Earlier this week, my 7-year-old daughter was assaulted on the bus on the way home from school.
She goes to a school that is about to get national blue ribbon status for the second time in four years. She goes to a school where the 5th grade standardized test scores were 20 points above the next best school in the 5-county area, and nearly perfect. She goes to a rural school where these things are not supposed to happen.
She's okay, although days later she is still complaining her head hurts.
The bully was a 3rd-grade girl who makes a habit of picking on 2nd-graders. After calling my daughter a baby for carrying a sports water bottle onto the bus, she hit her repeatedly, with an open hand on my daughter's head. "It hurt worse than if she had punched me," my daughter said.
We called the principal immediately. Then, we called the bus company and filed a report. The dispatcher phoned the driver, who said she didn't see what happened. There's zero tolerance the dispatcher told me. If the driver had seen the incident the girl would be kicked off the bus for good. Since she didn't, the incident gets filed, and a copy sent to the principal.
"Tomorrow, I will get on the bus with you and talk to the driver and make sure that you get to school safely," I told my daughter. That didn't satisfy her. She was still sobbing and insisting she was terrified to ride the bus. "I'll call the girl's parents", I said. They live one street away.
I got an older woman on the phone. Nanny? Housekeeper? I asked for the mother. "She won't be home until 8, tonight. Try back then." I replied, "My daugther was beat up on the bus by Deborah this afternoon." She said, "I'm sorry to hear that, call back at 8."
I'll admit, I wondered if Deborah was trying to get her parents' attention by hitting my daughter. I had visions of the girl with the housekeeper for hours on end. Nothing against working moms, I am one. And, I have no idea if her mother works outside the home. But perhaps, I thought, she doesn't get enough attention.
When I called back, I got the dad. I told him what happened and that if his daughter touches my daughter again I would call the police. He told me he would talk to his daughter and call me back. He called back and told me she was only joking around. Strange way of joking, I said. He would talk to her again, he said.
The next day, I called the principal. He told me that Deborah "teases" the 2nd-graders, and he was going to put an end to it. I told him my main concern was that everyone realize that there is teasing and then there is hitting. A big difference. And, I couldn't get those pictures of the most recent bus beating out of my mind. He acknowleged my concern and ended our call. I didn't feel satisfied that he understood what I was saying. And that continued to nag at me.
Later that night, Deborah's mother called. She said, "I understand that Deborah called your daughter a baby and hit her," she said. "Repeatedly on the head with her open hand," I said. "I'm so sorry," she said. Immediately, that nagging feeling dissolved. Mother to mother, I knew she was going to take care of it.
"I don't blame you," I said. "I'm sure your husband told you I was very upset last night. When your child gets off the bus in tears, saying she was hit by another child, it's pretty upsetting." The mother went on to say that she agreed. She said she talked to Deborah, that Deborah would be punished, and that she had an appointment with the principal the next day.
I ended by telling her that I hoped the next time we spoke it would be under different circumstances, and that maybe Deborah and my daughter could one day be friends. I meant it.