Social Question

Cruiser's avatar

If you were getting bullied at school because of something you wore or carried on your person, would you stop wearing or bring that item to school in hopes of stopping the bullying?

Asked by Cruiser (40416points) March 19th, 2014

or would you fight for your right to wear or carry that item and endure more of the bullying?

A boy who brought his beloved My Pony lunch box to school got bruised and abused by fellow classmates over his choice of a “girly” lunch box. A twist to the story is that the school intervened and told the boy to leave the lunch box at home.

Now the boy and his mom are voicing their displeasure over the schools decision. The boy’s mom said “Saying a lunchbox is a trigger for bullying is like saying a short skirt is a trigger for rape,” she said. “It’s flawed logic; it doesn’t make any sense.”

Should this boy have a right to bring his choice of lunch boxes to school? Did the school do the right thing by forbidding this boy to bring his choice of lunch boxes?

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35 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

The school took the easy way out, without regard for the principle of the situation or the lesson that it teaches. The school basically said “bullying is OK”.

The parents ought to fight this and get the principal involved and make a stink all the way to the Board of Education. The school’s decision was poor, and teaches the wrong lesson.

Judi's avatar

I agree with the parents logic but I don’t think I would want to make my child a martyr in this cause unless it was apparent that the child wanted to take a stand, then I would support and back them 100%

whitenoise's avatar

I think the school was pragmatic in advising the boy to leave the lunchbox at home.

One can principally disagree, but fighting over a principle while a young boy is taking the bruises is wrong.

Now if this is all the school did, then they are negligent. They should also address the overall phenomenon of bullying and make sure that kids can wear and bring whatever to school and still be safe.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The article mentions the “victim’s” name but not the bully’s. If the parents want to do something effective, they should start publicizing it via social media. They can let the world know that “Kirk Kickass” is a bully. Let his parents fight to deny it. The courts should not be involved unless they want to press criminal charges. A money settlement should be denied.

Of course the kid should have the right to take any (note: parent provided) lunch box he wants to school. But he cannot expect others to have the same appreciation.
Why not let him take his “blanky” to school? ~That would certainly help him fit in and make friends easily.
By the way, is it just me or does anyone else feel the kid was doomed right from birth with a name like Grayson Bruce. It reminds me of the Johnny Cash song “A Boy Named Sue”.
I wonder what the parents were thinking. Were they grooming him for a court case?

Grayson, his family, and the bully can learn a lot from this. The world is not always fair; bullies are intolerant, and it is a good idea to kep you eyes open to the culture around you.

Side note: What would happen to a kid who had a Star of David on his lunchbox in a Palestinian school? What would happen to a kid with the sign of the cross on his box in an Iranian school? And vice-versa?
Schools should be for learning. This episode might make a case for school uniforms and supplies.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I was a goth kid in my early high school years and in my later ones I had a thing for Hello Kitty(had a backpack and wallet :P) . Why should I give two fucks what others say or think about me?

@LuckyGuy “By the way, is it just me or does anyone else feel the kid was doomed right from birth with a name like Grayson Bruce” Huge Batman fans? Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne :P

LuckyGuy's avatar

@uberbatman I had not seen that. Clever. But is the child’s name the place for it? Grayson? Why not Lee?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@LuckyGuy Oh, I totally agree, very odd first name.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@uberbatman “Why should I give two fucks what others say or think about me?” How did that work out for you? Did it make you strong? Did it interfere with your school work? Was it worth it?

hominid's avatar

As @elbanditoroso said, the school chose the easy way out. If I were the parent, I would have to take my son’s lead on this. But if he insisted that he still wanted to bring it, I’d be all over the school.

When I was in second grade, we were asked to bring in our calculators for some math or money exercise. One of my classmates brought in a kickass Sesame Street calculator. It was amazing. But suddenly, when it was time to bring out the calculators, many of the kids in the class started teasing him about having a “baby toy”. I sat there in silence, not wanting to admit that I loved that “baby toy” and risk being taunted along with him. The teacher let this go on for so long and the kid ended up just sitting there sobbing.

I remember this as though it was yesterday, and it really shaped much of who I am. By the time I was in fourth grade, I had changed my tactic and was involved in getting in many fistfights on behalf of someone who was getting bullied. I look back on that day and think it was this that changed me. But I also look back with anger. How could this have happened? What was that teacher thinking? If this happened to my kid, and the teacher just sat there and almost relished in the kid getting teased, I would have the teachers job and I would do my best to make sure the next person who has the responsibility of teaching second graders isn’t a little scared piece of shit.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@LuckyGuy Like your first post, it was kinda like A Boy Name Sue(minus all the physical fights :P). I grew thick skin. I learned it’s ok to be different, not everyone is going to like you but you shouldn’t waste your time trying to appease them, be happy with who you are and express yourself however you see fit. As far as school goes I graduated 4th in my class so I would say no, it didn’t interfere.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The school definitely screwed up. The only way to stop bullying is to fight it head on. But nine years old is pretty young to learn to stand up for yourself, regardless of the consequences. Heck some adults can’t do that.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@uberbatman I’m glad to see it worked out for you. Not everyone can swing that.

JLeslie's avatar

I think conforming to avoid getting bullied or teased is ok. Of course the bullies are completely wrong, but trying to make a point while the young boy is being harrassed may not be worth making the point. I hope the bullies in this case were dealt with and the school is not only telling the victim what to do.

The comparison to wearing a short skirt is asking to be raped; well, most schools don’t allow girls to wear very short skirts. Why not? Schools try to maintain a safe environment where children are not distracted.

I seriously would take my kid out of a school district if he or she were being bullied heavily. I would not try to fight the battle for long. I would give up and free her or him from the harrassment. If the bullying stops by changing a lunch box I say do it. We don’t know if that will definitely change things.

School generally starts the process of socialization and shame is used a lot of the time to get boys to cry less, not do “baby” things and not do “girl” things. Girls become more aware of expectations regarding how they look and dress. It’s an area of grey for me. I have a girlfriend that was getting really tired of her son’s whining, and school fixed that fast. He couldn’t whine like that in school, especially not around other children, he risked being teased or at minimum looked at with a dissapproving stare.

9 year olds are teased sometimes. It’s awful, but kids can be awful. This was worse than teasing, but both can hurt the psyche the same. In my opinion the bullies are the ones who should be dealt with by the school, they should be at minimum spoken to and have the incidient marked on their record in case there is ongoing bullying. If I was the parents of the boy who was bullied I would want to know how the teachers are trained to deal with bullying when they see it and that bullies are dealt with at the time the incident happens in a very serious way.

I think parents need to be realistic about what school is like. I have a friend who had very very kinky curly thick red hair. After one hair cut it practically stood up on her head like a Brillo pad. She was teased for her hair on and off when she was younger, especially in the Jr. High years. I blame her parents for not taking it seriously. They had plenty of money to get her hair tamed, they could have done something even at home. I’m sure they thought she was just perfect and gorgeous as all parents do, and still saw her as a young girl, but she felt ugly. She is beatiful, her face is absolutely beautiful, and her red hair as I know it as an adult, along with her natural beauty, well she looks like a movie star. Her parents could have avoided all that crap she endured of they had taken it more seriously. Her mom never would have walked around with hair like that on her own head.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@LuckyGuy I guess so, but if we can’t learn to deal with assholes at a school level, how can we be expected to handle “the real world”?

Cruiser's avatar

I found this blog post of a mother who says bullied kids need to toughen up….

The 29-year-old mother writes, “There was a time—not too long ago—when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money. There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it … Now, if Sally calls Susie a b***h … Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world has truly ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party. And Sally … she should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like—gasp—a teenage girl acts.”

ucme's avatar

Schools play out the same song when it comes to bullying policy. It amounts to nothing less than suppresing individuality, asking for the victims to “blend in” so as not to become a potential target.
I cry bullshit, why should any child be afraid to go their own way? To express themselves in conjunction with their personality?
No, it’s the cowardly, shallow, herd mentality bullies who need to change, they are, after all, the wrongdoers here.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser I think it depends on who the adult is talking to. We tend to talk out of both sides of our mouths I think. I would tell my bullied child that the other child is horrible and wrong and that he needs to listen to the positive voices in his life more than the negative ones. That is if it is verbal and not physicals bullying. If I was the parent of the child doing the bullying I would be outraged, disappointed, tell my child why it is unnacceptable, and try to find out why he/she is doing such horrible mean things. I definitely would not say, “oh, ok, the other kid just needs to grow a backbone.”

It’s not true that long ago kids knew how to brush off teasing and bullying. Many adults have very vivid, defining, moments in their childhood where a negative comment or bullying sent them down a different path. A pivoting moment in life. Often it is a not great path of insecurity, maybe it is always feeling fat, ugly, and on and on.

However, I have been on Q’s where jellies kind of defend teasing and hazing and bullying and it really bothers me. It is usually men, and it gives me the feeling boys endure a lot of crap growing up that women and parents have no idea about. Well, maybe the dads know, or assume. There are a lot of men here who of course are against anyone all bullying, I don’t mean to make it sounds like most men are ok with it, I don’t think that. I think some of them think it is “normal.” Or, some sort of right of passage.

muppetish's avatar

When I was in second grade, a boy loved Keroppi, and since it was associated with the pinker Sanrio characters of the time, he was harassed by other students for being girly. Every decision he made from then on was a source for them to accuse him of being gay, to taunt him for purportedly being gay, and to push him for being too feminine for male standards.

I was the only one to actively stand up for him.

He didn’t feel comfortable coming out to me as gay until high school because of all the horrible things his identity had brought him over the years.

I hope the mother in this story fights the school with everything she has.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Both my boys were bullied fairly aggressively at many times in their school careers and being a man/dad I told them to stand their ground and to push back and push back hard. The only problem is they both know that they will face suspension from the school if they are involved in a fight. (After school they did handle things the way I wanted them to.)

But there were a few times we had to intervene and get the school involved which also meant getting the bullies parents involved and had a mixed bag of experiences. In all instances the schools did take this all very seriously. A couple times even meant getting the police or school officer involved. Usually the parents were cooperative and a couple times the parents were in denial their kids were bullies and often tried to turn the tables and finger our sons as the initiators of the bullying instead. And with my oldest son intervening often escalated the bullying which is when we got the police involved. The scary part for me as a parent was the treats of retaliation to my sons “after school” and I can only imaging the psychological duress and distress it brought to my sons with the near constant threat of bodily harm. THAT is where IMO the most harm is caused by bullying. Then of course there is the texting from the bullies and their friends and of then the same on Facebook which is another reason police were involved as text messages became evidence we needed to justify our complaints.

Bullying today is not like the days when SOB’s shook you down for milk money…the repercussions from peer reactions to the kids who are bullied is where again the real harm of the psychological damage kids experience. My oldest attempted suicide twice over this bullying and my wife and I have spent many sleepless nights because of bullying. To say bullying is a serious problem today is a gross understatement and anyone who says the kids need to toughen up clearly do not understand the dynamics and extent of the bullying problem today.

Coloma's avatar

Flawed logic, ya think?
IMO parents and school authorities MUST intervene and let the bullies know, in no uncertain terms, that harassing anyone for their personal choices/likes is not acceptable.
I am not a fan of corporal punishment for kids in most instances but ya know…there is a place for a good, old fashioned whoopin’ on occasion.
Had a child of mine ever been part of a bullying situation, well…..lets just say that the hand is thicker than the panties. lol

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser I hope I didn’t come across like bullying isn’t worse today, I think it is. I was trying to say bullying was bad years ago also. That it truly effects many people in a negative way, and not because they are weak, but because it is completely understandable it rocks their world.

It sounds like you did your best to handle the situations as they came up, and I know how seriously you took the bullying and your son’s trials and did indeed turn things around when you became aware of situations.

It’s so hard for parents, because kids don’t always tell what is going on, and then even when they do, if a parent addresses it there can be a very positive result or further retaliation. It’s horrible. I swear for the life of me I cannot understand being so mean or wanting to hurt someone so badly either emotionally or physically just because. Just because, no real reason, just because they look different or dress different or just look weaker? I really really don’t understand it. If it were happening to my kid I would be so at a loss, because it is such a foreign mindset to me.

livelaughlove21's avatar

My answer to the question in the title of this post is this: If I were a kid in this situation (which I’d have to be to be in school), I would leave the item at home in order to fit it and not be bullied. As an adult with the mentality I have now, however, I’d pair that lunchbox with a My Little Pony t-shirt. Suck it, bullies. :) Kids are way more fragile, though, and the repercussions are higher when it’s a child getting bullied versus an adult being bullied.

As for the question in the details, it’s a little complicated. Yes, the school did overstep their authority by telling the boy to leave the lunchbox at home. The lunchbox wasn’t against school policy and, therefore, the school shouldn’t be able to tell him not to bring it with him. I agree with the parents in that respect, absolutely. However, as a parent, I’d want my child to stop getting bullied. Would I tell my kid he couldn’t bring the lunch box to school anymore? No. Might I suggest it? Yeah, I probably would. In the end, though, it should be the boy’s decision. He knows the reason these kids are bullying him, and he knows that not bringing the lunchbox would stop (or at least decrease) the bullying he has to endure. However, he’s his own person. If he wants to put up with the bullying and still carry the lunch box, I would have to let him do so even though I want to protect him. I certainly don’t think the parents should make him keep taking the lunchbox to prove some point – that’s borderline child abuse if he’d rather conform to avoid being bullied.

There’s plenty of time beyond childhood to embrace who you are and be weird or eccentric even in the face of dirty looks and rude comments. I think the best thing for children in school is to avoid causing ripples. Just get through it and then be who you are without having to conform. This is mostly true of elementary and middle school – I didn’t witness a whole lot of bullying in high school, and we had some strange kids. However, that’s just my experience.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie You are so very right about parents not knowing what is going on. Both son’s suffered silently for long periods of time being bullied. Not just because they didn’t want to appear weak to us their parents which was the case with both my son’s but also because we would find out the roles they played in these events. With my oldest we eventually found out he was not helping his situation by issuing his own verbal threats by texting back to the bullies and their accomplices. We found this out when we were asked by the police to come to the station to address his very public text messages.

Coloma's avatar

Quite frankly, again, I do not advocate violence, however, OTOH as a girl who was once seriously bullied as a minority child in a mexican american and native american school, I finally had to take a stand against the primary bully and one day, after months of being threatened with being beat up, being forced to bring candy and give up money for a “pass”, from the threats, well..I had enough and viciously threw this girl off the school bus into a snow drift. haha

She left me alone after that and guess what…her nasty little cronies then all wanted to be my friends. lol
Sadly, regardless of adult intervention, it usually comes down to the victim having to take a stand, a stand that will, most of the time, be respected and put an end to the bullying.

Cruiser's avatar

Sadly @Coloma I have mixed emotions about what you ultimately had to do as to nowadays you most certainly would be suspended or expelled from school for doing that and that is what kids have to worry about on top of being bullied. Bullying the bully often gets kids in a ton of trouble. It earned my oldest a 3 day suspension and he said it was totally worth it I felt so too.

Coloma's avatar

@Cruiser Agreed, but yes, it was worth it,

filmfann's avatar

Pick your fights. This is not the one you want.

GloPro's avatar

If he is being bullied then leaving a lunchbox at home just means they will most likely find something else to pick on him for. The bullies now know he’s an easy target and that they influence him. They win.

The school staff is taking the easy way out by thinking the bullying is because of a lunchbox. The bullying is because the bully is being a jerk and is allowed to do it.

Cruiser's avatar

@GloPro That is just how his mom feels…and according to the Facebook page is now home schooling the kid.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser I completely understand their persepective. Children are always afraid of getting in trouble or making their parents angry. They often mistake a parents fear as anger. Even the most even tempered of parents who almost never punish and always try simply to educate their children and guide them, even their children get in their heads they cannot tell their parents some things. I am always shocked when parents think they know everything going on in their child’s head and life. I am not saying you were shocked. I think back in the day when extended family was more likely to live close and children regularly interacted with other adult family members it helped children have other adults they could go to. Even then it was not a sure thing a child would reach out for help though.

I don’t know what I would have done if I had been bullied as a child. As a little girl I’m sure I would have told my mom, but in my teens? I’m not so sure. Especially if the bullying was saying something that might have a tinge of truth that I regretted, or something I was trying to hide anyway. Like gay children who are teased and they have not told their parents they are gay. Or, a girl who had sex with a boy and her friends are calling her a slut, but she doesn’t want her mom to know she had sex. It’s tricky for children. They don’t understand that what parents want more than anything is for their children to be happy and safe, and all the other stuff is just parents trying to ensure that, not to control them.

Kids also worry a lot about making a mistake. Hell, I do too as an adult. Too much. So, if they feel they made a mistake they are likely to try to hide it. If hiding it makes things worse, they will endure the worse for a long time before telling if they ever tell.

jca's avatar

I think this one is a tough call. On one hand, it’s easy to say the kid should leave the lunch box home, and I, if I were his mom, might gently suggest that he re-think his idea of bringing it to school.

Yes, if he were in high school, maybe things would be different, and middle and high school kids sometimes are flattered for being different, dressing in a unique way, showing their individualism. It depends on what they do, how they act, sometimes they get their butts kicked for being different, sometimes they’re seen as “cool in a weird way.”

On the other hand, the bullying definitely needs to be addressed and the bullies need to be called on it. The bullies shouldn’t get away with their behavior, or else it will continue.

Often, I think kids that are bullied don’t tell anybody in authority, because it’s very embarrassing. I know I was bullied as a young teen, and I told nobody, because it was embarrassing, humiliating and I didn’t want to make a bigger deal out of the whole thing by having my mom into the school, discussing this with teachers, etc.

I do like @LuckyGuy‘s idea about putting the bullies out on social media. Let them be outed – since the victim is out, why not put the bullies out? Let the bully’s mom get upset- maybe she’d do something about her son’s actions.

So it’s hard to really say for sure (at least, hard for me to say, now) because there are two sides to this coin, and there are pros and cons to each.

Cruiser's avatar

@jca The only problem I have with yours and @LuckyGuy‘s social media suggestion is once it is put out there you can’t take it back. These bully events are not always what they seem and schools and police know this all too well and people who are actually innocent or innocent bystanders get dragged into the fray or as in my son’s case is actually part of the problem…flagging bullies on a public forum may create more problems than it will solve. You have to remember almost all these cases involved hormone lace minors who don’t always use better judgement and are reactionary to these emotional events.

Paradox25's avatar

This goes to show you how much men’s rights movements are really needed. Men and boys face problems of great magnitude all of the time, but yet when we attempt to form groups to discuss these we’re called misogynists who are blind to our own ‘privilege’.

This is the perfect example (by far not the only one) where it’s not ok for a boy to partake in stereotypical ‘girly’ behaviors, but girls are not held to the same rigid standards. I blame conservative traditionalists for this sad state of affairs, not feminists (and there are many different types of each of those groups), but this is where MRAs (namely the liberal ones) are needed because feminists are obviously going to focus more on the issues that affect females.

To answer your question I was in a similar scenario, for different reasons, when I was in high school. We could not afford a private school at the time, so we went with choice C, with me withdrawing from school and getting my diploma through alternative means. This is what I would do if this was my boy. It was the best move we ever made, since this allowed me to get away from a living nightmare without doing something I may have regetted, finish getting my education while I worked part time, and to get away from the kids causing me the most trouble. I ended up making something out of my life that I’m proud of now.

I think the school was wrong, and should had come down harder on the kids bullying him instead. This makes me wonder what these children’s parents are instilling into the minds of these bullies. This issue, like I had pointed out above, goes much deeper than a political or legal issue, but a cultural one. We need to tackle problems from the deepest base, and work our way up, not the other way around.

Society in general emphasizes masculine traits over more feminine ones, which is actually the very thing that provides the fuel for some boys being ridiculed for being girly, and you only need to look up on billboards or watch tv commercials to see this. No matter what the school does, the foundation that created this problem will still exist until we change our way of thinking as a society in general.

JLeslie's avatar

@Paradox25 In my first answer I talked about changing schools if bullying is very bad, or homeschooling, depending on the options available and the child. But, this particular incident the OP brings up, is it really that big of a deal to bring a different lunch box? We don’t know. We don’t know how upsetting it is. For a child who is transgender, having to conform to gender roles might be very troubling, do a child who isn’t transgender or transvestite it may not be a very big deal. Same with kids who still like more childish toys longer than their peers, bringing a more adult lunchbox isn’t too troubling I would think.

Conforming and assimilating is part of life to some extent. So is wearing appropriate clothing for the situation and all sorts of other things.

Girls by the way deal with all sorts of societal pressures to be thin and pretty and have the right material things also. Something similar happened to my friend’s daughter when she switched from one Catholic school to another. The new school the girls in her class were rather cliquey and they all had a desingner backpack. My girlfriend wasn’t going to spend $100+ dollars on a backpack. Not having that bag plus additional things left my girlfriend’s daughter as not really part of the inner circles of the elite mean girls in the class. That’s what I call them anyway. They were simply mean. They didn’t beat her up, but she was hurt emotionally quite often from things these girls did. She switched schools after two years of sticking it out. Not to mention we girls often do spend ridiculous time and money on having to conform. Male haircut $20. Female haircut $40; plus, if you highlight or dye another $40—$100. Add in hair dryers, styling products, make-up, jewelry, etc.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: GA for that answer. Add to that another $30 and that’s what I pay for my cut. Plus add on handbag (women spend crazy amounts for bags that are not even leather because they have some stupid designer logo on them), shoes, the list goes on and on.

Conforming is part of life, good point. My daughter is almost 7 and now she will often bring a stuffed animal to school in her backpack. I know that probably, in the next few years, that will stop. Right now I like it, it’s cute, but her peers will become more mature and she will mature along with them, and focus will probably go to boy bands and who’s cute and stuff like that.

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