Sophie started at secondary school a few weeks ago. One of the things that she was worried about before the new term started was suddenly finding herself in the same school as the older kids who always pick on her in the park. It's usually name-calling, bitchy comments and idle threats so I figured she'd be OK, especially with the staff there to keep an eye on things.
Last night, she told me that one girl (one of the ones from the park) keeps barging into her when she's lining up with her class. She also pushed her over in the toilets so she smacked her head on the sink and pushed her off a bench in the playground. I told her to go and see the CPE - which is the person who oversees all the discipline issues and problems with the pupils. As I was on my way to work, one of her friends bumped into me and said that she'd seen Sophie getting hit on the arm and having her hair pulled by this same girl yesterday.
I decided it was time to intervene, phoned up the school and outlined what had been going on. I said that I didn't know her full name but gave her first name, her year (she's about 14 so a good few years older than Sophie) and her sister's name and before I'd even got past her first name, the CPE said he knew who I was talking about - so I take this to mean he's had dealings with her in the past. He said he'd call in the friends who were with Sophie and saw what had been going on, then deal with it. I said that I'm a teacher, I know there's no magic wand to wave and make it all suddenly get better but I felt that limits had been crossed and something needed to be done.
This afternoon, I got a phone call to say that both Sophie and the other girl had been called in separately and their stories didn't match. The other girl said that Sophie had been calling her names in English which was why she was picking on her. Both of them have been told that the next time either of them complains about the other one, they will both be given a two-day exclusion from school.
Sophie, who's never been in trouble in her life, came home and burst into tears, terrified that the other girl will now make up something about her and she'll get a two-day suspension. I know I'm Sophie's mum so I'm biased but I honestly don't think she's the type to start name-calling, especially as she was supposedly throwing insults in English and I don't think she really knows any. (She's bilingual but I've never taught her any insults apart from poo-bum and smelly socks !) Putting on my teacher-head, I can't believe any 11 year-old is likely to take on a 14-year-old and, although I wouldn't condone verbal abuse, would say it's not as serious as physical violence.
I've told Sophie to look on the bright side - as long as she keeps out of the other girl's way, it should all stop now hopefully and she couldn't have carried on getting shoved and hit on a daily basis anyway. It did leave me shaking my head at the way it was dealt with though. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time telling kids to stand up to bullies and tell a teacher so it can be stopped. I hope most of them get a bit more support than Sophie did.
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