By: Kyla Anderson
As we acknowledge October as National Bullying Prevention Month, I believe it is a service to my son and his experience to share his story. I hope his narrative can provide encouragement to other suffering students and prove that these incidents can be overcome.
It started in the third grade. But the bully was not who you would assume. It was not the other children. It was the teacher.
My son’s teacher berated him, yelling in front of the entire classroom. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him” is the feedback she relayed to my husband and me. Tyler’s self-esteem plummeted because of the constant stream of negative comments and poor treatment by his teacher.
Like most children, our son Tyler attended preschool and early elementary school at our local public school. When the bullying began at age 8, my husband and I went to the principal and asked that he be moved to another classroom. Unfortunately, our request not only went unanswered but also was not investigated.
To move our family away from this toxic environment, we planned to move to a different part of town. Due to the unpredictable housing market, we were unable to sell our house and forced to stay in the school that failed our son. Acknowledging that our son should not return to the schoolhouse where he was mistreated, we began researching our charter and private school options. We found a reasonably priced private school and immediately enrolled our two children. But the bullying continued. This time, it was other boys in his classroom.
Another problem continued: Our complaints were once again going unattended. We voiced our concerns to our teachers and principals, but we were ignored. Schools are supposed to nurture — not torture.
Our son Tyler was depressed. He said, “I am done living.” And my heart broke into a million pieces. He was worn out from the bullying and frustrated that nothing had changed. He said if this was what life looked like, he no longer wanted to live. I immediately marched into the principal’s office and pulled both of my children out of the school. This was the only way to stop the bullying.
We finished that academic year through home schooling. Thankfully, our prayers were answered the next year. We finally found an option that worked well for our family — an online public charter school had just opened in New Mexico. It included accredited teachers and face-to-face interactions with teachers and other students. We loved it.
Today, after three years of virtual school, our son has gained the confidence to return to the local bricks-and-mortar public high school. With much trepidation, I agreed. So far, it has been a positive experience. Tyler has encountered his offender since returning to a traditional school, but he has handled it with maturity and class. He does not feel the need to hide or run or otherwise escape these encounters.
Without the safe environment provided by his virtual-school experience, my son would not have regained his self-confidence to face his oppressor without confrontation, let alone return to the tainted environment. While this school of choice is not the best fit for everyone, it was the only viable choice for me and my family. Bullying did not win. Thanks to school choice, my son did.
Kyla Anderson is a virtual school parent in Santa Fe and state chairwoman of PublicSchool Options.org, which supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children. If anyone is interested in joining NM PSO, Kyla can be reached at kyla@public schooloptions.org.