She has spent more than $15,000 in the past year on medical treatment for her son, a victim of bullying.
And with seemingly very little cooperation from authorities to bring the bullies to justice, a St Thomas mother is at her wits end.
The woman, who requested anonymity, told Barbados TODAY that since her son entered secondary school last year, he has been the victim of “persecution and torture” at the hands of other students.
At 12 years old, her son has suffered a range of illnesses, including soft tissue damage and post-traumatic stress.
When he entered a rural secondary school last year, the aspiring veterinarian/architect only spent two weeks there due to bullying.
“The first Friday he came home, he had a boot print behind his left shoulder, his shirt was in a state, and when I asked him why he was in such a condition he said to me that this child had cuffed him in his ribs and kicked him in his back. So I went to the school the following Monday and spoke to the deputy head at the time and told him that I hope I wouldn’t have to come and deal with such issues anymore,” she said.
However, a week later, her son came home complaining of being taunted, adding that students had thrown rocks at him and tried to push him in front of a moving bus.
“The following day, a boy hit him in his back with a cricket bat,” she added.
The mother said that as soon as she was notified of the incident involving the cricket bat, she went to the school, only to learn that same evening that her son was vomiting and had diarrhea.
“My son was severely dehydrated and he was going delirious,” she said, adding that at one point, while she was speaking to her son, he thought he was speaking with his class teacher.
The mother said the principal of the school was dismissive whenever she sought to find out who was responsible for bullying her child.
“I had to be running around with him. It was a lot of pain and torture and he could not go to school. He missed the entire term,” she complained.
The mother said she has also been to the police several times.
She was successful in getting her son transferred to another secondary school, and thought that their nightmare would be over. However, that was not the case, as he reportedly continued to suffer abuse at the hands of other students.
The mother said she had witnessed him being bullied at that school several times, when she went to collect him .
“I complained for the instances I saw. Some of them I complained to the guidance counsellor about, as well as the headmaster,” she said. “You want to tell me all these things happening and the teachers are not seeing or knowing anything?”
The mother of three said her son was not known to be a troublemaker, adding that the incident of bullying intensified with one boy “pulling a knife on him, demanding money”.
“The same person continued to hit him during the week and in the following week injured his right hand,” she said, adding that she met with the parents of the child, the principal and the police. “The boy was supposed to be suspended for two weeks. As far as I know, he remained on the school compound every day until school was dismissed.”
The mother said the doctors suggested her son was suffering from post-traumatic stress last summer.
“He got up blind in one eye about a week or so before school was scheduled to start,” she said. “He got back his vision about two weeks later, but when I mentioned about going back to school again, the boy broke out with a hundred degree fever, diarrhea and vomiting.”
She said that since then, she had spoken to a principal at a private school, explaining all that was going on in an effort to get him enrolled there.
“My child can’t be walking about the place like a hostage,” she said.
However, the mother said, a senior education officer had made it clear that the Ministry of Education would not be paying for any private school.
“The actual victims are not getting any justice, but the bullies have all the right
. . .” she complained. “My child earned a spot in Government school and he should have been able to attend the school freely, just like anybody else.”
Expressing the view that bullying was rampant in schools, the mother said she wanted authorities to take the complaints and reports of bullying more seriously.
“Bullying is a serious problem and it is not necessarily being handled with the seriousness that it should be handled with at these schools, even with the police or the ministry. At the end of the day, I guess they have to wait for somebody to get killed and then say ‘cuh dear; oh, sorry’. But I am not dealing with that,” she said.
“Parents need to take their children’s complaints seriously and if you have a child that you can see is obviously being tormented by others, don’t sit down home and take it. No matter how insulting and disrespectful these people behave, make sure you go and do what you need to do for your child, because at the end of the day nobody can replace your child.
“I am not saying to tear off your clothes and behave bad. But sometimes it is very hard not to lose your temper, especially when you go to legal authorities and they try to push you around,” the mother added.
Recalling an incident of bullying which contributed to the death of a student, the mother feared that her son or other children could end up in a similar situation if stamping out the scourge was not treated as priority.
“You have big officials sitting down there and covering for bullies. But when, as a parent, you go and do what you need to do, you become the worst thing. You’re supposed to let them do your child as they please and you sit down and take it with a happy smile? Those expectations are just utterly ridiculous,” she said.