My Kindergartner Was Bullied on The School Bus: What I Learned

Bullying. Yes, it’s a thing.

It comes in all shapes and sizes, and it can happen earlier than you think. My son was bullied in Kindergarten. It happened on the school bus, and the culprit was a fourth grade child.


Even two years later, talking about the incident still makes my blood absolutely boil!

My baby, a five-year-old, had to endure an older child calling him “ugly”, spitting at him, and stomping on his beloved school artwork.

I can still recall the evidence: a painted picture of a sunflower that my son so proudly made in art class, with a big, brown shoeprint right across the middle. My little guy was devastated. He ran off of the school bus crying, straight into the shelter of my welcoming and loving arms. To say it was awful is an understatement. I cried along with him, I was so upset and just so mad! My little guy had been ecstatic at the thought of riding the bus. He couldn’t wait for school to begin for that very reason. And a mean kid ruined the entire experience for him.

Kids are mean. It’s a fact of life. I can still remember the “mean girls” in my elementary school – their harsh words, and their exclusionary tactics. As an adult on the cusp of forty, I now recognize the behavior for what it was: insecurity, a desperation to belong, a cry for attention and maybe an unstable home life. I’m certain the child who bullied my son fell into one or all of those categories. But that’s not my son’s fault, and he shouldn’t have had to bear the burden. Especially as a Kindergartner! It’s something that has stuck with him, a trauma of sorts. He’s moved passed it, but he will never forget his first bullying experience. Neither will I.

Many of you are preparing to send your babies to Kindergarten in the upcoming weeks. I’m not trying to scare you {I promise, I’m not!}. I’m in the same boat. My second baby starts his Kindergarten year in just six short days. Like his brother, he will be riding the bus. The same bus where the incident occurred with my oldest child. Of course, thinking about my little five-year-old riding the bus brings back some unpleasant memories. But as with all of life’s experiences – good and bad – there are lessons to be learned.

Here is the number one thing that my son’s bullying incident taught me: I am my child’s #1 advocate, and his voice.

  • You and you alone are your child’s voice, the one who can stand up for him or her in a way that no one else can. Yes, there are caring teachers and administrators who can and will make an impact on your child, but you are #1. If something seems amiss, talk to your child and listen – really listen – to what they have to say.
  • At the same time, encourage your child to tell you about their day at school. This might seem self-explanatory, but we all know how crazy the after-school rush can be between homework, activities, dinner and bedtime! Take a few moments with your child to digest the day, from their little person perspective.
  • Don’t hesitate to send an e-mail to the teacher, or even place a phone call to the school if you suspect something – anything – isn’t right with how your child might be being treated by peers or older students. You know your child the best, and undoubtedly want what’s best for your child. If something isn’t right, make your voice heard. Make your child’s voice heard.

Bullying is a serious and unfortunately very prevalent issue. School districts across the country have policies in place to address this ongoing problem. For example, The Michigan Department of Education’s stance on bullying was put into effect in 2000. In part, public schools:

should develop a plan designed to prevent bullying, and develop methods to react to bullying when it occurs, as an integral part of a district-wide safety and discipline plan.

Even with a policy in place, resolving my son’s bullying issue wasn’t an overnight “fix”. The problem unfortunately lingered and persisted a week or so after I raised the red flag. I had to make my voice a little louder than I would have liked. At the time, I felt like I may have overstepped. But guess what? The bullying stopped. So, in retrospect, I’m so glad that I handled the incident in the manner that I did: respectfully but firmly, ensuring that my child would be protected going forward.

As parents, our little people look up to us, and give us their unyielding trust. It’s an enormous responsibility, but one that we are charged with safeguarding and fulfilling. It’s not always easy, or fun. But it’s what we do! When my son walked off of that bus crying, I knew I would do anything to fix what had happened, even if I wasn’t really sure where to start. I hope we never have to go through something like that again. But there are certain to be other challenges. When they occur, I’ll be sure to remember to take my own advice: I will always be the #1 advocate for my child.

Can you relate? Share a situation where you had to advocate for your child.

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