My little girl landed in time-out the other day.
She had been going to the same day care center for about a year and a half, with nothing but gold stars and smiley faces. She was that child that the teachers wanted more of.
“Why can’t they all be like her?” they asked.
Some time on Wednesday, another little girl came to class. Is she a new little girl? Has she always been there, lurking in the shadows and waiting to strike (or get struck)? I don’t know. My daughter has never mentioned her name among her litany of little friends.
Word on the street is, that new little girl was messing with the Uma. Poking her chest and chin out at her, as only children do. The two of them, sitting at that little table in their little chairs… tensions building steadily over graham crackers and fruit snacks. Just like The Wire, but with sippy cups instead of crack.
Then it happened. My daughter raised her little fist and… “*Boop!” Right on the schnoz. (The Boop sound was relayed to me from the teacher. I can only assume that it was absolutely accurate, and the other little girl’s nose sounded like the horn of a tiny clown car).
When the teacher approached my daughter she looked around the room in widest eyed innocence. But there were witnesses, including the little girl, now cupping her nose in shocked disbelief. It was open and shut.
Then they were both escorted to time out. My daughter’s first time out. Where the Uma, cried inconsolably until her three minute sentence was commuted to one minute on the grounds of, “Aint nobody trying to hear all that…”
Upon release, the other little girl grabbed her things and moved them to another table, as far away from my daughter as the little room would allow.
When I got there, the teacher relayed the incident to me, sternly… until she snickered a little bit. But mostly sternly. She told me that they have a firm policy on fighting. Nobody was above the law, not even the Uma. Then she told me how glad she was that Uma had stood up for herself.
I agreed. She has to stand up for herself. But then, she has to pay the consequences, even if it means time out.
The Dekalb public school system has a zero tolerence policy. That means that Uma’s nose *Boop might have landed her at the police station if she attended one of the area middle schools. At the very least, she would have been suspended.
At the school where my oldest goes, a *Boop will get you kicked out. Not right away; first they’ll suspend you, whether or not you were at fault. But at a certain point near the end of the year, they reevaluate all of the children’s admission status’s. And that *Boop on the nose will get a big red stamp on your transcript. Technically you weren’t expelled. You just weren’t asked to come back.
With all of the bullying and violence in our schools, I understand zero tolerence. It sends an iron clad message to the students. If you bully, abuse, put your hands on or *Boop someone’s schnozz, there will be reprecussions. I get it. I just don’t think it’s right. Because, to put it simply, sometimes honkers need *Booping.
My oldest daughter relayed this true life scenario to me. One boy had tormented another boy all year long. He called him names and spat at him. For one reason or another, he had taken it as his mission to break that other boy’s spirit.
The other boy, for his part, kept a low profile. Right up til the last day of school, as the students were boarding the busses for summer vacation. Then he ran up on his bully as he was getting on the bus (he had launched one last taunt, for old times sake) and knocked him unconscious.
That’s what bullying is. Psychological warfare. It is a long game that steadily, quietly escalates. The bully targets a child that he doesn’t think will fight back, and succeeds only to the degree that he can infiltrate the interior of his victim.
It’s extremely hard to punish. Teachers aren’t always there, and even when they are present it is their job to maintain an orderly status quo, and not the individual morale of each child. So they enact zero tolerance so that once things explode, and they almost always do, they can levy the full force of their administrative authority upon the perpertrator. The only problem is, in the eyes of zero tolerence there is absolutely no difference between the bully and the child whose decided that they can’t take it anymore.
That’s not a big deal when the reprecussions are as simple as time-out, but when we make children choose between accepting torment or getting expelled from school, you put them in a position that is emotional poison. When, every so often, the solution is standing up for yourself, raising your fists and booping schnozes.
Slugger (that’s what they call my daughter now) probably won’t be booping any more little girls for a long time. She’s not cut out for that time-out life. The other little girl, on the other hand, might as well move her juice and crackers into the time out corner. Every time I pick up the Uma, she’s standing silently in that corner, tear tracks dried on her cheeks. I don’t know what goes on in her home, but they are cultivating a little bully. But there is one little girl that she is going to leave alone. Thanks to that *Boop.