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The Bully Returns

You just knew this story would have a sequel. All the best stories do.

[For those of you who are not familiar with the story and care to get a primer, just read the above linked post and thengo here and work your way around, if you are so inclined.]

Things have escalated since September (if you recall, DJ was once again put in a class with "S.") and rather than go into every detail of the aggravation and torment, I'll just tell you that everything culminated with a phone call from the assistant principal two weeks ago.

At least I thought that was the culmination. I was assured that S. would be dealt with properly by the new assistant principal, who seemed to understand - unlike the principal himself - that S. was the root cause of the situation, not some strange desire DJ has to be bullied, or signals he was sending out, or that my son was looking for attention from me so he made some things up. Yes, all these things were said.

To backtrack a bit, both DJ and his teacher swore up and down to me for most of this school year that DJ and S. had become friends and had put the past behind them. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized this was all a ruse on my son's part, partly to deflect any of S.'s abuse - pretending to like him would probably keep DJ off of the short list of people S. picked on - and partly because he didn't want me to worry about him every day.

I did notice a bit of a change in DJ this school year. He was very subdued, very quiet. He was quick to anger and incredibly surly. In essence, he had become someone else. I called the school psychologist about it, but he assured me it had nothing to do with school and therefore I must consult an outside professional. I was trying to figure out ways to get DJ to open up to me a few weeks ago when he decided on his own to just, out of nowhere, blurt out:

Mom, I don't like myself since I became friends with S. I think I changed and I don't like it at all.

My heart nearly broke. Here was this child, a ten year old, struggling with himself and his conscience over his feeling and coming up with nothing but self-loathing, thanks to one small punk named S. What power this child has over mine! DJ swore he would no longer be friends with S. He would just ignore him like many of the other kids in school did. We had a little heart-to-heart about it and I made a mental note to schedule an appointment with the teacher.

I'm not going to get into the details of what has gone on since then. We'll just call it bad and leave it at that. And that's just whatever involved DJ. S. also choked a child this week. For that, he was sent home for the rest of the day. Yea, that will teach him.

I finally met that proverbial camel with the straw yesterday. DJ came home, quiet, sullen, complaining of a stomach ache. I knew the signs. I asked about S.

S. hit him. He hit my son. It had finally come down to that. I tried to remain calm and kept my voice even as I talked to DJ about it. No, no one saw it. No, he did not tell his teacher. No, he did not hit him back.

Now, as I type this, DJ is in the shower and I hear him crying. This is every morning now; it's either a stomach ache or a headache or just random tears and I have officially lost my cool.

I've played nice up until now. I've written formal letters and had pleasant phone calls and just sat there and nodded my head and believed everyone who told me that they would make it all better.

I tried not to come off as that over protective mom who wants to shield her kids from everything. I am not that person. I believe, to an extent, that kids should fight their own battles and learn how to lose and figure out how to solve their own problems because, if a parent does all that for them, they will still be children as adults.

But now. Now I am steaming. Now I am one of those parents, the one who makes the principal cower in fear as she walks through the door. I have made the transformation from mild-mannered Bruce Bannon, to the big, green Hulk. And Hulk mad. Hulk smash. Hell hath no fury like a woman channeling a mean, green, smashing machine.

It's time to hire an attorney. No, I do not want to sue the school or the district or S.'s father. I just want to light a fire under their unsympathetic asses. I want them to know the distress they have caused by letting this ten year old version of Saddam run around loose while the school plays the part of the U.N.

You would think that after a year of complaints about this child, after all the trouble he has caused - and not just with my son - after all the times he has been sent to the main office to sit on the bench and sulk, they would stop with the touchy-feely, root cause, search inside yourself crap and realize what the true problem is: this kid is rotten to the core and he does not belong in a classroom with children who are there to learn, not to be bullied.

One of these days my son is going to turn around and clock S. Of course, DJ will be the one to get suspended, be punished, made an example of. The victims are always turned into the perpetrators in these circumstances. Columbine, anyone? Is the school district going to wait for my son to buy an AK 47 off of the black market and walk into school one day and finally have his say, with bullets? Or are they waiting for S. to really explode and physically damage someone before they take action against him?

I'm at a loss as to how to wake these people up and show them that not only are they enabling this bully, but they are giving him free reign to become bigger and stronger and more dangerous. If the only way I can do it is by threatening them with some kind of legal mumbojumbo, I'll do it. It's either that or I march into the main office and start swinging. Which would not put me in a good position to complain about S., would it?

It's 7:48 am. My son is in his room crying. He doesn't want to talk about it. It's another day he will go to school with red eyes and fear in his heart. Another day that has had all the joy sucked out of it for him because of one bastard kid. It's unfair, it's wrong and it's going to end once and for all, even if I have to go knock on this kid's front door and threaten his father with a lawsuit if he doesn't fix his son's problems, and fast.

I'm going to spend most of the morning at work trying to type a strongly worded letter that makes it clear I will not take this anymore. I really don't know what else to do. This bully has killed my son's personality. He has taken every bit of enthusiasm for life that DJ had and squashed it under his shoe. And he's being allowed to do it.

I am really at a loss.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Bully Returns:

» WWHS: Reason #567,123 from O'DonnellWeb
Michele's son is having continuing problems with a bully. It's not the bully that is a reason to homeschool. Bullies... [Read More]

» Help....My Kid is Being Bullied from A moment with
Does anyone know how to deal with this situation? We have a blogger in need. Any type of professional or personal help would be appreciated. Please help her if you can. [Read More]

» An Object Lesson In Bullies from .:/One Little Victory\:.
Prime example of what I was talking about in my earlier post can be seen here. Michele's son has been the target of a bully for months. The fact that the school administrators have done nothing but insist she try... [Read More]

» And I Thought I Had a Shitty Day from Sketches of Strain
But my hard day was nothing next to what Michele and DJ have been struggling with. I hated reading this. But I was super proud of Michele for taking on the school. I was a bullied kid. I used to... [Read More]

» The Columbine Killers Weren't Victims from Right Wing News
So I'm reading Michele Catalano's superb blog, A Small Victory, and she's talking about her son being bullied at school. [Read More]

» "And then he goes back to class" (A bully's tale) from ReformK12.com
This pathetic story begins one year ago, in a post from A Small Victory. Seems a bully had been having a grand old time terrorizing Michele's son, so she tried to take action: Today I called the principal. He gave me a touchy-feely response about how w... [Read More]

» Dealing with a bully at school from Rocket Jones
Michele is going through it. Paul is too. Some kid at school is picking on your kid, and how do you handle it if the teacher/principal/school system won't? My solution was simple, although it took a long time before I... [Read More]

» Natalism or fatalism? from Classical Values
This article by David Brooks reminded me of some wonderful neighbors I once had: Natalists are associated with red America, but they're not launching a jihad. The differences between them and people on the other side of the cultural or... [Read More]


Please consider having your lawyer write that letter, it will have much more impact.......

Raise holy hell woman! I went through this with Mark and it took sitting in the principals office and refusing to leave with them threatening to call the cops if I didn't leave to get them to see that I was mad as hell and not going to let my son be bullied anymore. I told them to call the cops and also the juvy officer to arrest that little punk ass right along with me. They gave me the same crap they give you. He's troubled. It's your sons fault for being such a victim. Uh, no, the kid is an asshole and if need be, I will teach Mark to rip off his balls and shove them back down his throat.
Yeah, I'm still mad about it.
The kid got removed to a new school but is now back with Mark in 7th grade. This time, I showed him how to fight back and if he gets suspended, so be it.

The worst part is how defensive the bully's parenst will be. I was picked on in grade school a lot and I know if I was a bully, I'd have more to fear from my mother than a principal or teacher, as they usually sided with me when my mother was on the criticize everything I did list.

Having gone to a Catholic school, I know wonder how many of those kids who picked on me just needed an outlet for frustration over the priest molesting them :)

I would just work over the bully something fierce. Beating up little tough guys is fun.

Since that would land me in jail, however, go over to the parents house of this little bastard and let them know.

As a former school teacher, I'll tell you this...the administration coddles bullies like that. The reason?? They have "issues" that "we don't understand". In my short-lived career, I have gone up against many bullies (and their parents...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree) and ended up defending myself against the administration on many an occasion.

One girl shoved a pencil in my face and the Dean of Students gave her candy to reward her. No punishment.

One of my last experiences in public school was when a boy threatened to get a gun and shoot me within earshot of another teacher. The boy was never reprimanded or suspended because he was a special education student who was labeled "emotionally disturbed". The boy had his "issues" which is why I needed to "understand" why he threatened to kill me.

I can offer you this...as a parent you have more pull than I did as a teacher. If I were you, I would go in and shake up the administration a bit and start talking about lawyers. I imagine that they'll be forced to do something then.

I'm really sorry...I spent many a day in the shower crying myself. Let me know if I can do anything to help.

Righteous anger. Keep it burning until this is resolved. This is your son! I've been there with my son, but the school responded quickly by permanently expelling one bully (who also happened to be female. Aaargh. Explain that one to an adolescent boy.)

I'm so sorry you and DJ are having to deal with this. I'm picturing you in that scene in the Hand that Rocks the Cradle where Rebecca DeMornay goes postal on the little kid at the playground.
Good luck.

Im not a parent but it must be heartbreaking cause your torn on how to handle it. Your being forced into a corner and when it comes to your family in danger or being hurt what else can you do?

One quicky though. When you move will your son be in a new school? Prehaps untill next fall you can convince the school district either shape up or pay for your son to goto private school.

Good Luck

I'd say you and your son have been through enough. Hire the attorney. Call the television stations and talk to all the "Help Me Howards" you can. Bring this idiocy into the light of day [sorry, DJ!] and maybe, just maybe they'll do something about it.
But don't wait for the attorney or the tv stations. Call the cops. Now.
You've documented - I know because I've read it! - everything. Show it to the police and make sure the bully's father knows that you are calling the police on his angelic cherub.

Don't give up, because even if you would take DJ out of this school it wouldn't resolve it for him. The situation needs resolution at this level. Don't let it go on; use every outlet at your disposal. For DJ.

Based on the comments from the idiot administrators and principal, I don't see anything that will work except a lawsuit, or the threat of one.

Since that takes time, you may want to consider moving your son out of the class. I know it isn't fair, but it may help him in the short term.

It's time they were afraid for a change.

I have no words of advice to offer, only that my thoughts are with you. It's a tough situation, and as someone who was bullied, I can tell you that yes, it will take it's toll, but he will learn from it. with your help, he will come out of this ok, and probably stronger for it.
you do what you have to do to protect your son.

Well, I can't help you from the parent's angle, I don't have any kids of my own, but I can help you from the kid's angle. I was always the new kid in school (moved around as much as an army brat), and I got picked on a lot.

The only sure remedy for bullies that I ever found was a black eye and a split lip. My dad taught me to fight, and more, he taught me to be willing to fight. He also taught me that if I had to defend myself from a bully that he'd back me to the hilt. If someone hit me and I beat them into the ground, he'd make sure I didn't get in trouble for it. And it happened once. The guy hit me, I fought back, and Dad made sure that I wasn't punished for defending myself. Dad didn't fight my battles (with the other kids) for me, he just fought the ones that I couldn't fight and hope to win (the ones with the administrators).

Dj's biggest problem, it seems, is that he's afraid. Being taught how to fight back will help a lot with that. That he didn't fight back when the other boy hit him seems to indicate that DJ thinks (somewhere deep down) that he'll lose, or that fighting back is somehow wrong. Knowing you from your site, I doubt it's the latter.

I don't know if you have the skills to teach DJ how to fight with his fists, but even if you don't, I bet your husband does. And I'm not talking advanced martial arts, I'm talking rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred, put-him-down-and-make-sure-he-stays-there fighting. Being taught that, through practice-fighting, either with you or his step-dad should teach him the confidence he needs.

Have DJ slip some asprin in the kids book bag. That seems to kick off the zero tolerance process in other cases. Sorry, just had to throw a snarky response in.

A registerd letter from a lawyer should put the fear of god into the school administration. Make sure the entire history is contained in the letter and that the school district administration is copied. Going over the principals head seems to be in order here.

My heart is breaking for you and your son. My son, who has a physical disability, had a terrible year in 3rd grade, when he was bullied by another child (who, apparently, also had "issues" at home that we needed to RESPECT, blah). We struggled with the same idiotic attitudes but took action when we ran up against this failure on the school's part to implement any strategic consequences for the bully. We took our son to a child psychologist, not to discover what was in his behavior that encouraged the bully's behavior (although we knew, see below), but to have her help all of us with effective strategies and the accompanying words he could use to deflect the bully's attention from him.

Essentially, this is what we learned. My son is an amazingly engaging child, and he learned early to use that quality to win over friends and teachers. He literally had no experience whatsoever with someone who didn't like him. So he tried his hardest to win the bully over like he had done with 100% of everyone else who came into his life. Except this time, because this kid was a sick little bastard, it didn't work. So here is my son for over 3 months actually seeking this child out and wanting to be his friend, etc. What was really happening is my little lamb was going to the slaughter day in and day out. Of his own volition. Because he didn't have the verbal and strategic thinking skills in 3rd grade (who does? we even didn't!) to eliminate the behavior in this other kid.

You won't change the system. You may effect the removal of this child from your child's classroom. And if you're lucky, as we were, the school may agree NEVER to place this child in a class with yours again.

What I would suggest is get thee to the family counseling center. Tell them you are there specifically to work on strategies that will eliminate this sick little fuck's obsession with picking on your child. You don't care about the other kids who will have to deal with this child on their own. You won't get any help from the bully's parents because for sure they will go on the defensive, and at the very least it will be a pissing contest between you and them.

The psychologist taught our son to say, "Stop your behavior. I don't like it and it's not appropriate." in a calm, non-threatening voice and to walk away. A variation of "pick on someone your own size" I guess. The other kids picked up on it. The psychologist also got my son to understand that the bully had stuff going on himself that was hurtful and the only way he had figured out how to deal with it was to hurt others with words and actions. My son developed empathy. The psychologist pointed out that it was okay to feel sorry for the bully, but it was more important not to have any contact with him. Period. Walk away. Play with other kids. Find another activity or club during recess or free time that the bully doesn't participate.

My son also decided to become best friends with the biggest kid in the 3rd grade (in another classroom), an NFL player's son, and so they played together at recess and this kid walked my son to the bus.

We weren't alloweed to know what repercussions or consequences (if any) were imposed upon the bully. The behavior strategies my son learned (which were far more lengthy than what I've synopsized here)were effective and boosted his confidence. So much so, that when a similar situation occurred when he entered high school this year, he was able to talk to his father and me, decide what channels to report through at the high school (luckily there was specific verbiage in the school's handbook/mission spelled out, etc)and drove the process with the help of the vice-principal involved. There was a meeting with the bully, my son and the principal where my son said "I don't like it when you threaten me. It's against the school rules, so therefore I have reported this situation, and I expect it to stop from now on." Then the principal took over and explained the post-Columbine school policy against threatening behavior. It's no tolerance. Period. There was a letter and contact with the bully's parents from the school and some punishment. Essentially, it was an effective immediate whack on the head for this kid.

My son is happy in his life. He has many, many challenges with his physical condition. Adding this heartbreak didn't have to be one of them. It certainly doesn't have to be your heartbreak. Do everything you need to do. Your son's safety and emotional health are what's at stake here. And tell him what we told our son: "Never throw the FIRST punch." As if he could even throw the second one, but pfftttt. It made him feel way better.

Calling the police and/or litigation is a good idea. It would show everyone involved that you are not playing. It also shows your son another way, other than violence, to deal with a problem. You've already taught patience and empathy as far as I can see. My two children have been in martial arts training and while that teaches self-defense it also teaches them (which I feel is more important) that violence is not the first answer to a problem and to better understand themselves and hopefully others around them. I say this with regret, but due to the world we now live in, I feel that it is very necessary for young ones to be able to defend themselves. I gladly pay for the training my kids recieve compared to the option of me showing them how to pick up a stick and beat the living daylights out of some creep that really deserves it.(whew) I believe that would be aggravated battery and I don't want them to get into trouble. I am so sorry and my heart is breaking right along with yours about this situation that your son is in. I don't know if my teeny little post helps but I will pray for you and DJ, and also for S.(even though we don't care how many paint chips he ate as a toddler).

"You don't understand" Really? explain it to me, that's your job, you're an educator.

I'm so sorry you're still going through this shit, Michele. I agree, I'd get a lawyer, and the cops, and the local news. But first I'd go to the parents of the other kids that are getting bullied. They're sure to be pissed off and worried about it too, and if the whole gang of you can document this stuff, they won't be able to pretend DJ, or any other one kid, is lying or asking for it or whatever the hell they're saying.

The more noise you make, the more likely you are to get that incompetent freak out of that job.

He's an incredibly astute kid, by the way, to be able to analyze himself that well at that age. He just needs to be learning, not worrying.

Raise Hell! Have your lawyer raise hell with letters to all and sundry, and make it well known that you are shining a spotlight on them, and will name names of school administration and school district people. People like that don't like the light. Use it. Get the police involved too. Use every tool you can, because your son doesn't deserve having this happen to him.

Definitely hire an attorney. And call the district's administrative head and the school board chair to tell them what you're doing.

My son also decided to become best friends with the biggest kid in the 3rd grade (in another classroom), an NFL player's son, and so they played together at recess and this kid walked my son to the bus.

That is a great idea, Betsy.

Print out the post, take to school, borrow stapler, attach to principle's door. Restrain yourself from the temptation to attach it to his forehead (come on, you don't want to disturb the vaccum in there anyway!)

Oh, and DJ: your mom is right, you shouldn't start fights; but you're allowed to end them.

I am an attorney, albeit one with zero experience in these types of matters, but I've learned that most people have an instinctual fear of the legal processes that you can use to your advantage. However, school officials can take advantage of free legal representation provided by the union, and as such are less susceptible to threats of legal action than folks who have to pay out of their own pockets. I do not know your financial circumstances, but lawyers, even cheap ones, are not inexpensive, and most people cannot afford to wage a protracted legal battle with opponents who have essentially limitless resources.
If you sue the school, you will likely end up out thousands of dollars with little to show for it.
However, I suspect that school administrators (and to a greater extent, their bosses) are afraid of negative publicity. This sounds like a story tailor-made for a local news broadcast - angry mother, crying child, and unsympathetic school bureaucrats protecting the classroom bully.
A good approach might be a demand letter written by an attorney that threatens negative media exposure should the problem not be resolved to your satisfaction within a short timeframe. If you go to the news first, the school will immediately begin a counter-offensive designed to discredit you and protect themselves.
All of the foregoing is not legal advice, and should not be considered as such or relied upon by anyone. Rather, it is personal advice from a father who hates to see a child suffer due to the aggressive incompetence of others.
BTW, NYU or other law schools often have clinics where law students provide legal help (e.g., research assistance, letter-drafting help, etc). That might be a good place to start.
I left a valid email if you have any questions.
Regards (and good luck),

I agree with Morpheus. The best thing to do is to teach your son to fight back, and to encourage him to fight back whenever he is bullied. In fact, I'd go so far as to teach him it's his DUTY to fight back whenever a bully pushes him.

Unfortunately, I know this from experience. As a child I was very small, very slight and very bookish. I was more interested in games involving imagination than balls and sticks. I seemed to be a magnet for abuse. When I was about 9 or so I attended a YMCA day camp, for my mother's mental health. I was assaulted within 30 minutes of my first day. On the social ladder I was the absolute lowest rung. Everyone, even the girls, bullied me. Every day the schedule was the same; constant harassment from 9 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. Eventually, it got so bad that counselors were screaming at their kids to leave me alone. Naturally, it only egged them on.

When did it get better? When I decided I couldn't take anymore. We were playing a game in which the kids would pair off and try to wrestle a ball from each other, and return it to their corner, all the while crawling. I feel this was some kind of sneaky attempt to encourage us to try out for the wrestling team when we got to high school.

Anyway, the little hellion I was paired with was one of my prime tormentors. For some reason, perhaps my mesomorph build, I have always been much stronger than I look, even when I was a child. The bully tried and tried to win, he even went so far as to bite my hand to get me to release the ball. In the end, I won, and the bully was humiliated. So humiliated, in fact, that he tried to assault me later that day. We were playing volleyball in a squash court, and th little beast tried to take the ball from me.

That's when I lost it. All the rage, all the humiliation, all the frustration just hit me like a sledgehammer. I remember entering a Hulk/Howard Dean state of fury, and I can't recall anything that happened for the next 10 minutes. The counselors later told me they had found me on top of the bully, slapping him across the face with taunting him. The counselors decided to "punish" me by letting me do whatever I pleased for the rest of the day, so long as I stayed away from the rest of the kids. Apparently, I terrified them.

Skip ahead to middle school. I was once again that small, nerdy kid. My grades were so good in some classes that I was actually causing other children to do poorly (we were graded on a curve in some classes). I was a regular traget for abuse. I can remember dreading recess, as my daily poundings had now become public spectacles. A substitue teacher once stopped me in the hall on the way back from recess, and asked me if I needed to go to the nurse. When I asked why, she said that I, "looked like I was in terrible pain." Well, I was.

I tried to play by the rules. A much larger kid, who was in his second year of 7th grade, had pushed some of my friends and I as we were going to class. We went to the school admins, who told us that we must have had it coming, and that they would punish us, the victims, if we ever did it again.

I remember that as one of the truly defining moments of my life. They system did NOT work. I had done nothing wrong. My only crime was to be smaller and smarter than everyone else, and for that I was to be punished. I wasn't important, I didn't count. All my academic accomplishments were useless. I cried that night like I never have since.

Some time later, another bully tried to assault me at recess. Cue Hulk theme. I came to a few minutes later as I was being pulled off the kid. According to witnesses, I picked the guy up and threw him to the ground, pinned him down by kneeling on his arms, and bounced his head off the pavement for a good two minutes. People left me alone after that.

I'm sorry to have written such a long and rambling post, but the point I'm trying to make is that all the talk in the world will do very little. School administrators don't give a damn about your son, that much seems obvious. I think it's time your son tried fighting back. The next time this little bastard tries to bully your son, tell DJ to just kick him in the nuts as hard as he can. Some will say that this is a coward's tactic, to which I call BS.

People won't remember who fought fair, but they will remember who walked away with a smile on his face. If DJ can find a way to beat the tar out of the bully, his troubles should ease considerably.

Anyway, that's my $0.02.

NYU clinics contact page (looks like it is for student admissions, but I'm sure they can direct you to the correct person):

"Little Saddam" We have a live classroom exercise going on around the world, and the educators are not paying attention.

I agree, you need a parental coalition to go to the UN/school. 17 resolutions is enough. And self-defense courses are an unfortunate necessity.

I had the same problem in HS gym, 1978. Teacher gave us the same blather, issues, home life blah, blah. We solved it, flag football and she went down. Hard. Never had another problem.

My little brother went through an almost identical situation. Every day he would come home looking like he had gone 12 rounds with a gorilla. He was in 8th grade and I was in high school so I couldn't stand up for him. The school knew what was happening but would do nothing more then talk to the other kid. Finally, we had to take him to the emergency room one night. That was the last straw. This is what we had to do and what you need to do.

1) Put down the keyboard and call a lawyer RIGHT-THE-HELL-NOW!!! Have the lawyer call and send REGISTERED letters to the little Bastard's parents, the assistant principle, the principle, and every member of the school board. When you hang up with the lawyer call the TV stations.

2) Get DJ into a Martial Arts class tonight. It will teach him to not be afraid, how to protect himself, and to fight when it is necessary. It is not a quick fix, but in the long run it will pay off. Judging from every thing that has happened so far you are in this for the long run.

I hate to say it, but this little bastard will not stop until DJ beats the living crap out of him, repeatedly. That's what my brother had to do.

Could you please provide the name of the school, the email addresses of the school board members, principals and teachers involved? I think we should all write the people involved and tell them to pull their heads out of their asses on your behalf.

I agree with what most everyone else here has to say- document (if you haven't already) the history of the whole thing including direct quotes and names, and outline what actions you feel need to be taken to rectify the situation and the negligence in which it has not been taken care of in the past. Outline the next step you will be taking if this situation is not resolved. Throw around the word "lawyer" for good measure (nothing strikes fear into a school district's administration quite like the word "lawyer" or "lawsuit". I'd send that letter the school district superintendent and make sure to cc: the principal so both the administration and he has a copy of it. Give 'em hell, but in an effectively diplomatic way.

No child should go through the likes of what your child is going through- fearing going to school every day and getting bullied should NOT be what he should be worrying about! Damn bully- I want to kick him in the nuts myself!!!

It's amazing and shocking how many people run across this problem.

My son had the same problem. He told the teachers, he told the principle, he told the playground monitors, I meet him after school a few days (which helped temporarily), but yet he still had problems with a kid at other times.

I explained that this kid was looking for attention, even negative attention because it seemed like he didn't get any at home. I went through all the reasons bullys do what they do, all the ploys to handle a bully, laughing at him, hang out in groups, stay with other friends, ignore him, etc.

Finally, one day it came down to having to tell my son "You've done everything we've told you to do. You did all the right steps. It's not you, it's this kid. I think now you have the right to stand up for yourself and fight back if you feel you need to. I trust your judgement."

So one day after school, as the bully waited for him on the playground, he did. He told me "I hit him on the arm so I wouldn't hurt him very bad."

It sounds harsh, it sounds very un PC, but it worked. The bully ran away, looking a bit surprised according to my son.

So do everything you feel you have to do, and let your son know you back him up 100%.

I am so sorry DJ and Michele. And I know how terrifying it is at both your angles. I was at the end of a bully stick once and lived with the sorrow of my mother's pain. But you know what got me through it with the biggest impact? She NEVER backed down, ALWAYS supported me, and always showed her love. Just like you are doing for your son. I've never forgotten that and it's made me strong. Just what you are doing will help remedy the future. Good luck with the present.
Love you.

Michele, I think your fastest way to an endgame is to go after the parents. Screw the school. What Joshua said above is right. The school has a cadre of lawyers. Bully's parents do not.

You need to log the instances of what's going on, including names of witnesses (if any) to events. Log your talks with the principal and others. Leave a huge paper trail.

Good luck.

I agree with easycure. A few hundred emails from around the world might just get them to think again.

Michele, you also have some contact with the press. I'd go to them. The last thing they want is to see this in the newspaper or local news.

Michele -

I'm a lawyer, and I know what kind of hell we can raise. I've also read your thoughtful posts on every subject from sports to Saddam to DJ.

I have to ask this - has DJ ever taken self defense classes? Karate/Kung Fu/What have you?

Turning to a lawyer here would be the same, in my minds eye, as turning to the UN (to continue your Saddam analogy). Lawyers are reactive. A lawyer (and the police) won't be there to help DJ if the kid is expelled, and he waits for DJ on a bridge somewhere, as happened to me, and beats the stuffing out of him.

Self reliance is what you've spoken about for the rest of the world - self reliance for the US, self reliance for Iraqis - shouldn't DJ get the same opportunity?

I don't disagree with your position about getting a lawyer to deal with the idiot administration, but for DJs part, the ability to properly wield his hands and feet to defend himself would do more for his personality than the intervention of a third party, I'd think.

Plus, martial arts are good for you and good for the soul.

Obviously, I'm not a parent, and nowhere near ready to be one, but I see an incongruence. I think you're right to want to raise hell on the stupid administration for coddling a bully, but I also think for DJs sake you might want to help him both gain his personality back and get the quiet self confidence that knows he can handle himself in a situation.

I've got to say that I regret, to this day, not having taken any form of fighting classes. Purely for self defense. Especially as a Jacksonian.

After he's learned, if he ends up being suspended or expelled for fighting back, you can deal with that as other commenters parents have. But until that point, how will it help your son to have a Deus Ex Machina stop the problem, other than to teach him to wait for other Deus Ex Machina's to solve things?

Heck, let him learn Jeet Kun Do and really do some damage. Or Aikido and just make the bully look like a total fool. Or anything at all to become self reliant.

Forgive me if you've already taken this step and it hasn't worked. It just seems that if he's feeling powerless and helpless and sad, the best thing you can do is help him empower himself.

Michele, I'm very sorry for what DJ and you are going through. I think Jay is correct. The last thing the administrators want is more bad publicity, especially since the Mepham H.S. violence that you blogged about.

Of course, the bully's parent's pizza parlor may be overrun with cockroaches. ;)

First of all, as an attorney, I'd agree 100% with Meryl: whatever you do, make sure you document everything.

I can think of several common-sense solutions to this situation, some of which are mentioned above, but my general sense is that the legal, labor and ideological environment of public school systems render them common-sense-free zones. Much as I hate to say it, these guys really may not be responsive to anything but a nastygram from a lawyer. They certainly sound ready enough to pin the blame on the victim. Having been bullied very extensively myself (I got pitched down a stairwell once in high school), I can appreciate how much that sucks.

This reminds me of my middle and high schools and their ineptitude. Yes, get a lawyer to send the letter, it'll make them shit their pants.

One point that Meryl raised that I completely overlooked - legal action against the bully's parents. That may be the most effective way of controlling the bully's behavior. From what I understand, it sounds like you have a classic case of assault, which is actionable for civil damages. As Meryl indicated, the bully's parents likely have but a fraction of the school's resources, and are much more likely to cave under a strongly worded demand letter.
Again, not legal advice, shouldn't be considered as such, and don't rely on anything I said. Hire a competent lawyer, spend a few hundred bucks on demand letters, and see what happens. But before you do that, check with NYU - they might have someone who can guide you thru drafting a letter full of legalese that could be almost as effective as an attorney-authored letter, and quite a bit cheaper.


Report the assault to the cops and let them go to the school and talk to the bully. Put the bully and your son in a room with you and the bully's dad and the principal and let them stay there till they work out their differences.. Sue everyone involved. Allow DJ to kick bully's ass if he is so inclined. If DJ won't confront him, you go to school and tell DJ that you will be waiting for him the next time he touches your child... let no one hear you say this of course and then pull the little's snots ear until it turns red as a firetruck. Screw the laws about not hitting kids.. This is not a kid, this is a brat who will someday be incarcerated for crimes against a person..perhaps deadly. Someone needs to wake bully up.. if no one else does it..you do it

I mean tell bully you wil be waiting for him next time he touches your child.. not DJ .. sorry about the typo... I was a little hot about this issue

I was in DJ's shoes from 4th grade to 8th. Every time I got an adult involved, it got worse. Mostly because they only got involved just enough to let the kids know that they had gotten to me. They were never punished. The only punishment I remember was ME getting spanked for running on the playground. Hmmm, wonder why I was running, oh yeah, to keep from getting my ass whipped.
I can tell you this from experience, if you get involved, jump in with both barrels blazing. Shut this kid down. Make him wimper at the thought of hurting another kid. Otherwise, it's just another score he feels he needs to settle.

My mom recently had to address this same problem with my brother, and the administration claiming that the other boy had 'sepcial needs' and all of that (he was not socially adjusted, to be sure, but there was no discrimination based on physical or mental defect, anything like that)... what she finally had to do was show up, in person, to the school board meetings and meet with each board member... Just like anywhere else in life, the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing, and the Board had no clue... and the principal didn't know as much as the teacher, etc. After they drug their feet for months, my mom gave them an ultimatum : they could DO something about the bully once and for all, or she would be scheduling an interview with the Newspaper.

You have been a good advocate for DJ - don't give up! Take it to the top. Threaten to call the media, the PTA, your friends, etc. I can't say that threats work, but in my mom's case it did. Just a few days later, the boy was asked to leave the school, on account of his inappropriate behavior. And since he had a "mark" on his record, the other schools didn't HAVE to accept him, either. He's now home schooled... hopefully they can better address his needs there.

Or Aikido and just make the bully look like a total fool.

As somebody with some considerable expeirence in aikido, I would not recommend it for this situation. Aikido is not easy to apply early on in the training, and...well...some schools don't put the same emphasis on combat effectivness as others.

I'd recommend something that has a gound grounding in strikes, such as karate or kung-fu. Personally I'd recommend Uechi-ryu karate but such schools are not all that common.

Another thing to consider. Once your son has gained sufficient skill in a martial art and acutally uses it, he'll likely be punished once. However, that will have probably solved the bullying problem. A short term cost for a long term benefit.

As someone wtih limited experience in Aikido, I agree completely with Steve. Aikido is very complicated, and if you don't do the moves exactly right, you're the one who looks like a fool.

I'd recommend Judo, especially if DJ is somewhat small for his age. It's not too difficult to learn and doesn't take much physical strength, getting knocked to the ground will probably take the wind out of the bully's sails and hurt his pride more than a punch, and the bully won't have a black eye or anything, leaving DJ in a better position to play innocent afterwards, if need be.

And please, get him in some Judo classes now; even if the situation with S. gets cleared up, he might run into a new bully next year, and it'll be better for everyone if he's prepared and can handle the situation right away.

Are these people insane? Ask the principal if he's ever heard of Josh Belluardo. Time to take off the kid gloves.

I had a bully when I was that age. I went to Catholic school and Sister kept putting us at the same table (we shared two-seat tables instead of desks). One day, I just couldn't take it anymore, went nuts, and started stabbing the boy with my pencil. They had to drag me off of him. He's lucky he didn't lose an eye.

The nun told my parents that she put the bully and me together deliberately -- to toughen me up! Unfortunately, there are people who still think this way.

Sure, nobody picked on me after that -- but I still remember the trauma and the shame of losing control and becoming violent. I am certain that a couple of violent episodes in my adult life are related to that early event.

Joshua Martin may have a good idea about a law school, among others. And a Letter to the Editor. The paper here also posts a sort of suggestion box for story ideas, does yours? Can you borrow a mini-recorder and get some of this ("S" is constantly in the office, where we try to boost his self-esteem, and the heck with other kids' self-esteem) on tape before you contact the paper (maybe ask a lawyer)?

And it sounds like S is doing the same with others. Can you get in touch with other parents? If three show up at the PTA and/or Principal's office, it makes more of an impression than one. Same for the media, school board, etc.

As to martial arts, training can be very beneficial - but it must not be used in a situation like this, or guess who looks to be the bully? Outside, though...

I disagree. Martial arts can teach your son, not only discipline, but confidence. It's typically a lack of that confidence that the bully feeds off of.

Find a very good instructor. Interview them like you would a prospective babysitter. Find out their teaching methods, and find out their advice on dealing with a bully. Their answers will tell you a lot about how good an instructor they are.

A good instructor can teach his students how to cope with bad situations without getting into a fight and without backing down, thereby putting an end to the bullying.

Remember, the school is not looking out for you or your son. You have to do what's best for him, and first and foremost that means giving him the means to protect himself.

Good luck.

I feel so for your son, Michele. He must be suffering so. My son was bullied quite a bit because he had glasses from a young age and was smart and a klutz. I was divorced from his dad - which didn't go well in a Catholic school. A few parents encouraged their boys to be mean to Andy - with his evil mother, and all.

Anyway, Andy and I took Tae-kwon-do together from time he was seven years old until he was 11. Andy never had to use it, but he would practice his forms on the playground. Just seeing it scared off the bully boy that had teased him for some years.

Andy is 18 now, still a nerdy, bookworm, but he has such confidence from his martial arts years, that he has not had a problem with bully's since.

Raise some hell with the administration and his teachers. Become a "pain in the ass" until they act. If they refuse to act, it's time to call your attorney. Soon.

I haven't seen any mention of a restraining order. Obviously wouldn't be a long term solution but I'd think it would at least force the school to immediately separate the boys whether the staff wants to mess with this or not!

I do totally empathize with the situation and realize just how fortunate we were when a bully problem arose in my son's class: the teacher was the one who put her foot down and insisted that the problem child be removed from her class and be sent to special ed where his "special needs" could be attended to without ruining school for the other students. It's a shame more teachers don't have a little gumption and do the right thing. (Honestly, I was totally surprised when I didn't have to go yell at anybody after all.)

Hi, I've been in very similar situations to DJ. For most of middle school and elementary school, I was blessed with excellent teachers and school administrations. That changed in high school, however. After a semester of hell, my parents finally decided to pull me out completely and home school me. I think this was one of the best decisions we ever made. There are a lot of resources available on homeschooling, I took most of my math and english through EPGY, http://www-epgy.stanford.edu/, an online course program run by Stanford, and soon started taking science courses at our local university (North Carolina State University), where I'm now scheduled to graduate with majors in Biology and Geology next year. I've never regretted missing high school. I don't know about how much time you have available (something that is a major requisite for home-schooling a child), but if you can do it... Well, that can really be an optimal solution.
Good luck! My heart goes out to you and DJ,
- Kyle

Hi Michelle.

I was DJ when I was a kid. I was bullied mercilessly by other kids because I was a nerd. I always had a temper though, so I always fought back, but without any real force. This only encouraged them further.

I was sent by the school to psychologists, anger management classes, special "gifted children" events, etc. They couldn't seem to work out that the reason I was so angry is that I was getting beat up all the time.

One particular incident I remember well: one of the kids at my boarding school made a dartgun in shop class, and took pleasure in firing darts into my legs.

I eventually solved my problem with bullying. I punched one in the face one day, and broke his 2 front teeth right off. The school told my parents to compensate him for dental work. My parents told them to go and get fucked. I didn't get bullied any more.

Bullies only respect violence. Teach DJ to fight. Give him boxing lessons. He can't spend his time at school telling kids "if you dont stop picking on me, my mom will get a lawyer". That's no way to live your life.

The bully absolutely will not stop until he gets the shit beat out of him. That's the way it works. The school won't do anything. Short of expulsion, there's no solution. Can public schools even expel students? They can't where I live.

It took me years to get over the trauma and stress I went through at school due to bullying. It would never have happened if my parents gave me the advice that I'm giving you now.

My mother tried the same solution as you are trying: Go to the school board, go to counsellors, threaten action etc. You know what that achieved?

"Oh here comes X, he gets his mom to tell on you if you pick on him".

It will only make the situation worse, not better. Teach him how to defend himself. He's going to need to learn 1 day anyway. Might as well be now.