Remember the "Chinese eyes" incident from earlier this school year? I'd told Zoe we'd talk about whether we wanted to say something to her teacher, and needed to decide before parent-teacher conference (which was last Friday).
After our first conversation, I talked to the parents of two other Asian adoptees who are also in 3d grade at Zoe's school. Turns out both girls had also been teased with "Chinese eyes." When the mom asked one girl how it made her feel to be teased that way, she said, "Ashamed." Doesn't that just break your heart?
So we three moms emailed amongst ourselves to come up with a strategy, and we decided that each of us would talk to our own child's teacher at parent-teacher conference (interestingly enough, there are three 3d grade classes and each class had one of our girls). Zoe was consulted, and agreed whole-heartedly with the suggestion. Each mom went in with the same message, that we didn't want any particular child to be reprimanded about this (in fact, we each declined to give the names of the teasers when asked), that we didn't want our girls to be singled out in any kind of group reprimand. We wanted to get together with all the 3d grade teachers and maybe the school counselor to talk about some ways to turn it into a "teachable moment" for the 3d grade. We each expressed concern that our kids knew that bullying was bad, but didn't know what bullying was, and suggested that this lesson might be a way to expand on the bullying curriculum.
Good news! Each of the third grade teachers was very receptive to this approach!
Bad news! Somehow, unbeknownst to ANY of us parents, the approach changed.
Yesterday in the midst of our Maya-birthday-celebration, Zoe told me that she and the other two girls were pulled out of recess by the counselor. Zoe said she was scared because she thought she was in trouble (I'm sure all the other students watching this thought she was in trouble, too). The counselor asked them about the "Chinese eyes" teasing, and asked for the names of the teasers. Being good girls who obey adults, they told the counselor.
Could it get any worse? How about the teasers were then pulled out of class and sent to the principal's office?! EXACTLY what we said we didn't want to have happen HAPPENED.
AND, the only reason I know about this is because Zoe told me. No one from the school has contacted me to talk about it. No one warned me ahead of time. No one asked for permission to interrogate Zoe about it. I would have at least liked to be told about it after the fact so I could the teasers' parents that that's NOT the way I operate. If I had a problem with their child's behavior, I would talk to them directly! I saw this as a systemic issue requiring a systemic response, not about any individual bad actors.
And I think the school figures they've "solved" the problem. No systemic issue, no need to address it further. We punished the wrong-doers, case closed.
My first instinct is to go talk to the principal about all of this, to express my dissatisfaction with how the school handled it (won't that be a surprise to them! It isn't usually the so-called "victim's" parent who complains about the transgressors being punished!). I still want to press of a systemic approach that integrates racial teasing in the bullying curriculum.
But maybe I should drop it. Maybe the lesson I should take from this is that if I tell the school about a problem, the way they handle it is completely out of my control. It is possible that they COULD make this all worse -- though for the life of me I can't quite see how it could be any worse.
And the lesson Zoe has learned from this? I better not tell my mom about racial teasing, because once she tells the teacher I get hauled before the counselor, my friends get in trouble, and maybe they won't be my friend anymore and maybe the teasing will get worse?
I sure hope not. But I really feel I've breached a trust with Zoe, and will have to work hard to earn it back. And I really feel the school has breached a trust with me.
Happy Announcement Followed by Reflections.
2 days ago