Friday, 20 November 2009 00:00
I would like to offer my observations as a parent volunteer and as the mother of a bully’s victim.
I have volunteered extensively in the Manhasset Schools as well as in the community. My past service has included SCA Middle School President, SCA Fair Treasurer, and Theatre Booster Club President. I feel that being involved in the community sets a positive example for my children as I too, value kindness, compassion and respect for others. I have tried to instill these values in my children.
I can hear not only pain, but also frustration from the author of the first letter. She has described a problem that is like a two-headed monster. Firstly, we have children behaving badly and secondly we have adults who either enable or applaud the bad behavior. Bullying has been an epidemic in our community for longer than any of us care to admit. The speakers and programs that have been brought in to address the problem only focus on the behaviors of the children; the environment at home that fosters the bad behavior is not adequately discussed.
“Moms who volunteer” is a very large, and eclectic group of people. While I agree that not all are furthering “their own agendas” or behaving in “thoughtless or malicious ways,” my experience indicates that the number who are, is higher than the second letter’s author would have us believe.
Certain volunteer positions afford the parent increased and special access to programs, administrators, teachers, and coaches. It is no accident that parents with personal agendas seem to be interested in filling these plum spots. Over time the faces change as the students graduate, but the system that enables the abuses remains.
When my son became the victim of a bully, I was told by an administrator that the abuse he was suffering in the hallways of his elementary school was actually “a male bonding” behavior and that he and I were making too much of nothing. The perpetrators were the children of members of the inner circle of parent volunteers. No effective action was ever taken. I have seen parents use their positions to obtain an advantage/apply pressure for their children in a multitude of ways. Their sense of entitlement is very intimidating to other parents and their children. I have experienced the pain and frustration firsthand.
In closing, I thank Pat Grace for allowing this issue to be heard. I applaud David Paterson for the helping hand he offered to the first mother. I hope that sharing my experience will further these discussions, particularly those focused on the parental component of bullying. Before you sit down with your children, (as the first mother suggests) do a little soul searching and see what kind of example you are setting.