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Q: My ten-year-old son is always being teased at school and called "fag," "fat," "gay," "stupid," and "ignorant." The year started with threats and teasing. The principal said he was going to do something about it, but didn't follow through. My son is an honor student. He isn't athletic but enjoys trying to play sports. His teacher frowns upon his concern with learning, and she's told me that she can't go at our son's level because the other kids can't keep up. I'm worried that the constant teasing, academic boredom, lack of friends, and an unhelpful teacher are making him depressed. I'm on the verge of telling him to fight back or say hurtful things to the kids. The teacher said she would give him extra work, but only did it for a week, and acted like it was a huge bother for her. We really can't afford to send him to a private school.
A: Talk with the school counselor about helping you and your son. The counselor can serve as a go-between for you with your son's teacher and work out the extra assignments for him. He or she can also give your son some individual time or include him in a small group on assertiveness training to help him react to the children teasing him without fighting back.
Ask the counselor about the process for having your son tested for the school's program for gifted children. He may qualify for extra help that will challenge him more than the regular class.
Talk again with the principal. Let him know that your son is still being harassed and bullied, and that you expect him to make sure it stops. Write a letter to the principal about the kind of teacher you want your son to have next year, as well as your expectation that he will not experience the same problems with his peers.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.