Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reality testing

Okay, you're not going to believe the next chapter in the Bus Story. Quite honestly, I can't believe it myself. So here goes: When we last checked in, Elvis got kicked in the chest on the bus, we emailed the principal the same day, no response for 2 days, called her, got a less-than-helpful call back. The less-than-helpful call back ended with the principal saying "I'll get back to you eventually."


Eventually ain't cuttin' it.

Friday at midday I was still very upset and unsatisfied about this whole thing, so I put a call into the guidance counselor. (Here's where it gets unbelievable.)

Foolish me expected the guidance counselor to be, oh, let's say, sympathetic and affirming? The first thing she did was to say that she had the principal in the room so that the three of us could talk in a conference call. Then:
  1. The principal tried to ream me out for "going behind her back" and approaching "one of my staff" and "repeating my words verbatim to her."
  2. The principal denied saying that the kids were "out of my control once they get on the bus" and said I was "mischaracterizing what she said unfairly."
  3. The principal said she was "highly offended at my attitude."
  4. The principal said I had "unreasonable expectations" because an adult can't ride every bus every day to monitor the kids' behavior.
  5. She said the bus driver's job is to drive the bus, not worry about what the kids are doing.
  6. The principal said that it wasn't true that she wasn't doing anything about the bus; she had held bus niceness programming at the beginning of the school year and she was very upset about the way the kids were treating each other on the bus.
  7. The principal said that she couldn't tell me whether any disciplinary action had been taken against the repeat offender kid because it was "private."
  8. She said she could assign my kid a special seat near the front of the bus by the driver.
  9. She gave me crap for calling again because, you know, she's busy and she didn't get the first email message because she couldn't (wouldn't?) access her email for two days and she said she'd call me back so how dare I call her staff member (see no. 1 above).

I'm pretty sure she said some other obnoxious things, too, but they were the highlights.

In case you're keeping score, please know that I responded with, inter alia, the following:
  1. I said that I was under the impression that the guidance counselor's job was to help with situations of interpersonal conflict and I had the right to speak with her about helping my kid have a better experience on the bus. (At this point in the conversation, I had pretty good self-control.)
  2. I said that the principal's exact words yesterday were "out of my control once they get on the bus" and that I had written those exact words down because I was so astonished that a principal would say such a thing. I said that the school was legally responsible for those kids from the minute they stepped on the bus until they stepped off at the end of the day. I said that the school clearly was charged with monitoring bus behavior since the school district has a written bus conduct policy.
  3. After repeating several times "My kid gets struck three times on the bus, and you are treating me like I'm a pain in the butt?!" [you can see how my self-control is still pretty good here, because I didn't say "pain in the ass," but it's starting to crack], I said I refused to apologize for going to bat for my kid when he gets hit by other kids on the bus. I also suggested that when a parent comes to the principal with a legitimate concern about bullying, the principal might want to reexamine her own attitude given the way this conversation was shaping up.
  4. I told her that the previous principal (who retired last spring) would get his butt on the bus and ride it when necessary to ensure that the kids were aware that they had to behave. I told her that if the message is communicated to kids that nothing will be done if they misbehave, they will continue to misbehave, and that if no repercussions happen when a kid hits, they will act as though it's acceptable to hit. (Okay, here's where I lost it a little. I also told her that my father was a schoolteacher and administrator for over 40 years, and my brother is a teacher and my aunt teaches third grade, and so having come from a family of educators, I know darn well how hard the job is and am completely supportive. I also told her that my father would never have tolerated such a situation on a bus that he was in charge of.)
  5. I told her I didn't understand how a bus driver could drive safely with bedlam behind him, and that at the very least, when made aware of an example of physical aggression (as this driver was, because I told him), the driver needs to report it.
  6. I told her that programs at the beginning of the year don't address this specific issue (well, maybe I forgot to say it that clearly and I wish I had said that) but I definitely said "are you telling me that a kid kicks my kid in the chest and he's hit him once before, AND YOU WON'T TELL ME if he gets any discipline?"
  7. I told her that I did not think she should punish MY kid when he's the one getting hit, and that it was ridiculous to focus on him rather than the kid doing the hitting. Why wasn't the hitter getting a special seat? I pointed out that my kid got hit three times and NEVER hit back, and they should be giving him a medal rather than a special seat.
  8. I expressed skepticism that a principal in charge of a high-tech, well-funded school like Radnor would either not have access to or check email for two days and continued to reiterate that it was my kid getting hit and this was UNACCEPTABLE. I think I also repeated myself about not apologizing for going to bat for my kid WHEN HE GETS HIT MULTIPLE TIMES ON THE BUS, twice by the same kid. I also told her that the last time we spoke, she said she'd get back to me "eventually" and told her that I wrote that word down to because I was astonished that her attitude was so blase.
I like to think I at least held my own.

Oh yeah, the guidance counselor tried to come in at the end and say a bunch of crap about how she and the principal "get it!", oh yes they "get it" for "we are parents, too!" Yadda, yadda, yadda.

At this point I was so angry I was afraid I might use some vulgar language so I said I expected to be kept apprised of the situation and hung up.

It's time for a letter to the superintendent, with a "cc" to every member of the school board.


Lola and Ava said...

As a teacher and a mother, I can only speak from my own perspective. My principal is required to have his cell phone on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He is expected to answer it no matter who calls. As far as email is concerned, it is up and running on his computer non-stop and we get frequent emails throughout the week.

Again, the school is 100% responsible for your child from your doorstop to school and back again. We have kids who frequently get in trouble for misbehavior at the bus stop, and the consequences stick.

If the principal is standing behind the privacy issue, which unfortunately is the case, ask a parent of one of Elvis's friends or ask the kid . . . word gets around.

deirdre said...

Unbelievable - my blood is boiling on your behalf...

my next step would definitely be to go to the superintendent and the board... the lack of accountability is just shocking!

mindy said...

grrrrrrrr. I'm about ready to come up there and start fussing at them.

Everyone from the busdriver on up should be trying to fix this- not throw the responsibility off of themselves. If the principal was doing her job correctly, she wouldn't have a problem w/ you speaking to someone else on the staff- sounds a tad insecure to me.

I'm surprised the driver isn't more upset about this.

Ugh. I'm impressed with how well you did manage to keep it together for that call.

Anonymous said...

hey - I've got the same principal in Minneapolis!! Supposedly this is the best public school in the city, and she just watches the kids "roughhouse" with each other. Fortunately, she's retiring (next week) and the new Assistant P seems to take a firmer hand. Last week when he called after my son got in a fight (he hit back - :)), I congratulated him on having an adult notice. He took the sarcasm pretty well.
julie in mpls

Elizabeth said...

I'm really appalled. I was in the same situation as a student (a bit older than your son though) and even MY school wasn't that horrible. I'm glad you're planning to write to the superintendent and school board, and as several other people have done - I call bullshit on her not having access to her email. My aunt is an administrator and she is ALWAYS available in some way. Have you considered going to the police (about the kid, not the tempting as it might be)? If he was kicked/hit that hard (and in the chest no my mother said he's lucky he didn't have any heart problems), there has to be something that can be done in the legal system, no matter how young they are.

I seriously can't believe in this day and age there are still administrators who are acting that way. It's disgraceful.

Jodi said...

This situation is totally ridiculous. Go above the principals head--NOW! Your kid is getting injured on the bus by the same kid repeatedly and the principal is throwing up her hands!

Katie K said...

When my daughter was threatened or seriously harassed when she was in middle school, we reported it to the principal who dealt with the incident very firmly and kept us fully apprised of what action she had taken. The bad behavior went on the other kids' records which they knew could be seen by the high schools they were applying to (it's very competitive here in NYC). That said, have you considered calling the boy's parents? He obviously has issues that need to be addressed. I hope you've taken a photo of the foot mark. As a lawyer (I'm one, too) you know that there are also legal remedies you can pursue. Sometimes the law is a really good thing. Good luck! All sympathies with you.

ellen said...

Keep on them, go to the school board right away. Most of all reassure your son that this was not his fault, and that people are going to bat for him. Good Luck to you.

pigbook1 said...

I give you some credit cuz I (remember I dont' have kids) weould have followed the bus, the kid and told their parents to GET A HOLD OF THEIR SHITTY LITTLE BRAT!

Good luck I can't imagine how annoying this is

Lyn said...

After being screamed at (literally) in public by the HS principal, I wrote a letter to the Superintendant, and cc'd it to every member of the county & state board. I made sure that each recipient could see who all was getting the letter - including the pricipal. Wow, the fast response was very satisfying!
Good luck!

Elizabeth said...

I wish I could agree with Dierdre's assessment of "Unbelievable!" but I know just how pathetically believable this situation is. Keep fighting (I know you will) and don't let them sweep this under a rug.

Cetta said...

As I was reading, I was thinking "Go tot he superintendent" - so I'm glad that you are. It's beyond ridiculous. Sure, the driver has to drive, so many buses around here have another adult just to watch the kids!

That principal is obviously in the wrong job.

Emano said...

The principal is treating you badly, but I think you should go to the bus company. Not that the principal should not have any involvement, but the driver's direct supervisor is the bus company and they would be the ones to discipline the driver for not at the very least writing an incident report to document something had happened. I don't believe that the bus company would stand by the assertion that the driver has no responsibility for discipline; I'm sure that they have behavior standards that would get a kid's bus riding privileges revoked.

Anonymous said...

If you wanted to be really evil, you could also cc the local newspaper. It is likely that there are other parents whose children are being hit and kicked but aren't as proactive as you. They may start coming out of the woodwork to support you and offer their stories if they can hide behind somebody else. I am shaking in anger for you.

Amy (kewpiedoll)

Michelle said...

If you scroll down the left side you will see a link to our school systems "Anti-Bullying Policy". As far as our school system is concerned, the bus IS part of the school grounds. I have had issues over the years with a few of my children being the target of a bully. And in each instance it was handled correctly, with respect, understanding and without making us feel like WE did something wrong! I believe that this Policy is to thank for's written right there, they have a zero tolerance for such things. It helps when you go into a conference about your child being the target if you have a copy of this on hand. Does your son's school have a similar policy? I think a letter to the Superintendent, with a "cc" to the school board is a great will probably be very effective. Stick to your guns because you ARE right, you should "go to bat" for your child and the Princepal should be reprimanded for her actions.

Beverly said...

I feel your frustration. We had a bullying incident with my stepson that was dealt with in a manner that was completely unacceptable to me. But as his stepparent, there was little I could do. I'm rooting for you. Give 'em hell!

Mel said...

*getting the Addis ready*

Lydia said...

How people like that get to be principal in the first place is hard to fathom. The logical course of action for that principal is to have the violent kid sit in the front seat for the rest of the school year. Good luck dealing with that principal. Make sure you knit a bit after talking to her to relax!

Barb B. said...

Been there, done that, didn't want the t-shirt.
The rule for the school bus here is that riding it is a privledge, not a right. If you don't obey the rules, you don't enjoy the privledge.
My Ma's favourite line, and I used it often "If you cannot control the children, then you are grossly overpaid, and I would remind you that I pay your salary".
I really feel for you, and most especially your son. The only consolation is, if he is anything like my son, this will make him a stronger and more compassionate person. I have watched my son, time and again, defending others from bullies, and I am sure he is the way is because of his own experiences.

anne marie in philly said...

would this same principal/guidance counselor be as blase if the bully had a pipe bomb or a gun or a hand grenade?

cheeze louise!

the bully needs to be removed from the bus AND the school, if necessary.

I like the idea of cc'ing the local newspaper, in addition to the school board and other administrators. how many other kids has this bully beat on, not just elvis? how many other parents have complained, only to have nothing done?

go carol go!

fillyjonk said...

My first impression:

That principal totally needs to get over herself. It is a child's safety at stake, and she's whining about someone "going over her head" and making her "look bad"? (She seems to be doing a good job of THAT all on her own)

I wouldn't blame you at all if you called the newspaper, the local tv station known for "consumer rights" stories, other parents in the district, etc., etc.

I'm kind of surprised in this day and age buses don't have cameras in them to videotape what goes on. (Some do. In a district near where my parents live, a bus driver was fired because not only did she allow bigger kids to whale on a smaller kid, she actually egged them on. People are sick.)

I work with kids on a volunteer basis (Youth Group) and one thing I came to realize very quickly is that your own pride/dignity/sense of self needs to be put aside sometimes, when the kids' well-being is at stake. If I, as a lowly, immature-for-nearly-39, Wednesday-night volunteer can figure it out, sure as shooting that principal should.

Ted said...


How is Elvis?

I was going to suggest karate lessons for him, but likely if he ever struck out in self-defense he'd be tossed out of school for being dangerous.

Sarah said...

I hope that in honor of Groundhog Day, some people pull their heads out.

Mama-E said...

you are damn right to go to bat for your kid.
And, furthermore... they are lucky you didn't march your ass in there.
I would have gone in with guns blazing the second after I heard that they would get back to me eventually.
Eventually? That's bullshit.
I can not stand apathetic school administrators. If the administration is that way... the whole school goes to hell in a handbasket.
i would love for you to post the letter you send to the superintendent.
Also... as someone who has been in the education system for a long time... I would suggest if you have a lawyer or lawyer friend... mention that you have consulted with your attorney.
the will take you much more seriously. Sadly.. you have to threaten the wolves sometime to get action.
Good luck!

gail said...

My son's first grade teacher was a pill addict, that had a complete breakdown on a school field trip. This same upstanding individual was responsible for off and on the bus student management. When my son was being spat on by the bus bully scumbag, I was told to get a grip. Vindication only came after the aforementioned breakdown, and then the principal and superintendent were finally interested in my kid. The moral of the story, scream to the highest authority, and don't allow your son to be victimized!

Anonymous said...

ABSOLUTELY write to the Superintendent of schools and cc the school board members. In that letter, you might want to use some words like "attorney" and "child endangerment" and "civil and/or criminal suit". Your child was physically assaulted while theoretically under the protection of the school district. That is totally unacceptable. THEN if you don't get satisfaction, it's time to go public.
--Lynda in Oregon

caroline said...

This is going on in RADNOR??? As in Radnor, Pa on the main line??? Zero tolerance for bullies needs to be established in that school district fer shure. And if indeed you are in Radnor, PA I KNOW you are paying some serious school taxes. I'm sorry Elvis is having to go through this but the focus should be on removing that bad bully, not victimizing Elvis. Jeez. I'd copy the bully's parents, too. They may not even know about it. Sending you and Elvis virtual hugs...

Gina said...

You must absolutely write to the board of ed, superintendant of schools and whoever else you can think of about this. What happens in school is sometimes intollerable. I have one left in high school and I can't wait til he's done! It's absurd. Thanks for letting me rant!

Erica said...

I'm sorry I didn't have time to read all the comments before sending this to you. File an assualt and battery against the bullying child. Write the newspaper and TV stations. Write the school superintendent. and cc every board member. Bullying should never be tolerated. Bravo to your child for not hitting back. Get cameras on the bus. You're the firstline of defense for your child. Go for it! If anyone says you're over-reacting, refer them to Columbine! My child and I have been through this situation. Best of luck, my prayers are with you.


bunchkin said...

This is reason number 478 why I homeschool. I was in public school until the 6th grade, when the bullying from students/apathy of the teachers finally caused my mother to pull me out. I will never forget being punched in the forehead in the lunch line, falling to the floor, and looking up to see my teacher watching. When she saw me looking at her, her eyes got wide and she looked away quickly, pretending that she hadn't seen it. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness as the other kids laughed and I realized I had no one to turn to for help. This same teacher repeatedly called my mother in for conferences because I brought a book to school to read after finishing my assignments, while waiting for the rest of the class to finish. The horror! My kids take a ton of classes, extracurricular activities, sports, etc, but they are never in anything that I can't yank them out if a situation spirals out of control. I know homeschooling doesn't work for everyone, and isn't an option for many, but for our family it is a great option!

Rabbitch said...

The school is acting in loco parentis (I do so love my Latin) from the moment your child gets on the bus driven by their employee until the minute the bus driven by their employee returns that minor child to your care. If the bus service is contracted, the employee of the bus service is still acting as an employee of the school board and is therefore still required to act in the stead of the parent.

They're at worst condoning and at best ignoring child abuse. If you as a parent tolerated your child being assaulted you would be held responsible. They are equally responsible, having accepted that responsibility as a condition of their employment.

Legal shit aside, there's also the issue of humanity. Adults aren't supposed to stand aside and watch kids get beaten on.

Thus endeth my sermon from atop the soap box. If you need any moral (or immoral, for that matter) support, I'm here kiddo.

Helen said...

You know, it's unlikely that this is the only area in which the principal is doing a bad job; there must be similar lapses in every part of her work. The more information the school has about what she's doing wrong and the unacceptable things she's saying to parents, the sooner they may be able to do something about it. It's tempting to ask her if it would be OK if your son kicked another child on the bus, but the best thing is probably not to have any more interaction with her but just go over her head and stay there. Good luck.

retroknit said...

I am speechless. You go with that letter. I agree with the other posters who say that you should just sail right over her head at this point. Grr.

Re said...

You are wise to develop a paper trail. The principal's lack of concern makes my blood boil. You should check out the article on bullying in the February issue of "Best Life" magazine. The author, Hugh O'Neill sums up my feelings so well, "Right-thinking men everywhere have an obligation to all kids, to insist on a culture of decency and respect."

Aponia said...

Has that principal ever been in a school before? Has she ever met a child in her life? Sheesh...that is completely ridiculous. I want to tell her off myself!

My husband's mom works as a teacher in an elementary school. She's been a teacher for years and years. It makes my head spin when I hear the insane stories about principals and school boards. It really is a miracle anyone is getting an education at the end of the day!
The unfortunate thing is that its not just this school system that your children are in, there's an epidemic of uncaring principles!

Loren T said...

I'll chime in with support for contacting the Superintendent and the School Board. Do you think the guidance counselor will back you up or support the principal?

My experience with principals in well-funded school districts (DC burbs) is that they are incredibly protective of their schools, their teachers, and their staffs, but view parents as meddling enemies. I could list a number of incidents at my kids' schools that, while not as extreme as yours, fit the same mold. For example, a friend of mine found out from me that her son broke another kid's nose (by accident) because her son was too scared to tell her and the school didn't think it was important enough to contact her.

(I went to college not far from Radnor, so I know how lovely it is. It's been ages since I've been back.)

Carol said...

Yet another example of someone who is not qualified for their job. Yikes!

Purl Buttons said...

Your indignation is well-founded. However, if you decide to pursue this, you might consider archiving and locking the posts about it, including the comments. Any hint of cursing or libel could work against you. Good luck.

sweet said...

I have had many dealings with the school system and there is only one thing that gets action, tell them you are going to sue them if they can't keep your son safe. It is against his civil rights to be hit either in school or on the bus. where I live they have cameras and aids on the bus for the same reason.

Kathy Merrick said...

Obviously, Caro, I feel your pain and agree with the
other commenters about the horror.

Make Elvis feel a little better by using a thought I
used to hand my kids when they were in grade school.
This creep feels on top of the world right now.
Imagine, then, if your life peaked in the fifth grade.
Wouldn't that just suck?

SparkCrafted said...

good gravy, woman, that's HORRID. good for you for sticking to it and for keeping as much as you can. this is entirely unacceptable behavior from educators and i hope that it gets resolved before it gets worse.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone whose most recent involvement with a bus incident was as the parent of the aggressor, this principal needs their butt kicked, and I wish you all success in the kicking.

Franklin said...

Tuning in late, but I have to say, no - scream - GOOD FOR YOU.

I got involved in such an incident as a child. I was the kickee. The kicker was a kid two grades above me and considerably bigger and heavier. I asked for help. You know what the response I got from ALL adult parties was?

"You're a boy. Learn to stick up for yourself."

You're a good mother. No, a wonderful mother. Thank you for sticking up for your child. I'm actually crying a little, here. Somehow it makes me feel better that some things have changed.

TheAmpuT said...

Chiming in late here, too...but Carol? Good job, Mom. I hope you DO "go behind her back" and cc the superintendent. She deserves it, and you were right on with every point you made.
Bus "niceness" program???
Do they hold something like that for the staff, too?? Oy.

Madame Leiderhosen said...

On behalf of former children still wearing the blue-black memory of bruises and unfair bureaucratic administration who should have actually give a damn about us: Thank You.

I am barely containing the impulse to throw my arms around the monitor and tell you what a superhero you are. And offer to knit you a Rowan cape.

That God Damned Fucking Principal. Hold that stupid asshat accountable for the safety of the children in her care.