09 February 2011

It gets better, but not if you're straight

Before anyone gets upset, I am NOT downplaying the work at The Trevor Project which has a MASSIVE anti-suicide campaign aimed at gay youth. I believe with all my heart that each human life is priceless to God, regardless of sexual orientation. So now that that's said...

My 12-year-old son is getting bullied a lot. His guidance counselor has put an end to the physical bullying, such as pushing, stealing, etc. But the name-calling continues. Every afternoon after school, I pick up a kid who's faking a smile until he walks out the door, when he dissolves into tears. Every afternoon after school, I deal with an emotional meltdown. I try not to baby or tell him what to do. I try to just listen, and I encourage him to work it out. I tell him it will get better.

Thing is, it hasn't improved yet. It's getting worse. My son, in an effort to look "cool." dyed part of his hair blue-green last night. This is not prohibited by the school's dress code. It reads, " The
following conduct is illustrative of disruptive behavior and is prohibited:...  appearance or clothing which (1) is disruptive, or (2) is provocative, offensive or obscene;  (3) endangers the health or safety of the student or others, or (4) violates the dress code adopted and publicized by the schools...

So he went to school. I stopped in to talk to his guidance counselor about the bullying situation. When I stepped back into the hall, there he was, walking down the hall with the principal, crying. He'd been in school 1/2 hour. He says his homeroom teacher looked straight at him and told him his hair looked terrible. Kids started calling him "queer" and "fag" and asked if he did his hair because he likes boys. This is a typical insult for them, that he's gay.

The principal said that we live in a conservative county and my son should have known better than to color his hair because it makes people pick on him. First off, this isn't true. The high schoolers have piercings and dyed hair galore. A girl in the middle school band has pink hair. The art teacher's hair is artistically colorful. Secondly, people pick on my son regardless of his hair. The homeroom teacher happened to notice it because he noticed the HAIR. But of course, it's my son's fault he gets picked on. It's his hair that was disruptive in class, not the kids who have been calling him gay since the first day of school. So he got sent home and told to fix it so he would fit in better.

We're home now and my son is asking me the questions I so wish I had answers for. What happens tomorrow when people still pick on him? When is it going to stop? Why is it his fault, and why can't he fit in?

And I have a few questions of my own. Where are the anti-bullying campaigns for straight kids? Why is it OK for my son to get called "fag" and "queer" when school systems wouldn't tolerate that happening to a gay kid, thanks to the media attention? (and I'm not saying they SHOULD tolerate it!) Why is my son told that it's HIS fault people pick on him? This is the same kid who was held in the office during recess in 4th grade to "protect" him from the bullies who were allowed to have fun and fresh air on the playground. Why is my son being punished while the offenders get to do & say whatever they want?

I'm juggling all of this. I understand the principal's viewpoint. I understand that sometimes you have to try to meet people in the middle, find common ground. But if you've tried that, how long do you keep at it? How long until he stops being sick to his stomach every morning and in tears every afternoon? How long until it gets better?


Aunt Jan said...

Man, I'm so sorry to hear about this. Love that kid and wish this wasn't happening to him.

Brenda (BBC) said...

Did you know the Wenners (homeschooling family) when you lived here? Her son got bullied and abused so much that she ended up going to the media and speaking out on TV. She had to become an activist for her son to get the crap to stop. She might be able to offer you some advice. You're going to have to get in people's faces. The authorities in that school should be protecting W, not the bullies.

Michael Angelico said...

Schools are pretty well powerless to stop bullying. The bullies will find a way to do it that doesn't break the rules, or just wait until there's no witnesses. Dealing with the problem properly would take teacher man-hours the school just doesn't have.

A school playground can be the most emotionally damaging place to put a child. (I guess you know where I'm heading with this.) You put the kids back in school this year because you didn't have time to juggle homeschooling and a job. Now you're spending hours every day repairing the damage done in the playground. What's the point?

Don't let me tell you how to run your family of course, but I'm just sayin'...