Until now, I trusted and believed in the schools to protect my kids from bullies. They tell you how serious they are about bully prevention and the active measures they take to ensure the safety of every child at their school. It’s all bullsh*t. All they do is take reports and punish victims because they’re too lazy to conduct a real investigation. To families, bullying is a serious problem. To schools, bullying is nothing more than a political agenda to pad resumes when the time is convenient.
Schools Create Policies that Only Protect Themselves
Statement of Facts
On Thursday, May 24th, 2018, I (Michael Bonner) went to my son’s graduation ceremony at C H Decker Elementary (Las Vegas, NV). I was about 10 minutes late but was told by another parent that the graduating students had just walked out and I hadn’t missed anything.
When the ceremony finished, the students went back to class. As I was saying my goodbyes and about to leave, I was approached by another parent who asked to speak with me outside. I asked what was wrong and was told that before I had arrived, the school showed the entire audience a presentation on a movie screen from an overhead projector of what different students had to say about themselves. When my son’s words were displayed, it said:
“Hi, I am (name redacted), and today, I am going to tell you about myself, so let’s get started. I am the most hated kid in this school, I am bullied by a lot, and I barely have any friends. I wish this could stop, but there is really nothing I can do about it, I but I choose to ignore it, and focus on the good, so let’s move on.”
At the bottom of his message were pictures of the word “HATE”, a child sitting down alone and a cartoon of a bully standing over a scared little kid.
Visibly upset, frustrated and embarrassed for my son, I confronted the principal for an explanation. Her only response was an apology. She said it was an “oversight” and that she had failed to approve the presentation before my son’s message about himself was put on public display.
Not satisfied with her explanation, I requested copies of every bullying and non-bullying related incident involving and reported about my son. I received copies of three reports that occurred earlier in the year but noticed that reports regarding a more recent incident; where my son was attacked by three different kids were missing. I made another request for the missing material and was delayed.
I returned the next morning for the requested information. I was approached by the principal and vice-principal and instead of official copies, I received unofficial typed statements of the attack suffered by my son.
1. Before my son reported his first bullying related incident, on October 17th, 2017, he came to me, started crying and said that a girl had been teasing and messing with him at school for about 3 weeks. In an effort to help my son stand up for himself, I told my son to ask the girl to stop and to let her know that he would have to tell someone if she didn’t. When she continued to tease and bother him, he reported the incident to a teacher or staff member.
In the bully incident report filed by the school, they took a statement from my son, a statement from the girl in question, ended their investigation and closed the report as “Unsubstantiated”.
I never received a copy of the incident report.
2. On January 17th, 2018, my son reported another bullying related incident made by the same girl a bully report was filed against the first time. In this report, my son stated that the girl told him that she would not be mean to him if he did her homework. They took a statement from my son, a statement from the girl, ended their investigation and closed the report as “Substantiated”.
I never received a copy of the incident report.
3. On February 13th, 2018, my son was attacked by 3 kids while waiting for the school bus early that morning. According to reports, all of the kids, including my son, were teasing and joking around with each other. One of the kids didn’t like how my son was joking around and/or teasing him, so he attacked my son.
My son said it didn’t hurt while the other kids laughed at him. When no one tried to stop the attack, my son punched the kid away from him. According to my son, his only intention was to get the kid to stop. One of the other kids, the attacker’s brother, attacked my son as a result. He punched my son repeatedly in the stomach and some time afterwards, for reasons unclear, the third kid, twice the size of my son, joined the attack and even choked my son in the process.
Between the three kids, my son was punched repeatedly in the stomach, the groin and choked.
When the bus arrived, witnesses to the attack reported the incident to the bus driver who, in turn, reported the incident to the school. The school suspended all 4 kids, including my son because he participated in the joking/teasing session before the attack and for defending himself instead of running away.
I called the school police who informed me that I could press charges against the kids but based on the information they had received from the school, were very confident that the city would not press charges. It was then recommended that I file a bully incident report instead and so I did.
Inside the bully incident report, the only information provided was that an investigation had been made, parents had been notified and that the methods of investigation were a) student interviews, b) parent interviews and c) witness interviews. The school simply ended the investigation and closed their report as “Substantiated”.
None of the interviews were presented in the report and I never received a copy of the incident report findings.
Instead of enjoying his graduation ceremony, my son and his family were disappointed, embarrassed and publicly humiliated. My son was given an assignment in April and told to write about himself. Somehow, this assignment, a message that said he was the most hated kid in school, was bullied a lot and barely had any friends, managed to make it from his teacher, past the principal and other staff members to an overhead projector an entire month later where his emotions, low self-esteem and trust in the school were put on public display.
As a parent, I was devastated. As his father, I was outraged. Not only did the school violate my son’s privacy, they made me realize just how bad his situation was and how much the school had failed to protect him.
He stood up for himself and followed their procedures. He told them he was being bullied and all they did was took statements.
In the incident where my son was attacked, I recently discovered that the kid who choked my son had only been suspended for a day. My son, the victim, was suspended for two. When I asked the principal how that could happen, I was told that school discipline is based on an escalating scale, meaning, they look at the history of each student to determine how they should be disciplined in the future.
Why wasn’t the same logic applied to how my son was being bullied or felt about himself?
The school simply took statements. However, even with those statements, if they had just bothered to compare notes, i.e., incident reports, they would have found evidence that my son is a kid who is very sensitive, eager to please and desperate to make friends. So desperate, in fact, that he was willing to do someone else’s homework and joke around with the wrong crowd just to fit in.
I got that information from the reports made by the school. Had they reached just a little bit further, done an actual investigation and paid more attention, they would have also discovered that:
- My son’s first bully incident report wasn’t the first time he had been bullied by this girl. He told me that he was being bullied by her for a couple of weeks and only reported the incident after he asked me what he should do.
- My son only decided to report the homework incident after the girl started bullying another student he called a friend. Whether he was right or wrong for why he reported the incident, it doesn’t change what happened or the fact that my son would have continued to do this girl’s homework if she wouldn’t have bullied the other student and in exchange for her friendship.
- Before my son was attacked, he was trying to be friendly with the group of kids. They were teasing each other as he got there but only teased him once he joined the group. My son decided to joke and tease back and (again, whether he was right or wrong) was attacked for trying to fit in.
- When my son was being attacked, he didn’t defend himself against the first kid until no one tried to help him and the other kids kept laughing at him. Even then, he punched the kid to get him away, not to beat him up or hurt him.
The principal told me that my son was suspended because he had the option to run away when being attacked. My son has motor skill issues and doesn’t run very fast. Besides, where was he supposed to run to? His dad was working, the door was locked and there was no one around to guard his safety.
The school has created a system that makes it nearly impossible for kids to get help when being bullied and/or victimized. Instead of standing up for themselves, they want kids to live in fear and trust the wrong people to fight their battles for them. My son trusted those people. He was punished for defending himself. He told them how he felt on several occasions and when they turned his feelings into a classroom assignment, the school became the bully and exposed him.
This issue is about more than simple justice for my son. It is about holding the school accountable for their actions. Why are there so many kids committing suicide these days? Why are schools the target of so many shootings and what made their attackers so horribly and tragically violent?
It’s wrong, it’s unacceptable and I refuse to believe that my son or any other child has to hurt himself or worse before the world will pay attention and help them.
My son deserves justice (and help). The school deserves to pay.