Thursday, April 4, 2013

High school and bullying

Madeleine started year 7 this year. Although she was originally at a school that went from Kindergarten to Year 12, we made the decision a few years ago that we would change her to a new school in Year 7. Purely for financial reasons unfortunately. The fee's had been extremely challenging for us to meet all along, and we realised that if we wanted to build our family we had to consider sending Maddy to a different school.

Instead of being at an ultra expensive grammar school, she is now at what we consider to be the best Catholic school in the area, one whose results were very pleasing and have a strong focus on performing arts.

Maddy went into the change of school with a bit of a mental block - she was convinced she wouldn't make any friends, and even now has days when she wails about how her day went socially. But for the most part I can read between the lines and what I hear are the very normal social interactions that a whole bunch of 12 years old girls go through when presented with a lot of new people and circumstances. I have confidence that she will settle down soon enough with a group of close friends and in the meantime is developing a nice group of girls that she is friendly with.

But something really ugly happened last week. Maddy came home from camp with a tale of a girl spreading a rumour. That she had seen Maddy and her new friends kissing, and that the girls were lesbians. This girl was making loud nasty comments whenever she walked by Maddy, and had made threatening comments as well.

We never had to deal with anything but the mildest bullying in primary school. We were always able to coach her through it and the school was quick to react. We even had one instance once of Maddy bullying the daughter of a good friend which WE were quick to deal with through talk and expectation setting.

This is just ugly. And knowing what high school girls are like, a rumour like this could also be crippling
socially. What is a 12 year old girl doing throwing around concepts like that anyway? These girls should be barely out of playing with their littlest pet shops and not have any real thoughts yet about sexual orientation or activity. Hearing the label used now in such a nasty way is just going to make it that much harder later in life for the girls who do find themselves leaning towards same sex relationships.

I honestly didn't know what to do. Coach Maddy to handle it? Tell the school? Try to confront the girl or her parents?

In the end I called the school. This is ugly and vulgar stuff and I expect them to nip it in the bud. And I don't think that Maddy is equipped to handle this kind of nastiness alone.

Well triumph for the dobber Mumma. Our young bully was singing a different story at school yesterday begging Maddy to tell the Vice Principal that it was another girl so that she wouldn't get in trouble with her parents. Her attitude and aggression seem to have died down, and although I'm sure she and Maddy will never be friends, the hostility won't be there now as our bully seems to have been shaken up by getting in trouble for her actions.

I talked Maddy through handling this girl at school. I want her to avoid sinking into name calling, and to avoid a physical fight, but I don't want her to be a doormat. Bullies like weaker prey, and my gorgeous girl does not need to be that mouse.

I'm proud of Maddy who was indignant and angry about how she was being treated, rather than upset. She's a friendly puppy who would be mates with just about everyone if they welcomed her. And I'm proud of me for not letting it go. Because bullying is ugly in all its forms and I won't let my child be a casualty.

Have you experienced bullying in your household? Did you dob or was your kidlet up to the challenge?

1 comment:

  1. I experienced bullying as a year 8 girl, so I am really aware of it now as an adult, and when there has been any signs of it with my children, I go straight to the teacher.

    Not always does the school act as quickly and efficiently as your school did though. Whilst I am preparing my children for handling difficult children, sometimes, you get more results if the parent speaks up (maybe the teachers just view the child as being a "dobber"??).

    Good on you for speaking up. I would have done just the same.

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