Bullying is something that happens everywhere. And it doesn’t just affect the child, it affects that child’s whole family.
Michelle LaPoint and her two sons recently moved to Bismarck from Ohio.
Michelle tells me she moved here to make a better life for herself and her children.
But says since the start of the school year, she says it has been anything but that.
LaPoint says, “He didn’t choose to come into this world and be mixed or to be brought into a place if that’s what they don’t like. He didn’t choose that I brought him here. I brought him here for a better life and not to be treated like this “
Michelle’s son is 5 years old. We’ve chosen not to share his name, in order to prevent any further bullying. And what is supposed to be some of the best times of a young kid’s life… have been some of the worst for him.
Michelle’s Son: “I asked him who his most hated friend is and he said me…”
Aaron: “And how did that make you feel.”
Son: “Not happy.”
Michelle says her son has been trying to make friends and fit in since he moved to Bismarck. Instead, she says that on a daily basis, her son is called derogatory names, like “gay” and racial slurs. He has come home with bruises, and has even been touched sexually on the school bus. The three kids accused of bullying are between 5 and 10 years old.
“And he’s a sensitive kid. It hurts my feelings because he’s so sensitive and he doesn’t want to hurt other kids and he doesn’t want to hurt his bullies. And he doesn’t want to stand up for himself because he doesn’t want to hurt them, but they don’t care they are hurting him,” says LaPoint.
She says she’s reached out to her son’s school multiple times, and even filed police reports. She doesn’t know what to do anymore — but what worries her the most is what all this bullying has done to her son.
“He’s changing 100-percent. He doesn’t want to do nothing,” says LaPoint. “He doesn’t want to go outside and he doesn’t want to do anything. He’s just becoming a mean kid. He doesn’t want to play with his brother. He wants nothing to do with his brother at all. Just that, that was the first time he’s played with his brother since he started school probably.”
I reached out to Bismarck Public Schools and they replied, “BPS addresses the needs of parents and their children personally and privately.”
After our contact with BPS, the school has since been in contact with Michelle to sit down further. Michelle says the school told her they have punished the other children involved. Her son’s principal has even said he would sit with her son on the bus. But so far, that hasn’t happened, nor has an adult been placed on the bus to help prevent the situation from occurring.
As for the police report Michelle filed, the Bismarck Police Department legally can’t do anything to the bullies because of Century Code 12.1-04-01, which says that anyone under age 10 is incapable of committing an offense, and can’t be charged with a crime.
“It makes me emotional because I can’t do nothing and I don’t know what to do. I can’t get help anywhere,” says LaPoint.
As for her son, all he wants is for everyone to be kind to one another.
Aaron: “Why do you think its important to be nice to people and not mean to them.”
Son: “Because then you don’t break their heart.”
Michelle did meet with the school yesterday and told me her son is being offered 15 minutes of counseling each school day. She says she won’t stop fighting the bullying until something is actually done.
According to PBS Kids, if you think your child is being bullied then follow these steps:
- Avoid assumptions. The most important thing to do is to listen to your child without judgment
- Comment on changes and watch for nonverbal cues.
- Don’t schedule a meeting with the other kid(s)–this could make the situation worse.
- Do ask the teacher for help- many times the teacher might be unaware of the situation.
- Problem solve with your child to help them figure out the best solution to help with the bullying.
- Identify a touchstone: Help your child identify a safe person at school who can help him if the bullying continues.
Bismarck Public Schools have a Second Step Program that is mandatory for every K-8th-grade classrooms, which is meant to help students learn to prevent and cope with bullying.
They teach social and emotional learning–which basically means they are teaching children how to be an active learner. They hope that they will learn to know how they are feeling, what their feelings are, and what to do with those feelings. The intent of this program is to hopefully have students go beyond the half-hour lesson and deal with any problem in safe and caring ways. Another big part of Second Step is about engaging with the parents.
BPS School Social Worker Tracy Famias says “And so this is really not intended to be a program that just lives in schools, but that we are involving families in the whole process. So our communication with families about what are lessons we are working on this week and what is that language we are teaching students about emotion management and how we solve problems.”
Famias says the most important thing is using this program as a way to really partner the school districts with the parents and community. To see Bismarck Public Schools full bullying policy, click here.