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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


This cannot happen, but wait... it did!

Strong post by Orhtomom on bullying in school.

My first thoughts were that this does not happen in our schools.
Admittedly some kids seem to leave any form of “derech erets”(manners) with the rest of their breakfast cereals , but bullying, no that ‘s too big a word.

I went to a big heimische school for years and nothing of the kind ever happened, and I highly doubt there were cover ups of any sorts.
While I can perfectly well imagine them trying, frankly no one in charge that I remember had the necessary intelligence to orchestrate a decent cover up.

And then I started to think about that kid, who disappeared from one day to the next.
Rumor had it that he had transferred to another school.
Thinking back I see all kinds of awful thing happening to him.
He didn’t get kicked or beaten, this never.
But wasn't he the kid whose pens were always missing just before a test?
Whose briefcase was hidden away? Who hung all by himself in the giant schoolyard?
Did he cry sometimes in class without anyone bothering to ask what was wrong?(not even the teachers btw)?
About whom I reprimanded myself I didn’t make an effort to be nice to, once he had left?

Isn’t this abuse as well?

And this kid who was teased to death by classmates who were imitating his manner of speaking and repeating the same words after him.
Who didn’t know much about sport and was mocked in the same manner as if he hadn’t know the Alpeh –Bais(Jewish alphabet), when an ‘important’ game/match had been played the night before ?

So bullying did happen in my time?
So bullying still happens!

Where are the teachers, Rabbis, principals, school counselors etc… in all of this?
If I have such vivid memories of kids and young adults publicly humiliating classmates, if then I wasn’t mature enough to comprehend how wrong and detrimental this was, where were the Rabbis? Why didn’t they put a stop to the bullies? How come they punished me for speaking during Tefillah (praying) but didn’t punish the boy that had made another 14 year old cry?

So who still thinks my idea of home-schooling is so bad now?

I feel like crying because my daughter was bullied so badly it practically sapped her will to live. It seems to go on right under the teachers radar. Prag, good question but what can be done?
I was also a victim of bullying. It really is a childhood trauma. You are so right to address this topic.
Young Man,my name is Rabbi Doctor Werner Axlerod. I am 92 years old and I live in a Retirement Home in Florida. Once a week, a young gentleman volunteer from the Jewish high school comes and teaches me how to use the Internet. He is helping me to compose this Internet letter.
I am writing to you and several others because I am very concerned how you have disregarded the obvious genuine predicament of a certain individual called Mr Simon Atlas- Dating Master. It is clear to myself that he is undergoing a traumatic unhappy marriage.
May I be so bold as to address you personally and request that you go over to his said Internet Site and leave him constructive educated advice. It is clear to me that your encouragement and positive suggestions may unload his very difficult burden.
Please forgive me for being so bold but this is far from a joke. This is clearly part of the positive commandment of assisting the needy.
Thank you for your attention from a very old man.
A lot of teachers also turn a blind eye towards it too...
As i have always said......if i had my way....every school would give up a day each week solely dedicated to middos and derech eretz. What's academics without a heart. My dream school doesnt exist. Read my last entry for a loong sum up.

Jh, girls can be tres bitchy and are fantastic at covering it up....the teachers will never know unless the child complains. Believe me......i know.
i was going to say something along the lines of jh.
the teachers may not notice because kids are good at hiding things, turn a blind eye or simply avoid dealing with it because it is a hassle for them.

i think kids need to be taught from early on that if someone does something that they think is not nice then they can tell an adult without being labelled as a 'tattletale'. obviously this is difficult, peer pressure and whatnot.
I was bullied too. Worst part about it is I had a voice and talked back, which just flamed the fire. I never did physically fight, even when girls would follow me after school and push me and stuff. I always kept walking, never hit, and told someone. So I'm a snitch! :)

I teach at a HUGE public school, and there is for sure lots of this stuff going on. Part of the issue is it happens when there are no adults. It doesn't usually happen in the classroom, at least not in my classroom. As a matter of fact, just last week I had a talk with some of my classes about doing what's right. I asked them rhetorical questions to simply "think" about. Questions like, "When you're friends are talking about a girl disrespectfully, and you don't agree, do you stay quietly or do you speak up and say that's not right". And other similar examples.

Anyway...good post...and no, you aren't nuts. :)
good question. i dont know if im right, but i think there might be a difference between male teachers and female teachers, and between younger classes and older classes. i feel like male teachers, especially when dealing with boys, kind of take this attitude of - its just kids (boys), this is what kids do, it will make them tougher! a few days ago i witnessed a 2 year old get bullied by a 10 year old, and the father of the 2 year old sat there with a little smile (i know he was thinking.. ah my boy.. hes gonna be a tough one!) until i got up and pushed the older kid out of the way. the father finally got up when the 2 year old started crying. maybe i just dont understand boys.. or kids.. or humans..
you're right to bring this up, prag.
although it's usually the ones who are not to blame who will be furious and not the ones who need a 'wake up call'.
still - we can all make an effort to become more aware.
I know of a child who is leaving the local school and transferring because of bullying - but by rebbeim actually..all his brothers previously were bullied by staff.....and suffered awful stomach pains and the like. I heard this recently from the boy's mom. It is very sad.
btw - these people have not a cent to their name, but try hard to do what they can to make life pleasant...they are also somewhat scruffy... this puts people off sometimes BUT ANY DECENT TEACHER OR PRINCIPAL should be MATURE AND GROWN UP by the time they reach their position.....and have the ability to make a positive difference in the child's life and not be swayed by personal bias..
anyway - sorry - Went off the tangent - you were speaking of kid bullies..
Like most problems it starts at the top.

If kids see a teacher picking on a classmate, they are sure to learn.
just wanted to comment as well on Rabbi Doctor Werner's post.
Instead of feeling self righteous and morally above DM's posts -
he cares and sees vulnerability and pain
I really respect that in a person
We could learn so much from it
Prag, I suggest everyone with a daughter read the book, 'Odd Girl Out' about the after effects of girls bullied by other girls.
I bought it for the principal of my daughters school.
uh Prag -
on second thought - i just read DM's posts - and while he is in pain
perhaps it is not in our hands through blogging to be of assistance to him
it doesn't at all seem like the way forward
what's going on there seems detrimental to me...
so, Prag - can you just delete that comment I wrote agreeing with Doc Werner?
If not - forget it - but I take it back! lol
I was also moved to post something on the subject after reading that great piece by Orthomom!

I think it is the school's responsibility to make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated, and to punish the bullies accordingly. A former teacher left a very good comment on my blog saying that kids have too much unsupervised playtime in school- this is when a lot of bullying takes place. Teachers should use playtime to teach kids the proper way to interact with eachother. It would be a great start!

Very important topic. Some kind of revolution needs to take place in the schools to combat this evil. My son's school made it clear that they have a zero tolerance policy toward bullying/violence- and the school is bully-free.
Nice post, thanks for the link.

I think that it is easy for many parents to ignore the issue when their children aren't the ones being tormented. That shouldn't be.
I can identify, but as a former teacher to seventh grade girls in a well known frum school in NY, I want to say that I think that the root to bullying begins in the teachers lounges. I know that when we discussed some students, and different teachers had their opinions about the students they taught, it was human nature, for other teachers to come into class with preconceived notions, and therefore have teachers pets. Dont give me bull about if a person is a good teacher or not. My students are inviting me to their weddings today, and I taught them in 7th grade. When some needed counseling because of peer pressure, they came to talk to me in high school, we would go out for coffee, so I could be mechazek them. I know that I was a good teacher, perhaps not scholastically, but in every other venue, I was very effective, but as a human being, I also know that in the beginnning of the school year, I was told who the good kids are in my class. Thankfully as a troublemaker student, I hated the goody goodies. My point is, that when teachers pick on students, they set an example that bullying is ok. In our yeshiva system this happens all the time.
As a teacher, I have to say that most kids are pretty smart about their bullying of other kids and most of us don't know its going on until it comes to physical violence.And by then its usually too late. I've personally intervened many times when I knew that there was something brewing and I know that other teachers do as well. Since Columbine I think we are all more sensitive to how terrible this stuff can get, but still, if we don't know we can't do anything about. But we are trying to make school a safe place for all kids, I promise!
in jewish private schools, kids are the meanest out of all the school systems. If you keep a child home to be schooled, they don't make the friends they could and they feel lonely I think. But let me tell you, if you see that your child is having a hard time in school, pull him or her out. They would be much happier at hime. Private jewish schools messed up my head pretty bad when I was a little girl.
It is so sad to think back and to realize that I could've been the cause of someone's mental anguish. I could've caused them so much pain that they are still suffering now. I'd like to think that I am a nice person. I wouldn't hurt anyone intentionally but as a child I did. Nothing as extreme as some other people but I still did. We probably all have to some extent. How do we raise our kids so they know not to follow the crowd but in a way where they don't end up getting picked on themselves. kids can be so cruel. I can tell you so many stories!
The only bullying I have ever witnessed in all girls Bais Yaakov type schools was the closing out of girls from various cliques. I am sure it must have been extremely painful for a girl to go through such a thing. I will go read Orthomoms blog now... but I want to say that it makes me feel really bad to think that a childs feelings can be allowed to be wrung out in such a way....

I wonder how much can possibly be done by teachers or administration to stop this sort of thing. If somebody beats up another student, then you can yell at them, but how can you order a kid to play with another one, or even to not laugh at him? How can you get a kid to like someone or to be his friend? I think that the solution has to lie with the parents, who should instill basic morals in the children. Lacking that, no amount of special days about feelings are going to convince children not to be immature.
Do you think maybe its possible to teach kids to be more sensitive to others peoples feelings when they are young?, or kids will always be kids?

It’s a shame how some kids are brought up with no care or respect for fellow classmates, and its sad to see how it usually those loudmouth kids who are getting the most attention and always have fellow classmates crowding around them (most probably because its better to be with them, then against them) but as kids noone seems to realize the pain and abuse the poor tormented kids on the receiving end are going through! So many lives have been ruined and scarred because of bullies and such people whom built up their social status in school by putting others kids down.

Sometimes the affect is seen right away, the bully knows his mission is complete once the other poor kid starts crying or walks away with a red face, but sometimes the affect carries on or aren’t even seen until later or sometimes much much later on in life, and by then it normally has grown into major issues...

One of the main reason why kids have problems in school and lots of times even drop out is not because of teachers or the studies which might be hard, but rather due to not having friends, and even worse being rejected or humiliated by fellow classmates, think about it a childs biggest concern before joining a new school is not what kind of teachers there are or what kind of studying there is but rather what the other classmates are going to be like...

If only these bullies would realize how by bullying and taunting they might be ripping apart a fellow classmates self esteem and as so maybe even tearing up the child’s life C”v.
Great post!

My 6 year old has been verbally bullied byolder kids on the school bus, initially I was trying to teach her skills how to ignore/stay away and then stand up for herself in an appropriate manner. BUT when it got physical and she came home crying because 10 year olds are kicking pulling her hair, i got on the phone and spoke to organiser and was told that she will keep an eye out but just to be aware that one of the older kids who is the bully is academically challenged! SO of course i start thinking oh poor kid she has problems in school, probably self esteem issues but then i grabbed hold of my self and said thats still not a reason for her to bully my kid!!
I will now be watching the situation closely.
One thing we can make sure our kids know all the time that we are there to listen to them i mean really listen and will step in when necessary to defend and protect them.
Oish, this is such a sad topic. Because it is so pervasive, and nearly impossible to "solve", and unfortunately, I just witnessed recently in my very own classroom.
A student raised her hand, asnd when I didn't call on her right away -since another girl was trying to answer my question -she started making the kind of noises girls make when they want to give the answer they know is right. Yeah, it's annoying, but I remember feeling the same way, so I found it endearing and prepared myself to turn to the girl witha smile and say, "yes?" but before I could nearly half the class started shouting -yes, loudly - at her to be quiet, not ot be so annoying, etc. I was shocked at the quick escalation of the shouting match, and greatly disturbed. These girls -a large portion of the class -were basically yelling at their peer that they hate her and she's annoying. I didn't know what to do, so I just walked over to the door and left. The students got nervous that I went to the principal, but I walked back in a moment later and asked the class if they were finished, then told them that I was SHOCKED with their behavior and I never wanted to see them display such cruel behavior ever again. They were unrepentant. And I felt like such a failure. I truly felt pain for the girl they mocked, but didn't know what to do, how to help. And that is seriously one of the worse feelings in the world.

I feel that schools should prepare their teachers for this kind of scenario --how to discipline a class without making matters worse for the victim?

Any advice?
It's truely sad what's going on. makes me wonder how they became that way. Maybe they didn't get enough love and support when they were younger and were always quieted down instead. So they became aggresive. Or maybe they have a behavioral problem that needs serious attention.

Also, I feel for the victim who is being bullied. And I think it could be prevented if we learn how to give kids what they need so they don't become that way.
Teachers do notice. They just don't care enough. They complain about how low their income. They believe their job is to teach academics and to steer away from parenting kids.

I myself was bullied in school. My parents were also bullied.

To reply to one of the parents here. Maybe your daughter has a self esteem issue. But so does everyone. bullies especially have problems. i blame their parents. I notice bullies come from "ghetto" parents with no class.

This topic really does make me upset.
Kasamba- it’s a tough problem; so sorry for your daughter, has it gotten better?

DM-so sorry you had to go through that, do you think it’s possible you haven’t gotten over that trauma until this day?

Anonymous1-Didn’t we chat a while ago?

JH-I believe that this is true, from what I remember it’s hard to imagine they didn’t see anything at all.

Kishmech-This a great idea and not even so hard to implement in practice.
Now we need to convince the school principals of it’s validity.

Sarah- I agree this is very important, if a child feels it can talk about what it is bothered by then there’s a chance he/she can helped.

Tamara- I think it’s good you talked back, on the long term I believe it’s psychologically beneficial not to have let the bullies get the best of you.
Anony00kie-“or humans”.
I think that’s the key.
It’s up to the parents to teach their kids basic social behaviour.
It’s not always possible to control everything but for Heaven’s sake, if it happens right in front of your eyes…

TOWIK-I’m shocked that “staff”/adults play that game.
Kids could be excused (doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be stopped) but for adults there is no excuse to hurt a child in any way.
I say they should be fired and sued!
I didn’t delete you other comment (more comments for my post he he) but I think anybody who didn’t read DM’s blog before would have been fooled.

The Real me-Teachers like that are not deserving of that title.
In which case both the bullies and the instigator should be kicked out of school!.

Kasamba-Good suggestion, I’m intrigued and will try to get my hands on that book and perhaps buy a few extra books to donate.

RR-I’m so glad that one school has taken initiative to battle this monster, they deserve an award.

Momof4- Well that’s a stupid attitude of them, who knows if the bullied kid won’t end up marrying their precious little princess…

Anonymously beautiful-It’s clear that you were an out of the ordinary teacher.
It’s very disappointed to learn that teachers may very well be the ones responsible for much of the bullying going around.

Amishav-I believe you and I commend you for trying you best, at least you recognize the problem unlike many who pretend it doesn’t exist.
Check RR’s comment above.
Girl afraid-What happened to ‘Jewish children doing Mitsvas from the age of three on’?
I agree that if a child is very unhappy then he/she deserves a new chance in a new place.
Sorry you had to go through such an awful experience.

Rebecca-I know how you feel, if only time could be turned back….

Frumgirl-While children can be hurt by feelings of rejection, compared to active teasing and bullying I’m afraid it’s not half as bad.

Anonymous2- You could make kids do stuff by offering incentives.
For e.g. “you’ll get a candy if you play nicely with Lori”.
It’s definitely the parents who have to instil basic social behaviour but that doesn’t absolve school personnel from making every effort so that no bullying is taking place on their premises.

Chasidishe Shaigitz-I guess it’s hard to teach kids to be more sensitive, but at the very least it should be tried like Kishemch mentioned above.
Perhaps if it was taught an mentioned in classes bullies would understand that their behaviour is much more destructive than they might think.

Anonymous3- I think you’re a great parent.
It’s nice of you, trying to put the bullies actions into a context but when your child was hurting that was not your problem.
I agree that if kids know they can talk to their parents and will be listened to, then they have the best protection against the bullies.

Okee-What an uncomfortable situation, I think you handled it brilliantly, let them realize how outraged you are by their despicable behaviour.
How weird that stopping bullies isn’t part of the classes you take to become a teacher.

Suzan-It’s quite possible that many bullies need help and were or are lacking affection at home, that does not mean though that they shouldn’t not be punished (appropriately of course).

Anonymous4- You’re so right, teachers cannot care less.
They just want to go home.
I’m sorry this upset you and sorry you were bullied.
I just hope tat awareness of this problem will spread and that finally schools will not close their eyes to this problem any longer.
My daughter was not bullied, but was made to feel excluded, because she was strong willed, by her classmates. Even in Hebrew School, where she had her Bat Mitzvah at 12 instead of 13, others did not invite her to theirs. Our neighbors had parties, and did not invite her.

Actually, at that age, it is not exclusively the fault of children, in my opinion, but youngsters echo the values, beliefs and words of their parents. So who is to blame?

For me, I still think it was the parents who should have told their children that this child is in your bat mitzvah class, she is invited, whether you want her to be there or not, or this child is our neighbor, she comes to parties.

You have hit a nerve with this subject, as it is one that I will always remember. My daughter was extremely bright, skipped two grades, and different, and she was meant to feel excluded by so many of her peers.
Hey Prag, i changed my blog address. It's http://walkoncloud.blogspot.com/
Prag, I agree that the bully should be appropriately disciplined, but I think that people should also take preventive measures and give them the help they need as early as possible so they don't become bullies and need to be punished so much.
forgive you for not deleting.
just wrote this so you have one more post on your blog!!
tee hee!
Barbara-It’s often those swimming against the current suffering from this. I hope you daughter didn’t let that too much get to her and developed her intelligence and individuality.
From what I know 12 years old is in fact the correct age to celebrate a Bat Mitsvah.
Indeed if parents would educate their kids to be a little more concerned with other’s feelings, many bullied kids world not be tormented that much.

Evangelia-duly noted, will change the link accordingly.

Suzan- I agree, in French there’s a saying “better to prevent than to heal”
Thanks for your Input on this issue..

TOWIK-thanks, I love that!
ONLYWAY-please come over and give us some meaningful discussion, I am curious regarding your above comments
honey you rock!
Bullying in child hood is very horrible, and kids can be so cruel. But workplace bullying is devastating and so not understandable.Eitherway both is awful. One thing I am very proud of: My mother tought me how to be nimble-witted. Always helped me when someone was "standing" on my feet or when I had to help someone. Besides teaching your kid manners etc. I believe that is also very important and gives your kid a good portion of self-confidence.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
But then again there is just so much you can do! But teachers, rabbis etc. should be aware of such a situation and try to solve it.
I honestly..think..
Nothing can bne done about this. Children..are by definition selfish creatures...we cannot expect them to behave much better....up to a certain point.
However..Rebbeim/teachers should definitley be more sensitive to this problem..and they shgould be looking out for it..
I hate bullies. My older sister got bullied a lot. She was very short, lacked self-confidence and an easy target.

Even though I was a year younger, I was tall and more confident, so I didn't tend to get bullied. I became her defender. Not just hers, but whomever was the underdog. I couldn't stand bullies. I still can't. My daughters are young...but if it happens to them, I will be up at their school in an instant.

It can be damaging.
Head over heel- It’s so true that kids who leave the homer with a healthy dose of self esteem are much less likely to be picked on and when they are the target they can handle it better.
Thank for stopping by..
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