Three weeks ago today, my fourteen year old son was assaulted.
In the playground at the end of the school day, a boy in his year took off his coat and laid down his backpack. My son was facing in the opposite direction. This boy ran at full tilt toward my son and punched him hard in the back of the head. As he staggered to regain his balance, his assailant came round the front to punch him repeatedly and viciously in the face. So viciously that he bust open my son's lip and fractured his own finger.
He punched him at least five times. How do I know? Because these are the bruises that began to come out on his face five days later, and after his lip had healed.
This boy has been unpleasant to my son for about a year. My son wanted to ask a girl out last summer, so the boy asked her out instead telling him, "I don't even know why I did it. I don't like her."
By the start of this school year, he began to systematically alienate my son from the friendship group they were in. As frustrating and upsetting as this was, I counselled him to shake the dust from his feet and make new friends. He has. He no longer hangs out with the old group.
About two months ago, this boy started telling my son that he was going to fight him. "Why?" my son asked. The boy replied, "Because you're weaker than me." Later he asked, "Why do you hate me?" "Because I do," said the boy. My son responded, "I don't want to fight you. I'm not going to."
The threats increased until the whole year knew about them and it had become a nightly topic of conversation at our kitchen table. "What do I do if he wants to fight me?" "Walk away," I said. "What if he makes it impossible?" "I don't know," I said.
My son was suffering with anxiety, lack of appetite and depression. Finally I told him this was crazy and I was going to intervene. "NO, Mum," he said. "They'll call me a snitch." "Son," I said. "You're a kid. Let me do my job."
The next morning I went in to the school and spoke urgently with the Teacher in charge of their year. "This is completely unacceptable. My son has no argument with this boy and the bullying is relentless. I need you to intervene." "Right," she said. "I've got it."
One day later, I get a call from the school telling me that my son has been involved in a fight. Had my son finally lost his temper and swung out? No, he hadn't got the chance. He did manage to get one blow in before that same teacher pulled them apart.
That same teacher who failed to do anything has yet to contact me. She refuses to look at my son when she passes him at school. She is the "Head of Year." No comment has been her only response.
The Headmaster and the Chief Safeguarding Officer have taken great pains to protect the privacy of the assailant. He was given "a severe punishment" - an exclusion from school for one day, followed by one day's isolation.
No one told us that the boy would be back. My son found out on Social Media where friends said he announced that he'd be "free by Wednesday." I assured my son this could not be the case. The Head had assured me that "Normal School Activity" would not resume until due process had been carried out. I was wrong.
I reported it to the Police to get a crime number for reference. I did not press charges. I believe everyone should get one chance.
I suggested to the Head that he had a real opportunity now to speak to this generation growing up with the unreality of video games. "Here's an incident you can point to," I said. "This was an assault and it is now a police matter with ramifications beyond the school gates. It's serious. You can say violence is real, and it has real consequences - not just for the perpetrator, but also for the victim." He hasn't taken me up on it.
The boy continues to persecute my son. My son is strong, but there's a toll. "Why won't they expel him, Mum? Why don't they do anything?" What can I say.
The school counsellor, meant to give my son a safe space to vent, told him: "Sometimes in life you just have to get along with people you don't like." Really? Those that assault and abuse you?
A police liaison officer sent to speak to my son told him he wouldn't want to be a "Mama's boy" for involving the Police. Really? For an unprovoked, injurious assault? Isn't that just called a crime in the real world?
I continue to press the school for some type of meaningful discipline. Some form of resolution. My son has seen the school counsellor more than once and the Police Liaison Officer earlier this week. The Head tells me the other boy is going to see them next week. Next week?
The school tells me they've followed procedure. I respectfully suggested that the procedure is wrong. What is the message they are sending to the school body? To the boy himself? To my son? This was no scuffle, no "boys will be boys" altercation. This was not two-sided. What if the boy gets a knife? We still have no idea why my son became his target. There is no competition. No group of friends. No girl. Has the school even asked him why he did it? They won't tell me. They're protecting his privacy.
Am I alone in this? Are we now living in a world gone so mad that we fear the repercussions of executing meaningful consequences? Of saying, "This is not O.K. For anyone." This boy is going off the rails, is the school helping him by overlooking it?
What is being modelled to my son? This is not the behaviour I have raised my children to tolerate. How can they be expected to retain respect for an authority that doesn't respect them?
We did receive one letter from the school last week. To say that my son had been late and punctuality was a concern.
What can I do? Whom can I tell? What good can I bring from this?
I refuse to believe that we are too late for this generation.