Before I start this, I better make it clear that I have Taylor's permission to share this story. Since it didn't happen to me, and it hurt her quite a bit, I was hesitant to share it but we both agree that it's important to let parents and teens know that this kind of thing happens far too often. So here we go.....
Not long after the kinds returned from Christmas break came the end of 2nd semester. With the change to a new semester meant new classes and an upheaval of Taylor's old schedule. In particular, she moved to a new history class but with the same teacher. The teacher assigned the students to 4 person tables. Tay was placed with a shy girl and 2 very outgoing boys that she had never known before. Within days the boys were tormenting her throughout the entire class period. The swore incessantly. Tay tried to kindly ask them to stop, even bribed them with candy, and while it worked for a few days they refused to follow the class and school rules about swearing. In fact, when they saw how much it bugged her they elevated the teasing. They started mocking her for her religious beliefs, teasing her about being a good girl. They made it their goal to torment her every single day.
A few days ago they decided to up the ante even more and began sexually harassing Taylor. While she was in the bathroom they stole her folder and drew a pornographic picture on the cover with a disgusting word written next to it. She erased it but was so embarrassed she decided not to tell anyone. Yesterday I was researching some information on the problems with digital communications and teenagers for our Young Womens activity (irony, right??) when I started getting texts from Tay asking to come home. She was hesitant to tell me why she wanted to leave, but finally she said that there had been an episode in history that left her crying in class. She told me that her 2 table mates had been working on her nonstop in class, being very vulgar and saying horrible things about the Savior, all to get a reaction out of her. Finally, she broke. The other kids that witnessed the scene told they boys they needed to stop, but they wouldn't. Finally the teacher, who is a student teacher, came over and inquired as to what was going on. The boys lied and said they weren't doing anything. The teacher pulled Tay aside after class, but said that he couldn't do anything since he hadn't witnessed it and that if it happened again she should tell him.
You can probably imagine my reaction. I was furious- I could actually feel the fire burning through me. I was mad at these boys for tormenting Tay, and mad at the teacher for allowing it to go on so long and not being stronger with them. So I got Zach ready, threw on some "I mean business" clothes, and headed over to the school intent on taking this up with the administration. At the school, I was taken back to the Assistant Principal's office where I told him that my daughter was asking to leave school because of an incident that happened in her history class that day, but that there was a history of persecution and bullying. He took down the boys' names and went and got Tay out of class. He told us that we'd be surprised how many times he has to deal with religious taunting, and that he felt these were good boys who just didn't have social skills but would feel so much remorse when he talked to them the next day and called their parents. He would instruct them to not talk to Tay until she felt comfortable initiating conversation, and that he's check in with her weekly to see how things were going. I thought this was a reasonable first course of action, but requested that she moved in that class immediately, and he sent us home with an incident report to fill out with the instruct to be very detailed in describing the history and specific incident.
Through the afternoon as I talked to Tay more and more, I discovered that the majority of the harassment was sexual in nature. I will not post the things they said to her, but just know they were disgusting, filthy and raunchy. I can't believe she had to listen to that every day. She was so afraid and embarrassed to tell us. I could not understand that- she wasn;t the one saying those things. But I think she feared their retribution if she told anyone, so she kept silent about the worse things. Swearing seems mild in comparison to what they were saying. Her father helped her fill out the incident report and include everything she remembered happening over the course of the 6 weeks she had been in the class. This morning as soon as she got to school, Tay took the report to the Vice Principal. He read over it, and immediately Tay notice his demeanor change for the previous day. Gone was the "let's teach them social skills" mentality- he quizzed her about the "private part" references and asked if she still had the picture they drew. She didn't of course, but he asked that if she ever saw anything like that again to bring it right to him.
Throughout the day Tay heard rumors that the boys had been suspended. Apparently they were going around to all of their teachers letting them know that they would not be in class tomorrow so they needed their assignments. But what bothered her is that they were laughing at it like it was some kind of big joke. I have to imageine their parents were called in, or at a minimum they had a conference call with them. How could they possibly be laughing in the face of suspension and a mark on their records? All I can guess is that their parents are treating it like a joke too. Were that my child they would be grounded for a month with every digital and electronic device taken away on top of the suspension. Do they really think this is funny situation? Making my daughter feel unsafe in school, feel dirty and unclean, and on top of that making her feel like she has to defend her religious beliefs- in a US HISTORY class of all places!!! Could that be more ironic?
The good news is that Tay's friends have been really good to her. I was so worried she'd face retribution from her peers today. With the exception of one stupid boy, no one said anything negative to her. On the contrary, a friend sent her a very sweet and supportive note in the morning that gave her a lot of confidence. I know Tay will be alright. She is so strong, and I am so proud of her for defending her beliefs. It takes an unbelievably faithful person to stand up to their peers. Sadly, these boys probably won't ever understand just how damaging and hurtful their stupid, juvenile behavior was. I'm blessed to have a daughter who is strong enough to take it. But what if she wasn't? What if she was a young girl who did not have a lot of self-confidence, who felt out of place in the large school and all alone? How would that young woman fare in the same situation? I shudder to imagine. Our girls should not have to put up with these sexist, degrading attacks, and the solution should definitely never include the excuse, "well, you know how teenage boys are". Bull crap.