My son, the Bully

Last Friday, before I got home from work, there was a knock on my front door. My wife, Tiffany, answered the door and was confronted by an upset father. This man, clearly frustrated and at his wits end, informed her that our son Ben had taken part in the verbal bullying of his son Jordan. And while Ben was not the primary offender, nor had he been involved since the beginning, he was still a part of a group of kids who had been picking on Jordan for 2 years.

When Tiffany called me I was floored. For those who do not know Ben, he is a great kid, the last person I had ever imagined would be involved with something like this. Sweet and always caring, Ben often will give up something he wants if someone else wants it more. He asks to help around the house and is a very even keeled kid. Still he is a little awkward, not feeling like he fits in. He is an artist while his older brother is the athlete, so Ben has always felt like his identity needed to be separate from John Michael's. This includes polar opposite interests, and a different set of friends. And while this is no excuse, I felt that trying to fit in may have been the root of this issue.

I called this man immediately and apologized for any involvement my son might have had in this. I asked that he bring Jordan to my home that evening and we could sit the boys down and get to the bottom of this. He agreed and we set a time.

I arrived home about 30 minutes before they were scheduled to be there. I sat Ben down and we talked to him. He told us that he knew this was going on. And while he had never directly said anything derogatory to Jordan,  he knew his friends had. I asked if he tried to stop it, and he said no. I then explained to my son that standing by, watching it happen and not trying to stop it makes you as guilty as the person doing it. There is no difference. As we talked more, I learned that Ben had taken part in ostracizing this boy from the lunch table, and saying bad things loud enough for him to hear but not directly at him. I was shocked by his words but appreciated the honesty. I asked what he was thinking and he told me he was worried about what his friends would say. He said he felt bad for Jordan but didn't want to become the target if he spoke up. So he went along. I told him while I understood, there are no excuses to be made here. He needed to man up for what he had done.

I told Ben he owed Jordan an apology, and that he was no longer to associate with kids who are being bullies. Jordan and his father came over and the boys talked. Ben said he was sorry and his Dad explained to Ben what this was doing to his son. A promise was made that my kid would not take part in this anymore. It was a good resolution for everyone, but I still had one bit of information that was bugging me.

Ben told me that he and his friends had been called to the guidance counselor's office about this. Twice. And I never knew anything about it.. After giving myself the weekend to calm down, I wrote an email to his school. I explained what had happened and asked them how, in all their infinite wisdom, did they not call me when my son was called to the office for bullying someone? I got a phone call from the assistant principal, who was very aware of the situation. She said she didn't call me because, and I quote, "It never occurred to her to call me." I asked her how that was possible, and she told me that both times they had found that nothing had really happened. I told her that was funny since Ben admitted to it Friday evening. She seemed shocked that happened. She told me she would follow up with Ben, and I asked her to watch him to make sure he was doing what he said he would do. She gave me a phone call back at the end of the day to let me know that Ben had followed up and told these kids he could no longer associate with them if this was going to be how they were going to conduct themselves. I plan to follow up with Jordan's Dad and the school to make certain that is the case.

This whole situation had already hit home to me. Many years before stories of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito were in the headlines, I had to deal with bullying of my own. I will never forget being beat up everyday on the way home from second grade. I will also never forget how different that kid acted the day after I let him know I had had enough by whooping him up and down Royal Glen Road. Kids cannot do that now. Jordan has already been suspended once for standing up to his bully. However, yesterday it hit a little closer.

Last evening, somewhere else in Gahanna, a young girl took her own life. A sophomore athlete at the High School where John-Michael goes everyday, the rumor is that she was bullied as well. And it is so very sad. I look at facebook and people ask what can we do and how can this be prevented? How do we keep this from happening everyday all over this country?

 I do not know the answers. 5K memorial runs and candle light vigils are fuzzy, feel good moments after a tragedy. But what about before? What about when a middle school vice principal decides not to call parents because it is no big deal? Or when a kid is called a name on his walk home from school? Or when he stands up to his bully and gets suspended? Aren't these the places where life lessons should begin? Shouldn't the get togethers and rallies be held before another kid decides it is too much?

Again I do not know the answers. I only know that I will not be the father of a bully. Enough said.

Day # 261. I am praying for the family of this young girl who took her own life, for Jordan and his nightmare to stop, and for my son who has found the courage to do the right thing. Been a rough week, but still good to be me.


Comments

  1. Hi Mike,

    Like yourself, I am a Gahanna father. Your post today, in light of today's events was both brave and hopeful. How you handled the situation with your son was truly honorable. There should be more fathers like you out there. I wish nothing but the best for Jordan and have no doubts that with you as his father, Jordan will learn and grow from this experience.

    I'd like to share your post,. If you're good with that, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Munch

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    Replies
    1. Please, feel free to share. And thank you for your kind words. I have no doubt that there are a lot of parents who would have handled this the same way. Being a parent is an adventure, and you have to be ready for anything and quick on your feet! I spoke to my son Ben again last night. It seems as though he is following through, even walking home with Jordan yesterday. I am glad he made that choice. And I hope he continues to make good decisions

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  2. Mike,

    You are truly amazing for bringing this forward and not giving one second thought about changing the names! I give you great pops for doing this. As I have had to deal with my son Dylan being bulleyd back in our hometown. I am greatful to you for sharing as I will be sharing this with Dylan tonight and hoping that he can help others that this happens to. You handled this the right way as the principal did not. Thank you again for sharing and keep up the great parenting!

    Lori

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  3. Thank you Lori. I know a lot of football and wrestling parents. All of them are great people and I figured that they would appreciate hearing about the school's reaction to this. I am glad that people can take something positive away from this, because it sure wasn't a very pleasant experience on Friday evening!

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  4. Chiming in from Oregon with 2 sons ages 10 & 6. I thank you for taking the time to write this. I'm touched to hear your stand and actions you took.

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  5. While I admire the way you handled this situation, I'd be curious to hear more about any concerns you may have about your son's social situation. He certainly has a good point about not wanting to become the target. Are you worried that telling his former friends that he can no longer associate with them will cause him to be on the receiving end of the bullying going forward? Though not a parent myself (yet!), these are certainly things a parent must prepare for in today's society!

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  6. I actually was very concerned about that at first, and still am to an extent. I knew he probably was dreading that conversation. But he said they just shrugged their shoulders and said ok. I hope that continues, however, I do worry how Ben will handle it if they turn on him.

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  7. You handled this perfectly. Exactl y the way I handled a similar situation with my son a few years back when he was attending Gahanna Schools. I have to say I also was very disappointed in the way my son's situation was handled. When the Vice Principal called me to say my son had been suspended from school for fighting and I asked why her reply was "I don't know but it doesn't matter because the punishment is still thw same". Needless to say she got a piece of ky mind that day because if it were my son bullying someone then I need to know this so I can correct the behavior and if he is the one being bullied well then he has the right to defend himself. As it happened it ended up being a fight over a girl but still...she should have gotten to the bottom of it without me having to ask. These schools all claim to have "anti-bullying programs" in place but that's a load of bs. My son now goes to Westerville Schools and yesterday morning a boy that attends Westerville South High School was found dead on the bike path at Hoover Dam. He had hung himself from a bridge. This makes 3 suicides this week in Franklin County. The first being an 8 year old. Bullying has become an epidemic and needs to he stopped. So happy to hear there are still parents out there that refuse to make excuses for their children if their children are in the wrong. The only way a child is going to learn to be a good and decent person is if you make them take ownership and responsibility of their actions. So thank you for being a great parent!

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  8. Dad. .You did good! As a grandparent of two grandsons,I talk to them about this often.They are good students and well liked.I tell them that it is their responsibility to stick up for the kids who need it,be a leader,be kind. .just as bullys are never forgotten,the one who sticks up for the victim will always be remembered. .As a hero. .My two granddaughters will get the same speach in a few years!

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