Young Pupil Attempts Suicide After Repeated Bullying
On Wednesday an 8-year-old student was asked to leave his classroom by the substitute teacher. The motivation behind such a request was that the student had just had his pants pulled down by two other boys. This event was just one of the many instances that had occurred over the past seven months since the school year had begun. The regular teacher, whose name has not officially been released due to the pending investigation, has been aware of these actions and neither made absolute effort to stifle them, nor had she reported them to the principle of the Houston Independent School District's Blackshear Elementary.
What happened following the student’s being told to leave can only be described as horrid and inexcusable. The boy, in full view of many of his peers and members of the faculty, jumped off of a balcony two and a half stories off of the ground. Thankfully, bushes broke the boy’s fall and he received no serious physical injury. The Crisis Intervention Team for the Houston ISD then arrived to sort out the situation. That is—they performed external evaluations as to the boy’s physical condition, and made him sign a “No-suicide Contract” wherein he promised not to attempt to harm himself without first speaking to an adult either at home or at school.
As reprehensible and inane as such a contract may be, it is apparently district policy and has been for years. On that grounds then it may not be directly attacked. However, the sentiment behind it implies that such a course of action rests upon the mind and psychological state of the person(s) who had attempted suicide in the first place. This certainly should be re-evaluated as the boy is not at blame here, nor should he ever be made to feel that way directly or indirectly.
The boy’s mother, Yamshannta Robertson, a resident of Third Ward, claims that she had repeatedly complained to the boy’s teacher and pleaded for some course of action. As quoted in the Houston Chronicle, she said: “I thought I’d lost my child—and my child is my life. When we send our kids from home to school, we expect them to be safe.” Her complaints were met with responses of “we’ll handle it” from not just the boy’s second grade teacher, but others as well. Quite obviously, they did not come through on their promises.
**Note: since the incident Ms. Robertson has withdrawn her son from Blackshear with the aim for him to attend different school soon.
Regardless of intent or outcome, action or inaction, and all other grounds for consideration, the system has failed, and its failure almost led to the loss of life for a boy as young as eight. All loss of life is regrettable and should be prevented especially when such is so easily feasible. Yet, it is excruciatingly painful and disturbing that the boy felt like his best course of action was to jump off of that balcony. Youth, and children in particular, are full of an incorruptible zest for life. There is no validation for allowing anything or anyone to humiliate, exclude, and verbally, physically, or psychologically bully and abuse them to the point where the zest and drive for exuberant living is utterly dismantled.
Houston ISD spokesman Norm Uhl has claimed “no comment” with respect to the day’s event. (This seems to be typical of HISD whenever this or similarly controversial actions are being addressed). The principle of Blackshear Elementary, Linda Bellard, claimed she had no knowledge of the bullying. Assumingly, if she had been informed by the teacher (as is the appropriate action on the teacher’s part) Wednesday would not have taken place. However, the teacher responsible is being reviewed for disciplinary action and the substitute will not work again at that school. Furthermore, the school has held an assembly on bullying and is planning on reinforcing the balcony so that jumping off would be less viable in the future. Houston ISD sent out letters to parents encouraging them to report such behaviors (bullying etc) and directed them to go straight to the principle if they find that to be necessary.
While all of these are commendable albeit typical and expected results of such a deplorable occurrence, the root of the problem has yet to be addressed. This is by no means an isolated incident—perhaps, for the boy’s age group it is but still. A child who attends school spends as much time there as at home during the school year excluding time spent sleeping. At that age most students go to sleep at any time stating at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />8PM (assumedly no later then ten) and wake from 6AM to 7AM. That allots for anywhere from five (1 in AM, 4 in PM) to eight hours (2 in AM, 6 in PM) being spent at home compared to the six or seven spent at school.
Therefore, teachers, administrators, and other school officials hold a significant amount of sway over the lives of our youth. Their responsibilities are two-fold: to educate and protect. Education is less viable—if not altogether impossible—if there is not an atmosphere of acceptance and safety in place. While the various individuals who have repeatedly bullied the child may or may not be held as directly at fault, the teacher most certainly is. The individual failed to hold order and promote attitudes of respect and courtesy. Indeed, the course of inaction therein is even more detrimental to the psyche than the bullying itself. Hopefully, the teacher in question will have his or her license revoked or at least be reassigned from Blackshear.There is no amount of justice or any course of action drastic and thorough enough to placate and alleviate the pain caused to this boy and his family. The only consolation herein is that the boy is thankfully alive. That he has a chance to fight on and overcome anything thrown his way and fashion his life into some great course of his own choosing. We have gotten lucky. We have gotten very lucky.