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1 Nov 2004
School Bus - Part Two - Resolving the ProblemAwhile ago, I wrote about my 5 and 7 year old boys with PC getting spit on by a group of older boys while riding the school bus. Many of you commented on that incident and I promised to tell how we handled it.
A neighbor reported that her boys knew the names of all those bullies and were going to report them. She also said the bullies had threatened Sam and Nate, saying if my boys ever touched them (the bullies) with their nails, they would beat up Sam and Nate.
Note: It's interesting how little my boys will tell me about being picked on or bullied. I'm grateful I'm able to be home each day when they walk through the door. I often ask each of my kids the same two questions “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was the worst part of your day?” My advice to parents: Talk with your children because kids may be picked on and they just don't tell.
After talking with my neighbor, I was angry. No more did I think this was something my little boys had to put up with. If kids spit on a child with no arms or on a child because he had a different skin color would it be tolerated? And honestly, I was afraid for my boys. And mad. There was a momma bear in me I hadn't known existed up until that point.
Fortunately, I'm married to a calm, wonderful man who reminded me that we didn't want those kids to be our boys' enemies. After carefully talking it over, we decided to go to the bus stop where the spitters got on for a PC public relations campaign. That bus stop was far from our own stop so we didn't know these kids. But the next morning, Dave, Sam, Nate and Spencer and I all went to their bus stop with smiling faces and introduced ourselves to the children waiting there. We told them our names and then I explained very simply about MY nails, how they were just like theirs except the nails grow up, instead of flat, and how they weren't contagious. And of course, I then told them how Sam and Nate's nails were the same as mine and it was no big deal – just a bit different. A few parents were waiting with their young children and we told them what we were doing. We were happy for their support in our public relations campaign.
As it turned out, about 20 or more children got on the bus at that location. So Dave and I divided up as kids continued to arrive, giving our spiel over and over. Many children heard it several times. Some sweet children were even showing us oddities about their own nails.
But because there was that momma bear in me, I had to say quite sweetly how awful it was that some kids were making fun of Sam and Nate, even threatening them and spitting on them. “Can you believe it?” I asked in a shocked voice. I went on to say how bad I felt that their names had been turned in by some other kids and that they were probably going to be expelled from riding the bus.
Our PR campaign evoked three responses. First, some kids were penitent. One sorry boy even said, “I think I'm going to get kicked off the bus.” The second response we got was to be ignored by the main group of bullies (whom Sam and Nate discreetly pointed out to me). They clustered in a group and would not come near us. They knew who we were and would quickly glance over at us. Third, and most importantly, we enlisted the compassion and help of a whole new group of kids, including some very nice BIG boys, who now understood a little more about PC. Never again would our boys have a problem on that bus.
We kept it upbeat, positive and friendly. We felt very good about what happened at the bus stop. For that second group of boys, I'm not sure what they were thinking, but I wasn't sure trying to teach them empathy would be enough. And they did do something very wrong. When the bus came, we waved hello to the driver. She recognized us with Sam and Nate and said she'd received the names of the persecutors from some other children (our neighbors). She was aware of the problem but was a substitute driver and didn't know how to stop it, but now that she had names of the bullies, she was turning them in.
We put our kids on the bus there and sent them off to school. Dave went to work and I went home and called the school to report what we'd done. The school said the names had indeed been turned in by the bus driver, but the principal was out for meetings that day so they weren't sure what could be done. I replied that I didn't think the bus was safe yet for my boys to ride home on and said I'd be at the school 20 minutes before school let out to follow up.
I arrived at the appointed time, and the person who takes the principal's place when she's gone was there to meet me. She told me she'd called in the boys one by one and each was expelled from the bus until his parents had signed his slip. I humbly and gratefully thanked her for her help.