Just three weeks ago, the Heard in Rye speaker series lecture featured a talk by Joel Haber, Ph.D. entitled "Bullyproof Your Child: Practical Advice for Parents and Children". Now the Rye Middle School is warning parents about a series of bullying incidents at the middle school, especially among 6th grade boys.
What do you know about these incidents and what should be done to prevent them? Leave a comment below.
Here is the note Rye Middle School sent parents:
In the past few weeks, we have been hearing from students and parents about middle school bullying. We want to take this opportunity to communicate with you about what we think is happening, how we are addressing it and what we need from you.
First, there have been several recent incidents of name calling and bullying—especially among 6th graders. For boys, this has taken the form mostly of teasing and using terms like, “gay and faggot” or references that suggest that a boy is effeminate. In the case of boys, it has not been just one or two boys who have been targeted in this way. Dozens of boys have acknowledged that they have been called ‘gay’. It is almost as if there is a universal urgency to label each other as less-than-masculine in an effort to preserve one’s own social status.
For girls, there has been a tightening of the social cliques—“mean girl” behavior such as excluding girls from conversations and activities and talking badly about girls behind their backs.
None of this behavior is new. Unfortunately, this is what tends to happen in middle school as early adolescents jockey for social status. It is sometimes ‘worse’ in the spring and, unfortunately, we don’t have another long break before summer.
Here is what the school is we are doing to address this behavior:
§ We are responding to the incidents that are reported to us. We are processing the exchanges between students and counseling them. We are providing support for students who are being bullied and the administration is giving consequences to students who are doing the bullying.
§ We are encouraging advisors to use their weekly sessions to talk with students about respect and treating each other better. Recently, some of us talked with the students about ‘Make A Difference Day’ and how affected we all were by the bullying testimony that some of the students gave at the end of the day. We asked them to share some of the things that they hear at school that are hurtful and that they never want to hear again. There were some powerful sessions.
§ We are talking as a team about what else we can do systemically to promote a culture of respect in middle school. We were very pleased with how ‘Make A Difference Day’ went and with how responsive the students seemed to be. We are brainstorming about how to extend the effects of this program to make lasting changes in the culture of the middle school.
We would encourage you, as parents, to:
Please help us by insisting that all of our children treat each other with respect. It’s a good idea to have conversations with your children about how people treat each other in middle school, and how they want to be treated. These talks will give you an opportunity to reinforce the values of mutual respect among peers. Here are some specific suggestions to get the conversation started:
§ If you haven’t already talked about it, ask your child about ‘Make A Difference Day’. Ask him what the students on the stage said and what the point was of that presentation. Ask them what negative things they have heard (or said). Encourage them to speak up about hurtful behavior and reinforce with them what you expect of them.
§ Go back to the district’s policy on Rights and Responsibilities for students (on district website). It is very detailed about what the district expects and guarantees in terms of a respectful learning environment. Read it; discuss it with your children.
Finally, feel free to stay in touch with us about your concerns. We are available to listen, to offer support, and to brainstorm with you about ways to protect and nurture all of our children.
Sara Braun, LCSW
Rye Youth Council
Middle School Youth Advocate
Peter Green, LMSW
Rye Middle School Social Worker
Like most, I can’t stand a bully. Forget about “processing the exchanges between students” and counseling. What every parent needs to realize that if their child is the bully, they are legally liable for the behavior of their child. Additionally, if you find out that your child is being bullied, you are entitled to take legal action against the bully if the behavior does not stop. The school is also legally liable if they were made aware of the bullying and did nothing to stop it. In this case, the school has taken some action, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the bullying continues – these little worms have a habit of laying low until the attention shifts to some other youthful malady, like underage drinking, “sexting” or some other deviant behavior.
While the “Make a Difference Day” sounds very Oprah-like, I’d rather discuss the very real emotional and psychological damage that a bully can inflict with a judge and jury – and let them decide how much it wants to award in punitive damages to the victim. In a civil case under tort law, there is a possibility of punitive damages, if the defendant’s conduct is egregious and had either (1) a malicious intent (i.e., desire to cause harm), (2) gross negligence (i.e., conscious indifference), or (3) a willful disregard for the rights of others. Gee, sounds like a bully qualifies on all three counts! And don’t forget that a civil case carries a much lower burden of proof than a criminal case.
So talk to your kids, find out if they’ve been subjected to any kind of pain, physical or otherwise, then lawyer up and make money the old-fashioned way, through the courts – you might find yourself the new owner of another house in Rye!