AIBU to think the school should be doing something (bullying related)(28 Posts)
My 9 year old dd has had a miserable y4. Her former best friend fell out with her at the end of y3 (neither family ever got to the bottom of why) and spent the first term of y4 telling everyone not to play with her (she is a queen bee and they complied). DD ended up with crippling stomach ache every day and we involved the school. School's response was to split the girls up and ensure my DD had activities during lunchtime so her time spent sitting on a bench watching the others play was limited. They felt an intervention with the 2 children wouldn't benefit DD as at this point she was really low, and "couldn't force friendships with the other children".
As soon as we went back to school after Christmas, DD developed a bladder condition, presenting like a severe urine infection, but no antibiotics helped. After 8 weeks of her being crippled with this, we were referred to the hospital, they immediately identified it as stress and anxiety related, and gave her some medication and a lifestyle programme. It has gradually got better, but she spent 4 months feeling like she was constantly going to wet herself, and started putting her hand down her pants to "hold it in".
I've been to the school on numerous occasions, as although the problem with the initial girl ceased in that they just ignore each other, the other girls (bar 2) have completed isolated her. They have refused to touch things if she's touched them, and refuse to play with her. The low point was this weekend where she went to a swimming party and she worked her way through 12 of them to go on the inflatable with her. No one would. She came out utterly defeated.
I have taken her on anti bullying workshops, she has been assessed by Step 2 (a branch of CAMHS) who say she doesn't have a MH problem, she's just reacting to an incredibly stressful situation, she has good friends outside of school and she does Brownies, drama and dance to help with building relationships outside school.
However, despite all this, and despite me asking repeatedly for the school teachers to observe DD and her peer interactions, they can provide no useful insight. They say she seems fine, but I have told them that I have to cajole her into school each day and deal with the fall out each night. It's really draining for both of us.
Anyway, last night she was in a complete state, and it came out that the children had noticed her putting her hand down her pants and had decided that she was dirty for touching her bottom, and were refusing to touch anything she had touched. Yesterday the girls collecting in the books refused to pick up her book, and eventually one of them picked it up by the very corner, wrinkling her nose up.
She says she hasn't been putting her hand down her pants for a while now; we had pulled her up on it when we saw her doing it at home, but they are still teasing her. One boy thumped her in the back yesterday, who has been particularly vile to her.
AIBU to think that the school (a) should have picked up on this in their supposed observations, and (b) be taking some responsibility for this. She is totally socially excluded.
I am desperately looking for alternative schools, but there are no places available in my town for y4 at the moment.
I have requested yet another meeting with the head and year teacher, should I now be involving the governors? I should add that this is supposedly an ofsted outstanding school, but another child has also left this class this year because he was badly bullied and the school didn't help.
WWYD and AIBU?
Sorry to read about your DD. It sounds like you are trying everything. My DC went through a similar time at an 'outstanding' primary school (now at secondary - we moved his primary to a village school with a space about half an hour away that was a feeder for a different secondary so he takes a bus for 45 minutes each way now but never returned to his previous peer group - and he is much happier).
I did involve the governors in the end but to little avail. They were happy that processes and policies were being followed but were not able or willing to understand that those very processes were part of the problem.
I asked them to do a random audit of follow-up for children who had experienced 'unkind behaviours' rather than 'bullying behaviours' and see whether families were happy that their concerns had been taken seriously. Also to see whether things were happening that they should have known about but didn't. Suffice to say they were not willing.
Your poor dd.
In your position I wouldn't take it to the governors looking for a solution, although I would write to them and complain. And I would take her out now - as you say she's totally socially isolated and it's destroying her. Home ed until a place comes up.
If you can't do this, then I would stop sending her until they've (Head and Governer and class teacher) have met with you, and an action plan that you are happy with is put in place. Then monitor it very closely to ensure they stick to it.
But really, I'd urge you to remove her now.
At the moment she says she doesn't want to move schools, but I think that's because she can't see the situation improving elsewhere. There currently isn't a space in a local school, but I am on continued interest waiting lists and hope that something comes up.
I could home ed her, but she is a sociable child, who has always loved school and is desperate to be back in that situation again.
Our other alternative is to remortgage and send her private, although we'd only just have enough money for her to do yr 5 and 6, and I have 2 other children at the same primary school, so would need to consider how to deal with the drop offs etc.
I have a meeting tomorrow with the head and the class teacher. I've been advised to use the word safeguarding a lot, and hope that this prompts them to action. I am going to tell them I'm considering alternative schooling as well.
Do you think I should be asking for daily meetings with the class teacher? Part of my anger is that - despite making them aware that I am taking her to a MH assessment and anti bullying workshop, neither the head nor the class teacher has even asked how they went. She just doesn't seem to be at the forefront of their minds. I feel so defeated and like I'm letting her down.
I would get hold of the bullying policy and keep referring to it in the meeting. It is drilled into pupils (or certainly in DC's school) that excluding someone is bullying. They should be following this to the letter, and I would find a copy in advance of the meeting and highlight any parts where they have not followed it. You need to be polite, but determined and the head and class teacher need to realise that this isn't going to go away. Take notes at the meeting, and then follow up with an email to say that thank you for the meeting, x, and y were agreed and to be actioned by z date. Crucial if you need to follow this up with a formal complaint.
The school is right in saying that they can't force friendships, BUT they can create the right conditions to allow friendships to grow and flourish.
You can appeal for a place at the other schools. You don't have infant class size to worry about. If you want to appeal head to the primary board and start a thread and you'll get some excellent advice.
My DD had this to an extent, not so extreme as your poor DD. She coped by befriending some of the younger children, she would play with them in the playground and the school even make her an official 'play ground helper' to encourage this. She also found that Queen Bee child was always falling out with other children when they did not do what she said, so there was always a steady flow of children who were also being excluded whom she spent her lunch times commiserating with.
The school did not really do much else to help, and she was always on the outside of the group at primary school. However, once she got to senior school there were so many other kids she made friends easily, but Queen Bee child found it much harder, as she could not control all of the other children, there were too many!
I know it seems a long way off but I think it does often get better at senior school. I considered taking DD out of primary on many occasions, but it wasn't what she wanted. In your case, as the problem is more extreme, I would consider it, at least get her on a waiting list for a different school so she can move if a place comes up (or turn it down if she feels more settled by then)
I am sorry you are going through this, it is really awful to cope with, my DD got terrible anxiety too. Keep talking to the school. Hopefully it will get better soon.
Do you have someone to go to the meeting with? They can support you. They might ask questions you might never of thought of? Also they can be another pair of ears for you. Maybe you can take your friend for coffee after for a debrief .
Deliberate exclusion is definitely bullying, and bullying is a safeguarding issue. So you need copies of their anti-bullying policy and their safeguarding policy (should be on the website). They must follow these to the letter. Unfortunately, if they are following their own policies and it isn't working you can't force them to change the policies.
Maybe the school could do a 'Home School Communication Book' which gets sent home with comments at the end of each day. You can communicate through it also. If it is a big school or one with some split years could she move class? Are there any children in older years she likes that could be a buddy? Hope tomorrow goes as well as it can.
I think the school should be observing this behaviour and calling the parents in to talk to them about how their kids are behaving.
I am very biased tho having just taken my year 10 girl out of an outstanding secondary school after a year of extreme bullying.
Schools and some parents are just clueless about how to deal with this and kids are suffering miserable childhoods because of it.
I've just been to look at an early colleg placement with Dd and she is smiling for the first time in ages.
I hope you can sort this out but I suspect you may end up having to move her.
I would stop cajoling her into school and take her to the GP to be given sick note for anxiety. When it's affecting their attendance they'll have to act. Shameful that they think it's acceptable what your dd is having to put up with. I wonder how many teachers would be willing to turn into work if their colleagues were treating them how your dd is being treated.
How many form entry is this school? Do they mix the children up each year. Would being moved into a different class, or away from certain children help?
YY to making sure they follow their anti-bullying procedure. This absolutely is bullying.
Ultimately I think it is your decision about whether to move her or not. You're the adult.
I would go into school and kick up fuck. I would also be going to queen bees mum. I would say to the school to hold a bullying talk where people outwith the school come in and speak to the pupils.
Get your daughter into counselling to help deal with her feelings.
Thanks for all your support. To answer questions
Queen Bee's mum and dad are totally adamant that it was all my daughter's fault for "being mean". This, despite I used to take their daughter to loads of extra curricular activities and witnessed many occasions of it being the other way round. Had to pull her up on it several times. My personal theory is that she was jealous of DD for having a "normal" family - there are a lot of problems at home (older brother diagnosed with autism but the parents refuse to talk about it and the queen bee has to put up with his extreme behaviour - they see her as the golden child and will do anything to keep this status quo). As a result of me going into school to ask them to help sort the problem out between the girls, the parents no longer speak to me, nor does the girl (who used to practically live at my house).
The school is only one form entry unfortunately, no opportunities to move her within the school. I know I'm the adult, but I can't physically create a space for her. I have made an appointment to see another school and meet the head, see if they would create an exception to their PAN for her as it's KS2. They have spaces for my other kids, so I could move them all.
At the moment, she has an activity to do each lunchtime, so she doesn't have to be in the playground. This is the school's answer to sorting it out. One of the activities is helping to hear the year 1's read. She's now asking for playdates with them... Unfortunately KS2 and KS1 play in different playgrounds, so she can't be there at breaktime.
I have printed off the bullying policy, interestingly they don't have a safeguarding policy on the website, but I will ask for a copy of it tomorrow.
Good point about a friend/minute taker - I will see if I can get my friend to come in. Might be difficult as it's before school, but will try.
The problem with the behaviour and talking to anyone's parents - it seems to be pretty much all of the girls (bar about 3). A lot of them are not people I would want to tackle, especially after what happened with Queen Bee's parents (who I thought were friends...)
My parents have suggested getting her a sick note and taking her down to them for half term and the week after, to give her a break from it all and have some unquestioning love and devotion from them. I am very tempted, but not sure I'd ever get her to go back in.
I am going to keep her off school tomorrow though, and say she's not coming back in until there is a plan of action to keep her safe. I still can't believe no-one contacted me about the little shit who thumped her in the back.
I like the idea of the home school communication book, as with 3 kids I rarely get to speak to her teacher.
Ironically, the boy who is acknowledged as one of the biggest bullies in the class is quite nice to her. Maybe he realises he has competition?
Fuck, this is tough.
In case that reads as I think my daughter's a special snowflake who can do no wrong, I absolutely don't. She can be bossy and controlling, and prone to tears. But mean isn't her default. She can be mean, but on the times I've witnessed it, either at home or with friends, it's usually provoked. Not saying that's right, but she isn't spiteful.
I wouldn't send her back into that environment for another day. It doesn't sound like things are going to improve any time soon, and it sounds as though she is under a horrific amount of stress. You could home ed, either temporarily while setting something else up or for the longer term. Home ed can be very sociable - certainly in our area there are loads of groups and activities.
It sounds awful OP. I can understand as my DD went though similar in primary school. In her case she developed IBS from the stress. I wanted her to move schools, but she didn't want to. She felt that the bully should have been moved, and I agree, but that wasn't going to happen. It didn't help that the bully was the DD of one of the school governors.
Anyway, it got worse and worse, and although she had a few nice friends, the bullying overshadowed everything. We made the difficult decision to move her to a different secondary school when the time came. It was a small private school, well known for its pastoral care. She was like a different child. She made friends immediately, the IBS stopped and she loved school. She actually used to look forward to going back to school in the holidays. I wish I had done it earlier, but she wanted to stay in her primary school.
It's not right, but I think the only solution is to move schools.
Good luck to your little girl.
I would be asking for a whole class lesson in citizenship or whatever it's called these days on bullying. Have they actually tried that? Getting the child being bullied to help out with younger kids isn't helpful. She needs friends her own age. They can't force the other kids to like her, no, but they can force them to have a long, hard think about what they're doing.
I agree with Gaelic. A similar issue came up in DD's class last year (yr5) with three girls being excluded. School were horrified and tackled it head on. They didn't just tell the other children to be nice, but saw it as a failure of the class dynamics as a whole.
So the HT sat with each member of the class over a few days, and asked them about friendship groups, about exclusion and who was friends with who. A few of the excluding group burst into tears at that point when they realised what they had been doing. In the course of it the school discovered other low-level bullying that had been going on as well.
This was followed up with a) lots of whole class anti-bullying work and b) the threat that any further behaviour would result in that person's parents being called into school. This happened once, it never happened again. Over the next week or so, even the ringleaders started to confess what had happened to the parents. HT came in and talked to various children every single week for the rest of that term.
I am telling you this so that you know that there are ways of making this right, if the school wants to really sort things out. But they so often don't. I would seriously consider keeping her out of school for a while if they are not listening.
Your poor poor dad my dad year 5 has been having a horrible time at school from the same group of girls since year 2, no where near as bad as your dd but I know how upsetting and draining it can be for you.
My dad also has had a rough year health wise and is been suffering tummy aches etc
No advise except take your dd out of school and send her to her grandparents for some extra love and attention, once she out of school you will have a better chance of getting her moved to another
Just take her out of there! I know it's hard but you need to give her back her childhood. No child should be bullied to such an extent that their health suffers. That's appalling. Protect your DD - home school, try somewhere else further afield, go private. You need to help her.
OP I really don't want to give you a hard time but you are contradicting yourself a bit. First you say you'd be happy to home school temporarily but your dd doesn't want to leave school, then you say if she had a long happy half term she'd probably not go back. But that would be ok wouldnt it?
As I understand it if she is off sick with anxiety then the school would be obliged to put things in place and ease her back in. I would also complain to the governors. I don't think your poor dd should have to spend another day in the environment you describe
Just to add, she might think she wants to stay at the school, but children aren't always the best judge of what's best for them in these situations. Perhaps she's scared of the idea of 'failing' by leaving. I strongly believe that toxic environments like you've described do children no good at all, and can create long lasting damage.
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