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Ninth-Grader Bullied for Homework
Q: My son is in 9th grade at a public school. At the mall the other night, his cousin saw a boy push my son and hit him in the side of the face. He told my son to "make sure you have that homework done next time." Apparently, my son is giving this guy his homework to copy before their Geometry Honors class. My son didn't tell us about this until his cousin witnessed the abuse. The boy is on the basketball team and was with a gang of kids at the mall. My son doesn't want us to go to the school and has brushed off the incident, saying the kid was acting cool for his friends. He said he was embarrassed and just glad he didn't fall. My son is a straight A honors kid, who has good self-esteem and likes his school. He doesn't want us to interfere and says he can handle it. What do I do? I am heartsick to think this is going on. My son shows no hatred for this group of thugs and says some are nice.
A: Your son's behavior is consistent with that of nearly all adolescents -- he doesn't want to "narc" on anyone. That said, his physical safety and his educational goals are at high risk. I would encourage him to go to a counselor or a teacher -- maybe the geometry teacher -- whom he trusts and tell that person about doing the other boy's homework and the physical attack. Your son needs the help of the school to stop enabling the basketball player. If he continues to do the homework for the other boy and the school finds out (and they will), your son may lose honors, scholarships, and definitely the trust of his teachers.
Bullies like the basketball player thrive on intimidation. If this boy gets away with physically attacking once, I can guarantee he will do it again. The school most probably can't (and won') deal with an attack off the school grounds, but you as parents can file assault charges against the boy with the local police, especially if there are any further threats or attacks. At the very least, I encourage you to talk with the student resource officer if your school has one. Do whatever you need to protect your son from retaliation from the other boy.
Your son may not want you to interfere, but unless he comes up with a plan of his own, with which you agree, I encourage you to hold your ground and be his parents.
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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.