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This one is about: The Concept of ZERO TOLERANCE - What Parents can do About Teasing in School

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What Parents Can Do about Teasing in School

by Joanne Green

Teasing in the schools -- what can we do??? A lot! It boils down to the practice of ZERO TOLERANCE in the schools. We ALL have a right to demand it (not ask, but demand). Zero Tolerance means that NO individual will be allowed to tease or ridicule ANY individual for ANY reason in the school setting. Sound impossible? No, not at all. My school does it. (and yes, I demanded it - but I didn't get much of a fight from them).

Gone are the days when the adage, "Kids can be cruel" is simply an accepted state of affairs. Kids can be dirty too, but we teach them to clean themselves. Kids can be lazy, but we expect them to complete their homework. Kids need to KNOW what is expected of them and what will and will NOT be tolerated. And teasing other children simply must NOT be tolerated.

I am not talking about some big-time punishing attitude. I am talking about stated expectations (and yes, consequences) and EDUCATION. And role modeling by the adult population as well.

Prepared programs are nice, but in my opinion (clearly labeled here) they should be nothing more than a springboard. The REAL education will come from the heart of those who are most keenly touched by this problem. I take the book, How Different is Anthony (by Wide Smiles) to the schools -- and now Cleftie, the cleft-affected dog puppet program, and present those stories to kids in the classrooms (not just my children's classes any more) and then spend a while just talking to the kids - being honest with them, and talking on their level. I also take "Thumper the Cleft Affected Bunny" (Judy Cook Publishers) to the schools. Many of the teachers have requested their own copies. We use Thumper to talk about teasing and bullying. It's VERY effective -- as a springboard to discussion, and not as a complete package.

And I have volunteered to do Teacher Inservice trainings to talk to the teachers about handling the phenomenon of differences in their classrooms. One teacher, for instance (my son's first grade teacher) prided herself on her tolerance -- but was not aware that she was, in fact, pointing out the differences in specific children in her zeal to prove her tolerance (and this - IN the class). Not a bit subtle there! LOL  -- I mean, how would the kids know she was tolerating differences if she didn't keep pointing them out all the time!!

I told her that REAL tolerance is achieved when you have to stop and think first to remember which child in your class has the difference.TOTAL ACCEPTANCE HAPPENS WHEN THE DIFFERENCE CEASES TO DEFINE.

My kids have a number of various "targets" that would draw attention to their differences. The clefts are only one. Being Asian is another. Being Asian with European parents is another. Being adopted is another. Being abnormally small is another. Being "twins" (only 70 days apart in chronological age) is yet another. And in Jacob's case - - being 'unique' is another. (No way to define it -- that boy is just cut from a different bolt.) But guess what -- beyond all those differences, my children have every right to the same respect and acceptance that any other child has, and I demand it.

Kids are not different than they were in the '60's and '70's, when I was going through school. But their guidance IS. The expectations of the adults define the parameters of children's acceptable behavior.

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