A few weeks ago in this space, I talked about the problem of bullying and shared my experience with bullies who used their power to mistreat my three children, who are now adults.
I also mentioned some of the stories that have run in our newspapers about efforts by school districts to devise policies to protect students from bullies.
And I invited readers to e-mail me with their experiences.
I received only a few e-mails. But one was so compelling, I met with the writer, who told me about the effects bullies have had on her son, who is now a young husband and father. I agreed to protect the identity of the young man, but I received permission from his mother to tell his story because it illustrates the point I made in the headline on my column: “The pain inflicted by bullies can last a lifetime.”
Recalling his days in elementary school, when older students made fun of him on the school bus and kicked his lunch tray from his hands in the cafeteria, the woman said her son told her at the time: “Every class needs a nerd. I guess I am that nerd.”
She and her husband complained to the teacher, who said: “What happens in the lunchroom and playground are out of my control; that is my break time.” The principal, likewise, said there was nothing he could do, even though that principal was a friend of hers.
On the advice of a therapist, the parents switched their son to another school. It helped some, “bought some time,” as she put it, but by junior high, the boy fell into friendships that revolved around drug use. He spent three years in “deep addiction,” his mother said, and dropped out of high school.
After a few DUIs, he got help, has been sober for 10 years and has a loving wife and children.
“However, he is a man who is without trust,” the mother said of her adult son. “He is a loving father, husband, son and brother; yet, he won’t let anyone else into his life. He is fearful of authority. He stopped laughing a very long time ago.” She said her son learned from his bullying experience to trust no one and that when you let your guard down, you get hurt.
She recalled a poem she had read in a women’s magazine from a mother to a child’s teacher. The mother in that poem wrote to the teacher that she had dressed her son in clean clothes, packed his lunch, loaded him up with school supplies and waved goodbye as she put the smiling boy on the school bus.
The poem concluded with this question to the teacher: “What will you send home to me?”
She concluded her e-mail to me with this statement:
“Thank you for this opportunity to express the pain I’ve felt ever since I put my little boy on the bus all those years ago.” — Larry Werner (Editor’s note: Werner is director of news for ECM Publishers. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.)