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Bullying the New Kid
Q: I've just moved my 11-year-old to another state. He is having trouble adjusting. His classmates are either picking on him or ignoring him. Is this normal? This wasn't an issue until the move.
A: Sadly, picking on the new kid is a common problem. Is it normal? No! Too often schools and educators have dismissed this problem as "kids will be kids" rather than what it really is: the bullying that puts children who move into a new situation at risk for dropping out, academic failure, depression, and many other problems.
I encourage you to make an appointment with the school counselor and bring this issue to her attention. Find out from the counselor if the school has a buddy program, a friends group, a peer-mediation program -- some way to help him fit in. Keep in contact with the counselor and evaluate the progress of the plan for helping your son. Be firm. Don't tolerate continued harassment. If it continues, seek out the assistant principal in charge of discipline and calmly, but firmly, insist that the school take action. A final step, which can be hard to take, but is necessary, is to file a formal complaint about the students with the Student Resource Officer or with the local police.
Encourage your son to think about some child that he knows who does not pick on him, or another child who is also not accepted. If possible, invite that child to play with your son at your home. Above all, continue to show your son love and encourage him to ignore and not believe the put-downs and insults.
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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.