The mother of a bullied child is uncertain about how much grace to give her daughter’s classmate after learning of a tragedy in her personal life.
Writing to Reddit’s “Am I The A**hole” section, the mother explained that her 11-year-old daughter just started middle school where a student, whom she calls “Olive,” has been making fun of her daughter on a daily basis. “Over her hair, the way she talks, certain interests, her weight, etc.,” the mom wrote. “I have reported it, as have my daughter, but Olive is smart and knew to do it when no adults were present or could hear, this typically happened at lunch.”
She added, “Recently, however, Olive started getting bolder. She put gum in my daughter’s hair during class. The teacher saw and sent her to the office [and] my daughter to the nurse. Luckily they got the gum out without cutting it. The school finally took it seriously and Olive got in trouble. I also insisted on a meeting so this could get resolved. They finally listened all this time later.”
In the meeting, the original poster released her frustration. “How awful Olive has been, the nasty things she has said, my daughter crying often. The school’s absolute negligence,” she said. While Olive’s mom was “profusely apologetic” she also shared that Olive’s father died this year and her daughter had been “acting out.”
The OP responded, “‘Frankly, I don’t care. Your daughter has harassed mine for months now and has had zero consequences. Get your sh*t together so mine isn’t traumatized'” which made Olive’s mother cry.
The school gave Olive one day of in-school suspension and the girls were offered individual counseling sessions. Teachers will also move their desks to opposite sides of the classroom. “My daughter and myself are pleased with the situation,” the mom wrote.
Now, the OP’s friend called her “heartless” for how she spoke to Olive’s mom. “I pointed out that Olive didn’t care what my daughter has been through (she also lost a parent a few years ago) or the pain she was going through,” she wrote. “My daughter didn’t bully anyone.”
The mom is asking Reddit whether her words were “insensitive” — and Reddit saw all sides of the issue.
“OP’s daughter has a right to be safe and happy at school, regardless of how Olive is processing her trauma,” a person responded.
“Offering explanations makes an apology seem insincere,” someone said. “The person being apologized to doesn’t need to understand.”
But there was compassion for Olive’s family, too. “She is dealing with the loss of her husband and is first hearing (because of the school’s negligence in dealing with this earlier) that her daughter is a bully, and is processing this for the first time and working through why her daughter is acting this way,” a person wrote. “I’m sorry but to respond ‘I don’t care that your husband died’ is not justified here.”
A Redditor added, “I understand OP responding that way in the moment but it seems she didn’t really think of the mother as someone who is also grieving.”
And the school was blamed for not stopping the behavior when the OP reported it. “It may help OP to think of their feelings as directed to the school rather than the grieving child,” a person said. “The understandable explanation for OP’s indifference to his daughter’s bully’s well-being is that the school has ignored the issue, failed to intervene in the interest of both girls, and worn OP down to the point that they really don’t have the patience to do anything but be their own kid’s advocate.”
According to the website StopBullying, victimized children usually feel lonely and depressed, and have academic and health problems and bullies have higher school drop-out rates and odds of engaging in criminal behavior as adults. Young people who are mere bystanders to bullying also have more mental health problems. No one wins in these situations but a paper published in the International Journal of Bullying Prevention suggests social-emotional curriculums can dissuade kids from unkind behavior.
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