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AIBU to ask how to deal with accusations of bullying?

(166 Posts)
Whattodowhatodo Wed 25-Nov-15 12:51:52

Warning, I will probably ramble and make this long.

So, my DD in YR 4, along with 2 other girls, has been accused of bullying by another girl (I'll call Sally) and her parents. The girl moved to the school last year and this year has been in the girls' circle of friends, but it has been a rocky relationship. Sometimes DD and the other 2 girls (who have all been in class together since reception) just want to do their own thing and according to DD, Sally is often demanding that DD and the others play with her. Because Sally has had a lot of difficulties at home with a critically-ill parent, the teachers often take Sally's side and just tell the girls to be kind and play with her. Which they do, but at one point were rather frustrated from no one seeming to care about their side of the story. It seemed to have settled down in the past month or so, with the girls sometimes playing, sometimes not. Until it all suddenly happened on Monday.

On Monday morning, Sally's parents were in to talk to the head teacher. I know this because Sally was in the office when I had to speak to them about some admin things and she told me. They told the head that they are taking Sally out of school and moving her to the same school where her siblings are (as I said, they moved to the area only last year and had to take places where they could). Partly because it's closer to their home, partly because it's the same school where her siblings are and partly because they say Sally has been bullied.

Right after this meeting, the head called DD and one other girl (the other was out of school that day) to discuss it. They were basically told that Sally was leaving because of them and their behaviour towards her. Of course they burst into tears and were apologetic, but honestly, I think that was because they were scared and it was expected, rather than any actual guilt about it. I got a call after this from the head, who gave a couple of examples of this "bullying" behaviour. The one was that Sally came to sit down at the table with the others at lunch and they all pulled their chairs away from her. The other was that they were in the playground equipment and said another (not involved girl) could come and play but not Sally. None of our 3 girls can remember either of these things happening. Nor can the other girl. I can't believe that all 3 of them would be colluding so much as to lie directly to all their parents at this age, I honestly think it was something that either a) didn't happen b) was misinterpreted by Sally or c) happened so long ago that the girls can't remember.

I don't know Sally well, but one of the other mums from the 2 others accused of bullying does, and says she has a tendency to drama and has often stretched the truth around her. I know my daughter is no angel and probably not the most sympathetic to other's troubles, but simply based on the examples given, and only given by one other student without any confirmation from any adults, I'm finding it all a little troublesome that our girls were called in and blamed by the head without being given any mediation before.

The girl Sally is starting at the new school on Monday, and it's Monday when we have to go in to talk to the head teacher about what has happened and how to go forward from here. I don't know what to expect from the meeting and I don't really know what they want from us.

Feel free to take a hard line with me if you think I'm being one-sided in this. I know I'm more even about this than the other 2 mums, but that doesn't mean I'm completely neutral of course. I would like some advice in how to handle the whole situation, with school and with my DD.

HaydeeofMonteCristo Wed 25-Nov-15 12:56:51

You don't know the truth of it any more than you ever know for sure what going on in the playground. The two examples given by the head suond like 1. the kind of thing children often do (so have the ring of truth), and if true 2. very hurtful to Sally, 3. a bit unnecessary, as it would it really have been a problem for them if Sally had sat at their table or joined in playing.

Sounds like Sally was being excluded if not bullied.

Sally is leaving so the specific problem may have gone away.

I would want to have a chat to DD about kindness and how it doesn't cost anything. How it's more important to be kind than to please the other girls. Even if the accusations are not true, I would think that reinforcing the idea of kindness is never a bad idea.

HaydeeofMonteCristo Wed 25-Nov-15 12:57:54

Kids do collude to lie quite alot, too. They don't really understand what they are doing as such, but they often want to keep out of trouble.

GinismyTonic Wed 25-Nov-15 12:58:28

I think it's really tough for you and your dd but what's hard for you to see is perhaps the impact that this may have had on Sally given that she has gone through some major life changes that may have already left her feeling isolated and insecure. That said, I don't know what I'd do in your situation. At this age children don't see the consequences of their actions on others.

PhilPhilConnors Wed 25-Nov-15 13:00:28

I think the head has handled this dreadfully, as have Sally's parents.

If there genuinely bullying, this should have been dealt with as and when it happened, so all parties involved can have their say, and further behaviour watched closely by teachers.

It sounds like Sally's parents have flounced without letting school deal with this.

Under these circumstances there's no way the head should have brought your dd in to say that she was responsible. I wouldn't be impressed at all.

I would be pointing these out to the head and asking for his/her assurance that any matters in the future will be handled more professionally.

PhilPhilConnors Wed 25-Nov-15 13:01:21

I do agree with the others that the girls need to know to be kind etc, but I still think that the way this has been handled isn't helpful to anyone.

diddl Wed 25-Nov-15 13:10:15

Presumably there is more than just children's say so as to what happened?

The head sounds an absolute disgrace.

Surely Sally is moving school due to convenience?

Granted they may have not moved quite so quickly were she happy where she is.

But if it is the bullying, the school is entirely atfault for not preventing it.

I know that kids shouldn't exclude others, but I'm also not sure whatgood it does to force them to play with a child thatthey don't want to.

HaydeeofMonteCristo Wed 25-Nov-15 13:11:02

It does sound like the head deal with it badly I agree. No good accusing the girls of making Sally leave the school etc. Far too much to put on them, and doesn't sound true in the circumstances either.

Head should also have had a much more general chat about kindness and being a good friend.

This is what seems to happen at DD's school, although she is younger (year 2), and I would expect that they deal slightly differently with kids as they get older.

DrGoogleWillSeeYouNow Wed 25-Nov-15 13:15:29

I don't think it's been handled very well all around, but it does sound like there has been some low level bullying and deliberate exclusion going on, even from the biased version of events you've given (and I'm not saying that to be snarky btw, but of course there's going to be a bias in your OP).

I'd go to the meeting at the school and listen to what they have to say. Then have a chat with DD. At Y4 - age 8/9? I'd be expecting a lot more awareness about kindness and empathy.

HaydeeofMonteCristo Wed 25-Nov-15 13:16:12

Diddl - I agree sounds like they are primarily moving due to convenience.

Also that school are at fault if there has been bullying.

I don't think they should be forced to play with kids they don't want to, which was why I said point "3" - that these two things were unnecessary, pulling seats aware and stopping Sally going on the equipment - it's not forcing them to play with her to say don't obviously exclude her in this way. Especially not be their age (i.e. they aren't 5 year olds who might not consider the consequences).

How to more subtly get on with your own thing and avoid people you don't want to be with is something good to learn in life!

diddl Wed 25-Nov-15 13:23:58

Oh yes what they did was deliberately unkind.

I was making a general observation rather than it being specific to this.

If they are playing a game though & Sally asks to join in, would they be allowed to say no?

manana21 Wed 25-Nov-15 13:34:47

i wouldn't be able to get too up in arms about this because it sounds as though at the very least there has been low level unkindness and exclusion on behalf of your DD, even if not fully consciously and this is a life lesson for her. I got pulled up at school (old days, made to stand up and publicly shamed in front of the whole class with my gang of mates) for excluding a girl in my school and i've never forgotten how I felt, it did drum home the importance of kindness.

Bluebell20 Wed 25-Nov-15 13:35:45

Sounds to me as though the girls may well have been being mean. Kids of that age are definitely capable of colluding and denying!

However. In the grand scheme of things, this is very low level behaviour, and could easily have been sorted out by the school, e.g asking the girls to play with Sally on alternate days, and finding Sally another friend to look after her on the days she isn't playing with your daughter.

I also think it was extremely wrong of the Head to tell the children that Sally was leaving because of their behaviour. Clearly, it is more convenient for the parents to have all their children in one school. I highly doubt that they would have moved Sally otherwise. That is a very big load of guilt to lay on the heads of a couple of Year 4s, and totally uncalled for.

I would definitely talk to your daughter about being kind and including others, and I would work with the school to ensure that this kind of low-level bullying is ironed out - but I would also express concern that children were told they were to blame for Sally leaving. Inappropriate.

Whattodowhatodo Wed 25-Nov-15 13:36:17

Diddl, I assume you are asking me.

From a few months ago, when DD was complaining about Sally, it seemed they were not allowed to say no. The girls would sometimes say, "Well, we're playing this and there's no role for you" Which is totally unkind but I think fairly standard, as DD had complained about that happening to her before. I told her to go find people who did want to play with her, but Sally would go and complain to a teacher or playground supervisor, who would tell DD and the others that Sally is having a hard time at home and they should include her in their game. So then it became from Sally, "You have to include me," which DD felt was almost bullying to her. But I just figured it was standard playground stuff of figuring out where you are on the totem pole and didn't really mind it much, other than reminding DD that Sally did indeed have a lot of troubles at home with a sick parent. And as I said, it seemed to have settled down, with Sally still being a friend, but often going off to play with a couple of other girls at break and lunchtime.

HPsauciness Wed 25-Nov-15 13:36:56

This kind of 'exclusion' 'you're not sitting next to me', 'quick run away from X' is extremely common in Year 4, there were lots of girls like this in my dd's class and she experienced it a few times in the year as a whole.

But- I wouldn't call that sustained bullying- our school sets the bar as 'repeated' exclusion, not the odd once or twice kids flounce off or aren't as kind as they should have been. Of course the children should have been reprimanded if this was seen, immediately ideally or around that time, and a discussion had about being inclusive at mealtimes/in the queue etc.

I wouldn't call this sustained bullying though, and to blame your child for another child leaving is over the top.

It's not great, and a word with your child about how those left out feel is a good idea. Making her responsible for another child leaving, no, that's not ok and I would be quite honest with the head about that.

UnlikelyPilgramage Wed 25-Nov-15 13:37:24

I wouldn't go in for public shaming but I'm surprised other posters don't think the examples given are bullying - they are.

diddl Wed 25-Nov-15 13:40:00

That just sounds like too much pressure, doesn't it?

I mean adults can just say no!

THat was quite manipulative of Sally as well.

stopfuckingshoutingatme Wed 25-Nov-15 13:40:29

Its a tough one, but I agree with everyone that has said let this be a lesson to them all about kindness towards other people.

I think that the Head has gone a little bit OTT in how he handled it, and that's a delicate issue as you want her to learn the right values and I don't think they are 100% culpable either

this too shall pass OP, and I think that your DD must take away a lessons on growing up, being kind and how to handle this in the future

Garlick Wed 25-Nov-15 13:44:35

I changed school every two years and certainly recognise the behaviour described. It's a pity Sally's parents didn't advise her as well as mine did me (they were shite in many ways, but good at this) - it undoubtedly is hurtful. I think it's quite likely your DD and her friends did what Sally says they did.

However, I'm averse to telling children - particularly girls - to "be kind" as a general directive. We are not obliged to put other people's wishes before our own. What you're aiming for is compassion/empathy and the ability to negotiate within relationships. This is obviously going to be imperfect at the age of eight, but it's the perfect time to be starting to develop these skills.

Either the school head's a prat, or has noticed this group of friends behaving rudely to many children and is taking the opportunity to address the issue.

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Wed 25-Nov-15 13:50:44

Sally has been bullied and your daughter unfortunately is one of the bullies.

And to think that 3 girls would not collude with each other to cover their own arses is disingenuous at best.

I'd be curious to know though (in fact I'd insist on knowing) from the head, exactly what she said to the girls the other day. I find it difficult to believe that the HT would have told the girls all of the reasons why Sally may, or may not be leaving. Of course making other children feel responsible for another child leaving is not on. Unless it's the truth.

Whattodowhatodo Wed 25-Nov-15 13:52:04

I try to teach compassion, but it's not as easy as practising times tables! If anyone has suggestions, please let me hear them. I have done plenty of "how would you feel if soandso did suchandsuch to you?" and DD can put herself in the other person's shoes and respond appropriately, but it's not easy actually in the situation for her. Still, I don't feel it's all been one-sided and her fault.

I appreciate everyone's replies, it does offer a good balance for me.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Wed 25-Nov-15 13:53:18

I think Sallys mom may have more examples than you realise. The fact that she joined late is irrelevant, as is the point the 3 have been friends for longer ... So? Thats OK to exclude a class mate?
I think you need to go in with an open mind and ask some questions. Small incidents add up to a great deal for a small child.

HPsauciness Wed 25-Nov-15 13:53:49

Unlikely our school defines it as 'repeated acts of aggression or exclusion'- I guess two might just about meet that definition, but I don't see what that really achieves, because from what I hear from my Year 4/5 dd, probably half the class are involved in some type of running off from, or not sitting next to, or wanting to play with one group only type behaviour age 8, friendship groups are very fluid and there is a lot of falling out and making up again. My dd has had similar and I taught her to hold her head up, find other children to sit with, resolve it herself, but to tell me about it, and if it became a daily issue or made her very unhappy (rather than being part of this in/out group bickering) then I would go into school.

Sustained bullying, such as my dd1 had at school which was much more aggressive and sustained daily over a long period is a different kettle of fish to me.

Either way, I don't think these type of incidents warranted being told a child has left school and you are to blame- these are the kind of misjudgments that are typical of this age group and probably happen 10x a day in school every day- the school must have a better policy of dealing with them than making children play together that don't want to, and then blaming them when they get called out over bullying.

FoxesSitOnBoxes Wed 25-Nov-15 13:53:54

Isn't this how girls bully? Less hitting and more "let's run away from Sally/stop her playing on the climbing frame" "no Sally, you can't play but Sarah can play"
It's all mean. Especially if she was having an awful time at home.
I guess once or twice it would just be normal friendship politics but, if this is going on most days & the few examples you have are just what Sally recalled at the time, then I would call that bullying.
Was Sally the only one being left out?

Whattodowhatodo Wed 25-Nov-15 13:53:58

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark, perhaps the girls could collude to lie. But a separate girl was asked about it (the one who was allegedly invited to play when Sally wasn't) and according to the girls, couldn't remember the incident either/said it didn't happen.

Part of what is so frustrating of course is that this is all 3rd to 4th hand information by the time I hear about it!

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