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Despite school system efforts to control bullying, some say children seem more victimized than ever.
“I just don’t want my kids to become a statistic; grow up and be a threat to society because of their school life,” said Benji Willis of Rockwood. “The last thing I want is for any kid to have a hard time at school or home.”
Willis has seen the results of bullying on his own two children, a daughter and son. He thinks more could be done to stop it.
For his daughter, it started in kindergarten.
“I just thought it was kids being kids,” Willis said
A child with scissors cut her hair and backpack.
“The teacher actually took care of the backpack incident. The backpack was replaced with a lost-and-found backpack,” Willis said.
“They still pick on her every day of her life,” he said. “Sometimes it is really bad. I’ve been to the school four times this year already for my son and daughter combined.”
A crowded school bus is ripe for bullying. Last year, Willis’ daughter got on the bus and was called a name by another student.
“He said, ‘You need to sit down and shut up, you little (expletive).’ I said, you know what? This needs to stop. This kid is 16 years old. She (his daughter) was slapped on the bus, punched on the nose — to my knowledge nothing was done,” Willis said.
His children like to ride the bus to talk with friends they don’t see in class, so he doesn’t want to have to pull them off the bus.
Willis said teachers and other school officials don’t do enough to address issues. Sometimes they’re part of the problem.
His daughter told him of an incident where a teacher heard another child taunting her about her father’s weight.
The teacher, Willis said, didn’t reprimand the aggressor but took his daughter to task.
“That teacher said ‘You need to toughen up,’” Willis said. “Even teachers are in on it.”
He said he’s written to teachers whose actions troubled him, saying that seems to get better results.
“If you physically write something down, they have to comprehend it,” he said.
Willis recently privately messaged a teacher’s aide, who told his son he had a poor attitude. Willis said his son told him he made a face because the aide came up and yelled at him, startling him. She then said he had a bad attitude.
Willis said he asked the aide to think about what might be making the child act up and talking to them before getting upset.
Ronnie Duncan, also of Rockwood, said his 7-year-old son got in a spat with another boy who once was his good friend.
He said a teacher simply told his son to push the boy back if he was pushed first.
Both he and Willis don’t like that children often are called to the principal’s office and the parents aren’t notified.
“Any time a younger kid is took to the office, parents are supposed to be notified,” Duncan said.
Willis said bullying can make his otherwise good kids act out.
Willis said his son was acting strange during fall break, and when Willis pulled him aside and asked what was wrong, the child burst into tears.
“He just broke down. He was just squalling his eyes out. He said ‘I can’t get it out of my head. Every time I close my eyes they are shoving me; they are hitting me,’”Willis said.
“Our daughter can move on quickly. Our son tends to hold on to things a little more,” Willis added.
His son got into a fight with an older child recently after getting off the bus. The other boy’s bullying was the reason, Willis contended.
“It shouldn’t have gotten to that point,” he said.
Willis said he has called school officials, including central office, as well as school board members.
His children, he said, are well liked despite the taunts, and they do well in school for the most part. Willis tells them not to physically take on the bullies unless they feel they have no choice but to defend themselves.
Willis and Duncan believe a lot of bullying starts at the home with the children acting out in school.
“The outlet is the next kid down the line,” Willis said.
Others, they believe, do it because they don’t think they’ll get in trouble.