We send our kids to school each day expecting faculty members to do their level best to ensure their safety and well-being. That has not been the case at TGU Towner School. For years, students have been bullied at that school and nothing's been done about it. In fact, it continues to get worse and worse due to the failure of school officials to take disciplinary action against the perpetrators.
Why? My guess is because most of the bullies are athletes who play on the football and basketball teams. And they don't always work alone. Five of these 'tough guys' threw my grandson into a darkened room filled with chairs. He fell over the chairs, landing on a concrete floor injuring his back and shoulder. The 'tough guys' walked away laughing. I wonder how hard they'd laugh if that was their little sister or brother.
You would think that my grandson would hate those boys for what they've done to him. On the contrary, he says they're all basically good kids. I truly believe that. They just need to redirect their energy in a positive direction and a faculty that's more sensitive to their needs.
I've had four grandchildren go to that school and all four of them have been bullied. One was beat-up while standing in line, another was beat-up in a locker room, my granddaughter was punched in the face, and my youngest grandson endures abuse virtually every day. Oh, by the way, we've only been here a little over five years!
I've complained about all these incidents and much more, including hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, slamming into lockers, nipple twisting, sack tapping, and being hit in the groin by a "medicine ball." What do the school officials do? They tell the perpetrators not to do that again. Then they go out and get revenge against the victim for turning them in, only now they get even tougher with the victim. The victims get to the point they won't tell anybody about the abuse because they know it will only get worse for them. Some parents transferred their children to other schools because their complaints fell on deaf ears. Well that's about to change.
Who do I blame? The superintendent, principals and athletic director at TGU Towner School! The school has a comprehensive anti-bullying policy spelled out in the Student Handbook. I wonder if the school administrators have even bothered to read it. They haven't followed the protocol for handling bullying complaints and none of the perpetrators have ever received so much as a detention for their actions. There are also suggestions for prevention of bullying, such as monitoring locker rooms, bathrooms, and other problem areas where the most serious offenses occur because there's no adult around. They may not be able to be in these areas 24 - 7, but they can patrol these areas on a staggered schedule so the kids won't know when to expect them.
Let me be clear, it's not just the boys that are doing the bullying. Some girls are bullies as well. We must protect all our students, boys and girls, in all age groups and grade levels, to ensure no one gets bullied, and that no one becomes a bully.
Talk to your kids. Ask them if they've been bullied at school. You may be surprised at what you hear. They may be afraid to tell you what's going on for fear the abuse will escalate. Your child may be suffering in silence. That's the kind of thing that leads to substance abuse or even suicide. If we are not there for them, who will be?
If you are a parent of a current or former student of TGU Towner School and your child/children are or were bullying victims, I'd like you to call me at 701-768-2581. We may be able to file a class-action lawsuit against the school officials for failing to adequately and properly address bullying complaints.
I also wish to start an anti-bullying campaign in Towner, with the help of other interested parents, to raise awareness about bullying and to enlighten the students on the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of bullying on the victims. Although a similar program was started a few years back by another concerned parent called "Stand for the Silent", it is no longer active. We will make this one last with your help.
As you can see, I am committed to eliminating bullying from TGU Towner School, not just for my grandchildren, but for all current and future students. No child should have to attend school in fear for their safety, wondering what's going to happen next. Learning can't take place in a mind preoccupied with fear. The emotional and psychological effects bullying has on it's victims is immeasurable.
We must and we will step forward in defense of our kids and I ask anyone concerned about this growing problem to join me in eliminating bullying from our school and removing those in authority who refuse to cooperate in this effort.
If your child is being bullied or you are a student being bullied, call me. I will stand with you in school and see that it stops. Alone we feel helpless, but together we are unstoppable. Let's stand together for a safer school for all our children.
(Janice McIntyre lives in Upham)