Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This is How a School Should Handle Bullying

So I was sitting in my car waiting to pick HSB up from school, when my cell phone rang. On the other end was the Vice-Principal. Now I had not heard from her all year and was really getting used to not talking to her all that much. Not that I don't like her or that we don't have interesting conversations, but these talks were usually precipitated by HSB not functioning at all during the day. Now the only time that I had seen her this year was right before Labor Day to get things in order for HSB and to make sure that his supports were in place. But other than that, nada, nothing, no phone calls, no issues, no problems. So of course when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone, my first instinct was, "oh crap."

You see, earlier in the day, HSB had failed to show up for his physics class even though hubby had dropped him off early for school this morning. He and I had discussed that he would spend the time in the computer lab or the Learning Center reading before class began. I figured he didn't need someone calling and reminding him that when the bell rang, you get yourself to class. It really is not a new concept to him. So when his special ed teacher called this morning that he had not shown up I was kind of concerned, but I also thought the stinker probably got involved in a computer game or reading one of his websites, so he just decided to not go to class. A few minutes later she called me back to let me know that he finally showed up. I am sure she had a bit of a talk with him later about getting to class on time and I mentioned it to him really quickly today when I picked him up.

The reality is that the school had been puling back on HSB's support and allowing him to get to his classes on his own and basically giving him a lot more independence. It is normal for a 17 year old to want to be on their own and do things on their own, and HSB is no exception. I am pretty sure that his teacher basically told him if he pulls a stunt like that again, the support goes back. I'm not really sure that it would, I don't know if they have the coverage, but I am going to emphasize the independence factor when I speak to him again about it.

So anyway, I figured when the Vice-Principal called he either had a meltdown when he got called on the carpet for being late, or he had tried to dodge another class. They had warned me that he would try to pull nonsense like this and that its typical behavior for 17 year old seniors in high school (you know the things that give us the hardest trouble -see preceding post). Truthfully HSB has had senioritis since September. I think that he may be the only senior who started off the year ready to end the year (or maybe not, I haven't really taken a poll on the subject), so the fact that he is having such a great year does come as a little bit of a surprise. But maybe the secret is that he doesn't really care anymore or that he is not as anxious about school and having already been accepted to college has helped. OK, he is not so excited about college. It is just more school as far as he is concerned, but  he is adjusting to the idea slowly and surely. Hopefully by the time he takes a summer class at the college this July, he will be ready to charge ahead. But in the meantime, heck the child is pulling practically straight A's, behaving appropriately and being very outgoing and charming (except to me of course).

So being a little taken aback, disappointed really, with my jangled nerves I asked, "what did he do?" The vice-principal answered that he is alright. She always does that especially when he got into trouble, but she continued on assuming that I knew the underlying story, which apparently I really did not. Once she realized that I had no idea what happened, she started from the beginning.

It seems that some boys in HSB's film class, noticing that HSB has issues with sounds, as do most people with auditory processing issues, thought it was funny to make sounds that would upset him. In fact the more upset he got, the more noises they made. Unfortunately there was a substitute in the class and he wasn't quite up to speed about HSB, even though the para was sitting there with him. I guess the sub thought it was no big deal, when 17 year old boys act stupid. It is taken as a given within society that if you are 17 years old and male, acting idiotic is your raison d'etre. Additionally, the film class is very laid back to begin with and there is always a lot of hi-jinks in the group.

Now the boys that were aggravating HSB, also did not know him as they are a year behind and have never been in a class with him before, however, it seems their antics are well known to the administration. Now HSB did get upset and he did get overwhelmed, and it took some doing to keep him in check. But he did it. He didn't yell at the boys. He didn't meltdown. He stayed in class. What he did was make really angry faces at them (which I am sure in that 17 year old boy alternative universe was the best outcome these nasty kids could have wanted out of HSB).

But one of the things they didn't count on was that they were reported. The para figured out what was happening as any adult would have and reported it immediately to the Vice-Principal. The Vice-Principal immediately pulled the leader of the pack into her office and with another Vice-Principal (there are three in our high school) basically read the child the riot act and threatened his future carefree existence in the school. Will it help? I don't know, but what I do know is that the administration didn't pooh-pooh what happened, they jumped right on it and put everyone on notice that making fun of HSB or trying to get him upset is not going to fly. That there will be consequences and those consequences go on your permanent record. (Permanent records are very important in this town, as everyone applies to college.)

The Vice-Principal continued that she did go to check up on HSB in his next class, which was Shakespeare and he was fine. He didn't see her, he was facing front, but his para came out to talk to her and said, once he got to English class he was fine. It was as if nothing had even happened. The Vice-Principal also told me that she is going to check in on the film class on Friday to make sure the boys are behaving. She will not announce it, she will not be sitting in the room, she will just happen by and see if those boys are being jerks.

So many things happened to day and I actually say it was a good experience, no not the bullying part, but the part where HSB was able to calm himself down and go to the next class. He was able to participate in Shakespeare and not obsess about those moron boys and at this moment couldn't care less about them.  In fact I told him, that he needs to pay them no never mind (basically ignore the asshats), including no angry faces. Bullies keep at it when they get a reaction, don't give them a reaction and they will stop. (Now you and I know that that is not always so, but in this situation I think it just might work. On top of the fact that the adults in the room already took the proverbial bull by the horns and are on the lookout for 17 year old morons).

Honestly, I also think that one of the reasons that HSB was able to calm himself down for the next class is simply because  HSB just loves Shakespeare. I definitely think that helped a lot. When he was in eight grade his class performed A Midsummer Night's Dream and he got to play Puck. Oh my, HSB is so Puck. He is a comedian and a scamp and if he could get you to laugh he would spend his day telling jokes. He constantly sends me links to Cracked.Com and hysterically funny videos he finds on You Tube. He has such a dry and highbrow sense of humor (with the occasional slapstick antics thrown in) that many of his contemporaries just don't get it. In fact, when the class went to see Midsummer performed at a local college, even the paras fell asleep, but not HSB. He was enthralled beyond belief. So now they are studying The Taming of the Shrew. I can see Petruchio in my future (Actually Collegeman has already played that part, to great applause, I might add).

Of course, HSB took my little bit of advice about how to handle the bullies under advisement and continued on with his day. I am sure that it is stored somewhere in the recesses of HSB Land. It may see the light of day again or it may not. We will just have to wait and see. But there was no talking about the boys, no thinking about the boys, no issue about the boys. What he has done is to conveniently procrastinate in doing his economics homework and has even procrastinated with his exercising. He thinks he is going to do his homework during study hall tomorrow and as far as exercising his butt is on the exercise bike right now-finally.

So all in all, I do think it was a fairly successful day. I will let you know what happens Friday when he has class with the morons again.



Meanwhile let Puck bid adieu:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends..


Until next time,


Elise