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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Schools need firm bully policies
By JANE PLACE
Published October 19, 2007
Whatever happened to the days when kids were having a problem at school with a bully, parents and kids were in the office with the principal trying, and in most cases, solving the problem? With privacy laws that is no longer the case.
We are fairly new to the area and my child has not looked forward to attending school. Just getting him on the bus these past months has been a nightmare. Something was bothering him terribly and was affecting all aspects of our family life. I got him counseling. He was angry and bitter and did not give any reason.
Recently he came home from school and decided to release the burden he had been carrying for at least a year. All this time he was a victim of bullying by a group of six or so kids. He did not feel comfortable telling me what they were doing. He was embarrassed and humiliated.
I had instilled in him at an early age to ignore and walk away. I told him that when he was ready he could write it on some paper to make it easier. Later that day he handed me a folded piece of paper. His head was down. He said there was more, "but I was tired of writing." I opened the note and was shocked and suddenly sick to my stomach. If only I would have known sooner, he would have not had to face this every day.
He asked me not to say anything to anyone, as the bullies warned him they would harm him or our animals. After a long sleepless night, I was at the school office first thing in the morning, waiting to see the person who takes care of these problems. My wait was rather long, as three other bully incidents were needing immediate attention. I didn't mind waiting. I was anxious to get this taken care of and confident the proper action would be taken.
I gave a quick version of what was happening. The response was it would be taken care of and they would get back to me. Ah, relief!
In the meantime the bullies were speaking of retaliation toward us. Knowing these individuals only through rumors, I had heard the main bully had beaten a girl, he carried a weapon and also was in trouble at school quite often. The bullies were called in and told to leave my son alone. A couple of more days went by and I sent my son to school despite the rumors, but I didn't feel good about it.
My son came home and said "Now it's worse. More kids are making fun of me because you ratted them out." I sat him down and told him that bullies were just cowards in disguise. I also told him that he had more courage in his little finger than they would ever have in their lifetime. But sometimes doing the right thing isn't the easiest. I stuck my neck out and exposed my son to more bullying and ridicule.
After a few calls I talked to the person who handled these bullies and he said they admitted to "picking on him." He felt the situation was remedied. I had to disagree. The hype was getting worse around school and another kid had jumped in and was ridiculing my son because his mom was trying to take up for him. My son no longer mentions it, and I am sureit will shut down.
But until bullies are held accountable, school violence will be a huge concern. I will not give up until justice is served and the proper punishment is administered. You would have to live in a cave not to see the stories in the media about bullies and school violence. Many schools are now adopting bully policies. Some schools have zero tolerance when it comes to bullying.
My child has suffered enough. Now it is time for parents to make sure they talk with their kids and make sure they are not being threatened or bullied in school. The best way to expose these cowards is to get students involved and stand up for victims of bullies or report it to the principal. The heros are the students who speak up instead of participating in this disgusting behavior. There are many ways we could decrease this problem; downplaying it won't.
The school has a conduct code for bullying. Why then are innocent children suffering and bullies are laughing and bragging that they got away with it? Simple: The rules are not being enforced. It could be happening to your child, grandchild or friend. Bullying is a widespread problem that needs to be addressed. Just search "bully" on your computer; there are many resources there for parents, children and teachers.
Bullies, beware; we are watching you.
Jane Place lives in Brooksville. Guest columnists write their own opinions on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.