My Turn, Mindy Pendergrass: Hold your kids accountable on bullying

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2017

I have four children and all have attended Rowan County Schools. Two are now adults and two are in middle school.

One of those two has endured relentless bullying for years. He is a special needs child with an IEP in place with goals regarding bullying. My son has endured far more than any child should ever have to go through including, but not limited to, having a BB in his arm from being shot multiple times, being beaten with sticks and rocks, having road rash from head to toe, sexual assaults, rumors started that could cause expulsion etc. — all inflicted by his peers, children his own age or relatively close in age.

I have been a parent for 24 years. It is not uncommon for me to ask my children how their day went, what they did, whether or not they enjoyed it, if they were bullied and so on.

Yet not once have I asked my children or heard any other parent ask their children these questions: “How did you treat people today?” “Were you good to the other kids in your school?” “Did you see anyone getting bullied today and, if so, what did you do to help?”

Bullying is a serious issue in today’s schools. Per the Huffington Post, suicide rates in girls have doubled from 2007 to 2015, when it reached its highest point in 40 years. Rowan County had an 11-year-old child commit suicide a few years back. My child has had idealizations of suicide.

When we as parents lose sight of how our children treat others and aren’t holding our children accountable for how they do, what can we expect?

If you haven’t spoken to your child about this, might I suggest you do. I would also like to suggest you can call their school administrators and ask them if your child has ever been reported for bullying and what was the outcome if you aren’t aware. Ask their friends at football or soccer practice how your child treats other children. Ask other children that aren’t in your child’s friend circle how your child treats other children.

We all share the memes on social media against bullying, but what are we doing as parents that is proactive to prevent it?

My child had a chain around his neck at the end of the school year last year. Fortunately, I intervened before something dreadful happened. Your children are a huge part of the reason why, but are you even aware?

I ask that moving forward, in a society that has far more ways of tormenting someone than what was possible 20 years ago, let us all be proactive in letting our children know that bullying will not be tolerated, even if your child is the bully.

I beg all of you to teach your children there is always something positive in another person if they just take the time to look. My son is definitely unique, but equally he has extraordinary talents that are just mind-boggling and is also highly intelligent. He’s no different than your children in that he wants friends, he needs acceptance and he does not deserve the physical and verbal bullying he endures daily.

Before Rowan County buries another child, please help me help our children. This is not a battle that can be fought solo. I know because I have been trying for seven years without success. I need your help. Our children need your help. It’s never too late to start. I have told numerous kids that I have no problem if they don’t like my son. They can simply avoid him. There is never a reason to torment someone. Ever.

Mindy Pendergrass is a resident of Salisbury.