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Question:

From Downers Grove, Illinois, USA:

My 10 year old, who is in the fifth grade, has had diabetes since age two. in addition, she has hypothyroidism and vitiligo. She has always attended a parochial school. The last school was the first school she attended, and we found the principal and teachers to be very supportive. The parents and children were also wonderful. There never were any problems or issues with the school with regard to the diabetes. My daughter loved school, was always very outgoing, and had great fun with her friends. We moved one year ago, and as a result, she has been attending a new school.

We changed schools at the beginning of last school year, and things appeared to be fine until the end of the school year. A few boys start teasing her about her diabetes and then proceeded to hit and kick her. When the boys were counseled about this event, they told the assistant principal that the reason it is happening was because, "she thinks she's cool because she has diabetes". After this, she was not hit or kicked for the last 2 weeks of school. The same problem has started again this school year, and we have been meeting with the school principal and teachers to address this problem. My daughter has been hit and called names such as the "diabetic queen" and "freak of nature". My daughter has gone from an outgoing child to an introverted and shy little girl. I have set an appointment with a psychologist to have her evaluated because of this change in behavior.

What can be done to protect my daughter from being physically and psychologically harassed over a condition that she has no control over? My concern too is that her blood sugars skyrocket when she is humiliated by such events. She has always been taught that she is no different than any other child, and that she can do anything and everything she wants to in life. She was at a school where she was a person who happened to have a diabetes to a school where she is diabetes and not a person.

I have four other children, younger than my daughter, who are also devastated by these events. I want to make my children's school experience better, and I'll do whatever it takes.

Answer:

Teasing hurts. Your school is not doing enough to protect your daughter from these bullies, and I strongly encourage you to become more assertive in your demand that they address this issue with the parents of these bullies. Physically hurting a child is not acceptable -- ever. It also sounds like the kids in this school do not know what diabetes is. It is their lack of understanding that may be, in part, the reason for this teasing. Think about having the school organize some education for the kids about what diabetes is and what it is not (it's not contagious, for example). In the meantime, your daughter needs some strategies to use to help her.

Keep in mind that bullies want to feel powerful and want to do so by making someone else feel ashamed. Bullies are unable to understand how other people feel; i.e., they can not empathize with others. Although some teasing can be done in jest, really mean-spirited teasing is often seen beginning around the third grade. The goal for the person being teased is to insure that the bully does not have any power over them; i.e., that the bully is not able to make them feel ashamed.

Some strategies for your daughter to use are:

  1. Your daughter should not be alone in school or on the playground, but surrounded by friends. Bullies tend to look for their targets when they are alone.
  2. Your daughter should tell an adult immediately. This is not tattling. This is protecting herself.
  3. Your daughter should never look at the bully in the eye and should try to ignore the verbal comments if possible.
  4. Your daughter should have a laundry list of snappy come-backs, such as saying "So?" along with an icy stare; or "Why would you want to say something like that?"; or "Are you trying to be mean-spirited?"

JWB

DTQ-20001102233122
Original posting 3 Dec 2000
Posted to Social Issues: School and Daycare

  
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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:16
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