The writer of this story is a Rhode Island mother who has requested to remain anonymous. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, Good School Hunting has decided to honor that request.
The minute your child is born you form a protective bubble. You don’t want anyone to hurt them and if you are like most parents, you would do anything in the world to shield them from harm. Unfortunately, the bubble only lasts for so long because they do grow up and that bubble, well, it pops. And growing up today is hard. Harder than ever, it seems. Kids have access to things that we didn’t, like devices that keep them plugged in all the time to social media. Sure, “snapping” your friends and sending streaks on Snapchat is cool, taking pics on Instagram is great, but only until it isn’t. The screens cause harm. The screen gives these kids a false suit of armor that makes them feel untouchable—no face to face interactions –just words and a send button. No human factor. No empathy. If not monitored, this can be dangerous, and as we’ve seen in today’s world, deadly. Cyber bullying is a thing. It’s not just “boys being boys”; it’s beginning to feel like an epidemic.
I’d like to share my story –
My 8th grade son is a good kid. And no, I’m not blinded by his good nature to know he’s not without shortcomings. All kids, and adults alike, make mistakes. They say things that are not nice or do things they wish they hadn’t. He’s not an angel. Hell, neither am I. But on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, his strength as a kind human being was tested. My son was the target of cyber bullying. Three kids, 2 of whom were on his school baseball team, thought it was ok to initiate a group chat labeled “You are a fat piece of shit”. All season my son, amongst others on the team, endured some type of bullying whether it be about his weight, his speed, his ability to start over others. He would inform me of these situations, thankfully, but he also handled it on his own and like most kids, by firing back insulting retorts (again, no angel). But this weekend was different. The season was over and he was blatantly targeted with homophobic phrases like “you’re a faggot” ; “you’re gay” or derogatory comments like “you’re trash at baseball” and “what’s your fat ass going to do about it” and even went as far as to tell him to “not eat for a month”. I honestly wonder what fuels so much hate in children, that they feel this is ok. The bullying didn’t stop there though, they went on to target Judaism. In fact, one of the boys actually told another what to say: “He’s a Jew so send his something like this: “Go back to your temple and pinch pennies fag bag.” And the kid did as he was told and sent those words to my son. All of this is incomprehensible. The best—or worst—part of this is that those same kids would stand at my car during the season and want a ride over to the field because I had the “good snacks”.
As I read what they wrote and the words they actually used, my blood began to boil. I literally became the female version of the Hulk. I wanted to take down each of those kids. I wanted to stoop to their level and be hateful back. I wanted them to hurt as much as they hurt us. I began firing notes to their parents—most of whom I didn’t know—the baseball coach, the school administration and I even contacted the police. I consulted friends, family, and cried off and on for days. Why would kids, teammates, brothers who played on the same team, do this? What was it? The parents’ responses varied. One parent was distraught and plainly stated that “her trust in her son had been misplaced.” I can’t imagine how hard that was for her to admit. She apologized for his “offensive” behavior and assured me there were consequences for him. This is hopefully the response I would have written if the tables were turned. However, another parent went as far as to say, “Yes, my kid called your kid fat, that’s boys being boys, but he didn’t say anything about his religion. This is just you trying to stir the pot”. REALLY? That comment alone only reinforces the ignorance in today’s society. I realized after that comment that no matter what I said or did, she and probably many others, would never get it. Apparently, her kid is the exception, he’s the angel. Good for her.
In the end, the outcome may not have been exactly what I had anticipated or wanted but there was no question that their behavior was unacceptable and that was made crystal clear to them by people in positions of authority.
So this is my story. I’m dedicating it to my son and to all the other children out there being tormented online. Thankfully my son found the courage to talk to me, to share his pain and ask for help. This is a gift that far too many parents don’t receive. And for that, I will be his voice. This is also for anyone who may feel or have felt mistreated but didn’t have anyone to listen to their story. There are people who care and who will listen. I promise. You may not get the outcome you want, but knowing you are not alone, can make all the difference.