Friday, December 16, 2016

Primary school ends on a disturbing note

My daughter finished primary school yesterday, after a week of celebrations. There is a tradition at the school that after the last bell the year six group goes to a local park for a water fight. It has been raining this week so the park was muddy.

It seems the water fight turned into a real fight, with swearing and aggression, and she was the target. She got angry, which the people who wanted to aggravate her seemed to enjoy, then she cleaned herself up, and was preparing to leave when she was turned on again by a girl who my daughter had already told repeatedly to stop. A group of boys yelled at her ‘Suck my dick, bitch' and 'Fuck off, bitch.’ She is twelve. She left the park.

These are the  boys she has been with at school for the last seven years.

I am so angry I don’t know what to do.

There were a few adults there but I don’t know what they saw and heard, or if they were paying attention.

The school has no course of action because the children had left. It wasn’t a school event. It seems to me the last semester of Year 6 is a free-for all. The children are disengaged in learning and given a free pass to spend their time being mean to each other. Perhaps hostilities had been brewing and were acted upon at the park. I can’t think of the school as without blame if this what happens when the students are together unsupervised. This is a school failure. A few children tried to intervene, but as a group, the rest permitted it. This is a failure of the anti-bullying program and the message that bystanders should stop the bullies. One boy told her as she left that he didn’t want to end primary school this way.

I knew that I would have to deal with my daughters being harassed and abused as they became teenagers and went out into the world, but I didn’t expect it to happen at the age of twelve, and from people in our community.

Again, I have to review everything I thought I knew. Perhaps there is no recourse for ingrained misogyny. Perhaps boys are predators and girls are victims and that’s never going to change - we should just keep our girls indoors. Perhaps there is no overcoming the subtle and overt disrespect for women and girls that is the wallpaper in our culture.

Perhaps children are just mean and we shouldn’t expect otherwise.

Or, perhaps we should run ethics classes for the last semester of Year 6 to teach them to think about their behaviour.

What do I tell my daughter? To get used to it? To make a smart-mouthed retort that only makes boys and men angrier? To walk away? To stand and fight? That she is lucky it wasn't worse? The lie that mean people never win in the end?

She's upset with herself that in her anger she said a word we don't use in our household.

She is twelve.