Standing Like A Rock

In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.

– THOMAS JEFFERSON

What a week I have had. I still can’t quite believe it has happened.

Last Tuesday afternoon, while at school, my son witnessed a knife being pulled on his friend by another student. He was close enough not only to see the knife but to be wounded if anything started to kick off.

This is what the knife looked like.

My dreams since Tuesday have been full of knives and blood.

I am proud of Nick. He has shown that even at only 14 years of age he is a person of integrity and courage. He didn’t care that the kid with the knife – a well known school thug – threatened murder and mayhem if he said anything. He went straight to the office and reported it. The police were called. The thug was searched, but of course, had gotten rid of the knife.

The thug admitted he had waved something in Nick’s friend’s face. He said it was a pen. Yeah, right. Someone is going to run frightened to the office to report a maniac wielding a ferocious looking pen. There were four witnesses who saw the knife. None of them thought it looked like a pen.

Now this is where it gets interesting. You would think that in this case, the thug would be immediately expelled. He has been suspended, but not expelled.

Apparently, it is very difficult to expel a student especially if they are covered by special circumstances. I have learned this week that the phrase special circumstances is a euphemism for a get out of jail free card or the we will look the other way while you act like the menace to society you are policy. Special circumstances covers socioeconomic background and yes, the big elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge is there – race. Apparently, school teachers will do anything to avoid appearing discriminatory even if it means one of their students not covered by the special circumstances clause might get stabbed.

It’s a crazy, mixed up world, right?

Nick has been hassled by this thug on and off for most of the year. So have most of his friends. It is one thing to have to worry that a student might punch you or push you or try and steal your lunch money. It is another thing entirely to know he might be carrying a knife while doing it. I’m not sure that I can cope if this thug is allowed to return to school.

The school principal and I have had several heated exchanges. She did not seem to be getting my point which is the emotional damage that could be done to the other students in knowing this bully is capable of pulling a knife on someone. No child should have to worry about that on a daily basis. She said she took the situation seriously but I felt she wasn’t really taking it seriously enough.

I had a breakdown in her office. It wasn’t the screaming and spitting breakdown I know I am capable of, more like a slow, sorrowful unwinding where I just wept and wept. She didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t stop.

Eventually I calmed down but for most of last week I dragged myself through the day. I feel like I have failed my son. I’d like to change schools but my son wants to stay – he has a lot of good friends and likes his teachers. He has been accepted into the drama program next year and is looking forward to being in the school play. He says he can handle the thug. That he is not afraid.

But I am terrified. I think that mentally this is going to finish me off. I can’t handle the worrying about it. My anxiety is going to switch to overdrive once school resumes.

I know it sounds naive to say this but we shouldn’t have to worry about these things as parents, should we?

I don’t ask for much. I just want my son not to be stabbed while he’s at school.

I am trying to be strong. I am trying to stand like a rock but for some reason the fight has gone out of me. It has been such an emotionally draining year that this is just too much. My rock isn’t on a solid foundation. It is sinking beneath the surface. The waters are rising.

I suppose all I can do is wait and see what happens. And hope the water stops when it reaches my chin.

It really sucks to be a rock.

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33 thoughts on “Standing Like A Rock

  1. Oh Selma! I’m so sorry to hear about this – how awful! I feel the same way: we should not have to worry about our children being bullied, let alone stabbed. I’m not sure I would cope well with such a situation either.

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  2. What we have to cope with when it comes to the situations our children encounter is the most difficult part of being a parent. Knowing when to intervene and when to continue coaching and mentoring and when to allow for greater space between yourself and your child is not something that comes easy. We are programmed to protect, to intevene, to take control.
    Of course you had to get very involved in this situation. It sounds like your reaction in the school office was from an accumulation of events/feelings/situations and not just this particular situation? That’s how I read your post. You’ve had a lot on your plate Selma. This has been a tipping point for you. Reflect on why.
    The kid should DEFINATELY by EXPELLED. I would be fighting this one too like a Mama Bear! Have you taken it beyond the school to the district office?
    Keep in mind that you have equipped Nick with good interpersonal tools and critical thinking skills. This is huge! He was able to get out of the situation and do the right thing. These are huge lessons you have passed onto him.

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  3. Hi Selma,
    I swear things are getting worse, what a terrible thing to happen. I should imagine your son is very weary at school as well after that. Nobody should be frightened to go to school, and of course your worried as well.
    Society really has to get around this attitude that some have with issues like this, a slap on the wrist just doesn’t work, this knife waving kid needs to be gone expelled. What about the parents of this child, surely something needs to be done before some innocent child is hurt or worse.

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  4. It really is unfortunate that this is the way things are in high schools nowadays. My daughter had a problem with kids bulling her after she stood up for a girl who was being hassled and in the end she had no choice but to drop the class that the bullies were in and graduated a year late. Better that than being beat up, stabbed or killed. I encountered the same attitude when I complained, they were refusing to let her drop the class and so she just stopped going. A 14 year old boy was beaten to death over a pack of cigarattes a couple years previous and I didn’t want my daughter to become yet another statistic.
    Life is not a nintendo game, guns kill and knives draw REAL blood and people really do die when shot point blank, there is no stockpile of “lives” in real life. What are these kids thinking? And where are the parents?? The schools should all be implementing a zero tolerance in regard to bullying and weapons. Putting their heads in the sand isn’t gonna help anyone.

    Scary times we live in Selma.

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  5. Oh Selma, as a mum I know I would feel just the same, I wish I could say something uplifting and reassuring, but that high alert feeling we get when we are scared for our kids is so hard to control and is so exhausting, especially when you are the rock and ‘can’t’ crumble. I just hope the school comes to it’s senses! I’ll be thinking of you,
    Love and Best Wishes Deborah x

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  6. Oh Sel, I can’t imagine the terror you must be feeling. Nick is a brave boy. What a ridiculous state of affairs. I don’t know…I just have this feeling that should there be any repercussions for Nick, he’ll know exactly what to do to take care of himself. Not that a boy should ever have to do such a thing. My heart goes out to you, Sel. Please keep me posted. XOXO

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  7. I know of this feeling of powerlessness in being unable to protect my children. You’ve already shown Nick is strong and has his wits about him, and his senses will be naturally heightened now. My heart goes out to you friend – I’m feeling powerless in trying even to comfort you. All you can do is hang strong and trust in your son to take extra care to protect himself. Lots of people are sending loving and caring vibes your way to help you along.

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  8. Oh, Selma, I wish there was something I could say to take away your worries and anxiety. Unfortunately, I don’t know what to say, except that I wonder about having children for reasons just like these. It is a scary world out there, and more and more the laws and rules seem to protect the perpetrators rather than their victims. And these “special circumstances” you speak of continue to sicken me — everyone should be held to the same standard, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or anything else. I am thinking of you and Nick, and hoping things get better. Nick is lucky to have you and you to have him — you are an amazing woman who is obviously raising an amazing young man.

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  9. Hi DAOINE:
    It is stressful, I won’t lie. But I guess I have to trust Nick. If he feels he can cope with it then I have to go with him. I have to acknowledge that he is quite savvy so I am confident he will be able to extricate himself from a dodgy situation. It is a worry, though.

    Hi AWARENESS:
    I think my meltdown was a ‘not another thing to deal with moment.’ I would have won an Oscar for that if I’d been in a film, I tell you. The principal thought I was insane. Looking back it was probably quite a good thing as it did highlight how much the situation had affected me. I think the kid with the knife should have been expelled. I have a friend who is a high school teacher in a public school in this area and he said his school would have expelled him straight away. Apparently the rule is that if a knife is found in your possession you are suspended but if you pull it on someone that is considered to be ‘assault with the intent to commit a felony’ even if you don’t actually make contact with them; so you are expelled. I don’t know why that kid is still there. Kid. The one with the knife is still a kid and doing stuff like this. That is so sad.

    Hi MAGS:
    This was one of the reasons I gave up teaching. The violence in schools in the nineties was just starting to get worse and worse. I felt the parents weren’t being held accountable enough. I mean, how can you NOT know where your 15 year old child is at 10PM? How can you NOT know your child hasn’t been at school for three weeks? That is unacceptable to me. I can tell you categorically that anti-social behaviour is the fault of the parents, not the child. They just don’t set any boundaries. It is a real problem.

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  10. Hi CATHY:
    That is just awful. I am so sorry your daughter had to go through that. It must have been incredibly worrying for you. My son’s school encourages kids to come forward about bullies but there have been some negative repercussions there too with kids who have spilled the beans being bashed after school and so on. You have to be soooo brave to do the right thing these days. It’s just not right.

    When someone dies over a pack of cigarettes you have to admit we have gone terribly wrong as a society. That is heartbreaking. Oh Cathy, it is indeed a scary world. That is why we have to appreciate the good people. Hopefully, if we all stand together we can make a difference.

    Hi STEPH:
    You know something? You are right. That boy of mine looks a bit goofy at times but he is very switched on. He also seems to have a lot of luck on his side. Maybe it’s the Irish ancestors following him around. I have a feeling he’ll be OK. Meanwhile I’ll be the one in the foetal position in the corner singing show tunes out of key. Haha. 😆

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  11. Hi TIPOTA:
    Great song. Very inspirational and truly appropriate under the curcumstances. You are very kind to suggest it.

    Hi JENNIFER:
    You have helped me more than you know. It is good to just write about it. The feeling of powerlessness is hard to come to terms with. I guess I just have to trust that Nick will be OK. Thank you, my dear friend.

    Hi KATE:
    That is the thing that constantly gets to me these days – the loopholes that get the perpetrators off. What happens as a result of that is that they think they are untouchable and get worse and worse. You are amazing too. Thank you for your encouragement 😀

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  12. Oh crap. you are going through some stuff, aren’t u?

    This post makes me very angry. The fact that the principal can stand there and strip you of your power so effectively burns me. Mothers ARE protective, it’s an instinct that they have told you to ignore. No wonder you had a slow build up of despair run through you. Where are the other parents in this school? This is not the first time this stuff has come up. Are you the only one standing up for what is right? Ridiculous! And that everyone takes it like it’s acceptable…. the norm…. ARGH!

    Got my six shooters ready Selma. Just send me word. 😉

    On a more relaxed, peaceful note…. Kudos to Nick for looking fear in the face and telling it to play somewhere else. I hope the anxiety lifts for you. You brain chemistry must be fried after being hit so many times! I’ll send my karma and prayers your way too.

    XXX

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  13. This is truly awful, I know it would just about kill me as a parent. FWIW, sounds like your guy is responsible and hope he can stay away from the dangerous situations.

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  14. Hi AINE:
    It never rains but it pours. I mean, how much should a person have to take?

    That’s what I wonder – what are the other parents doing? I know many who have had terrible experiences with this student and I really wonder what they think of the whole thing. It perplexes me that things like this are let go. I can’t get my head around it.

    I now have an image of you with your boots, your hat, your jacket with the fringes and your six shooters coming into town to set things right. You are so awesome. The image has cheered me up so much XXX

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  15. Hi NAT:
    I think Nick has the right attitude but the worry is going to kill me. Deep down I am such an idealist that accepting things like this goes completely against the grain for me. It’s not easy…

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  16. Selma, the measure of a human being is determined not by how they behave when things are going their way. The measure of a human being is determined by how they behave when the chips are down – when things are not going their way – when “the going gets tough”, as it were.
    I think that it speaks volumes as to the character of your son Nick. It shows that you brought him up right, and that you taught him right from wrong. He did the right thing – and the school should have followed up and expelled this little thug – at the very least suspended him indefinitely and scheduled some sort of counseling for him.
    Unfortunately, for many of the reasons that you had mentioned, things are not always as they should be. Not being a parent, I wouldn’t dream of saying that I know how you must feel right now, but as an uncle, a godfather, and a big brother, I know how I would feel under the circumstances. In a civilized society (such as we allegedly live in), we are supposed to keep our emotions in check – to use reason instead of passion – to try and find common ground. However, in a situation such as this, I completely understand the need to be a protective parent ( I don’t use the mama bear analogy because I feel that it would somehow make me look like a Sarah Palin supporter 🙂 ), and look after your son. It’s a shame the the principal didn’t take into consideration that the boy in question had not only pulled a knife on another student, but actually threatened him with it. Who knows what would have happened if Nick hadn’t gone to get help? Does someone have to get hurt before the school will take action?
    Now – your reaction was not in any way wrong. You did what you could do – what you were supposed to do – you went to the authorities to have this menace removed. The fact that the principal was unable to either comprehend this, or just didn’t want to do her job, is a poor reflection on her – not you.
    How can you think that you have failed your son? Look at what he did? He stood up to an armed bully and got his friend some help!!! How many other students there did that? To remain calm and collected under such circumstances and follow his heart and mind – well that is exemplary behavior! You have a good son – you have brought him up well, and taught him the value of life, and the need to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstances. Failed your son? Quite the opposite – you have given him a gift!
    As to what you can do now – there are options. How about reporting this to the school district, i.e. the people to whom your principal reports. Maybe even take this to the local education board? How about calling a PTA meeting and discussing this with the other parents – starting with the 4 other students who saw the thug with the knife?
    Believe me – once you start, other students and their parents will join in. Sometimes all you need is someone to take the first step.

    I’ll leave you with this quote that I am sure that you’ve heard/read before:

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke.

    Nick is a good young man who didn’t let that happen. Take comfort in that 🙂

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  17. It always astonishes me that schools don’t simply apply the rules of any civilized workplace. Kids have to put up with stress and threats we never have to face at most of our jobs. The culprit would definitely be fired. Children would be safer at our jobs than in their schools. Ironic.

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  18. Hi MANOJ:
    Your comment made me cry. How wise you are. I really appreciate you saying all that – you have made me feel better about my stance on the issue. I was actually beginning to believe it was wrong of me to be so irate about it all. Crazy, isn’t it?

    I am going to take things further. We are on school holidays here for two weeks but once we go back I have a meeting with the Department of Education and the head of the P and C (our PTA). I just can’t let it rest. If something happened to another student I would never forgive myself. Your support is amazing XX

    HI SQUIRREL:
    Oh, right on. You’d be sacked straight away for something like this. Letting it go doesn’t assist students in learning how to adapt to the workplace. It is a terrible irony that the workplace would be safer than school. It blows my mind, truth be told!

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  19. Hi DEBORAH:
    Your comment got lost there for a moment. Sorry about that.
    It’s true, you know, that high alert feeling is hard to get past sometimes. I am so grateful for the kindness of your comment. Thank you.

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  20. Is this the same school that chopped down the maple trees?

    The school really needs to be told that ‘teacher is never wrong’ does NOT apply to adults. They’ll probably claim they ‘have a duty’ to the thug, but probably forget they have a duty to the rest of their pupils, too.

    You know, we had the same problem at my school many years ago. The teachers couldn’t have given a stuff; they were in the staff room, having a cigarette and a cup of tea. Then Mr. Pearson joined as school janitor; he was an ex-Sergeant in the MPs, and he was everywhere!

    No need for security guards or cops, like they have in some modern schools … the problem just vanished!

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  21. HI TRAVELRAT:
    No, that is the primary school behind my house.

    My son’s school definitely needs a Mr. Pearson. He sounds fabulous. Wonder if he has any relatives in Sydney….

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  22. All they need do is look for a ‘janny’ who’s an ex-NCO in the Armed Forces, and has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong …

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  23. Okay, um… that kid who pulled the knife absolutely needs to be expelled from school. IMMEDIATELY. Your reaction in the principals office was 100% normal. I too would be TERRIFIED for my 14 year old son.

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  24. Oh Sel, this is terrible. I KNEW something was up last week when you weren’t posting. You are so right, NO child or teenager should have to worry about knives and violence at school. Things have gone way too far in the wrong direction, if that’s become the norm.

    Is there no way to rally other parents around to do something collectively? I’m sure others are concerned and if not informed yet, should be. There is safety and power in numbers, I hope you find support to do something about this. Situations like this can not be left unattended.

    I send many hugs and hope this week brings some solutions. You are right about your son, he is a special young man. You have much to be proud of.

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  25. I’m with Squirrel – a workplace would not tolerate such an incident. You appear to have the weight of the world on your shoulders at the moment Selma – big hugs from me. I’m sure things will turh around soon. In my life everytime there has been an obstacle that seems insurmountable, something comes out of the blue and the problem has been fixed (and not on my doing) – it’s weird, but now I just believe that is what will happen again, and so I don’t let the problem get me down too much.

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  26. Hi Selma,

    Although it was decades ago, I remember the thug that terrorised my classmates and me. He had repeated two years and so he was two years older than us. He didn’t carry a knife but he was a human pit-bull. He was 12 years old at the time and we had seen him savagely beat boys much older than he. And I mean ‘Sopranos” type beatings. Which now, as an adult, I would see as indicator that there was something wrong with the lad.. Back then I just saw him as a big, dumb, bad-tempered, vicious bully who terrified my friends and me.

    One day in the class, the boy who sat next to the bully LEAPT out of his seat as if his ass was on fire.
    “Fleas!” he yelled.
    The bully (who was always dirty and smelly) had fleas. We laughed and he ran out of the class in tears. He was gone for a week.

    During his absence, our teacher told us of the bully’s back story. He came from an abusive, neglectful family. He got the fleas from sleeping in the family dog’s kennel. We felt sorry for him. When he came back we offered him the hand of friendship and he changed for the better. But I realise this isn’t always the case. Some thugs are just evil and see kindness as weakness and set out to destroy it.

    My mum used to say “the apple doesn’t fall far the tree”. You’re a good tree, so Nick’s a good apple. The young thug of your post is probably a bad apple from a bad tree. But maybe not, sometimes bad people spring forth from good families and sometimes good people come from bad families.

    I wonder the story behind the thug of your post is? Is he a natural-born nasty brute of the Hobbesian kind or is he a Rousseauic noble savage, born free and good, but turned bad by life?

    Anyway, it’s good that Nick is safe and well. And may he stay that way. And it’s great that you’re taking your power back and the matter in hand and setting about getting things done.

    And while I’m waxing philosophical, let me remind you of an old saying.
    “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Your ‘pen’ (i.e. your writing skills and intelligence), Selma, is indeed mighty. Use it, like you’ve done in your post; in your blog in general, against the ‘sword’ of idiotic, unfair bureaucracy and corrupt power.

    Cheers, DavidM

    Hi MANOJ, I thought your comments were magnificent.

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  27. Selma,

    You have my sympathies – this must be really hard. I have an 8-yr old who is going to public school in the US, so I know there will be moments like this in my future. All I will offer is to echo other commentors that your son is to be praised. Not only did he do the right thing to start off with, but he’s got the backbone to go back for his own reasons and not make decisions based on fear. He must get that from somewhere.

    I’ll keep you and your son in my thoughts and hope my own son can measure up when his moment arrives.

    John

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  28. I just reread some of the comments above. Im glad you have a plan on how to proceed, sounds positive. In the meantime, I hope you and your family get some much needed fun time with holidays on the way instead of this crap you’ve been enduring.

    Hugs, G

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  29. Hi TRAVELRAT:
    I want one of those jannies. That would be brilliant!

    Hi MELEAH:
    That’s what I thought. It’s bad when the parent of a child is made to feel wrong for expressing concern over school violence. I just can’t look the other way on this. It’s not fair that I should be made to feel I have to.

    Hi GERALDINE:
    I will definitely rally the other parents if I have to. We need to be proactive on this. I’ll just have to wait and see what the Principal does. Thanks for your concern.

    Hi DAOINE:
    You are a beautiful person X

    Hi GABRIELLE:
    I know what you’re saying. Sometimes you just have to trust in the universe or God or whatever you believe in that things will work out. That usually happens for me too. Seems to be a long time comin’ at the moment though but I’m sure it will happen!

    Hi DAVID:
    You’re right – Manoj’s comments were magnificent and as you for, my friend – I really don’t know what I would do without your common sense and insight. You are one in a million. I am so grateful to have met you via the net. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely.

    Hi JOHN:
    Your comment is a very significant one for me because I do think it is important not to make decisions based on fear. I had lost sight of that with all the emotion surrounding this issue. It’s very important that I show Nick I have faith in his judgement and capacity to deal with the situation irrespective of how I feel about it. Thank you for the reminder, I really needed to hear that. So nice to see you!!

    Hi GERALDINE:
    You are gorgeous, G. I mean that XX

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