March 28, 2013

The Detention Explained

Last week my third grader comes home from school and says he has something to tell me and adds that the principal might be calling the house. Um, what?

He continues to tell a story about a boy in his class who has been using his hands to make a "chubby cheeks" face and other funny faces and sounds, mostly during lunch time. He's been doing this off and on for the past week or so. He even proudly told the lunch table that his grandmother used to call him "sumo cheeks" when he was a baby because he had chubby cheeks.

So, 8 and 9 year olds being 8 and 9 year olds join in on the fun because, after all, this boy was poking fun at himself, right? My son leans into his friend and says, "Well he does have chubby cheeks" and with that, someone tells a lunchaid who tells the school counselor my son and his friend were "bullying" this boy.

Excuse me?

During my phone call with the vice principal, it was explained to me basically like this:

1.  Was the victim made fun of? Yes.
2.  More than once? Yes.
3.  Did the victim express sad feelings about the incident? Yes.

So this = bullying.

Let's break this down. 

~ Was the victim mad fun of? Yes, what my son said wasn't nice but this boy lead the way. He was drawing attention to himself by repeatedly doing the "chubby cheeks" face with his hands.

~ And yes, it happened more than once because this boy was doing a lot!

~ The victim expressed sad feelings about the incident only after the school counselor asked him about the incident and how it made him feel.

Now, I realize the sensitivity of this topic in schools in 2013, but come on, this was not bullying. In the minds of 8 year olds, this was funny. And since the boy had been poking fun at himself, it appears my son and his friend (and others) began to make comments about his chubby cheeks. Comments may have happened more than once, but probably because this boy had been making the funny faces and sounds with his cheeks in the previous days/weeks. My son and his friend were not bullying this boy.

In my opinion, the term “bullying” has been blown out of proportion and now every petty little thing one child might say to another is being over analyzed.  Where is the middle ground? Why do we insist on swinging from one extreme to the other?  It seems to me that the day is coming when children will not be allowed to interact with each other at school for fear that one child might decide to be offended by something he was joking about from the start!
I am very disappointed in the manner in which the school  handled the situation and disagree with the punishment.  I think a simple sit-down with all the children involved would have sufficed in this situation. Instead, my son is being labeled a “bully.”

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