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.


Michelle said...

Hi Motherhugger,
That was a very depressing read. I share your despair.
I wonder, though, whether young people today really feel the impact of such language, or whether they are desensitised to it because they're hearing it all around them all the time - on social media, on YouTube, in the playground? My kids follow many YouTubers, watching videos every day, and the YouTubers swear all the time, and my kids think this is normal, and they are now quite happy to swear themselves (which I hate, but that doesn't stop them). Sometimes they think people swearing is funny (and of course sometimes it IS funny). So they may have heard a YouTuber saying "suck my dick, bitch" in an allegedly humorous way, it might even be one guy saying it to another in a non-sexual context, so my point is that the guy who said it to your daughter may not get how seriously offensive it is - is that a possibility?

Linda said...

So sad to read that! And yes, it would seem to be a failure of the school (and the parents) if they produce kids who behave that way without thinking about the impact of their behaviour. Also a failure of the school if they didn't pick up the underlying tensions that would result in something like this. And, if we take the previous comment into account, it's a failure of society as well! What do you tell her? Maybe that they're jealous and she's always going to encounter mean people like that and to somehow rise above it. We don't expect these harsh lessons to arrive so soon, however. Sounds like a "Lord of the Flies" attack and sad that school is dispersed now so there's no way to bring it to a better conclusion. What did the school say? I can understand your anger.

Motherhugger said...

I have since spoken to other parents who reported that their children came home upset and disappointed. The group of boys are considered 'the cool boys' - which, of course, they aren't. They have been swearing on their way to school for the last term or so, so people knew they were behaving badly.

I have written to the principal.

Other than an apology, I'd like an opportunity to do restorative justice with these kids. I will be seeing these boys around - on the bus, in the shops - and I want them to know they can learn to do better, be more thoughtful, and that their actions have consequences. What is ironic is that I took an ethics class a fortnight ago. I always emphasise the rule 'no name calling' on the basis that it blocks an opportunity to understand and engage with other people. The lesson was about thinking about thinking, and that people remember how other people made them feel, and when they leave primary school people will remember them according to the emotions around them - if they were kind or mean and made other people feel good or bad.

Unknown said...

Hi mother hugger

I just came across this blog. It's really sad to hear what happened to your daughter and sadly you are right. This is the sort of world your daughter will grow up in. Actually I'm personally not surprised that this sort of things can happen at such an early age. I've read so many articles of crimes committed by young people that it is a sad reality that young people can be so cruel.

What is the solutions? Personally thinking while ethic classes are important I'm not sure they will do much. I think you have asked a very deep question ie is mysgynoy deeply ingrained? As i observed what is going on in the world I think I would have to say yes. the problems of the world are so widespread and so deep that it is hard to believe that simple ethics classes will solve the problems. universities have been teaching ethics for years and yet some of the greatest perpetrators of hatred are highly university educated. One only needs to think of people like Pol Pot and or Marx or others.

No easy answer. The world is so broken that maybe we have to think outside the box

Again sorry to hear about your daughters. Hopefully she is having a good year this year.

Take care