Bullies Are Stupid & I Love The Way You Walk

When I enter a conversation about bullying and I am asked if I think children should be left alone to work through it themselves, I always say the same thing.

If children were meant to fend for themselves, we would leave them on the beach like sea turtles.

Our natures, our instincts tell us something different.  As mothers, we relate more to the  lioness.  We are more like bears than salmon.  We defend.  We teach.  We support.  We nurture.  That is our existence as parents.  That is our role, our pleasure and our great responsibility.

We try not to shelter.  We try to walk the fine line between the hover and the safe distance.

My niece Lilly, has been the victim of bullying.  A few of the students at Holt High School’s 9th grade campus think that my niece walks funny.  When she ambles by, they tell her so.  They point and laugh.  They crack jokes at her expense.  Lilly does her best to ignore them.

After all, she has a life to lead.

Isaac & Scott

Ben & Ginnie are my in laws.  They’re alright I guess.  They are our children’s Godparents.  So, if we die, they get our kids to raise.  They are really concerned for our health.

They are clever, loving, good people.  They have four children.  Three girls and our surprise nephew, Scott who was discovered on the very day Ben was going in for a vasectomy consultation.  God really got a good laugh about that one.  Scott is Isaac’s very best cousin.  They run to each other like star crossed lovers in a field.  It’s hilarious and perfect.

Molly and Lilly are the oldest.  They have held all of my children and sometimes taken them to the park to watch them at family events.  They pop in the movies or offer to jump on the trampoline with them. Sylvia is the same age as Isaiah.  They were born almost exactly six months apart.  The day her mother let me hold her for the first time I cried because she was the first baby to be born after I married my husband.  She felt like the ties that bind.  If I were to get pregnant today, Ginnie would too, just to steal my thunder.

We stick together.  We hang out.  We are a family.  I think that mingling of lives is what made Ginnie’s story so hard to hear.  It is a long story because it was a long journey.  It is important that it be told.  No one else seems to be listening.

I listened one afternoon over a glass of wine.

On one October day, a young man thought that Lilly’s strange gait was an invitation to have her seat pulled out from underneath her as she was sitting down in the library.  She fell.  Hard.  She nearly fractured a rib and had a pretty ugly contusion.  He hurt her.  Lilly’s bestfriend Laney helped her up and then she carefully helped her visit the school nurse.

Her injuries forced her home from school and into Urgent Care that afternoon.  Ginnie called Principal Johnston to find out what kind of disciplinary actions would be taken.  She called and she waited.  She waited two weeks and never received a return call.

No big deal, right?  Principals are busy and she was sure the offending student had been disciplined for his actions.  They just forgot to follow up.  It happens.  It was time for a follow up visit.  Ginnie picked up Lilly from school one day and popped into the office for a quick update from the Principal while Lilly gathered her things.

Apparently, it was an accident.  The student accidently pulled the chair out as Lilly was sitting down.  No disciplinary actions needed.  It was all just a big misunderstanding.  Principal Johnston invited Lilly and the other student into his office so that an apology could be given to Lilly.  Done and done.

This is where I stopped her.  It is a ridiculous idea that someone could accidently pull a chair out from underneath someone.  In my entire 32 years, I have never had a chair accidently pulled out from underneath me.  Every chair pulling incident in my childhood was done mischievously with the intent of getting a laugh out of watching someone tumble to the floor.

She was also skeptical that one could accidently pull a chair away from someone you were making fun of moments earlier.  Just then, Lilly popped her head in to check in and Ginnie asked her directly if she had received an apology.

Lilly said she hadn’t.

Principal Johnston looked at Lilly and said, “Didn’t I have both of you come in to this office together so that he could apologize?”

Again, Lilly said no.

Principal Johnston asked her again. “Lilly, didn’t I have both of you in this office together so that he could apologize.”

Lilly, a bit intimidated and confused said that the meeting never happened.

Principal Johnston asked her again.  Lilly said no, again.

Ginnie is now spinning.  As she leaves with Lilly to pick up her other children, the conversation replays in her head.  Not only was nothing done but she felt mislead.  The principal of the school either intentionally misled her or had no memory of his own actions.  Neither idea was a comforting one for a mother who trusted her daughter to their care every day of the week.

She asked Laney to write a statement of what she saw.  When Laney gave it to Mr. Johnson he read it carefully.  After some thoughtful consideration he recommended a single addition.  He asked her to state that she does not feel bullied at Holt High School.  Laney declined.

Ginnie decided at this point to file a police report.  Her intention was never to press charges.  Her goals were to have the incident be officially recorded and to hopefully, push the school into appropriate disciplinary actions.  Only one of those goals where accomplished.

The police report exists in a filing cabinet somewhere.

The parents of the child who hurt Lilly intentionally said that Ginnie was blowing the situation out of proportion.  In their defense, even though Ginnie did everything she could to encourage the school to take the correct actions, they never even notified the other parents. They learned about the incident from a police officer instead of the school where their son attends.

I imagine, with the reaction of the school being so lame, it would appear that Ginnie was probably blowing that near fractured rib out of proportion.  Maybe the medical professionals at Urgent Care were over reacting too.  I hear it’s sort of an epidemic.

Ginnie did not press charges.  The school continued to do nothing.  At this point, Lilly was over the injuries.  She was all healed up and going to school every day as usual.  Ginnie considered just dropping it.  Some of her family and friends even encouraged her to do so.  She couldn’t just drop it.

Why?

It was no longer the injury of the bullying.  It wasn’t the school’s failure to handle the situation correctly.  It was the deception about the apology.  It was the failure to apologize even after it was pointed out one never came.

I think Ginnie and I are a lot alike.  We believe in justice and fairness.  When we are treated badly, a heartfelt, sincere apology goes a long way.  It is expected.  Where our children are involved, it is required.

Ginnie, and more importantly, Lilly was never apologized to.  In the words of the Dude, “This will not stand, man.”

She decided to press on.  It was the principle.

She called the school again and worked to get an appointment with their Human Resources staffer.  It took a little while but she was persistent and eventually she got her slot.  She also called the police officer who filed the report and asked her to join in.  She invited me to come for support and to keep the meeting on target if she became too emotional.  Challenge accepted.

I took the morning off and met her at her home.  We drove over together.   We met in a large conference room where Ginnie sat directly in front of the HR guy and asked him one simple question.  “Do you think that this situation was handled correctly.”  He replied that he did.

She disagreed with him and shared why.  I heard the story again.  I heard about the many phone calls and emails made.  I heard about how little was done remarkably slowly.  I heard a lot of phrases like; “I hear what you’re saying…” and “If what you’re saying is true…” from the HR guy.  It was very frustrating.

I watched Ginnie wrangle her anger and pile it under the conference table.  She spoke gently and with respect.  She only cried once, which of course, made me cry too.  She cried when she tried to explain what it was like for Lilly to be made fun of every day.  This is not the first time she has brought this bullying issue to the school.  This is not the first time she has been ignored.  The tears ran hot.

The lie came new.  This time, Principal Johnson not only asserted that an apology had been made face to face but in writing too.  Lilly never received a letter.  She still maintains the face to face apology never happened.  Mr. Johnson’s deception was as real and determined as the principals Ginnie was standing on.

Ginnie also came with a plan and a willingness to help.  She did her homework.  She found no bullying policy on the school website or in the school handbook.  She researched what other schools were doing and brought in a few copies of some other bullying policies she found.  She offered to volunteer, to find a bullying program or to bring in someone to speak to the students.

The HR person and the police officer explained that Holt High School has one of the best bullying policies in the Mid-Michigan area.  They said that many of the other schools were scrambling to adopt or update their policies to match theirs.  I asked to see it.  Eventually, it was also explained that the policy is not actually in use because it is being reviewed.  At the time, you could not find it on the website and apparently, the sheer volume of the one page policy would make the school handbook too large.

To summarize, the policy was perfect, unused and inaccessible.  They were also uninterested in taking her up on her offers to help.

The meeting was not going well.  In the end, the HR guy did agree that “if what Ginnie was saying is true”, then the situation was not handled well by Principal Johnson.  He agreed to find out what happened and help rectify the situation.  To Ginnie, all that would have needed to happen was to hear an acknowledgement of a failure and an apology.

We finished the meeting with handshakes and uncertainty.  We were hopeful.  We picked up Lillian, who wasn’t feeling well and headed home.  We laughed to keep from crying about the meeting.  It wasn’t funny.  Ginnie was treated respectfully.  It was the kind of respect you get when you’re crazy.  It was the quiet undercurrent of pity and side stepping to avoid exciting the lunatic.

Later that day, Ginnie received a voicemail message.

Principal Johnson, remembered now.  He put in the police report there was a letter of apology.  Whoops.  His bad.  Actually, there was no letter of apology; the apology came in the form of the verbal apology that took place in Mr. Johnson’s office.

She sent me a text in disbelief.  At this point, we were all angry.  We could not understand how this situation could still be going on.  The Principal was clearly lying to cover his failure to protect a student.  The story was now evolving to adapt to the current climate.  Ginnie contacted a lawyer.  She wanted to find out what, if anything she could do.

She also called the Superintendent to let him know that none of her children would be returning to the Holt School District next year.  She had contacted a lawyer and was very disappointed with the way that her daughter had gone unprotected from bullies to the point of injury throughout the school year.

He called back in 5 minutes.  Ginnie wasn’t sure if it was genuine concern, the loss of pupils or the mention of legal counsel that prompted the response.  She didn’t care.  She set up a meeting with him, Mr. Johnson and Lilly for the following week.

I’d like to tell you that Mr. Johnson admitted his mistake and apologized.  I can’t because he didn’t.  The superintendent apologized and he said, “I’d like to echo that apology.”  The grown up fancy pants version of “ditto”.  The letter of apology was never given to Lilly. The student who hurt her never saw any consequences at school.  His parents never acknowledged or spoke to Ginnie about it.

That’s it. After all of that, Lilly will probably never receive an apology.

Ginnie went all the way to the top of the food chain to find one for her.  She wanted Lilly’s world to be just and fair.  She wanted to be able to prove to Lilly that the teachers and staff that she is surrounded with are her true advocates.  Ginnie wanted the students who have gone to school with Lilly her entire life to be true friends to her.

Ginnie was able to prove that she will fight for her daughter.  She has taught Lilly that even when everyone around Ginnie encourages her to drop back, stand down, walk away, she will not.  Lilly still knows that her best friend will always be loyal to her.  She knows that she is loved, chosen, guarded, valued and worthy.

Lillian does walk funny.  She slurs her speech sometimes too.  At times, her balance is a bit off.  A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with Friedrichs Attaxia.  She may end up in a wheel chair.  Her muscles are slowly changing and deteriorating.  As a family, we are trying to support her and her family.

I am not always sure what to say to Ginnie.  She is my sister and it was difficult watching her dreams for her daughter change so fast.  I told her that I would cry with her or laugh inappropriately depending on her mood.  I have kept my word.  Lillian is lightening quick of mind and her jokes are the best.  She makes me laugh and I love being her aunt.

All she wants to do is lead a normal life.  She just wants to go to school and participate in what she can, while she can.  That is what we all want for her.  A life full.

We don’t understand why so many of the students that Lilly has known her whole life are being so mean to her now.  We don’t know why the environment is an attack on her weaknesses.  We are hoping things will be different for her in a new school.  We are hoping that the administration will lead by example.

Unfortunately, Lillian will not be returning to Holt High School.  After Ginnie specifically requested that she not be placed in classes with either of the children that have targeted her, she was placed in a class with both of them.  Don’t feel to guilty if that just made you sigh a curse word under your breath.

When a bully’s actions are met with no consequences it is tacit approval of their behavior.  Bullies are cowards but

Lillian with Vito

if they go unchallenged, they have nothing to fear.  We have lost children to suicide because they could not find a champion.  Our children are not sea turtles.  They are people navigating a world that is not always good.  We are their compass.  They will not find their way without our love, guidance and yes, even our protection.

Let’s try not to leave them stranded on the beach.

I love you, Lillian and I love the way you walk.

Love,

Aunt Tasha

PS – Feel free to leave a comment here for Lillian.   If you wish to contact Principal Nick Johnson to voice your displeasure in how the Holt High School 9th grade campus handled this situation, you may do so by emailing him here at njohnson@hpsk12.net or visiting their website.

PPS – Please no trolls, threats or nasty spam email.  Note the title.  Bullies are stupid.  My readers have class.

**UPDATE**

Ginnie would like you to read this personal message from her to all of you.  Click here, now!

**SECOND UPDATE**

Find out why Ginnie asked me to do the write thing and what our family’s next steps are!

128 thoughts on “Bullies Are Stupid & I Love The Way You Walk

  1. I am soooo sorry. My son was a victem of being bullied while in Holt school district 4 years ago and nothing was done. I have a friend who’s daughter was inappropriatly touched on the bus 2 years ago be another student and nothing was done. The students were even placed in the same class. I am well aware of Holt having privipals that are liers and teachers that could care less. School counselors in the school that do nothing. I am more then sad and furious for you Lily. Please know….though it feels impossible, though it feels like everyday is entering into a battle you can’t begin to win , you are armed with love from family, a great friend, let them put a bubble that surrounds you
    I am so sorry, I feel your pain and share your families. Bring a mother of a bullied child is some of the worst pain ever. We spend time teaching sharing and kindness only to have it be turned into a weakness. Know that we stand behind you! Those who have been there and still fight the battle

  2. Good for you and Ginny for fighting for her and making her feel valued and for validating that what happened to her was not okay and won’t be tolerated! Maybe that principal’s new big schnazzy school is too big because I’ve heard that kids are having sex AT the school, and there were quote a number of teenage pregnancies there this year. FAIL.

    • *quite. Sorry. And I think she is better off NOT gping to that school. Good decision. And Lilly- you are beautiful and good for you for telling the truth and sticking to it. Your best friend is the BOMB. When best friends are that good, you only need one or two! ;)

      • Also, I work for two schools in Lansing. I will not be sending any of my 8th graders and their families to Holt High School without warning…

  3. You can bet that I will be e-mailing Principal Johnston and letting him know my thoughts on this. This is wonderfully written, and I thank you for sharing Lillian’s story. No one should have to go through any of that – physical, psychological, anything. I am thankful for people like you and Ginny – parents who are willing to do whatever they can to protect their kids. I had those parents, and I am glad that Lillian does too.

  4. Sometimes the full story needs to be told and the full story needs to be read. Thanks for writing it so that might read it.
    Lillian got the lessons she was supposed to receive. You stated it so eloquently – her mother is her champion and she is supported and loved by those that matter. She also learned that life isn’t fair and some people are really crappy. Unfortunately it’s not a nice lesson, but a true one.
    Peace my sister.
    B

  5. Pingback: Can we fix it? Yes we can! | Lansing Ninjas

  6. This is one of the most infuriating things I’ve read in a long time, mostly because there were a dozen ways this could have been fixed in less than five minutes. Absolutely ridiculous. I hope this gets the broader attention it deserves. Now. Lilly is lucky to have you as her aunt — for this and 100 other reasons. <3

  7. Lilly – Sending you words of support and commending your bravery and your mom’s persistence. My niece and nephews are high school age, and it infuriates me to hear about schoolyard bullies! The adults at your former school failed you miserably, but always remember you are surrounded by the love and support of your family and a community of friends, even some you’ve never met! I’ve already asked my own network of friends to continue applying pressure on Principal Johnson to acknowledge his failure, and give you and your mom the apology you deserve.

  8. Lilly and Laney are true women of grit. I agree that this is a devastating, but unfortunately important lesson to learn. It is through helping our friends stand up, dust off, and supporting one another in the truth that we become part of the #SheROARS community. Girls, it may not make it any easier, but we are so, so proud of you.

    Another important lesson you’ve learned is that just because someone is older or bigger, doesn’t make them RIGHT. Keep that truth and healthy dose of skepticism with you.

  9. Hey Lilly. Thanks for letting your Aunt tell your story. Lots of her friends are reading about this today and talking about it on Facebook and I know that’s probably really embarrassing but I wanted to tell you something – you are beautiful, strong and you are loved. Your story is making a difference, today, tomorrow and for other kids just like you. By being so brave and honest, you’ve given a bunch of adults the information we need to make this better.

    In the meantime, have a great summer and tell your Aunt that I have a gift certificate to SugarBerry Yogurt for you.

  10. Hopefully Lilly’s new school handles bullying better. Unfortunately many schools in this area don’t.

    as someone who used to walk funny (i had surgery) the teasing sucked, but even in my big city school, they weren’t so mean as to injure me. It’s wrong, she deserves an apology and the school should have taken action.

  11. Lilly, I hope you know how great and beautiful you are, so what you’re different that’s what makes this world so great at times, and others it seems being different is the worst thing in the world. Embrace all of your differences, embrace everything about yourself because this will pass, and you will come out stronger and better for it, while the people bullying you, the principal and everyone else who stood by and watched this all happen and did nothing will have to live with the awful way the treated people for the rest of their lives. Guilt is a very hard thing to get away from. So keep your head up and know you have allies and supporters in your own backyard. Different is beautiful and always remember that!

  12. Hi Lilly!

    This is so heart-wrenching to hear, but unfortunately it is a bit familiar. While I was fortunate enough to never be the victim (although have been a witness) of bullying, I very much have been the victim of the apathy of the public (i am sure private isn’t much different either) education system.

    I too have learning disabilities that I have struggled with starting probably prior to high school, but that certainly affected my high school experience, and ultimately my college experience as well. I went on thinking that it was my fault for not fitting in, I felt bad for not making it easy for my teachers, councilors, school administrators etc. I was encouraged to transfer schools, that it was I that didn’t belong at the school (as opposed that didn’t belong as children’s education advocates).

    I want you to know that you should NEVER have to feel that way. That very same ‘differentness’ is one of my most favorite character-traits about myself, and one that has honestly provided me with a large amount of success.

    I hope that you, and your aunt, and your mother will join me in feeling proud. I don’t want you to be cynical, but I do believe in a truth – that there is a battlefield for the territory of authenticity, and there will continue to be for the rest of your life. But today, you may not have won the battle for discipline, or more concerning the battle for accountability in education, but you have won the battle for honesty, integrity, and people-that-jordan-admires. And in the long-term, I have a feeling that that spraying that brand of champagne on the podium is much more fun than the former.

    I know we don’t know each other, but your story matters to me, and if you ever want or need anything, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

    Sincerely,

    Jordan Skole

  13. Oddly, the first thing that strikes me about this isn’t anger; though frustration was had along the way, believe me. It was how great your family seems. I grew up in a close knit family like this and let me tell you, Lilly is going to be just FINE. She, im sure, already has the core of who she is and should be, and how she should treat others and interact with the world because of what your sister, and you have taught her. It’s strange to say to someone i’ve never actually met; but i’m proud of you, all of you, you’re beautiful people. From one person who was raised right to another; if we meet on the road somewhere in this life, you can expect to be treated with kindness by me; and i’m glad to know that the same, im sure, can be said about you.

  14. My High School was a haven for bullies and after graduation it got much worse. My nephew, who also attended my alma mater had a best friend, Alex Harrison, they were in Boy Scouts together, played baseball on the same team in the summer, and were inseparable until my sister and her family moved to Florida. Each summer he would come back to Michigan and found his old friend. Unfortunately, the torment Alex went through at the hands of bullies led to his suicide. Something that my nephew was unable to prevent from Florida. Due to this story and many others around the country there is a group of brave kids going around doing a free stage shows in schools called The Bullycide Project. http://thebullycideproject.com/ and given their local presence in Michigan it sounds like they need to come to Holt.

    Lilly, you are strong and amazing. You make the world around you a better place. Don’t let others get you down!

  15. Utterly disgusting – how the school and district completely failed to act. Do they have no idea what their responsibilities to the students are?

    And how courageous of Lilly to stick to the truth in the face of intimidation. What an amazing kid. Tell her to keep it up. We need people who are willing to speak truth to power!

  16. My son goes to Lansing Schools, specifically Post Oak. For years, I have heard comments, and witnessed non-verbal cues, from people when I mention this; in essence stating, “How could you send your son into a failing system filled with bullying, and apathetic staff?” While I certainly do not relish in the pain Lillian has endured, I think it is important to note that this behaviour happens everywhere, and is propagated only when the folks in a position of authority are apathetic and more concerned with covering their own ass, rather than taking care of the children who rely on them for support.

    Lillian, you have a brave, young soul, miss. No matter where you go, there will be people in this dirty world that will see your see your strength, and will want to taint it with bitterness and hate; please, do not let them. With the support of your mother, aunt, and the rest of this community, we will ensure that you are not alone in that fight.

  17. Lilly, this is a terrible thing that happened to you, but how awesome are you to let your story be told and shared! Thanks for being so brave, getting your story out in the public will make a difference!

  18. From one HR person to another, I’d like to lay the smack down on her/him for acting in the most hurtful way possible for the school and for Lilly. Thanks for sharing this story.

    It is important that we, as adults in the community, take care of all our children and nurture them. We are certainly not sea turtles.

    Lilly, your families love you very much. Keep your chin up and know that you are beautiful.

  19. Tashmika, Lilly & Ginnie,

    Thank you for having the courage to share your story with us (the world.) It takes a lot to do so, especially when higher authorities are pushing for it to be swept under the rug and forgotten about.

    Sad, but unfortunately true, in cases like this, change can only happen when you show those authority figures how it feels to be out of their comfort zone, like what this post and online attention, phone calls, letters, etc. will do in this case.

    Not only do the bullying needs to stop, but changes have to be made from the top down:

    Policies need to be in place with strict rules for bullying or this will just continue to happen because they know they can get away with it.

    &

    Parents need to be involved, they are the teachers at home and we must teach our kids an expanded version of ‘normal.’ Everyone deserves respect and kindness.

    So kudos to you, Lilly. You are beautiful and glorious, and your story I’m sure will spark change and be part of the difference.

    And kudos to you, Tashmika for your beautiful writing and kind heart to fuel that change! My kids are not yet in school but my oldest will be attending Holt preschool in the Fall. I will definitely be making sure something gets accomplished here before we make any decisions to further their education in this district.

    With admiration,
    – Andrea

  20. Hi Lilly,
    My cousin will be attending that school this year and I will pray that she doesn’t have to suffer like you have. It’s through adversity that we become stronger if you use it to become stronger. I hope you and your mom can both embrace this experience and slice off from it all the good. By that I mean, you’ve learned you have a really great friend that stood up for you. You learned you have an incredible mother that fought for your betterment. You learned you have a truly gifted aunt who also fights for you every day. You learned that despite being put down, greater things will come of it. Injustices will happen throughout our lives it really is how we respond to it that makes you a great person. I hope your new school appreciates what a gift they have in you!

    Oh, and I like the way you walk! :)
    Ariniko

  21. Thanks Tasha,
    I sent an email to the principal. Doug was teased all through school & it is so frustrating. I’d like to think my email helped but it
    probably went to spam.

  22. Lilly, it may sound trite, but it does honestly get better. I know because I was bullied, harassed and assaulted in high school. I can’t tell you what was worse at the time when I was bUllied by the boys when I was a skinny kid who grew too tall too fast and couldn’t walk up a flight or stairs without tripping, or when I grew into myself and the girls bullied me for being new competion while they boys pulled me into side hallways to try to check out the “goods” as they called it. I was ashamed, and terrified to tell my parents for the sole reason of knowing that they would go ballistic and they would fight and I thought it would get worse for me. They eventually found out and ballistic they went. There were police, principles, counselors, meetings with the school board and fights with the superintendent and all the while the bullying got worse while all of the authorities said things like “it’s just the natural pecking order and she needs to toughen up” and denied that there was anything wrong, but I was getting better, I had an unwavering champion. Finally there was a lawyer. I left my school, got counseling to help me learn how to be a bulldog. In the end, we fought and won. The school has one of the toughest anti-bullying policies in the region and they paid for me to be privately educated while I recovered. I’m gown up now, I don’t get bullied, I don’t bully but the one thing that I never expected was how strong I would become from the example of my parents and their unrelenting fighting for me (there were times that I begged them to just stop, let me hide, they refused). It was about 10 years after I graduated from high school when it first happened, I got my first letter from one of the people who bullied me……apologizing, realizing just what they’d done, over the years as my tormentors had children and with the advent of Facebook, they’ve kept coming, not just from the bullies, but also the ones who sat by and did nothing. I won and so will you.

    Ginnie, congratulations on being a true advocate and a relentless one. I can’t overstate the the role that my parents fight and their insisting that I got counseling and the effect that it had on me, I wouldn’t be here without both of those factors. In the end when we got no solution, they decided to move forward with legal action to force the school district to take responsibility. If you decide to go that route, please know that my parents saved all of the files, research and documents, you and your family are welcome to all of the copies if it will help you to get some resolution to this.

    Good Luck.

  23. Lilly,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. That is a very brave thing to do and I want you to know that by doing so, you are helping other kids just like you. You are beautiful and strong and I know that you will grow up to do wonderful and amazing things. Today, you are already such an inspiration to so many “grown ups”. Thank you.

    Katie

  24. Lilly, I am appalled at the callous treatment you received from your classmate and (much worse) from the adults at your school who failed to do the most basic part of their job of providing you with a safe, learning-friendly atmosphere. Look instead to the models of strong, fairminded people in your life, from your friend Laney to your mom and your aunt. It’s a rough life lesson you’ve had. Good luck in your new school and know that most people in our country are coming to understand the effects of bullying and working to change our culture to recognize it for what it is.

  25. Man, Lilly, I wish I’d been like you when I was your age. I would be proud to have you as my daughter or my friend – except I think you already have a pretty great best friend. I think the way you walk is awesome, and so are you – inside and out!!

  26. Reblogged this on Forest Street Kitchen and commented:
    This is a local story about love, bullying, pride, and what happens when a courageous child comes up against a school district that behaves no better than its worst bullies. Please read, re-blog if you like, and take a minute to leave a comment of support for Lilly. She needs to know that there’s a universe of people who care about her, even if her principal and her school do not.

  27. Lilly,
    I obviously don’t know you but I hope you always remember that the way people treat you is a reflection of their character and is never a reflection of you. All the best.

  28. Thank you for sharing Lillian’s story, what a dedicated mother and family she has to pursue and continue to pursue what is right and fair. It is so disappointing to hear that the school and administration allow this behavior to take place without ramifications. I question the child’s parents who after learning of the situation chose to do nothing as well. I wish Lillian the best for the upcoming school year in a welcoming , safe environment where a child’s well being is a top priority. Continue to live your life to the fullest Lillian, you have many supporters behind you.

  29. Hey, Lilly & Ginnie-
    Stand tall-stand strong. Not every principal is a jerk who can’t admit their failures. His”handling” of the situation was questionable at best.

  30. Lilly, on behalf of adults with common sense, I apologize that that group of adults, failed you so terribly. I’ve posted on your aunt’s page already, but we’ve got your back!

  31. Thank you for taking the time to tell Lilly’s and Ginny’s story. Lilly, I wish you all the best. What is most striking about your story, is just how much you are loved by your mother and your Aunt. When your aunt first told me this story, I was so mad. I hope that reading the comments today, you feel the love that is surrounding you. May these words of love, hope, and understanding comfort and protect you as you follow your dreams.

    Ginny,
    You are a fierce mama bear who did everything within her power and then some to protect her cub. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it is to hear someone, someone you have entrusted with the care of your child, to lie again and again about their failure to do that one task. May the words of love and hope that are being poured out for Lilly give you some comfort. I realize that our words are no substitute for the apology that both Lilly and you deserve, but I hope they make you smile.

    I admire you so much for fighting for your daughter. You are a tireless advocate, a strong woman, a smart woman who stood her ground and was not deterred by the actions of an ignorant liar who did all he could to avoid blame. I wish you love, strength, and peace. Thank you for letting Tashmica tell your family’s story. Thank you for being such a champion for Lilly.

  32. Lilly,

    I want to give you a giant hug. People can be mean. The fact it’s often for the sake of being entertaining (or entertained) makes it worse. My 6 year old daughter was born with a facial birthmark. She has 3 merged hemangiomas on her lower lip, upper chin and inner cheek. Though it’s shrinking and fading, it was large and red for years. It’s hard as her mom to watch the way people look at my beautiful daughter and listen to the ridiculous remarks they make…”That thing would go away if you’d quit giving her nuts.”…”Did she hurt herself or is that some sort of defect?” It’s hard to see her left out of playtime by other children because they feel the need to be distant. I will say one thing, though. She can have a lot more confidence that those who are befriending her are genuine. They’ve accepted her and will likely continue to do so as life dishes out other changes that make us all subject to negative peer review at times. And she will accept them as they show their differences down the road. What a gift! That’s friendship. My grandmother wisely told me one day that we don’t need a lot of friends, we just need a few really good ones. As a 40 year old, I’ve learned the truth of that statement.

    No one in this world is exactly like another. No one. For as much as we kid ourselves into believing groups of us are the same, while others are somehow unusual or different, we’re all really unique. That’s a good thing! What you and my daughter realize earlier on in life than others is how poorly people handle differences and how important it is to embrace what makes others unique. As awful as it can be at times to be on the recieving end of cruel behavior, you are in a better position than those who con themselves into believing they are the social ideal, they are the social perfect, and find it difficult to cope later in life when humanity decides putting their unique experiences, body parts, situations, etc., on stage for entertainment purposes.

    Stay strong. You are a beautiful girl with a special purpose. Your and your mother’s courage in standing up for what’s right and facing this issue head on will benefit my daughter. You can’t change everyone, but those you do change make a difference! For that, I thank you.

  33. Like the others posting here, I am sending prayers and positive thoughts for your family. Being a principal is not for the weak, and those in positions of influence in our children’s lives should be held accountable. My daughter is entering the 9th grade campus in the fall and be assured that your comments will result in a good many families being very vigilent. I will say Dr. Johnny Scott, the Holt School District Superintendent, has my respect and admiration and I would tend to believe his apology was sincere.

  34. I have a son with autism and have worked as an advocate. My experiences with Holt are similar in that they have lots of procedures and talk a good game that they are vigilant about this and that, but in practice that is not true. I’m sorry this happened. I think your blog is wonderfully done, and that you are not attacking. I laughed out loud about the “it’s the kind of respect you get when you are crazy..” etc. That is so true. I used to have something that went something like: when you are the only person who complains you are a crazy person. If there are two that complain, it’s the crazy person and their friend. etc. until there has to be a large amount for something to get through. Right now you are the crazy person and the friend but as more come forward, your work will be recognized. :)

  35. This is atrocious. Principal Johnson is married to Dana Johnson. Dana Johnson runs a preschool in East Lansing where Tammy Epling teaches. Tammy is the mother of Matt Epling, who is in the inspiration for Matt’s Law, a safe school initiative that just succeeded in passing a law requiring every school in Michigan to have a bullying policy in place. Why is it called Matt’s Law? Because 10 years ago, Matt committed suicide because he was sick of being BULLIED. You’d think that Principal Nick Johnson would know better the effects of bullying on a child or teenager since his wife has personal ties to it. But I think everyone likes to cover themselves when they make a mistake. Lying to protect your career goes above potentially changing or even saving the life of a child or a teenager. I am a product of Holt Public Schools and I am embarrassed and disgusted. Kudos to the writer of this blog for not including the name of the other student who pulled out Lilly’s chair. Kids make mistakes, sometimes bad ones. They need adults to show them that they are wrong and how to fix them. Hopefully this child will get the guidance he needs from a caring educator someday, like myself, who knows the difference between right and very, very wrong. In this story, the adult responsible for caring for and protecting Lilly at school is the villian.

  36. You are NOT “over-reacting”. That is the word that is always used in an attempt to make someone shut up about what is wrong in the world. They probably told Gandhi and Mother Teresa that they were “over-reacting”. They weren’t, and neither are you.

    Lillian deserves to attend school without being ridiculed. I am sorry that she is being treated this way. The Holt school system needs to wake up and join the real world. I am so glad that Lillian’s family is standing up for her! Bless you all!

  37. My daughter is Lilly’s friend and I am very proud of her for defending Lilly and many other students she has seen being bullied. This should have NEVER happened and it was handled as poorly as it could have been, if you can say it was handled at all.

    My daughter did write a statement regarding the incident and said in it that she felt bullying was a problem at the school. She was later called back down to the office and told to amend her statement and state that she did not feel bullying was a problem at the school and that she personally felt safe there, because “We don’t want anyone to get the idea our schools aren’t safe,” or something to that effect.

    When later questioned by the police she informed them that she was forced to amend her statement. The only thing that angers me more than the bullying taking place in the district is the fact that after my daughter spoke to the police the principal was not very nice to her. He would glare at her in the hallways, etc.

    Further infuriating me when we went to the end of the year award ceremony, two awards were presented, I believe they were outstanding student awards, or citizenship awards for students who had done the right thing. One girl found a large sum of money and turned it in, and the other boy “intervened in a situation where a student was being bullied and reported it so the school could take action.”

    I was proud of the students who were presented the awards but I found it ironic they were being commended for doing the exact same thing my daughter has done in this and many other cases. But her award was being subtlely bullied by the principal for doing so (please understand that she expected no award for doing the right thing).

    Luckily she is moving on to the high school next year (this happened at the stand alone 9th grade campus). I think Lilly is very brave and I hope her new school is a safe haven for her. She is very fortunate to have such a loving Mom and family. Stay strong, Lilly!

    • Hi! I’m Lilly’s Aunt Julie (from California) and I just want to say that you have an amazing daughter. Ginnie told me of how she stood by Lilly all through this and I am so grateful and impressed by her courage. I have a daughter entering high school this year and I hope she has your daughter’s and Lilly’s courage and integrity. They ate both I aspirations to us all

  38. I am livid! As a teacher in one of the worst districts for bullying incidents in this state, I can promise you that Lilly’s bullying would not be tolerated and the student who hurt her would have been disciplined as would a lying, cowardly principal. Yes, we have bullies, but we deal with them. Michigan is a Zero Tolerance state. Every district was supposed to have submitted an anti-bullying program proposal for approval at the state level, before the start of the 2011-12 school year, that was last year! Their policy was to be in writing and in the students’ and teachers’ handbooks at the start of the school year. It was also supposed to be available for viewing by the general public. Jolt is guilty of not only standing by and refusing to deal with bullies, but of tolerating and coddling them. They are guilty of failure to follow the dictates of a state mandate, not have in an anti-bullying program in place to train students and staff and so many other things that I’m getting angry all over again.
    Lilly, best of luck in your new school. I can only hope and pray that your friend, Laney’s parents move her with you. Laney, you are my hero for standing up to all the bullies at Holt, including the principal. Yes Lilly, his actions in trying to get you to say that you got your apology were acts of bullying and show why he tolerates it. So Lilly, you are also my hero for standing up to him and standing your ground while telling the truth in the face of his lies. You are one strong young lady!
    Ginny and auntie, keep up the good fight! Make Holt follow the letter of the anti-bullying policy adopted by our state’s Board of Education. And while you’re at it, get the bully out of the principal’s office at Holt High. I hope you are very successful in your legal efforts! Please, do not let anyone talk you into dropping your suit.

  39. This situation is completely unacceptable and as I kept reading, I became more and more enraged as the situation just seemed to get worse. I’m disappointed with that principal and the Holt School District as a whole. Lilly, you are a beautiful girl and dealing with those bullies including that principal, takes courage and strength. I don’t know you, but I’m proud of you and your mom.

  40. Thank you for the email address of the principal. I think he needs to hear it…so I let him hear it from me. Here is what I wrote:

    As a teacher for over 10 years and a mother for 3, I realize and appreciate how busy and hectic life gets especially in the life of an educator. Having said that I firmly live by the quote from Maya Angelou. The original says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Do you really want to be remembered as someone who made people feel so terrible? Or do you want to be remembered as someone of good moral character who righted their wrongs to do what’s right? So much peace could be restored in the world if people would just let their pride down and admit when they screwed up. Mountains don’t need to be moved, whole novels don’t need to be rewritten – a simple, “my bad. I’m sorry. I should have handled things differently” goes a long way. It sickens me to hear about the bullying situation that has gone so wrong. It’s never too late.

    Diane M. Mikkelson

  41. Thank you for sharing. Hearing about bullying is so hard, experiencing it is hard, hearing about the mothers, the parents, the friends who take a stand is so important. It helps us all move forward and envision a place where bullying and condoning bullying is not the standard. I wrote Principle Johnson. Thank you for your courage.

  42. Ginny and Tasha, have you addressed the school board on this? If not, find out when the next school board meeting is. They have to allow public comments and make the district’s failure to deal with bullying public knowledge. Copy all the documentation you have, including this blog. Look up the anti-bullying law put forth by the Dept of Ed and include that and give each board member, including the superintendent a copy. The public embarrassment of knowing the principal not only failed in his duty to deal with the bullies, but then lied about it will force Holt to do the right thing and discipline the principal as well as follow Michigan’s Zero Tolerance policies. ( also send copies to the local newspapers and notify then of the date you are going to present it to the board) I guarentee if you do this,Holt will be outed and things will happen real fast.

  43. I started today reading the Freeh report regarding Sandusky and the large number of “adults” from top to bottom who did *not* defend children our of fear and love for football (!). Lilly is so lucky to have a family that is not afraid and will not back down when “adults” refuse to defend a child against bullying. Making a stand for something bigger than you is one of the most important aspects of life one can engage in. Lilly – you outsmart most of our American population. You will go far in life in just exactly the way that you want to. I’m proud to call your Auntie my friend.

  44. Although my kids are now in college, this story brought back painful memories of bullying incidents that both of my kids endured while in school–particularly middle school in a district near Holt. Bravo to you for blogging this and to Lilly and Ginnie for their courage. All kids and parents need to take a stand on bullying, even though it seems we should be able to trust all the adults who teach our kids to always have the kids’ best interests at heart.

    After my daughter went through multiple bullying incidents at a local school (not in Holt), I knew what to expect when my son entered that school a few years later. Sure enough…after several unsuccessful meetings with administration to resolve the bullying that my son witnessed and documented, my son contacted the local ACLU about bullying incidents. They were fantastic–a lawyer met with my son, took him seriously, and followed up with the school. Contact from a lawyer seemed very effective. It brought me some comfort to learn that there are people in the community who care and will step in to do the right things for our kids.

    And, by the way, my son learned a lesson he will never forget about being an advocate for himself and for others who are bullied. He will carry that lesson forward into his life as an adult. Sorry he had to learn it in such a painful way, and so sorry that was true for Lilly and Ginnie as well.

    ps… to those reading these replies…even though it’s easy to find fault with a district, not everyone is so uncaring. There are also some really fantastic teachers and administrators in the Holt School District.

  45. Wow. Just…. wow. I was bullied through elementary school (although, at the time, it certainly wasn’t called that) for being the new kid- we moved a lot, or for having a funny last name – though there is a large group in San Diego right now would be very jealous of my maiden name, or for being really skinny- I started being called anorexic the 3rd grade.

    I found this post through Facebook friends. We all went to Holt High together, and while I have many friends from that time, I will never forget being teased mercilessly in elementary school. Perhaps because of that, my kids attend pride parades, volunteer with kids with learning issues, and we support various groups and organizations that address issues of tolerance and diversity.

    We as parents need to teach these kids that different is just that- different. Not strange, odd, wrong, weird… And sometimes (A LOT OF THE TIME) weird is good! People’s unique qualities are what makes a difference in this world. Shame on the Holt system for not embracing that AND for not helping their students to learn it, and even more, I hope the parents of the other child learn something for themselves and see that some of their parenting skills could use some, um, work.

    Lilly, you are a brave lady. Keep up the good work. Another great site to visit is the ‘It Gets Better Project’. The stories are mainly of LGBTQ people and supporters, but their stories are applicable and inspiring for all. Best of luck at your new school! Knock ‘em dead! :)

  46. Hi there – I don’t know you, but I saw this post from someone on Facebook (my Friend Jodie Burditt). I was also a victim of bullying when i was a kid, and i completely understand both being bullied and being a fierce tiger-mom. You guys are awesome, and I’m cheering you on!
    Keep up the good work, and whatever we can do to support you, I hope you’ll let us know.
    Saudia Santure

  47. As a teacher (grades 1st-7th), I am appalled with how this whole situation was handled by Holt H.S. Not only could this have been handled within 10 minutes of the incident (calls home, suspension), but as a district that supposedly has a ZERO tolerance for bullying, they FAILED to comply by their own rules!! I am disgusted that this matter was not taken seriously, because it is!
    Until we hold both students/adults accountable for their actions, incidences like this will continue to be deemed as mere “child play” when clearly, it is not. It also saddens me to read that many people feel that teachers “do not care”. This is truly not the case. MANY of us do. However, when we do not get backing from administration (even after many failed attempts) we either have to be diligent about it and risk getting in trouble ourselves, or to simply let it go. At times, the end result is sadly that the “punishment does not fit the crime” but at least there is a paper trail started……….

    If I could make a suggestion, it would be that you address the Holt School Board of Education. Perhaps they are not aware of what is happening in their schools and need to be. Many times the Board is not aware of what is happening in their districts because they fail to visit their schools and instead “rule” from behind a desk.

    I am sure they would like to be informed of such incidents before they are made to be held liable.

  48. I was saddened when I began reading another story where a teen was the victim of bulling. Then I became disgusted when I learned Lilly attended Holt High School and the principle was Nick Johnson. I know Nick Johnson through his wife Dana Johnson who is the director of a local church preschool. Dana Johnson works with Tammy Epling who lost her own son 10 years ago to bullying. I would assume Nick knew this. To know the tragic and lasting affects bullying has on teens and pre-teens and to let it slide when it is clearly happening under your watch is lazy and intolerable. To bold face lie about the “corrective action” to Lilly’s mother, and then to bully Lilly and Laney into covering for him is just pathetic.
    I also would like to know why the bully’s parents were not notified. Shouldn’t that be the second phone call made? Sure principle Johnson classified it as an “accident”, but that “accident” directly led to serious injuries…wouldn’t the parents at least have gotten a heads up? And after they were told what had happened why did the boy not apologize? If it was in fact an “accident” then it shouldn’t be a big deal to throw out a “hey, sorry I didn’t see sitting down”.

    Lilly, I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. Not only have you gone through something no one should have to endure, you did not get the respect and security you deserved by the administration. The job of a principle is to support his students not only with a solid education but a safe learning environment as well…in this Nick Johnson has failed you. I am proud that there are people like you in this world who are willing to share their story and call out people for who they are. This cannot have been an easy story to share but I want to thank you for standing up for what you know is right.

    Laney, I want to thank you also. You stood up for your friend and told the truth even when you were pressured by Principle Johnson to change your story and lie/cover for him. You should be very proud of yourself.

    What is truly sad about the situation is Nick is a father of three….what example did he set for his own children?

  49. Lilly, Tasha, Ginnie:
    Here is a link to the passed version of Matt’s safe school law.
    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28obiovz45ue1yyn45g1i52155%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-380-1310b. Not only is it unacceptable for the school district to not take action, it is UNLAWFUL. I echo the sentiments of one person that suggested contacting the ACLU. Lilly is protected by the ADA and other legislation regarding children with a physical impairment. Many teachers, social workers and others helped to advocate for this legislation including myself, I hope desperately that you can use it to give yourselves a much needed sense of safety and trust within the school setting.

    Valerie Muniz, Social worker and mother of four

  50. I grew up with Ginnie. I am proud to know a mother that has stood up for her child like she did. I would do the same.

  51. One I am sorry that your family is going through this. I am “Matt’s Dad” for whom MI’s new anti-bullying law is named for. As of July 6th every school district in the state of MI must have given a copy of their new anti-bullying policies to the State Board of Ed. They should have had them finalized by their own schools boards by June 6th. Before passing such a policy there should have been , by law a public hearing on the proposed policy. If an old policy was adopted it had to meet all 9 points under section 5 of the law. If it did not and they did not have a posted public hearing then schools technically violated the law.
    Yes there are things we could not get into the law but now it is a powerful tool for those parents who want to be part of the change in their children’s schools. Our schools were asked in 2001 to develop policies now they must have a policy. Once that policy is now written out and given to the state yes it will be up to us to hold them to what they say they will.
    If your child, anywhere in MI is facing a bullying problem ask three simple things:
    1) Ask for a copy of the New policy.
    2) ask when and what form of trainings will take place for teachers staff and students.
    3) how is the school going to actually implement the policy. ( should not just be words, it needs to be enforced.

    “Matt’s Law” has now given power to the parents to confront on schools of what they “say they are doing” and “what they are actually doing” I wanted to take away part of the “secrecy” that has surrounded this topic and make all schools aware that it IS the #1 issue in schools today.
    By acknowledging it and getting students to take the lead we can makea difference, but schools ahve been very slow to respond.

    Check out our website and ask the district for a copy of the policy and ask them for the dates when they were all amended. It doesn’t matter if they had one 3 yrs ago. What matters is if they followed the law and are actually going to do something now. Check out our website for more info
    http://www.mattepling.com

    I have had other calls from parents in the Holt district, and have tried to help where I could.

    Peace, Matt’s Dad

  52. I’m a 1992 Holt graduate. I posted a link to this blog post on Facebook, and sent the message below to the principal and superintendent.

    Lilly – I have the greatest respect for you and for your family, and for the fact that you weren’t willing to accept this kind of bullying from the kids or from the administration. I wish more people had your strength.

    Mister Johnson,

    My name is Jim Hines. I’m 38 years old, and a graduate of Holt High School (class of 1992). I’m sure you’ve received a number of emails about the story on the Mother Flippin Blog at http://themotherflippinblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/bullies-are-stupid-i-love-the-way-you-walk/

    I was in 6th grade, at Hope Middle School, when the bullying started for me. I was teased for my speech defects, for my clothes, for my intelligence, and for anything else people could come up with. My belongings were stolen or destroyed. At one point I was pushed into a locker and trapped there. I was routinely pushed in the hallways, or had my things knocked from my hands or off my desk. There were physical assaults as well.

    Life did get better, particularly once I escaped the K-12 system here in Holt. These days, I have a family, a career as a successful author, and am quite happy with my life. But at the time, having to return to the daily taunts and torments of school drove me to the verge of suicide.

    Teachers did nothing. The administration did nothing. (In fact, I distinctly recall at least one teacher who regularly joined in bullying me as a student.)

    I trust you can imagine my anger and disappointment to read Lilly’s story, to know that children are still being bullied and assaulted in Holt schools, and that apparently the administration not only turns a blind eye, but actively pressures and bullies the victims into recanting their stories in order to protect Holt’s image.

    I would like your assurance that my children are safe in your schools. I would like to know where on your website I can find a copy of the legally required antibullying policy for Holt Public Schools. And while I understand that everyone makes mistakes, I would like to know that going forward, the welfare of your students will take priority over protecting Holt’s image.

    Thank you,
    Jim Hines

  53. I wrote to them.

    Mr. Johnson,

    I am appalled to hear of the lying and covering up of the bullying of Lillian, a now-former student of the 9th grade campus of Holt High School. How can you do something like that with any semblance of conscience or decency? This child deserved justice and appropriate action for the bullying perpetrated against her.

    My stepdaughter was caught bullying other children repeatedly over a period of several months, some of which included pulling chairs out as children were attempting to sit down. Her school and district found out and suspended her for a week, even though it was the last week she would be at that school. I am glad they took appropriate action. We supported her through that, letting her know that we loved her and that she was legitimately in trouble.

    All children should have champions in their teachers and principals, Mr. Johnson. There is no good reason why you should have made yourself an obstacle rather than an official and authoritative source of justice.

    You can do better. You MUST do better.

    Disappointed,
    [My Name]
    [My City and State]

  54. Lillian,

    You are an amazing girl, and have a very powerful mother, and a very savvy aunt. Learn from them, follow their lead, and you will go far!

    I wrote a polite letter to the Principal, to let him know how disappointed I was in his failure to take action on this important issue.

    Good luck in all that you do!

    Matthew

  55. I remember when I was bullied in high school in a different part of MI. I was the shy, quiet, smart kid that didn’t have too many friends. At one point I stood up to a bully who was verbally and sexually harassing a female friend of mine. Although I didn’t do anything physical I did step between them so she could get away. Because of my involvement the bully’s friend decided to introduce his fist to my face, and my head to a wall. I had to be wheeled down in a wheelchair while my dad was called into the office. Both the bully and I got suspended for fighting, even though I didn’t lift a finger and they had proof from two cameras and a teacher, not to mention several students. When my dad filed assault charges at the local police station, the officer was curious as to why the school hadn’t made a report nor did they supply and form of medical aid except an ice pack, advising my father that if he wanted to pursue medical action he could do so “at [his] discretion”. At the hospital the doctor said I just had a mild concussion and to not do anything strenuous for 24 hours to make sure no other symptoms occurred.

    It wasn’t until my father had the police get involved, brought a lawyer into the mix, and sent an e-mail out to the superintendent and most of the school board that the principal decided to revoke my suspension and review the situation more closely. I was back in school after a day of bed rest, but the suspension for fighting still remained on my record up until I graduated two years later.

    From personal experience I can say that teachers and school officials rarely if ever care about the bullying that goes on in the school. Many times my friends and I were bullied and tormented because we were different. I was a book nerd, my friends were band geeks and all of us were in advanced classes. But we weren’t the only ones. I saw people getting tormented because the looked different, acted different, or just didn’t fit in with the social norm.

    I wish I could say that after my dad threatened the school with legal action things got better, but they didn’t. Bullies just got more verbal and less physical.

  56. Pingback: Lilly’s Mom « Mother Flippin

  57. Lilly, you are a very beautiful girl and you are very lucky person to have your mother and aunt as your advocates. My son was bullied in Elementary and MS and I always said if I, as his parent, didn’t advocate for him who would. It saddens me that not only was nothing done but that the principal was trying to bully you into admitting to apology that never happened. My eyes teared up reading your story and all of the comments that followed. It is sad that so many people have been bullied throughout their lives. Having worked in the educational system I always felt there were two places that children should feel safe–at home and at school. It breaks my heart when I hear stories like this. Children need to learn to stand up to the bullies and let them know their comments and actions are not ok. This won’t happen until the administrators support a no-bullying policy. Your friend is a true friend for standing up for you–friends like this are hard to find.

    I wish you the best in your new school and I will be sending an email to Principal Johnson along with posting this article on my facebook here in Colorado.

  58. Please find the text of my email below:

    Mr. Johnson,

    I am a Holt High School graduate (class of ’93) and was disappointed to read the account of the incident detailed in the blog entry cited here:

    http://themotherflippinblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/bullies-are-stupid-i-love-the-way-you-walk/

    While I received an excellent education in Holt, I got my share of bullying while I was there. I was overweight. I was a band geek. A smart kid. Unfortunately, there were no laws or policies in place to protect me or my friends, who received much of the same. Recent developments in anti-bullying awareness campaigns and new legislation may provide some hope and/or relief for those children who still suffer under the persecution of their peers.

    Unless, of course, administrators continue to take the easy way out and sweep incidents under the rug.

    As an educator now myself, the account in the blog entry made me die a little inside. Both from sympathy for the girl and her mother, and from shame, that a fellow educator would appear to have not only looked the other way, but to have also actively deceived the victim and her mother. Perhaps you quite simply forgot the facts of the case and your actions. Perhaps you didn’t. Perhaps you never in a million years expected such a reaction from a parent in response to such a seemingly minor incident. Regardless, it appears you took what you thought was the easy way out.

    Not the best path, but the path of what you may have perceived to be that of least resistance.

    This is not about whiny parents. This is not about letting kids solve their own problems. This is about sending a message that cruelty is not acceptable. This is about making schools safe environments for students. By failing to act on such an incident, you send the tacit message that this sort of bullying behavior is okay, particularly if it is explained away as “accidental.”

    Mr. Johnson, I assure you, that chair was not “accidentally” pulled out from under that girl. As a teacher, I’ve seen it happen myself, and even the most self-absorbed middle-schooler isn’t that unobservant. As a victim of bullying, I can tell you that sort of thing just doesn’t happen “on accident.” Otherwise, adults would be doing that to each other all the time. When was the last time you saw an adult do that to someone? Even on accident?

    But putting that bit of logic aside, I implore you to please look most carefully at your actions in the future. It may well be that someday you face litigation as a result of your failure to act. A statement must be made somewhere, must it not? If we always assume it’s someone else’s duty to step up, no one will. As an administrator, you are bound by your job duties to deal with these situations fairly and expeditiously. (I would daresay you should be bound by a sense of ethics to do so, but at the very least by the constraints of your job.)

    In my humble opinion, you appear to have gotten out of this lightly. A student was injured on your watch, no staff members caught the incident, and you appear to have failed to act, even when confronted with your negligence. Seems you might have gotten at most a verbal warning and redirection. Truthfully, you should be grateful that your employment in this position is not in danger. I find your actions of self-preservation alarming; I find the most professional individuals I have met to be those that not only make smart decisions, but that also step up and acknowledge when they have made mistakes. We are as educators bound to set the example for our young people. I’m saddened that in this case you appear to have missed a teachable moment and instead sent an altogether more sinister message.

    For the sake of future students, I beg you to please make your hindsight 20/20. Please don’t allow this situation to occur again. Do what we expect our students to do: learn from your mistakes, ‘ere you be doomed to repeat them.

    Sincerely,

    Renae (DeMunck) Hipple
    Holt High School, Class of 1993

    (This message will be emailed to Mr. Johnson’s inbox this afternoon.)

  59. Sweet Lillian,
    I too was the victim of an attack in high school. And my school protected the boy who assaulted me, much in the same way your school has protected the boy who hurt you. And my mamma also stood up for me. She went in every. single. day. to the principal for 2 months seeking justice.

    I wish I had been brave enough at the time to file a police report. I wasn’t. I respect you and your family for being brave enough to talk to the police. Eventually after much persistence and going over the principal’s head to the director, that boy was finally kicked out of school.

    What that boy did to you was not ok. Neither was how the school refused to handle it. I hope you know through the comments here how loved and supported you are. People all over the country who have never even met you are fighting for you. We are in your corner.

    I hope you know that you are worth fighting for. I hope you know that you are beautiful and amazing. I hope that you know that you are strong. It takes a lot of strength to go through this much publicity, especially on the days when you wish no one would notice you. I hope that you know that you are a princess. I hope you know that you are brave.

    I know several people who have already written the school. I am writing them as well, as soon as I finish telling you how special you are! It isn’t ok for the people who are supposed to protect you and make school safe for you to turn their backs on you.

    You and your mamma and your best friend who has stood by your side inspire me.

  60. Hi Lilly,
    I wish I could give you a hug right now because you are brave and strong. I am going to tell my 11 year old daughter your story because it is so inspiering and hopeful! The mear fact that this didn’t go un-noticed speaks volumes and brings more awarness to how stupid bullies truly are. Your mother is amazing, she is the true defanition of a Mother.

    Take care Beautiful!

  61. Dear Lillian, her Aunt Tasha and mom Ginnie,
    Thank you all for sharing your story, as painful as it was to share. As an educator, I am ashamed and appalled that a school would allow bullying at this level to continue. I’m also saddened to think that administration and teachers would allow this to continue.
    As many people have already mentioned, what happened to you was not okay. It was not “an accident”, and you should not have been exposed to that kind of behaviour. Period. The fault lies in the adults who have not educated your fellow students, and who did not stand up for you when you needed their support.
    Here’s hoping that things will change in the Holt school system, and that other students will no longer be faced with a similar situation.
    Oh, and Ginnie? You are the mother I wish most of my students had – one who advocated for the best interests of their child, no matter what.
    Stay strong, and all the best.

  62. This completely frustrates me. My daughter was bullied in 5th and 6th grade as well. The principal in 5th grade (who left Holt after that year) had no clue how to deal with confrontational issues and replied (6 months apart) with the same response–which was not satisfactory for me. Holt advertises that it does not tolerate bullying, yet there are many indicators to the contrary. My daughter has had many special needs classmates that she has shown a great deal of empathy and compassion for which makes me very proud. Reading these stories does not make me proud to be a Holt Alum. My heart goes out to Lilly and the entire family as they have been dealing with enough without adding to it the concerns of safety while at school-an environment where you should feel safe and comfortable. Keep fighting the fight and I will spread the word.

  63. Please know that it sometimes goes the other way. I was a book nerd that was born to a jock and a cheerleader. So when the bullying started for me, in the second grade, it was my own MOTHER AND FATHER that blew it off with the clear indication that they thought I had it coming, and every time I tried to talk to them about it their advice was, “Well, do you have to be so weird? Couldn’t you try to fit in more?”

    Well, no. Fitting in would have meant being good at sports– which would have meant, well, having a whole different set of reflexes– actually, it would have meant having a whole different body. Moreover, reading and books were the only thing I had that brought me any joy, so, yeah, giving up my ‘bookworm’ ways wasn’t happening either.

    I settled into a sort of furtive, fugitive existence, my books and I. I had the school grounds mapped out in my head as SAFE and NOT-SAFE… if I stayed by the steps with my book, I was in clear view of the teacher on playground duty; if I waited in the classroom at the end of the day as long as possible and then bolted straight out to the school bus, I had a pretty fair chance of getting through unscathed. And so on. from the second grade to the sixth, I lived in essentially a constant state of terror at school. It wasn’t that I was SCARED and SHAKING all the time… but I was always READY. I knew that at any moment, from any direction, a group of big kids might materialize and amuse themselves by shoving me, grabbing my book away and tossing it back and forth to one another, or just dropping it on the ground and grinding it beneath a foot. Sometimes the shoving turned into hitting.

    The worst thing about it, though, was that I didn’t have anyone to confide in, because my parents had taught me that somehow, I had it coming. I’d come home with torn clothes or a damaged library book we had to pay for or– this was the worst– broken glasses, which were expensive. And Dad would grunt in disappointment that I somehow wasn’t tough enough to dispense a beatdown, and my mother would anxiously inquire what I’d done to make them mad.

    What I learned was that there was no point in telling an adult because nothing would be done except I’d be told to just fit in better, be more athletic and popular. You know, like I was somehow able to just DO that. So I hunkered down with my books as best I could and tried to block it out. You get to where you just learn to live with it.

    So what changed?

    Towards the end of my sixth grade year, the worst of my tormentors, a hulking football player named Andy, thought of a new trick. He would come up to me at random moments during the day– recess, lunch, P.E., in the hallway– and deliver a whipcrack slap to the face.

    It wasn’t like getting hit with a fist, but it HURT, and it often knocked my glasses askew. I had a terror of them getting broken AGAIN, because I’d get in trouble at home for ‘not taking care of my glasses.’ And it was humiliating. What delighted Andy about this so much was that this clearly implied I wasn’t even man enough to rate a fist. Just a slap.

    A kid witnessed this once– I guess you’d call him a friend, we didn’t hang out anywhere outside of school, but we could have a conversation without him jeering or trying to shove me– and said, “Dude, why do you let him do that?”

    I stared blankly. What could I possibly do?

    The kid said, “Seriously. I’d nark him out. Tell the principal.”

    We were outside, about to get on the bus. . I saw our principal, Mr. Pokarney, standing by one of the other buses– the one I rode had yet to arrive– and I was just ready to try anything. I ran up to Mr. Pokarney and blurted, “Andy N___ has been picking on me for years and now he’s hitting me in the face, can you make him stop?”

    I was almost crying but not. I must have looked ragged and desperate and crazy. Mr. Pokarney, who was a grim-looking, hatchet-faced man with a very scary voice, knelt down and took me by the shoulders. I thought Oh shit I’ve had it.

    He said, “Andy is hitting you?”

    i nodded.

    He said, “Greg, I will stop this. It’s the end of the school day now but tomorrow morning you will come to my office and we will talk about this. I am putting a stop to it. Believe me.”

    But I didn’t. I didn’t dare. To have it just end? Could Mr. Pokarney do that? In Sunday School I had prayed to God about it and begged Him to stop it and HE hadn’t. I figured that meant nobody could.

    The next morning, though– first thing– I was called to the principal’s office. There was a murmur of giggles in the classroom, because that always meant you were In Trouble. I went.

    In the office, I sat for an hour while Mr. Pokarney asked me questions. His voice was tough and gritty like it always was but it was lower, and he looked me right in the eye. He was taking me SERIOUSLY. The first thing out of his mouth was, “I am sorry. We didn’t know. we should have. How long has this been going on?”

    I told him. He asked follow-ups. He asked for details. He grilled me the way a cop grills a witness. He wanted everything. When we were done he apologized again. Profusely. It almost weirded me out, because Mr. Pokarney was a big scary guy and he was acting like he wanted me to forgive him. then he sent me back to class and told me that it would be stopped. He said it like Eliot Ness vowing to get Capone. I believed him.

    And it stopped. It stopped THAT DAY. when I got back Andy was called down there and to this day I don’t know what happened except Mom told me later that Mr. Pokarney had used his Scary Voice and it had reduced Andy, the terror of my existence, to a sobbing mess.

    What I know was that after his session with Mr. Pokarney, Andy slunk back into class and whispered an apology to me. He whispered it because it was class and we weren’t supposed to be talking, but he couldn’t stand to wait. He was a beaten man and he was genuinely sorry.

    Here’s the really weird thing. I could tell Andy was broken. Mr. Pokarney had DESTROYED that kid. At that moment I owned Andy. I could have taken my revenge any way I wanted.

    But I didn’t want to. I kind of pitied him.

    All i had wanted was the acknowledgement of WRONGDOING,. That what had been done to me was NOT WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

    Mr. Pokarney was my hero from that day forward because he took ONE LOOK at me and knew I had been wronged. One look. After years of me trying to EXPLAIN it to my actual parents. And he fixed it in less than twenty-four hours– to the point where the bully didn’t just stop bullying but HE knew it was wrong too.

    Today, I’m fifty years old, I teach writing at a local middle school, and I have a quiet pride that my classes are safe places for all the seventh grade book nerds who want to write their own stories. Sometimes a bully tries to get away with something and he gets taken down HARD with what my wife calls the Scary Teacher Voice. I like to think I’m channeling Mr. Pokarney. I’m not done till that kid knows bullying is wrong. Because that’s our job. Please know that some of us are doing it.

    And also know, as awful as bullying is, your family has a great gift. you support each other. You GET IT.

    The one thing a bullying victim learns is where the real friends are and it’s a blessing when you actually have them in your family. Lots of families don’t, believe me.

    • Thank you very much for your interest in Lilly’s story as well as sharing yours. I am sure you must take pride in knowing NOW, you are the students hero…. For that mothers everywhere thank you! Ginnie Torok

      • He is indeed. He’s also done it for some folks at a distance–just being around and available to chat online helped me a lot when I was trying to deal with high school, and I’m on the other side of the country from him.

  64. I am so sorry to hear Lilly’s story. Unfortunately, this same attitude can be found across the US and has been present for many years.

    I was bullied at 13 years old. I was in the ER up to 13 times a month for the entire year. Nearly every bone in my body had been hurt, not to mention all the verbal abuse. From all this, all the Principal told me was “kids will be kids.” Even at 13, all I wanted was for these other kids to be brought in and have it explained so they understood what was happening to me physically, how I had to go to the hospital and physical therapy for years because of their actions. I just wanted them to understand that my injuries were very real and very avoidable so that perhaps they would stop the behavior in the future. That never happened.

    I also got bullied by teachers, which was the most disappointing for me. My band teacher took away a solo I earned and gave it to another more popular student so that she could be considered a cool teacher. I actually overheard her saying this to someone else when she thought I had left. She was never chastised for this, but I did talk to her and convinced her to split the solo between both of us. My Home Ec teacher hid most of my work so that she could pretend she never received it and failed me. After much insistence on my part, they finally searched her office and they found all my work in one of her drawers. Her punishment? She had to grade them in front of the Principal and revise my report cards. I will never understand why she wasn’t at least fired.

    When I was 23, I received a message out of the blue. It was from one of my former bullies, saying she now realized the implications of her actions and wanted to apologize. She said she saw all the news about bullied children killing themselves, and she became worried that she could have caused a similar situation. She told me she was relieved to find that I was doing well. This gave me a lot of hope and closure. I hope others may have learned their lessons, even though they may stay silent.

    Lilly – you have a wonderful mother and aunt and are very lucky to have them in your life. Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to be yourself. Max Erhmann said it best: “…You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here…With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

  65. Dear Lilly and Family,

    I am so sorry to hear of your experience. Let me just add this to the conversation- while you feel wronged and mistreated, please know that there are a lot of smart, caring, empathetic champions for all in Holt’s school system as well. As a teacher in the 10-12 building, I regularly see the kind acts of students, and the incredible support and genuine love the staff has for the students in our care. Many teachers give of their own time to fundraise to bring the Challenge Day program to our school, and most all staff (including those you mentioned int he blog) have participated. And with 1500 students, I can promise you that there are many, many times more of them that are amazing kids than there are those that bully. It saddens me deeply to hear of your experience, but it also worried me that the culture we work so hard to protect wasn’t experienced by everyone. We know we have a lot of work to do to confront the pressures and realities of being a teen in 2012 (especially with social media and other modern ways to bully), but please know that there are many, many teachers and adminsitrators in Holt who see that as the purpose of their being.

    I know that it means little and doesn’t help the narrative, but I have worked with the principal of that buildng a bit, and while not knowing enough to defend or vilify his actions, I can assure you that he is a decent human being and father. And I work with the HR administrator quite often, and can personally vouch for him as a sincerely caring and empathetic person. Due to the litigious nature of the conversation, I’m sure it may not have come across to you, and mistakes may have been made, but these men are not evil in my experience.

    And while I’d like to agree that bullies are ‘stupid,’ in reality they are mostly sad, powerless kids that have been hurt too much themselves. So while often the object of our negative reactions, deserving of serious consequences for their choices, we need to open our hearts to them as well and get them the help they need. People of all ages make mistakes all the time. I know I myself have probably missed mean-spirited comments, or mishandled a situation on the spot; but I will continue to try each new day with pure intentions in my heart. The support and teamwork with parents and community is necessary to create a world that we can be proud of in Holt.

    While I truly respect your revolutionary nature, I’m wondering if your experience can help us be better and serve as a positive outcome from this awful situaiton instead of a confrontational one. Either way, I wish Lilly and your family the best, and feel sorry for the hurt you must feel.

    • Thank you for taking the time to defend the district in which you are employed. I’d like to thank you for taking interest in Lilly’s story as I have to many other people who have posted, unfortunately I don’t believe it’s the interest in Lilly’s story you are responding to. I agree 100% people make mistakes! As you may have noticed, the young man that pulled the chair has remained nameless. I had said from the beginning, I believe he learned a lesson when he saw my daughter fall to the ground. A direct result of his own actions. Accident or on purpose, regardless he learned a lesson at my daughters expense!
      As far as the principal and the administration you are referring to, a good man and a good father…. that does not concern me in the least! He continued to lie to me, make false statements and FAILED to protect my daughter. This blog never mentioned his own parenting it only mentioned mine! As Lilly’s mother I was not settling for his lack of actions, his lies and his cowardly way of acknowledging his wrong doing.
      Please don’t misconstrued my daughters expierence and my efforts as being relevent to the way you view him as a coworker/friend. Ginnie Torok

    • In response to comment on http://themotherflippinblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/bullies-are-stupid-i-love-the-way-you-walk/

      The greatest evils in the world are often not great big huge events that affect millions. The greatest evils are often smaller, individual acts of being mean, or petty, or immoral, or unethical that go unnoticed.

      It is when caretakers are cracked and broken themselves in such a way that their actions (or lack thereof) damage those they are supposed to be caretaking. It doesn’t always take a string of events. One person can be permanently damaged by one event… and one event can reveal the extent of one person’s damage. That does not mean that one person should be thrown overboard. It means that they themselves need attention, and healing, and retraining. One of the very first moral things we teach our children is to apologize when they have done wrong… or when they have hurt another, intentional or no. To the commenter: please, please don’t try to justify and brush away this one+ event(s) of the caretakers of this school with a history of other good acts. That damages them as much as the others they have injured.

      Great evil in the world is often silent, and in being silent, is more deadly to humanity than the loudest outcry. It is the smaller, quieter things – those attempts to brush darkness under the rug – that need most to be brought to light.

      Kudos to all of the individuals in this family and this family’s now greatly extended community who so sweetly, calmly, yet firmly are tugging this out from under the rug where it attempts to hide its ugly nature. You are what is right in this world. Don’t stop what you’re doing, or the way you are doing it.

    • I wonder how you can be supportive of a person in the educational system who asked a student that witnessed the situation to lye and change her written documentation to state that she felt “safe” in the school. Not only that, but the principal tried to “bully” Lilly into agreeing that an apology happened when it never did. I live in Colorado, a long way from Holt, MI, but your comments disturb me because it sounds like “A good boys club”. From everything I read the principal did wrong by Lilly and for you to justify what he did because he is a “good” person and a “good” father makes it all that more wrong. SHAME ON YOU!

  66. I wish Lilly and Ginnie the best of luck and kudos for not allowing this kind of bullying to go by without fighting it. Thank you all for sharing this story. I sent an email to njohnson (very nice, no bullying of course) to express my disappointment in how he handled the situation and treated both Lilly and Ginnie. I felt bad for Lilly being hurt but than I felt worse for how the school administrators handled it. Is it that hard to simply say “I’m sorry, I will make sure it doesn’t happen again” and then hold true to your word?

    Stay strong and Stay positive. xoxoxo

  67. I cannot describe the emotion I’m feeling from this. I wish my family was as supportive growing up, rather than always giving me the “get over it” line.

    • I’m sorry for the lack of support you were given! Something’s we all need help getting over! Support and gratitude, Ginnie Torok

  68. Unbelieveable! It’s hard to understand these people, obviously Elton John had it right – sorry seems to be the hardest word.

  69. As a parent it makes me sick to know that Lilly went through this. I applaud Ginnie for fighting for her daughter. Too many parents have forgotten what their job and duties are as parents. We are supposed to protect our children and make them feel safe. They are supposed to feel like when they go to school they are safe to learn and the adults there will protect them as well. You guys are awesome.

  70. Lilly,

    I went through Holt High School too and it sucked for me as well. The bullies called me Layele the whale, spit food on my locker, tried to shove me in my locker, pulled chairs out from under me, put gum in my hair, which was down to my waist and I had to cut it off and generally made my school life horrible. Take comfort in the fact that school only lasts a little while and you have two wonderful ladies to fight for you! While bullying is awful, it does have a strange positive side, even though you might not see it until you are older, it will make you so strong!! There isn’t much that scares me now, and there is NO ONE that can get the better of me. In an odd way, I owe that to the bullies. You can get through this and come out even better for it. Keep your chin up and be better people than they are. Oh, one more thing, I found that if you make them laugh, they are less likely to pick on you. Should you ever need someone to talk to who has been there, done that, look for Layele (minus the whale :) with the Cheshire cat grin on facebook.

  71. I’m currently studying to be a school librarian. As a teacher, I’m really wondering where the teachers were in this case. We need to act as the parents while students are in school. We need to be able to protect the students as best we possibly can. I can’t fathom that a teacher (or library staff) wouldn’t have seen this incident and been on the parent’s side. Teachers can and should act as the parents and protect the students from bullying.

  72. The unbelievable COURAGE demonstrated by this young lady is truly something to be proud of. She didn’t let the intimidation tactics of an authority figure overpower her message and that should most definitely be applauded. Well-done, Lillian. And as someone who was also a victim of some pretty severe bullying, I can tell you that IT DOES GET BETTER. There will come a day when you’ll look back at high school as a laughable place ruled by people of very weak character. Hang in there and continue to stand up for yourself. I’m very proud of you. :) And Ginnie, as a mom, I want to tell you how proud I am of YOU also. Way to be a mama bear and take care of your beautiful girl. You are a wonderful role model.

  73. I can’t believe an ADULT would attempt to intimidate (BULLY!) a child to corroborate his bogus story! The officials at that whole school should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such a thing to be swept under the rug like that.

    Lilly is blessed for having such a strong and loving family behind her and for a strong friend to stand beside her. I am sad that parts of her life are only going to get harder, but she is already such a strong young woman that she can only get stronger. :)

  74. A common form of bullying in schools is to falsely accuse someone of doing something to get them suspended. While I’m sure Lilly was not lying about this, can we really be this judgemental about an administrator who has to sift through these probably on a daily basis?
    None of us have the full story, and until then, it is equally likely that (a) the principal is compeltely awful and lied and hates children; (b) he was too busy to follow through as much as he should have, misunderstood the situation, confused this case with another one, etc…. but had no ill-intent; or (c) did nothing wrong at all and really did have the student apologize at a time when Lilly was too upset to hear.
    There are lots of times when parents, customers, people filing police reports, etc don’t get what they want, often for legitimate reasons. And, in their anger and also legitimate frustration, act out in ways such as this. And it looks exactly the same as a person in the right standing up for a social wrong. And because I like the latter story more and respect that so much, it is really easy to assume this is a case like that. But this assumption can be dangerous, especially when the reputation of a whole district and their families are being mentioned.
    And please be careful- if bullyng is when a person tries to use public/peer pressure to empower themselves by hoping someone else gets hurt in some emotional, pyhsical, or social way, it’s hard not to read this blog and responses as a form of that.

    • Though your post was hard to follow with the many different possible “scenarios”, the blog was written to bring light to a SERIOUS issue called bullying! Though the blog never mentioned the doctors findings, the pictures of the bruises, the fact that many students heard the “student in question” joke and make fun of the way Lilly walked AS THEY WALKED INTO THE LIBRARY where the chair was pulled out from under her or the fact that a STAFF MEMBER recommended that I have Nick Johnson get a written statement from Laney because she was there when this happened, I still would not say anyone in jumping to conclusions.
      Let’s “pretend” none of the FACTS above were just that, facts…. what harm would a simple “sorry about that” from the student caused? How about when I had to pick my daughter up from school and take her to an urgent care, what harm would it have been for Nick Johnson to say “hey, sorry this happened to you”.
      Common courtesy in our family, if we see a stranger fall from afar… We approach that person, extend a helping hand and simply ask”are you ok?”. I guess that’s more that than what is practiced at the 9th grade campus!! We are only asking for accountability, Ginnie Torok

      • I don’t think the purpose of writing this was to call out mr johnson. I think he is a good princapal. But I think he could have handled the situation in a better way. I think he wanted to believe that everything is good at school. He’s a good man that wants everything to be ok.
        I’m not sure of what you are implying. If you think this is fake and never happened, then open your eyes and walk into a school like holt. Although most people are the nicest people ever, there are some that are cruel.
        I respect your thoughts in thinking this didn’t happen. Like mr Johnson you think everything is fine. But bullying is happening and it needs to stop.
        The purpose of this was to shine a light on the subject of bullying. That, yes, it’s kids most of the time. But on rare occasions the adults join in. And right now, your being a bit of a bully.
        I did not recive a simple sorry. I didn’t even go to his office. I look forward to attending the 10-12 building next year and having a fresh start.

        Lilly

    • Dear Cautionary Voice,
      I respectfully disagree with your opening statement, “A common form of bullying in schools is to falsely accuse someone of doing something to get them suspended.” The small number of students who participate in the behavior mentioned above should more accurately be described as a group of malcontent and self absorbed students and not actual victims of bullying. An actual victim of bullying has nothing to gain by coming forward and speaking the truth about his or her peers. Sure, the bully may get called out by school officials, and may even be suspended, but what usually happens in the end is the victim remains just that…the victim. With so many resources available to teens, bullying doesn’t stop at school just because the bully was, (or was not), punished. By taking a stand for yourself or a friend you only open yourself up to more bullying, through facebook, e-mail and text messaging. In short, the bullying doesn’t just stop. Many teens who have been the target of bullying, and have taken a stand, have had to change schools just to escape the viciousness. Does this sound like the actions of a student who just decided to lie to get someone suspended for the heck of it, or someone who was crying out for help? By belittling the fact that bullying is a real problem, and happens in every school you are in fact part of the problem.

      • Cautionary Voice,
        As said before by Lilly’s aunt, we do read each and every post attached to this blog. I see the above comment is written in response to yours. Again I would like to reply to your post.
        I feel it very important to remind you of a couple points made in the blog. The blog was written on Lilly’s behalf. The responses about the administrations family, those are other people relating to the situation Lilly went through. I did not comment on them except to reiterate, Nick Johnsons parenting was never mentioned in the blog, only my parenting. If our intent was to act as a bully, as you suggested in one scenario, I would have followed up with a doctor, the police and a lawyer all in Oct. of 2011 when this first happened. Instead I chose to attend meetings, make phone calls, do research, jump through hoops and follow through on a failing system that continued to fail my daughter.
        I’d like to ask… How dare you even suggest that this blog is at all an attempt to bully anyone and if it were, who?
        If you are just throwing out different scenarios, save your time. This in one specific issue of bullying, if you can relate I’d love for you to share! Otherwise what I hear from you is doubt and minimizing my daughters 9 month ordeal of simply waiting for an adult in the Holt Public School District to take action or even acknowledge she had been hurt at the hands of another student while in their school.
        If you knew Lilly at all, you would know she is quiet, to herself and finds joy in everything she can do. If you knew Lilly you would know that maybe she does walk funny. AND if you knew my 14 year old daughter, who has a degenerative disease you would most likely know that the only thing Lilly would wish for is to be “normal”, whatever that may be.You would also know that it took so much strength from her to reply to the principals repeated questioning of the situation without wavering from the truth once!
        There are no bully’s here, just a normal teenager wanting to be protected at school, and a mom that will see to it!!
        Again, Ginnie Torok

  75. This is no new thing for the principals at Holt High School. The principals are failures all through High School. The only principal who is currently acting and who I feel I could trust is Rick Couterier (sp?) at the Washington Woods Middle School, and that trust would only go so far. Brian Templin at the high school main campus was also fairly well known for overlooking bullying and even MAJOR THEFT within his own school. I personally had a very expensive instrument stolen from me on campus due to the negligence of a certain employee, and his inaction almost caused me to lose this prized possession permanently–I HAD TO FIND IT IN A PAWN SHOP, INVOLVE THE POLICE, AND CONTACT SUPERINTENDENT DR. SCOTT AND STILL RECEIVED NOTHING CLOSE TO AN APOLOGY FROM BRIAN TEMPLIN, WHO CLAIMED TO HAVE DONE EVERYTHING HE COULD TO CATCH WHOEVER WAS RESPONSIBLE. I have a story about how his actions caused the thief who could easily have been caught the next day to escape and run away for MONTHS after we proved he had stolen it (thanks to records kept from the pawn shop). While this does not fall under the same category of psychological torment from one’s peers, I see a similarity in that both principals have taken a course of inaction on bullying, focusing on more pressing issues like making sure peoples jeans don’t have holes above the ankle.

    However, all of that said, I would like to say that Holt’s anti-bullying policy, FOR THE MOST PART works, at least at the main campus. There are a select few teachers who participate in the bullying at times who should probably have a stern talking to, but for the most part the teachers at Holt High School have been saviors. THEY are the ones who encourage the anti-bullying policy, not the principals. They serve to help students feel accepted, and ensure that their learning environment is much more safe. They are not perfect, but they do their best.

    On a personal note, I think that Mrs. Erin Umpstead especially deserves medals for making students feel comfortable, safe, and loved in school. I’ve never seen someone so devoted to making learning comfortable and human.

  76. Thanks aunt Tasha. Thanks for having an eye out for me. At first, I will edmit, I was embarrassed of this. Knowing some kids from school will see this. But honestly, who cares? I have an awesome aunt with an awesome blog! I really do hope this does help other kids getting bullied.

    Mom, I love you! I know I’m not the easiest kid to have, but you still handled everything with elegance and grace. You’re a true inspiration that I hope to be like when I’m a mom. In The processes of getting bullied, you were always asking what you should do. I told you that I didn’t need help, and I honestly might not have needed it. But I know you helped others with the same problem. I love you so much. Thank you times a million.

    To everyone who read this and commented, thank you so much for all the support. I don’t even know half of you and you guys still care about the situation. Thank you for the nice, loving comments. They deffinetly keep me going every day.

    Lilly

    P.S. sorry for any spelling mistakes. I’m on my phone. Darn auto correction is failing me.

    • Lilly, like I have always said…. To the ends of the earth I will go for you! I love you more than you can imagine. If you walk away (even if you walk funny) knowing that it’s not just crazy ol mom saying it…. You are more courageous than anyone I know, it’s been time well spent!!! You can’t deny it…. You’ve read all the posts!!! Mom

  77. Dear Lily and family:
    I\’m so glad Lily\’s got great grown-ups in her corner. I was bullied almost incessantly from grade 3. A move in grade 4 did nothing to help. I know there were some adults trying to help but sending me to guidance just sent the message that the problem was with me, not them. I did not take that message well. (It still cheeses me off, actually.) My mom, however, was always in my corner and fought for me with every trick she had or could learn. She transferred me to a different school for high school even though it meant she had to get up and drive me. I made good friends in the band and had a good time from then on, though there\’s still a lot about dealing with people that I have to learn and un-learn. Keep on keepin\’ on and hold on to each other. It won\’t always be this way.

  78. Wow, we moved our kids from that district years ago, and after reading this, just proves why we moved! My heart goes out to Lily and her family. I cannot believe that it went that far without just a simple apology!!! Especially since lily was injured! Its a shame after growing up there, she now has to move, but on the same token, she’s probably not saddened to leave! Kids are special and the system failed her! I hope she is able to trust again! Shame on the entire board of education at Holt high school!!!! It’s sad that it takes a tragedy to get their attention, and by the way this sounds very political to me!!!:(

  79. Dear Lillian,
    I am sitting here a twenty-seven year old woman with four wonderful children wishing that for just one day I could go back to being a freshman again so that I could walk down those halls by your side with our heads held high and give all of those children a peice of my mind. You are a verry brave and motivated little girl and I am proud to be able to hear and share your story. My son gets bullied alot where we live and I can understand your mothers frustration. I pray that Both you andd my son will someday be able to confront these inconsiderate children as adults and let them know just what they have done…Nothing…because you are still you. You are stong, and kind, funny and amazing, and there is nothing that can take that from you. I know that you will grow up to do something amazing and I am glad that you have such a wonderful family. Always remember that the only opinion that matters is Gods and he loves you just the way you are…for he made you just the way he wanted you to be.

    Sincerely,
    Pamela Herrick

  80. This is amazing, and I’m so glad it’s here. My name is Lainey Johnson, and I go to Holt High School. Lilly is one of the absolute most beautiful girls I know, inside and out. Her humor got me through fifth hour during the most tedious days. Helping her was something I didn’t have to think twice about. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and I feel so blessed to have such a great friend in my life. I truly appreciate everyone’s kind words about me, but I was just doing the right thing, and knowing what an amazing person Lilly is, I’m sure she would have done the same for me. I love the way Lilly is. I wouldn’t change anything about her. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know her and become close with her. She is strong, loving, hilarious, and completely perfect as she is. As I will be attending the district again next year and won’t say much because of this factor, I will say the adults in the situation acted like a bunch of kids way younger than ourselves, and it was absolutely obvious they had their own personal reputations in mind, not the safety and well being of the students, and the blatantly obvious bullying problem in our school. From the beginning I have stood my ground in this matter, and will continue to. I also hope to attend the board meeting and share my experience with how the situation was dealt with. Bullies ARE stupid, and I won’t stand for it! And if I can do my part by helping even one person by standing up for them as I did for Lilly, maybe other kids will to. Lilly has such a great support system, and I hope she knows that I am always here for her through thick and thin! I love you, SO much, Lilly!

    • Thank you Laney. I am so glad you have been able to read all of these posts because as you see, you are a hero as well! You will never know (until you are a mother) what a special place you have in my heart. When you hear your child is hurt and someone stands up to lend a hand a mother feels comfort. You had no responsibilitys in this matter but you stepped forward anyway! Like they have all said, you are a hero! Your mother has taught you well and you acted with concern and confidence! Much love, Ginnie Torok

  81. Lilly,

    I’m so sorry to hear this has happened to you. Like a lot of people, I had trouble with bullies when I was growing up too. A lot of it was because I have geeky interests and liked to read a lot, I didn’t wear makeup, and some family drama. High school was especially frustrating for a number of factors–one of them being that I had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis when I was younger and it went into remission, but then I started having trouble again in high school. My classmates didn’t get it and thought I was faking or just clumsy since I’d at least tried doing sports like gymnastics, and then there I was breaking uniform by wearing sneakers, tripping over myself in the hallway, dropping things, and sometimes walking funny. I still have problems from the damage JRA caused, and some other stuff going on that several doctors have argued about what it actually is. Sometimes I use a wheelchair now, sometimes I use a cane. Sometimes I can skip both! \o/ A lot of folks have replied on here already with some good advice in general, but there’s some stuff that I really wish I’d known 10-15 years ago, not just about bullies.

    First off, walk the way that YOU need to walk, however it gets you through your day. Do NOT make your own balance worse or put yourself at risk just to try to look more normal! When people criticize me for something that’s a direct result of my body being aggravating, I look at them and say, “I’m walking funny/using a cane/in a wheelchair/holding my silverware like a two-year-old because my joints don’t work right–my immune system gets confused and attacks them like it normally would an infection. Right now, this is as good as it gets. Feel free to go around if I’m holding up your day.” You don’t ever HAVE to tell someone information like that, but I find that it helps. Most folks seem to realize they’re kinda being a jerk and at minimum they’ll back off. I stopped trying to tell people it was arthritis unless I had the time for a lengthy “but isn’t that just old people?” conversation.

    Granted, that might not ACTUALLY be the ABSOLUTE VERY BEST EFFORT POSSIBLE for that very moment. However, I have to keep a bit in reserve for emergencies. If I wear myself out trying to look just so and keep up top speed from one place to another and THEN the fire alarm goes off? Eegh.

    For a long time I refused to even consider using a wheelchair. Not just because it seemed like giving up, but because wheelchairs are for paralyzed people, right? I felt I wasn’t disabled enough to use a wheelchair. I was wrong. I fell down a lot, I ended up with a lot more sprains and injuries than I would have otherwise had, and moreover I missed out on a lot because I wouldn’t use one. It does take some getting used to and it can be annoying to be at waist height (or butt height) on everyone else, but places are getting better and better about things like ramps and elevators, leaving enough space, and so on. On bad days, I don’t push myself too much–I have to have help from friends. However, none of them MIND doing so. My shorter friends joke that it’s nice to be taller than someone else for once, when I’m in my chair. ^_^ (I’m 5’10” standing up, so it’s a pretty big difference!) The point of canes and wheelchairs is to help you get from one place to another. If you need to use one, do! If you have a better day next week and you’ll do better to walk it, DON’T make yourself stick to using it just because you think people will expect you to or question the back and forthing. Some folks WILL ask; they’ll be confused. It’s up to you if you want to explain why or not. I tend to return true intentionally rude comments with sarcasm, and everything else with a joke or simple explanation, or both. Sometimes even the really really rude folks get simple explanations… it depends in part on how much patience I have that day.

    I also do stuff to make my canes and wheelchair really MINE. I don’t use a normal cane. I use a trekking pole instead. They’re designed for hiking, but it’s a lot easier for me to adjust depending on the height of the shoes I’m wearing that day, and how I want to grip it, too. It’s also a LOT lighter than a regular cane, and it collapses when I want it out of the way at a meal or on a plane. Some days I need it more for the extra balance point, but some days I need it to lean on heavily and it works great for both. I painted my last one purple with black accents. I just got a new set and I’m still debating between a sky theme for this paint job, or superheroes. I’ve been known to wire a tiny string of battery powered LED lights onto the thing around the holidays. ^_^ On my wheelchair, I replaced the small front wheels with a pair designed for razor kick scooters. They light up with rainbow colors when I roll. I have a few different backpacks that I use on my chair when I’m out and about–one of them’s a Justice League bag. (I wore out my Star Wars one.) I’ve woven glow bracelets through my spokes at Halloween and at parties and clubs. I like it, it expresses some of my interests, and it cheers me up a little. I also get a lot of positive comments on the modifications. :)

    Having a chronic health problem can suck. Heck, it OFTEN sucks, especially if it’s one that wears you out or leaves you in pain all of the time. I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now. Smiles, jokes, and sarcasm can help a lot, though. Sometimes I’ll get an odd look for being silly about it. I’m pretty up front about that–especially on the bad days, I can be silly about it and grin and move on with my life as best I can, or I can sit in a corner in my room and be a cranky b**** about it. It’s funny, but given the option, most folks vote for silly over b****y. Yeah, I occasionally cry about it, or sit and be dismal for a bit or vent to someone close, but doing it all the time DOES mean giving up.

    I’d love to tell you that people stop bullying entirely and are always considerate beings once they’re out of high school. Many folks DO improve. However, as you’ve found with your principal, not every authority figure is right. Sometimes the one you have to question and argue with is your doctor. It sounds like you’ve got a good relationship with your family, and a really good friend in Lainey. Strengthen those bonds and welcome new ones as you can. Be your own advocate, but accept help from the people who love you, too.

    Good luck with the coming year!

    ~Rin

  82. The relationship between parents and educators is far too adversarial, and I believe, sadly, the adversity often begins with the educators in Holt, especially the administration. When neither sets of parents nor the police officer assigned to the schools were advised of or invited to the meeting between a student who had been injured severely enough on school property to be sent for a medical exam and the student who had been accused of injuring her, the meeting must be regarded as never happening, especially when the injured student reports it didn’t happen. A Principal who wants to maintain in the face of this that the meeting did happen is not behaving with integrity. Abuse cannot be tolerated or covered up. An investigation into it must be open. Further victimizing the victim by asking her the same question three times when it was answered the first time it was asked is perpetuating the abuse. This case was clearly botched by the administration and a full and open disclosure is needed immediately. There are procedures that should be followed by educators to prevent false accusations. If those procedures were not followed, then the professional has only himself to blame if trouble results. Surely a school district the size of Holt/Dimondale requires and can hire professionals with enough training and experience to implement basic child protection guidelines.

  83. When the government mandates education, and provides public schools for our children, and we put our children into their care, they are responsible for the care of our children and are accountable to the parents and the taxpayers for how those schools are conducted. From those schools issue forth the the future adult citizens of our nation. Thankfully, in Michigan we have the option of schools of choice, charter schools, private schools and homeschooling. This enables us to escape any broken system that’s not working for us or our child. However, we just might end up with a damaged child in the process.
    -A Holt alumni, current homeschooler

  84. This makes my blood boil. I have a high school age daughter with Friedreich’s Ataxia too. She has always been treated kindly by other students in her school despite having used a rolling walker for the past five years. This coming year she will be in a wheelchair at school. I will writing a letter to the principal and entire school board to voice my unhappiness for what they have done to Lilly.

  85. While beautifully written, this blog leaves me with so many mixed emotions!

    Dismay – at the apparent inability of so many adults to handle situations like this swiftly, correctly, and in a way that helps bullied children feel safe and heard;

    incredible love – for Ginnie, Lilly, Ben, Molly, Sylvie and Scott (and now Tashmika, even though I haven’t met you!!), who are my own daughter’s beloved “other” family;

    sadness -that so many young people seem to be losing the ability to feel empathy and show respect;

    and finally, hope – because so many people are starting to recognize the lifelong impact that bullying leaves on victims.

    We all need to call out bullying behavior when we see it – even when it is our OWN children doing the bullying.

    I am also hopeful that schools and districts will start getting the message as parents continue to pull their students out and enroll them elsewhere that we won’t tolerate lackluster administration, that our kids DO matter, and that they must create tolerant, respectful environments for our children to learn in.

    I am deeply sorry that our beautiful Lilly had to go through (and through…and through) this experience. I am deeply sorry for all the children facing this all-too common cruelty with no adult support. At the same time, I am deeply grateful for outstanding parents like Ben and Ginnie and wonderful aunts like Tamika – but I am especially grateful for beautiful and amazing children like Lilly.

    Lilly, Megan and I love you and your family so very much, and we are SO very proud of you!!

  86. Lilly,

    I’m so impressed with how mature you are. You are even defending your principal. It’s too bad he wouldn’t do the same for you. I think that speaks volumes about your character and his. Hopefully he has learned something from this experience and will handle things better next time.

    I have two kids with Friedreich’s Ataxia. Thanks for being a good example for them. I’m so glad you have such a great family support system. I wouldn’t mess with your mom or aunt! I hope your experience at your new High School will be a good one. We are all pulling for you Lilly!

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  90. My thoughts are with your family. Bullies do so much damage that is hard to reverse and often hard to detect. You are a wonderful friend and Auntie. Be strong ang high five to Lilly and Ginnie. <3

    • Thank you…. I spent 2 hours with Johnny Scott yesterday talking about problems and solutions to bullying…. I wake up this morning to see disapproval for not telling the boys side of the story. I thought “this part of it” was laid to rest…. And I was moving on!!!!
      Thank you!
      Ginnie

  91. My email, sent to Mr. Nick Johnson, this morning:

    Mr. Johnson,

    My name at Holt High School was Layele (pronounced like Gail) Watters, or Layele the Whale, or Whaling Waters, or Fat Bastard, take your pick. I was pushed, shoved into lockers, tripped, had gum …stuck in my hair, chewed up food spit on my locker, even had a chair pulled out from under me a couple times. That ‘accident’ is not only painful, it is humiliating. Let me walk you through it. It always happens when the classroom, or in my case, the library, was full. Everyone’s chattering, settling down and you set your books on the table, and go to sit and end up on the floor because someone thought it would be funny to follow you, wait for you to get ready to sit and at the perfect time, pull the chair out. They had to time it perfectly or it wouldn’t work. When the timing went right, you are on the floor, again. Its awful to suddenly be on the floor with everyone in the room staring, laughing and pointing fingers at you. And it is everyone in the room, because even the students who didn’t actually see it were nudged by another and told what happened. Every eye in the room ends up on you and they are laughing with you. Not at you, with you. It SUCKS!! The bully looks down on you, which makes it even worse somehow, laughs, walks away and gets congratulated by his/her buddies. If you cry, it gets worse, because then you are a crybaby and if you tell, then you are a tattle tale crybaby. Your friends can do nothing but help you get back up, because if they stand up to the bully, then they call attention to themselves and find themselves the next target. The pain from this ‘accident’ fades, but the scars last a lifetime. I will be 37 years old next month and remember like it was yesterday.

    I did what I was supposed to, I got up got through the hour and went to the principal’s office. I think I spent more time there than I did in class some days and no one helped. They were nice. They started by saying, ‘We will look into it’ or ‘Are you sure it wasn’t an accident?’ They would talk to the other kids in the situation and it would come down to their word against mine. They had their buddies that would say, ‘No, it was an accident’, ‘It didn’t happen the way she thinks’ and I would be the liar.

    Now here it is almost 20 years later and the same situation is happening in the same school. Lilly Torok had a chair pulled from under her, you know the whole story and you’re saying their story is false. It’s happening again and will continue to happen until someone changes things. You are in a position to change things. Holt is supposed to have an anit-bullying policy in place. Start using it. It is much easier to believe the bully. That way, there isn’t anything wrong that you have to fix, your day goes as it is supposed to, the bully won’t even remember pulling the chair, but Lilly will. I know she will. The right way is not always the easiest way.

    Layele Sitar

    Senior Class 1993

  92. Reading this article doesn’t surprise me that Holt hasn’t changed any from my days in school system. I can think of a few times people got into fights with me, and I was physically assaulted. No one ever got suspended for that.

    Tim Skutt – 93

  93. No one deserves to be bullied, no one. My heart goes out to Lily because she sounds like an extraordinary girl. However, here’s my problem with this article. I know the “young man” addressed in the story and he’s not by any means “a bully.” He’s not perfect. He’s young, he’s still maturing. Did he mean to hurt her? No. He’s not the kind of kid to WANT to hurt someone. I don’t think it’s fair for this article to be written without his side either considering you do not know this “young man” and neither does Ginny or Lilly. I have his side of the story and yes it IS possible to accidentally “pull out a chair” from underneath her. This whole thing has been taken way out of hand. Just because she has been bullied by other students at the high school, does not automatically make him the main culprit. I do think Holt should institute a better bullying policy because given her disabilities, I know she’s been bullied. High school students can be mean. There were other witnesses that SIDED with his story and no, they didn’t just agree with him because he isn’t the “different” one in the story. This is just ridiculous.

    • I wish I did have his side. I truly wish the school would have dealt with the issue nine months earlier than they did. I told my sister-in-law’s story to help her protect her niece. I do not find that to be ridiculous. I wrote a blog post about my family and I do it all the time.

      If you don’t like it, I get it. It got a lot of attention. That was my goal. I wanted as many people as possible to read my nieces story. I hoped that by reading it, the school would be forced to address the issue of bullying on campus. Like you said, no one deserves to be bullied and my niece seemed to be getting way more than her fair share of it.

      I spent months agonizing over telling this story for several reasons. You don’t know me but I laugh a lot. I hate confrontation and I love people. My blog tends to be about my kid’s, their shenanigans and my personal life. I encourage way more than I tear down. I do a lot of “You are not alone” style pieces. Take a moment and click through. You’ll see I am generally on still waters.

      I think you are right. His side of the story is very important. I am sure many would be happy to hear it. I do not blame the children in this incident. I blame the administration at Holt High School 9th Grade Campus that let a situation that could have been solved with a simple apology OR a full statement (which of course they sent to the entire staff after this blog was published and Ginny was not included in that mass e-mailing) to the family of the little girl who was injured. Ridiculous. I completely agree.

      PS – I am glad he is not the “different” one and I am glad that although Lilly says he was making fun of her that day, that bullying is not a part of his daily repertoire. However, if your young man were on the other end of the chair, I would have written this blog post for him too. In fact, I kind of did. Because, like you, I believe that no child and their family should ever have to wait 9 months for an explanation.

    • Please explain how a chair is ‘accidentally’ pulled out from under someone? I have had this happen to me and it wasn’t an accident then and I have a hard time believing it was an accident this time. Please understand that I am not attacking you, I just want to understand.

      • “Please explain how a chair is ‘accidentally’ pulled out from under someone?”

        It’s simple, Layele: It isn’t.

        I teach middle schoolers. Anywhere from ages 12-15. And I’ll tell you: These things, 99% of the time, DON’T happen by accident.

        Children, specifically tweens and young teens, are very good at hiding their nastiness from adults. It’s an age you couldn’t PAY me to be again, I assure you. What kid would admit to an adult “yeah, I bully others”? “Sure, I was teasing them mercilessly.” “I was calling her names.” Bullies are cowards. They show their cowardice by attacking those they perceive as weaker or defenseless–which generally is a group that doesn’t include adults. Part of a bully’s defenses rely on presenting a spotless (or at the least, harmless) image to adults so that when their acts are reported, it is difficult for adults to believe. “Oh, are you SURE it wasn’t just an accident?”

        Part of the problem with how bullying has been handled in the past is the tendency to minimize incidents in order to preserve calm waters. When someone is brave enough to speak up, adults view their reports skeptically, which reduces the likelihood they will speak up again in the future. In turn, increasing the likelihood that they will continue to be victimized. It’s a vicious circle.

        Here’s what I’ve learned through years of teaching. The vast majority of bullying reports are, in fact, true. If Lilly says he was teasing/making fun of/bullying her, I’m inclined to believe it. Further, the notion that several others backed up the boy’s side of the story doesn’t surprise me. Teens, even just people in general, will do things in a group they would never do individually. Others may back up his story to avoid becoming targets of his bullying. Or, sadly, may have been a part of it.

        We WANT to believe that the children we know aren’t capable of this level of nastiness. But this doesn’t change the reality of adolescence, or the culture of middle/high school. One only needs to look at news reports and suicide statistics to see that. Whitewashing a child’s behavior is only doing a disservice to Lilly AND the boy who hurt her. He gets the message that “it was an accident” is the magic band-aid for his actions, and she is sent the message that she is over-reacting–or worse.

    • Dear Ridiculous,

      You know this boy very well, please pass along the message I have tried to relay to everyone that I have told my daughters story to! Ready… I believe 100% that when that boy pulled that chair out from under my daughter and saw her fall, and she fell HARD, he learned a lesson. He learned a very quick lesson about consequences for your actions. I have said beyond that…. “The boy” was the least of my concern.

      Read it again, we spoke of Nick Johnson’s part and Johnny Scott’s part in all of this.

      I stated the school did wrong by the boys mother as well. If my child was involved in an incident at school that sent another student to seek medical attention for contusions, bruising and possible fractured ribs, I’d want to be notified by the school that day! Not by a police officer! Tables turned, I would have followed up with assuring the child was ok, and all was well with that student, accident or not!

      Please don’t attribute my daughters disabilities to this incident! Also, my daughter was the “different” one…. Assuming you are an adult…. Show me a normal 14 year old, I’d LOVE to meet them!

      You know this boy is a good kid, sounds like Lilly is an extraordinary kid (she is), but it sure sounds like you are pretty close to this situation! You know other students “sided” with the boy…. I’m assuming Ridiculous is not your real name!

      Why are you revisiting this? Do you want to share the boys story? By all means please do so, but why have you waited one full year?

      Post his story…. Hundreds of people following this blog would love to hear “his side”, even though most all are concerned with the bulling policies and how THE SITUATION was handled.

      PLEASE, don’t put blame on the victim. There are facts to the story…. And because you seem to have so much knowledge of the situation and the 2 students, don’t leave out the facts!

      Finally Ridiculous, maybe you know… I have 4 students in Holt. Not a week goes by that I don’t volunteer in one of the schools. I’ve attended 2 different assemblies in Holt schools as well as 2 different assemblies on bullying in 2 different school districts. So, the blog was to draw attention to a SERIOUS PROBLEM we have in Holt. I can honestly say…. I will go to the ends of the earth for my daughter or any of my kids. And I put actions where I see a need or a problem.

      With all sincerity, I look forward to hearing “the boys” side of the story! You seem to have an insiders perspective!

      Thanks for taking the time to visit the blog,
      Ginnie

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  96. I have worked in public schools and have seen first hand how children can sometimes treat each other–I was an educational assistant in a Life Skills special education classroom, so our kids were good targets, as many of them couldn’t even respond because they were nonverbal. Kids can be incredibly cruel to each other, purposefully, something adults may not want to admit. I love working with individuals with disabilities. Some of the best people I have known and know have disabilities.

    Ginnie and Lilly’s situation is nothing new. Honestly, would a child fracture a rib, on purpose, just to get an apology? I don’t think so. There are a surprising number of things that go on in schools that parents are unaware of. And yes, some schools are definitely worse than others because of the individuals in charge of them.

    Maybe people are underestimating how serious the issue of bullying is? While aimed primarily at kids who are LGBT and/or confused about their orientation (and don’t even think about getting sidetracked here by your opinion on that here. It’s a fact, some kids have different orientations), the “It Gets Better project” also is aimed at bullying in general, for any kid. Kids commit suicide because of it. I’ve lived a couple of hours from Portland (Oregon, not Maine) since 2005, and 2 kids that I personally know of have committed suicide because of it in this area. That’s two too many. I don’t know what it’s like in the rest of the state, or even around here–those were reported on the news. Why does this happen? Because adults don’t take it seriously. They think it’s a joke, a prank, kids will be kids. Kids aren’t being kids when the kids they are “joking around with” don’t want to go to school each day because of it.

    Lilly was brave to deal with what she shouldn’t have had to deal with. It should never have happened in the first place. It was cruel and mean for the boy to do what he did. Sure, it was an accident. LIke in abuse cases at home where someone “fell” or “hit their head on a cabinet.” Oh, those clumsy kids. Do you know what we need to do, as a nation? Listen to our children. They’re much smarter than we give them credit for. If a kid comes home complaining of the same sorts of thing happening every day, most likely he or she isn’t making it up for their own amusement–they are looking to you, the person they still trust at this point, to help them. If they stop telling you, it means they don’t trust you to tell you anymore, because you haven’t done anything to help them.

    Lilly has a mom who listens to her. Administrators aren’t used to having to deal with problems that come up (on the other hand, I have seen some great administrators, too), or persistent parents. They get labeled as “problem parents.” I reported something illegal going on in one of the classrooms I worked in, and that made me a “problem employee.” The higher ups don’t like anyone who makes a bump in the road, regardless of the seriousness of the consequences.

    I applaud Ginnie for sticking up for Lilly. A child has the right to go to school unmolested by her peers. To not be afraid to go to school. To have responsible administration at the school who knows how to deal with bullying and act decisively and appropriately when it happens. It takes a lot of courage and stamina to be the one who swims the opposite direction. There’s a quote that I read for the first time, of all places, in the bathroom of a vegan restaurant: “Stand up for what you believe in, Even if you stand alone.”

    Enough said, I babble. I think I’ve probably made my point. Good luck, Ginnie and Lilly. :-)

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