Sunday, October 26, 2008


My husband's idea of the best way to deal with a bully is to "flatten him, just once" or some such thing. I have also heard this approach suggested by a number of other people of the male persuasion.
Aidan heard it. And didn't heed it. But he didn't have much trouble of this kind.
Sergei hears it and chooses not to heed it. He just lives with the daily torment.

Of course both of them heard me - loud and clear (maybe even shrill)- suggesting that whether or not it worked with the bully, it would do you no good with the powers that be. Of course I suggest more rational approaches - or even irrational ones (like turning the other cheek), but mostly I try to remind them that the rules these days forbid "frontier justice" or whatever you want to call it.

I think Ilya might call it "orphanage justice" and I expect it is still the order of the day in Shuya. Unfortunately it is not acceptable behavior at our nice little Catholic school. As Ilya is learning.

Friday afternoon, unfortunately, he "got into it" with a boy who was either
a) doing nothing at all [the boy's version] or
b) who has for weeks taunted Ilya by calling him names and making vile suggestions, then yesterday pushed his face into the drinking fountain, and in response to Ilya's flicking water at him, attempted to kick him in his private parts. [Ilya's version].

Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Sergei confirms, though, that Ilya is tormented by this boy and a few others on a daily basis. I don't for a minute think Ilya would just attack someone for no reason. However, as I mentioned before, in this day and age you can't get physical with people who are tormenting you. And - of course though I wouldn't recommend this approach I do see that other approaches are useless - which is Ilya's dilemma.

He's told us about this; we've told some of the teachers, and the administration, but bullies don't do their bullying where people in authority can see, after all!

And, Ilya's already under huge stress from just being there all day and struggling to understand English, so I guess being harassed both verbally and physically was too much for him, finally. Though, Ilya also tells us that the boy himself suggested going outside. Perhaps Ilya had the idea that things might indeed be appropriately "handled" outside after class..... But outside the assistant principal's office? No. Bad idea.

Anyway, the result is - he's suspended for a week. Oh! The irony! When my constant and regular, my most vervent prayer and daily effort has been aimed at actually getting him to go to he is not allowed to go to school. I'm awfully afraid that I won't be able to make him go back. I doubt that absence will make the heart grow fonder.

Obviously, among the torrent of feelings and impressions, I'm terribly humiliated by his behavior, doubting very much my decision to have the kids here at the school where I work. How will I be able to work professionally with that family after this? What will I do if Ilya pulls something else? The Asst. Principal even suggested maybe Ilya would need another placement.... Well, I can't think of another placement! Our public school system is absolutely out of the question.... We can't afford any other private school.

Well. I guess it just adds another dimension. A little more flavor to life. :) Lydia just said, "Mom you take this stuff too seriously." So I suggested that she can take care of Ilya next week.

Right now I don't think that Ilya has a very good understanding of the seriousness of the situation. Undoubtedly, coming from a place where such incidents were a daily occurrence, he can hardly expect such a different vision here. Well.... Keep you posted!


Salzwedel Family said...

Ugh. That's a tough one. I'm praying you will have clarity for what is best.

Rachael said...

It is sad that in a Christian school, kids are still subjected to bullying. And, I'm kind of shocked at the asst. principal's suggestion that you find him another placement. They are asking to send kids away -- children of their own parishioners AND employees?!

I don't think you should be embarrassed at all, though I understand why you might be. What Ilya did was wrong, but I bet he was provoked. Just remember family first, job second. I say, stick up for Ilya, advocate for the school to stop the bullying behaviors, and let the chips fall where they may. Then hope and pray that you would get some support and understanding from your own parish.

Good luck for a good week! :)

P.S. The nest with the four eggs will reappear next spring. I like that one too, so I'm saving it.

Annie said...

Well, I know it's a tough call. Obviously the school has to keep kids safe and the other mother is taking the view (maybe feeling absolute justified, from all I know) that her son was attacked out of the blue! It will be somewhat interesting to see how it plays out. The boys had an "incident" earlier in the week. He said one of these nasty things to Ilya in library and Ilya kicked him. (Hence the second step of the rubric.) The librarian told me that she had no doubt the boy instigated the whole thing though [of course] she didn't witness it.

I know Ilya can't go around physically attacking people, but I do think that the boy who tormented him daily with words (and it sounds like, with some physical aggression) should also be punished. But - of course everyone SAW Ilya; we just have to hope someone saw the other boy at the drinking fountain.

I do think the asst. principal was a little shocked at the vigor of Ilya's attack. Ilya is very strong and his background has informed him that you don't mess around when your safety is at stake, so I think he did appear to be quite a "threat" to the overall "peaceful" atmosphere.

Yes; you expect better at a Christian school. But kids will be kids, and bullying is hard to catch. Both the public school and this school spend what seems like way too much time on the topic, frankly - especially when you see that it seems to make no impact whatsoever.

I've almost begun to believe the "old way" was more efficient.... If it can blow over, perhaps this kid will be a little more careful about what he says to Ilya in the future.

Annie said...

BTW - This boy just arrived from public school this year.... Sometimes when that happens it is because things weren't going all that well there.

crispy said...

Annie, your last comment sheds light on the situation. That is often the case. A child shows up in private school when public kicked him out.

Praying for wisdom so you can be Ilya's advocate. Again...I agree with Rachael.

Tina in CT said...

I agree with Rachel. I also agree with your husband and frontier justice. Too bad Ilya couldn't have kicked the crap out of the bully but outside of school. But with the luck of the Irish, the bully's parents probably would have brought a law suit against you. Hopefully some other kids will beat the crap out of the bully.

Fioleta said...

I wish I could say something wise, but when confronted by bullying I just freeze and have no idea what to do. I think it's hard for a child not to retaliate with the violence than no other solution is offered. I hope that during the week off school some solution will present itself.

MamaPoRuski said...

I suppose inviting the boy over to spend a fun filled weekend with you and your family would be rejected? I like to keep trouble makers close to me...
Praying for you!

MyGirlElena said...

It's so difficult to find the right approach to dealing with bullies. As a parent, I would want my daughter to be able to stand up for herself (since sadly I know I won't always be there physically for her), but then I would also want her to take the high road and be "the better person."
I think it's great that Ilya stood up for himself. And, I agree with Rachael, why is the AP giving preference to a kid who has already had trouble in a public shcool setting? After all your hard work there, they need to be advocates for your son.
The decision to place Elena in public school (in the future) has been made so easy for me. While I believe in the catechism of the Catholic Church and the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I am very disillusioned with the Church as an institution.
I truly do hope that Ilya's school situation and your job issues work out in the best interest of your whole family. You really deserve it!

Wife to the Rockstar said...

Poor kid. I feel for him. And I really don't blame him.

Elizabeth said...

Masha used to get picked on when she first got adopted (she was 13) and she punched someone at school. Later it came out that she had been taunted regularly. However, she definitely knows how to stand up for herself. Sometimes there's a little testing of the new kid and then it passes. Hopefully this will blow over soon.