Class Dismissed

Hello my dears,

Okay, so, a thing happened and I really want to talk about it.

I’m not a hard-hitting journalist by any stretch, but this is going on in my town right now and I feel it’s important and should be discussed.

Here’s what went down. A seven-year-old girl was riding the bus home from school. She is a first grader. An eleven-year-old boy, a fifth grader, was taking pictures and videos of this first grade girl with his phone. The girl asked him to stop. He wouldn’t. The girl told him to stop. He wouldn’t. The girl told him to stop or she would tell the bus driver.

The fifth grade boy then took a pocket knife out of his coat, opened the blade, and pointed it at the first grade girl.

It is everyone’s understanding that he didn’t say “I’m going to stab you.” or anything similar, but other children witnessing the situation said that it was a clear threat to her, to make her stop.

Now, as this is dealing with a child, the school can’t tell me what actions were taken, I’m not press, I’m not one of the parents. I spoke to the mother of the little girl, and they won’t tell her what happened to the boy who threatened her daughter.

What she does know is that this boy is still riding the bus every day. She was told his parents are working parents, and they couldn’t “inconvenience” them to find another way to school. (Those were their words, not mine.)

This mother is too afraid to let her daughter ride the bus with the boy, so she has now started driving her daughter to and from school every day, even though her daughter very much wants to be back with her friends.

The boy could have had in-school suspension, possibly, but we do know that he wasn’t suspended, he wasn’t expelled, and he is allowed to ride the bus freely.

We also know that he wasn’t disciplined for threatening the girl. It was dealt with as he brought a knife to school, they say on accident, likely he forgot he had it in his pocket, and chose to bring it out at that moment. But since he didn’t at any time say he was going to stab or kill the girl, it wasn’t considered a viable threat, so the disciplinary actions are targeted at the actual bringing out of the knife.

Now.

When people discuss this incident, everyone is blatantly horrified that a fifth grader pulled a knife on someone. Then comes the horror that he would pull a knife on a little girl, and one that young, etc. Some people rationalize it that we are in a country-ish town, and pocket knives are really common, boys will be boys, and the kid probably just forgot he had it on him. (Just … no.)

And while we are assured that the boy was dealt with for bringing out the knife, although he was determined to be “not threatening” with it, he was addressed for having it, there was a huge, giant, glaring, neon OMG thing popping out at me that no one else seemed to notice. Even the little girl’s mother didn’t think of it at the time because she was more focused on SOMEONE PULLED A KNIFE ON MY CHILD AND THE SCHOOL DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE. I mean, obviously.

This boy, this eleven-year-old boy, was taking pictures and videos of a little girl without her consent. She asked him to stop. He didn’t. She demanded he stop. He didn’t. She stood up for herself and her autonomy and said he didn’t have her permission to video her, and she was going to bring in an adult for back-up.

This boy’s reaction to this was to pull a knife out of his pocket, open the blade, and point it at the little girl.

The school blows all of this off because he didn’t actually say he was going to stab her. My concern here is this boy was blatantly trying to establish dominance and ownership over this much younger girl, and when she didn’t go quietly, when the girl said NO, he resorted to pulling a goddamn knife on her.

If he had been fourteen and she had been ten, would people still feel as nonchalantly? How about if he were eighteen and she were fourteen?

Because to me, that’s the exact kind of behavior you want to stop right the actual fuck now.

What scares me the most about this situation is that this never even occurred to anyone in a position of authority. No one popped up and shouted “Fuck the patriarchy!” and said this boy clearly needs some assistance because this is not a series of healthy behavior from the videoing of a young girl without her consent, to the pulling of a friggin’ knife when the girl says NO.

This scares me, you guys. Like, my blood went cold. I’ve been on the other side of the table, as the girl saying a guy did something awful and NO was said, and help, but it was met with “What were you wearing? Boys will be boys. Are you sure it happened?” mentalities.

I’m not saying this boy is going to grow up and be a predator, or a bad person. But I am saying that looks like a big, fat red flag to me. One that shouldn’t be overlooked. For his well-being, as much as anyone else he might hurt. Because he absolutely hurt someone already.

Right now, there’s a little girl riding to school with her mom, wondering why she is being punished and taken away from her friends and not able to ride the bus. All she knows is that a boy did things to her without her permission, then held a knife to her chest, and scared her horribly, and for all of that, she is the one being punished. That’s what she is seeing in all of this. She sees that boy getting on the bus, going to school in ways she doesn’t get to. Because she said no, because she refused to let him film her when it made her uncomfortable, because she wouldn’t let him hold a knife to her.

And she’s seven. Seven-freaking-years-old.

I don’t know what to do with the information. It’s not blaring on CNN. We live in a small-town where even if it were blaring on CNN, I don’t think much would change. But I am so ferociously terrified for that little girl and her mom and my kids and everyone everywhere. I want to help them. I want to fix it. I’m really pissed off and I want to punch something because, gawd, really, people?

But I honestly don’t know what to do because the mom has been shouting until she’s blue in the face, and all she’s getting is they don’t want to inconvenience the parents of the boy who probably definitely brought that knife to school by accident and happened to whip it out and point it at a little girl he was harassing.

Even more blood chilling than the story itself is how we will all likely watch as nothing is ever done about it anywhere, and that little girl will have learned the horrible lesson I wish no little girl had to learn, but that we all do at some point.

We can do better than this, world.

UPDATE 1 – 2/23/15: The mother informed me there was a meeting scheduled for Monday morning with the school’s principal, the district superintendent, and someone from the police, but for reasons she, nor I, understand, she is not allowed to attend this meeting. They will call her with their decisions after the meeting.

UPDATE 2 – 2/24/15: Okay. Well. I dunno. I just don’t even know. The school won’t tell the mother what happened on the bus that day. They know the details, but won’t tell the mom because of “privacy issues.” And this isn’t just the names of the kids involved, but the actual details of the event.

It came to light in a “roundabout way” that there were actually two boys involved in the assault on the little girl, but there aren’t details beyond that. Until yesterday, over a week after the original incident, the mother had been given no information whatsoever that a second boy had been involved, but it was enough of an involvement that the child was also removed from the bus.

The mother is pleased because she has been assured the two boys involved have been removed indefinitely from the bus.

My issues with this situation are so WTF I can’t even deal. No mention has been made of the pictures/videos taken of the little girl. Why is the mother not being given specific details about what happened to her daughter on that bus? The school knows, but is withholding due to “privacy issues” which, what the hell to that. Obviously, they won’t share what kind of counseling/actions might be taken with the *multiple* boys to stem this type of behavior since that would betray this super important behavior issues.

All I can think right now is I have children in this school system, and I am living in genuine fear of the day something happens to one of them. I never knew we as parents weren’t entitled to know the details of our children being assaulted on school property. How is this a thing?

This is terrifying, guys. I don’t even know what to do with a situation like this.

UPDATE 3 – 2/24/15: Because the parents aren’t allowed to be told what happened to the boys involved, other children at school discovered the two boys were suspended for ten days. No word on whether any counseling or similar were mandated, but the mother of the little girl did request it to the principal.

Also, after the assault, it took FIVE days for the principal to return the mother’s phone call of the assaulted little girl.

The cell phone of the at least one of the boys was confiscated by the school, and is now school property until the end of the school year. It contained “damning” evidence of crude and predatory behavior in pictures and videos. No word whatsoever on whether the videos and pictures were made to be deleted or whether the phone will be returned as is at the end of the year.

Please remember, the parents of this little girl have no idea what is on that phone other than being told the images and videos were crude and damning. The school refuses to disclose any information about the assault to the parents citing “privacy concerns.”

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Fuck the Patriarchy

27 Comments

  1. All I can say as a teacher–currently taking a break to be home with my toddlers–is that would not have happened here. The administration cares more for the safety of its students than working parents. Not only would the boy have been suspended for bringing and wielding a knife as a threat but he would definitely have been suspended off the bus. I’m appaulled by the school’s decisions and assure you this is not the case everywhere. The boy would have had consequences for refusing to stop videotaping the girl. We have very strict rules about bullying and videotaping minors. I’m sorry, Summer! That’s awful!

  2. Why are people so scared to act? To look at parents and say… what your child did was WRONG! Why? Because those parents will cry and whine about mistreatment or some other nonsense.
    If that had been MY kid with a knife… HIS WORLD WOULD HAVE ENDED, “inconvenient” or not.
    Dear seven year old girl, You did everything right. It’s the rest of the world that needs to be smacked upside the head.

  3. We have had similar things happen here on the bus my daughter rides every day. They won’t remove the trouble students and when it is brought up they insist the “appropriate measures” are taken.
    In my daughters class she deals with a bully who’s parents are the “my son has done nothing wrong and we are going to scream until the teachers ignore him” kind of parents. I am thankful my daughter knows how to kill with kindness. If it was me as a child there would have been more fights seeing that the teachers gave into the bully parents and no longer punish the boy.
    Reading that this has happened somewhere else just makes me sad for the schools. They need to quit taking the easy road.

  4. This makes me want to rage and cry both. That poor little girl! I don’t even know what else to say. As a parent I’d be unable to let this rest too.

  5. unfortunately things like this are becoming common place as the school administrations are worried about “offending” someone. THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW ! so what if it is an inconvenience to the parents of the boy. they NEED to take action to stop this type of behavior from progressing. he is well on his way to going to jail as an adult if it doesn’t stop. unfortunately it may happen as the result of rape or even murder. they need to stop this behavior unless they want to be visiting him in jail.

    i applaud the little girl who had the guts to say no, to stand up for herself. it is too bad that she is the only one being punished and hopefully her parents will help her to understand that they care more about her safety and can maybe set up some play dates with her friends so she can see them outside of school.

    • I am so damn proud of that little girl. She did everything right in this situation. I want to high-five the hell out of her parents for raising a good kid, and for fighting so hard to make sure the right thing is done for her in this situation.

  6. I’m a 4th year criminology student, and currently attending a violence against women class – something like this probably has mention of it somewhere (though, of course, no youths can be named, that I know), and I was just wondering if you had the link to this story?

    I know you said this isn’t all over CNN, but I was just wondering if you had a source since this would be helpful for one of the discussions we’re having in class. I can’t mention it at all if there’s no source, obviously because the university has a strict rule about having to source everything or else anyone could make up stories to exploit a sensitive subject, and with over a hundred students in the class, things could get out of hand.

    Thank you

    • My apologies, but as of yet, there aren’t any news sources covering it. This is just something happening in my local town that I’m witnessing at our schools, so I wrote about it.

      If any news channels pick it up, I will be sure to link you.

  7. I think that’s a terrible thing to happen, and this is the kind of behaviour that confuses little boys, who get told no when they’re older and then react to it in the form of abuse or rape. No one told them hey, girls have the right to say no without you being aggressive aboutit

  8. Wow. Fuck the patriarchy, indeed, because this is some grade A bullshit.

    What a lesson for her to learn. Saying no gets you punished. He has more of a right to convenience than she does to bodily autonomy.

    This makes my blood turn to (I was going to say Jell-O, and now that fucking delicious snack has an icky resonance because Bill Cosby and MORE UGH AND FUCK THE PATRIARCHY AGAIN) geyser water.

    That school needs to A: FIX THIS by disciplining the student for violating another student’s consent and threatening her with a DEADLY WEAPON (because it is), B: Apologize to the little girl for not affirming her right to safety and her right to a no, and C: Get that damn kid off the bus.

    *explodes*

  9. Most districts I’ve worked in have had zero-tolerance policy for weapons of any kind, even if said threatening weapon ended up being a plastic knife, which means, at minimum, expulsion for one year, so the fact that this student received almost no consequence is absolutely unacceptable in my opinion.

    My recommendation (not that you were asking for one) is to help the parent take this issue to the superintendent and then the school board. Get this out there to effect change in policy for the school and district and show our 7-year old girl that she matters and that others will fight for her well being now and in the future. While no one wants to necessarily ruin the older student’s life, certainly there has to be a way to enforce a stricter consequence, teach him, and ensure safety in a productive manner.

    • Also… I really hope they at least took his phone to delete all photos, videos, etc – because that is unacceptable, also, if they did not. Creepy scary if he still has them.

    • I agree with Janet. This needs to go before the school board.

      It boils down to an older boy brandishing a deadly weapon at a younger girl for not letting him video her and take pictures of her.

      The situation is absolutely outrageous.

      • That is what floors me. Sure, pointing a knife at someone during a disagreement is horrifying and needs to be dealt with immediately, but I’m terribly concerned with the motive that lead up to him pulling that knife.

        I feel like that motive is what’s causing them to act like this is no big deal. That if it had been two boys fighting over something it would have been handled like a proper threat.

        • Did the girls parents file a police report? It doesn’t matter the children’s ages. Bullying is bullying and the police department should have record of the incident. A restraining order can also be issued against the boy as well as his parents. The signing judge can determine if the boy or the little girl be allowed to ride the bus. In the case of one of my young granddaughter’s being bullied, my daughter resorted to police intervention before the school board acted to protect ALL the students (including my granddaughter).

          My heart goes out to the victim (that being the little girl) and her family.

  10. When something not this bad but reasonably bad and of the same general class of problems happened to my daughter, I sent a nasty lawyer letter to the school and they by-God addressed the problem. Of course, it helps that her father is a nasty lawyer. Most people don’t have that option.

    I hate to recommend our society get any more lawyery, but sometimes it seems like that’s what it’s going to take to make school administrators snap out of this bizarre local equilibrium they’ve all apparently fallen into.

  11. Disclosure: I’m a retired principal from one of the larger school districts in the US. If this happened exactly as you heard it did, there is something seriously wrong at many levels here. I have a grandchild that age and I’d be at every school board meeting, calling every school board member and lobbying for change in discipline policy or full implementation of the policy. Our district has severe penalties for weapons, even look-alike weapons. In my career, I saw some horrible things. The behavior you described is not acceptable, but seems to be accepted nevertheless. Here’s where the problem often lies. Sometimes, no one can substantiate what happened except the victim, and it can get very tricky to apply discipline. And the biggest problem, parents don’t react until it is their child, there’s seldom enough critical mass to effect change. We have a very flawed system in place for school bus problems–we now have cameras on most, if not all, of ours. You should be outraged! Parents of the community should send a clear message. Boys will be boys is NEVER an acceptable answer for dangerous behavior. If he held a knife to a child’s chest and the driver braked, there could easily be one dead little girl. I also feel sorry for this little boy that he’s not getting a clear message, nor getting help apparently. Sorry, had to confirm your rant with a rant of my own. And that poor baby girl!!!

  12. Forgive if any of this has been said in the previous comments:

    I can think of one “legit” reason why they wouldn’t suspect or expel the student and it isn’t something that would ever be shared with another child’s parent. And that’s if the perpetrator had an IEP. Students with an IEP cannot be suspended more than 10 days in 1 school year without having a “manifestation hearing” to determine if the reported behavior was the manifestation of the child’s disability. If the behavior is deemed to be a manifestation of the disability there is no behavioral consequence or at least a lighter than what would be given to a student without an IEP. (Incidentally, that would also be why they wouldn’t be able to kick him off the bus, though they could theoretically suspend him from the bus temporarily.)

    But that’s only one aspect here.

    If the child felt threatened by the boy and there are witnesses, Mom doesn’t need to wait for the school district to do something about it. The school decides academic disciplinary consequences, not legal consequences. Law enforcement can investigate whether there were in fact pictures on the boy’s phone. They can interview the other kids about what they witnessed on the bus, and they can allow the child to make a statement. Depending on the statutes, once that statement is made, the mother can pursue a restraining order against the other child pursuant to the investigation. If the girl’s mother is able to obtain a restraining order because a first grader has legit fear of the other student, there’s cause to not allow him to ride the bus. En loco parentis does not take away a parent’s legal right to press charges on her child’s behalf.

    And once it’s in law enforcement’s hands, it’s also in the media’s hands. The school can decide whether or not the child’s behavior is in violation of the code of conduct. They can decide not to respond and answer questions about why to the media and law enforcement. They cannot decide whether a crime has been committed.

  13. Oh my Gosh! This is freaking horrible! And it’s really scary that the school has sent a message to the boy that it’s perfectly fine and acceptable behavior to film, take photos, and pull a knife on anyone he chooses. So, what will he fear from doing it again?

    Nothing.

    He’s young enough to not fully understand what he was really doing, other than knowing he wanted to prove to his buds that a little girl wouldn’t stop him from doing what he wanted. But, by not disciplinging him so he sees the error of his ways, only condones repeat offenses and possibly helping mold a criminal mind.

    Now, obviously I’m not saying he is already a bad kid. We all do stupid things and wonder what the hell were we thinking. But if nothing is done for a kid to rationalize the stupidity of his act, how will he learn?

    As the others have mentioned, I applaud the young girlbfor standimg up for herself and knowing when she was going ti need some help. I wish the school hadn’t made their bad choice of making her feel like she did something wrong.

  14. RAAAAAAWR!
    I wish I had some way to help get that little girl back on the bus and that boy some serious mental help. All I can think of is maybe starting a petition with other parents demanding the school have a convocation about the words CONSENT and NO.
    If other parents don’t like it, tell them tough shit. It was the inaction of adults that brought these events and it will be the Action of adults that stops it.

  15. I think you hit the nail on the head with your view that this is about consent. The school seems to be focusing on the weapon but some thought needs to be given to consent and what you do when someone says ‘stop’. Because consent isn’t always about sex, it’s about power. The first grader did not want her picture taken. Her power came from the fact that she could call in an authority figure and he took that away when he threatened her. The school took it away again when they decided the kid could continue to ride the bus, sending the message that getting an authority figure involved wouldn’t make a difference.

    Media, media, media. School boards are terrified of the media. They’re entrusted with the lives of children and one whiff of negative press and they’ll be all about damage control. Call the local and regional papers. It doesn’t even have to make it to print, you just need enough reporters calling the school board for a comment to make them re-examine their punishment and hopefully get that kid off the bus.

  16. This is horrible. And not only are the adults and administrators failing the little girl, but they are failing the boy by not addressing the obvious issues he has.

    Also, concerning the videotaping without permission. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much one can do. There was a court case recently in Oregon or Washington state, not sure which, where a 66-year-old man videotaped up a 13-year-old girl’s skirt in a Target store without permission. The judge had to let the old pervert go without any punishment because, apparently, he broke no laws. Only a handful of states have any sort of laws which address videotaping without permission. And I don’t think Indiana is one. The laws in this country need to keep pace with all the technology out there.

  17. I agree. The knife is a serious issue and should be addressed, but the biggest issue here is the video. And yes, it’s possible that it was a stupid, “the boy didn’t think” moment, but if no one addresses this control issue, he’ll think it’s okay. And that’s what really scares me more than anything else about this story.

  18. This makes me so ragey that I’m shaking. This is absolutely about consent and the fact that the boy was harassing the girl before he ever pulled out that knife, plain and simple. The girl’s mother should press harassment charges against the boy, not to mention child pornography charges because he could do anything with those photos and videos. And the fact that not even the mom realized that until you pointed it out is a clear example of misogynistic rape culture we live in.

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