team laughed at him for DAYS! NOW a bully is liable to get killed or injured severely. I don’t think anyone would dispute that even in our day we would wonder what life would be like if those bullies “died or disappeared”. The difference is, we knew it was wrong to actually kill someone and feared the consequences back then.

Now I fear that young people have no such fear and some have no conscience either judging by what is filling up our juvenile justice centers. I am not joking when I say I feel that most of our generation merely fantasized about killing the bullies or making them disappear…When did it become okay in our culture to allow these kids to cross that line between right and wrong? Even if one is a bully, kids should be taught at an early age that MURDER is wrong. Period! I get really tired of some type of “disorder” getting credit for everything wrong imaginable in society anymore.

Now were the actions the group I was with took “wrong”? Yes, they were. Were they abusive? Yes because of the humiliation he felt. Granted, at the time, we felt vindicated for how he made us feel, but we still felt an emptiness there…I think that emptiness came from the fact that getting “even” changes nothing about what has already happened. On top of that, we proved we were no better than he was–but my cousins would have literally beat him to a pulp if we’d told them about it and we would have felt even worse. Does that make it okay? No it does not. And people will say, “Awww you guys were just kids being kids.” Really? OH REALLY? Hmmm…Nowdays “Kids being kids” can lead to abuse, murders and suicides. If you don’t believe me watch the news and the talk shows that deal with the subject of bullying! It is out of control, people!

Having the ideals of right and wrong on THIS subject instilled in me in the seventh grade made it easier to forgive others. If one cannot forgive others, they cannot move forward because anything from the past for which we harbor a grudge will poison our present every time–we just don’t realize it until later. As I said earlier, forgiveness is that hardest first step that we have to take, but it can be done. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to let things go–especially if we are the ones who were abused, taken advantage of or whatever the case might be.

It can be done though–one day at a time–one issue at a time.