Mom to the Rescue: Stepping In Against School Bullies

School BullyingMy sister and I grew up in a single-parent household, and my mother was everything to us. She was our provider, our protector and our superhero; in our eyes, there was nothing she could not do. In high school, my sister changed from a quiet, happy girl to being withdrawn and sad. Her grades slipped, and she was skipping class. One day, my sister came home, and her shirt was ripped and she had scratches on her arms. She lied to our mom and said she fell in bushes while being chased by a dog. A week later, she came home with a black eye. When my mother pressed my sister to tell her what happened, my sister explained that she was being bullied. A girl in her class had begun calling her names and took her lunch money, but then it escalated. Now the girl was pushing, hair pulling, spitting and kicking. My sister said she did not tell anyone because she was afraid. My mother was furious and made an appointment to speak with the principal. “Kids will be kids,” he told her. And then he said that he could not punish the girl because the incident happened off school grounds.

This happened in the 1980s, when bullying was not as prevalent or publicized as it is today. Today, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), 3.7 million youths engage in bullying each year, and more than 3.2 million are victims of moderate or serious bullying. Thirty percent of child and adolescent suicides can be directly related back to bullying. Two-thirds of school shooters say they felt bullied, threatened and attacked by others.

Parents wonder what their role is and what they can do to help, especially when they feel that school staff members are not getting involved enough. According to the AMA, students say that teachers and staff intervene in bullying incidents only “once in a while” or “almost never” in 40 percent of elementary school cases and 60 percent of middle school cases. Should parents take the step to protect their children when the school does not?

For my sister, intervention from our mother worked. The Monday after the black eye, my sister returned to school and learned that my mom had paid the bully a visit at her after-school job. No one knows what happened or what was said, but the bullying ended. In the ‘80s, no one raised an eyebrow at my mother paying my sister’s tormentor a visit. In today’s society, that kind of thing is frowned upon.

Recently, I’ve seen news stories and read articles about parents who respond to their children being bullied, and it’s clear that my mother’s brand of parental intervention would not be received well now.

Felecia Phillips, a 35-year-old woman in Florida, was arrested and charged with child abuse for attacking her son’s bully on a school bus. “My son is trying to get an education,” she told reporters. “Leave him alone.”

Another mother, Tracy Morales, was arrested for sending her child to school with a canister of Mace to use against bullies. “Three females jumped [my daughter] and beat her up so badly in the cafeteria, the ambulance had to be called,” Morales said. “I’d give her the Mace again. You can’t continue to bully children; people are dying over it.”

Some people genuinely feel as if bullying is a normal part of childhood. Although it may be common, the victims are forever scarred. So what are parents to do when their child is bullied? Do they keep notifying the school when nothing is being resolved? My mother played a central role in putting a stop to my sister’s bullying. Some would say my mother’s behavior was over the top, but at the time, my sister was scared and had no one to defend her. My mother was brave, courageous and determined. My sister needed our mother to be a superhero.

This article was written by MSW@USC student from Southern California, Shena Crowe. She enjoys hiking, biking, shopping and reading.