An open letter to the CH-UH City School District on bullying
Being a kid in today's society makes my own childhood look primitive. Grade school children can be seen bandying about cell phones before and after school. Video games and video game systems were once the status symbol of a family that was well off. Instead of the world being right outside your door, it's now available in any part of your house as long as the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough.
If there is one constant that hasn't changed from my childhood to that of my children, it's bullying.
When I was growing up, getting bullied by someone was treated like a right of passage. You either let the bully continue demoralizing you on a regular basis, or you took matters into your own hands. That was as far as things went. People didn't die back then as a result of bullying.
When my family and I first moved to Cleveland Heights, I was very impressed with the school board's "no tolerance" stance when it came to bullying. It didn't take long for me to see how unwilling the school board is to follow up its words with decisive action.
Last year, my oldest daughter started having problems with some of her classmates. She was a student at Canterbury Elementary. Things got to the point where she would call home two to three times a week pretending to be sick, just because there was no end to the bullying.
This year, my wife and I enrolled her in Boulevard Elementary. We figured a change would be good for our daughter and we couldn't pass up the convenience; it's right at the end of our street. For all of the crowing that the school board has done, things have only gotten worse.
Recently, I received a phone call from my daughter’s teacher informing me that she was the victim of extortion by one of her classmates. On a weekly basis, my daughter would have to pay money to this classmate. If she didn't pay, she would get beaten up. Amazingly, this classmate was also doing this to boys in their grade as well.
Was this classmate made an example of the school district's "no tolerance" stance?
The classmate received a suspension, nothing more.
The only thing that this classmate’s suspension showed anyone was that you can still act like a bully and get away with it.
Recently, I made a point of standing with my daughter in line one morning while we waited for the bell to ring. This same classmate was still bullying my daughter—while I was next to her! That following afternoon when I went to pick my daughter up, other classmates told her they were going to follow her home and jump her. Again, while I was standing right next to her!
These kids today never grew up without a computer. They never had to make a phone call on a “land line”. Most of them can’t imagine a world without cable television or streaming Netflix. They feel that they are entitled, and this sense of entitlement has led them to believe that they are owed the world in spite of having to respect their elders.
School board members, it’s time for you to wake up. Redefine your bullying policies. Instead of "no tolerance" adopt a "zero tolerance" attitude and start expelling kids who are bullying other kids.
How else do you expect to truly expect to make a difference in the lives of those whom you have promised to educate?
Matthew MacDonald is a freelance writer based in Cleveland Heights.