Bullying in elementary school

By Trish McCourt on November 06, 2012
My daughter's experiences with bullying are more difficult to tell than my own. Not necessarily because they were worse, but because they really are not my stories to share. I can only give the viewpoint of mother. As a child, going to an adult at the time that bullying occurred was not something I was inclined to do. I can only hope that I have set up an environment in which my daughter is more inclined to speak out than I was. I can say this: I have a much better understanding of how helpless my mother must have felt in attempting to protect her young charges.

Who knew bullying would even start as early as grade 2? Perhaps even earlier? My then 8-year-old daughter knows.

When she started school there was an immediate group of fast friends, and of course one or two she clicked with most readily. The girls were a group of about eight, in Grade Primary (or kindergarten, for the rest of Canada) who played together, went to one another's birthday parties and were almost all in the same class. My daughter often spoke of one girl who sometimes hit her on the playground. Being an early childhood educator, I imagined the antagonizer to possibly be a young five year old who simply didn't express herself well and would act out in frustration in this new environment. As it turned out she was a very bright little girl, who was dealing with her own family issues and had an older sister who pushed her around a lot.

As the girls moved into grade 1, the clique grew stronger, and there continued to be little altercations. During both years incidents arose that brought me to the teacher inquiring after the situation. Each year there seemed to be little done to help my daughter.

In grade 2, things escalated. The bully and her best friend often attempted to divide the others, and my daughter became a target for more aggressive behaviours. Her bully organized their friends in excluding my daughter, then at times tried to force her to join in to activities she was not interested in, to the point of physical force. My daughter began having sleeping problems and tummy aches.

I had ignorantly assumed that teachers would have passed along to the succeeding grade's teacher the info of such concerning behaviours in a so-called zero-tolerance environment. When things got out of hand I approached my daughter's teacher only to find out it was new news to her.

Some time later I learned from my daughter that she'd been brought to the vice-principal's office, along with her bully, because of an incident on the playground. No one from the school contacted me. I had to call the school myself to inquire. Not only had it not been communicated to me, but the vice-principal had no knowledge that this had been an ongoing issue since the previous year.

Anyone who works with children who have been bullied knows that we cannot rely on the children to bring the information forward. Communication and keen observation on the part all adults involved are key to addressing this problem. Last year the Nova Scotia government has announced a task-force on cyberbullying. I commend this effort. But have we reached a place where we can say that our approach to all other forms of bullying has been effective? There is still so much work to do in effectively addressing bullying in any environment, at any age.

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