THE BROOKLYN PARENT: What Do You Do When Your Child is Being Bullied? | Not in Our Town

THE BROOKLYN PARENT: What Do You Do When Your Child is Being Bullied?


Brooklyn, NY: A girl in 9-year-old Malik Jones’ * class called him a monkey and said he was dirty. Other students started repeating the girl’s words. When Malik touched something, classmates would wipe the spot he had touched.
Malik is one of three African American students in his elementary school class in Brooklyn. The class is predominantly white, but includes some Latino and Asian children.
“Malik would come home every night and want to wash his hair, but he has dreadlocks and he doesn’t need to wash his hair that frequently. Then we found out he was being called dirty at school,” recalled Mark Jones, Malik’s father. “He is the darkest child in the class and the only one with dreadlocks.”
One day in class, the girl who led the teasing made a mocking reference to “Malik’s face.” Malik had a tantrum. When his father was called to pick him up at school, Malik could not stop crying. “For five to seven minutes, he kept crying and repeating the words “ever, ever, ever,” Jones said.
Malik’s parents have had many meetings with his teacher and school administrators about their son’s racial harassment. After identifying the young girl’s behavior as bullying, the teacher read a book to the class about bullying behavior, hoping to change the children’s relationship. The outcome of this intervention is still unknown.  
Jones told school officials that his options were either to ensure that the classroom environment changes, or to pull his son out of the school. The school has pledged to address the issue, but Jones remains guarded.
“My son was having an experience in the school that caused psychological trauma for him,” he said. “I want my son to learn that skill set of coping with people who are racist or simply insensitive…but I don't want him to suffer through this.”
Millions of families experience the trauma of bullying and harassment. We are looking to the Not In Our Town Network for advice, guidance and best practices.
How do you transform an environment where a child is being harassed?
What would you do if this were your child? If you were the teacher or school administrator what would you do? What can a PTA do to help support families like the Joneses?
If you are a parent, has something like this happened to you?
Please share your responses, expertise and stories in the comments field below.
*Note: This story is based on an interview with the boy’s father, who asked us use a fake name to protect the family’s identity.
Students Tune In and Speak Out (JLS Middle School - Palo Alto, California)



Students Teach Students to Stand up to Bullying  (Shaw High School - East Cleveland, Ohio)



 Here at Not In Our Town, we hear stories like this so often. It is gut wrenching to talk to the Moms, Dads, children and teachers who are struggling to address bullying. Hateful words can leave deep scars. We also know that there are solutions out there and programs like ADL's World of Difference and others.

We'd like to get some first hand experience and advice from those of you who have  dealt with issues of racism and other forms of bullying at school.  I know the Jones family could use some words of encouragement, as well. Thank you. Patrice O'Neill/ Not In Our Town

 As a guidance counselor working at the middle school level over the last few years, I can personally attest to the damage done by name calling and harassment of any kind to students. We deal with situations like this periodically and work very hard as a school to ensure that incidents like these do not go unnoticed. 

The family in the above article has the right to demand that the school address the issue with their child. It sounds like they are taking these steps already. Children take name calling to heart and do not have the tools to handle or deal with situations like this without support from the school and their parents. Many times children will internalize the comments and react in an inappropriate way. They just do not know how to handle these situations, especially if this is the first time. It is unfortunate what has happened in the above article. 

For the Jones family, I would say to keep talking to your son, and also demand that the school have some sort of consequences for the child who has started the name calling. This is not a one time slip of the tongue sort of incident but sounds like multiple incidents with this student as a target. 

For the student who started the name calling and harassment, she also needs to be educated and spoken to about the issue and realize that there are consequences to ones actions. 

Thank you, 

Arvind Arya JLS Middle School



(This comment is from Meghan Tracey, a friend of mine who teaches fourth graders in Connecticut.)

I hope that the social worker and/or psychologist in the school has spoken to the student being harassed and to the teacher to help her with strategies for talking to the class about it. I hope that someone has spoken directly to the students leading the harassment about specifically why it is wrong and insensitive. There needs to be a no tolerance policy. They may not know exactly what they are saying, but they are old enough to know it is hurtful and should be punished accordingly. We gave a 9 year old student an in-school suspension because of a situation kind of like this, and it made an impression on all of the students.

Persistent bullying has no easy fix. It needs to be addressed coherently across multiple perspectives in the school. The classroom teacher needs to be proactive with in-class intervention and dilligent with documentation. The teacher should avoid brushing the issue away with a simple 'That's inappropriate' or 'Don't do that' and address the subject, honestly, and in depth to the class at large, if the teacher is unprepared to do so an outside resource should be drawn on. The social worker / guidance councillor should meet individually with both students. The disciplinarian or other school staff, the teacher, both sets of parents, and both children should have one meeting together so that everyone together is aware of the interventions that are expected so that they can be looked for.

It seems that the school was both committed and organized enough to initiate these or similar discussions, which is great, although it is still very troubling that this behavior went on relatively unchecked for what seems like more than a week. Yet many schools lack the organization to respond even that quickly, let alone that cohesively.

In reading this story I feel great sadness for the child being tormented and the parents having to watch this happen to their child.  As a parent I always feel great pain when my daughter has any conflicts with her peers, and she has never experienced this level of taunting.

I experienced bullying during elementary school and junior high school and was terrified by those bullying me. I never told my parents or authorities because I feared that if my parents or teachers took action, the bullying would increase.  Instead I kept silent, hid in the bushes near school to avoid before-school harassment, took strange routes, home, etc.

What is great about this story is that this child has enough self-esteem to talk with his parents about the problem. And he has very proactive parents who are seeking solutions for him.

It's very sad and disconcerting that racial bullying is occurring in a borough as diverse as Brooklyn.

I've worked closely with the Anti-Defamation League's A World of Difference Program. I know they are highly successful in training students to become peer educators around issues of diversity and fighting bias. They also have very well-developed anti-bullying training.

I visited their website ( and found a link to this website, stop bullying now. It seems to have great resources for parents and educators:

I hope things improve soon.


(Note: the above comment was posted by Julie Mann, teacher at Newcomers High School Human Rights Class, which is also a Not In Our Schools group. Stay tuned for updates on what the Newcomers High School Human Rights Class is doing to promote inclusivity and fight intolerance.)

Hi. I would like to offer an interesting and I think, effective alternative to some of the anti-bullying programs and their recommendations. We studied bullying in our church Sunday School class with our preteens and I covered a range of approaches to the problem. I found this article in a magazine in a doctor's office one day and recommend it to you for serious consideration as a complement to other approaches, from Wonder Time magazine:

Hope this helps! And thanks NIOT for this invaluable tool!

I'm a teacher at an urban middle school of twelve hundred students.  In my opinion, bullying is a major problem, but I don't believe that my school as a whole has really taken a stand against it. 

Our school puts up some posters.  There are advisory lessons that homeroom teachers could use, but not all teachers use them.  Some students here are going through the Second Step program.  There is some anti-violence stuff done early in the year, but Violence Prevention Month isn't until January.  During this time there will be various activities promoting the anti-slur policy, as well as fighting cyber bullying.  I lead the Gay Straight Alliance at the school, and we observed Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, educating the students here about hate crimes.  The GSA will also be working on No Name-calling Week in January.    

Right now, we are working on getting a grant to allow students to create anti-violence/bullying films that could be shown at school assemblies.  Students need to hear the message from other students.   I think that is where the key is.  We have to get youth working together to shift the culture from within.  We have to create a culture at the school where it's not cool to bully, where slurs are not tolerated, where all students can expect to feel safe at all times.   

With all the pressures on teachers to raise test scores on standardized tests, I think some of us forget that students need to feel safe in order to learn.  Not calling another student a monkey is a huge social skill that students need to learn and have reinforced in school, and I think it doesn't happen enough.  (I've had to have the "never call another kid a monkey and here's why" discussion here with 12 year-olds.)  A colleague posed the question the other day, "What did you have to do to get your first real job?"  All of us sitting there had answers that involved using social skills.  Nobody said, "I showed them my report card."  Without trying to ensure that students have adequate social skills coming out of the school system, are we really preparing students for their futures?

Anti-bullying  work at schools needs to start early in the year, involve student led activities, and the whole school needs to be actively involved so that it's clear that the community does not accept bullying. 

(Note, this comment was emailed to us from Mark Scwartz, former principal.)

I read the story of "Malik Jones."  The young girl who made "fun of him" certainly seems to have racist attitudes as indicated by the terms she uses to describe Malik.  The racism she displays seems to drive her negative focus on him, and by encouraging other students to join her in this public derision of Malik, ex potentially increases the problem.  For Malik, his daily school experience becomes a form of painful encounters with his classmates and a situation that is intolerable.  This ongoing verbal and emotional abuse of an individual is a classic definition of "bullying" and needs an immediate and successful intervention by the school personnel.  Beyond reading a book about "bullying" to the students in Malik's class in order to bring awareness to the problem at hand, I believe a meeting between Malik, the girl making the comments, the teacher and an administrator needs to occur. The girl must be made to understand that her actions constitute "bullying" and if she bully's Malik or anyone else there will be severe consequences for her.  Malik's parents, as well as the girl's parents, should be notified that the meeting occurred and what transpired.  Some schools might include both sets of parents in this initial meeting, but I probably would not, as I would hope that by involving just the students it might resolve the problem effectively without complicating these efforts.  As the school administrator, to prevent other situations like this from occurring, I would plan in service for all staff to be trained to recognize and eliminate bullying.

After reading this story,I felt that School authority needs to be more active about this issue. Because school is like childrens second home. This is the place where they learn most of the thing's from. The kids who were mocking Malik, May be one day they'll grown up to be a racist and will try to commit dangerous crime against immigrant's. They will not realize that these kind of harassment will will affect the community and the peace among us. I think the school authority should talk to the parents of the kids who are mocking Malik. Beacuse if they know they'll probably talk to their kids. Their parents are the only one who can stop them from mocking kids based on their race.

So, Racial harassment should stop right way...Otherwise it'll grow and will cause problems in our society!!

 I don't know where these ideas of discrimination come from. I am pretty sure that these come from home. Home come kids can have these feelings since they are too young to think in that way. I think some families need to educate their children. Eventhough some comemts that we do are not what we think but these can be very harmful for others. Like here in this case we see how bad can be some comments especially for children. It's impossible that childrem make others to feel inferior, until the point that him got psichological trauma. We need a change on this. Parents should be aware of it.   

At the end of this article, it asks if something like this has happened to you.  Well, when I was a kid, I was named Monkey ever since the school circus.  The teachers assigned everyone roles for the circus, and while all the other girls were high wire acts, gymnasts, or those dressed up ones with the fancy twirling umbrellas, I was the only monkey.  The ring master was obviously a boy--go figure.  All the other boys were the animals and trainers.  I blame the beginning of my monkeyhood on those idiotic teachers.  I'm not saying I wasn't teased and my "coodies" weren't "sprayed" or wiped off before then, but I am saying it got much worse since the day Mrs. Albertazie announced my role as monkey.  When the kids laughed she didn't even bother stopping it, let alone acknowledging it.  But here is what I don't have in common with Malik other then sex: I am not Black, I'm Armenian, and not a darker olive-toned one either, my skin is actually pretty darn fair.  But I had a set of lips, not full ones compared to the general public of today's diversity, but big for the middle class Caucasian kids that had practically none-just thin lines below their noses.  So, they also called me Nigger-lips.  I didn't even know what that meant.  Besides being one of only two Armenian families in the school and only one Black female in the upper grades, there were no other minorities at that time.  It wasn't until much later in school that a Philipino and then later an El Salvadorian started attending Phillips Elementary of Massachusetts.  I didn't know what it meant until I moved to California.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, actually a question.  If Malik's bullying was racist, then what was mine?  If he was "dirty" but I had "coodies" and they were both wiped off, what is the difference?

Now, as a response in general, some of the info that others have given is perfect.  StopBullyingNow is a great campaign.  There are speakers that travel the US presenting at schools in assemblies and school fairs, engaging students in role play and all.  On Dec 14, and anonymous teacher responded and stated that as a whole, the school doesn't do much about bullying.  But all those things this person listed and described were amazing.  I think if all other schools incorporated anti-bullying and anti-discrimination in their curriculum, we would have much more empathetic communities.

My heart goes out to the family and specially MaliK! I would say that if a parent is involved in the childs situation that is definitely more helpful than the parents not being active in what is happening to their child. I believe that it would be helpful to keep reassuring Malik that he is perfect just the way he is. I would also suggest to keep doing activities with him in which he succeeds, this is very important to his self-esteem and to help him build confidence in who he is! I say all of these things because I once was a target, I attended a school where I was the only minority. At first it started with words and then it escalated to pushing and then it followed me from school to out of school and the next thing I knew I was extremely afraid to go to school and this devestated me because i was soooo involved in school because all i wanted was to get a college education. This was finally an issue to the administration when pictures of me were posted up at school with racial slurs. The administration was involved and so was the police but then they took me into their office and told me that they were not going to do anything about it and if i chose to switch schools they wouldnt sign off on any of my extra carricular activities. I was to the point of dropping out because school was the worst place for me. At that time I wish that I had the guidance of my parents and elders to help me with what I was going through. This situation scarred me for life because the school system is suppose to protect us, its our home away from home and instead now I am emotionally damaged from those years. I would suggest going to the pta meeting and makings sure they know of the issues, I would also suggest going to the school board they are suppose to be more helpful than anything because even at this age there should be consequences for the childs actions/words. I understand that the child is young and most likely has learned it from home but by letting this happen its only assuring the other child that this behavior is ok. Staying active until the child or parents feel satisfied is my best advice but until then make sure that Malik does things in which he is reassured that he is great  being himself! Best of luck!

Today my grand daughter was hit in the head with an umbrella and called a nigger. She is 11 years old and has a peaceful personality. I learned today that this was not the forst time she was called nigger by students in her school. 1955? No 2012- why do they feel so comfortable with hitting our children and calling them racial names-because the can 

My heart just broke reading the story about little Malik...why is it his parents that were called and not the bully's?? I understand that he was very upset (and rightfully so) but...he has the RIGHT to be in a safe environment that can facilitate his learning and growth...and the bully does NOT have the right to conduct their behavior. So...what messages are we sending our kids?? And who gets punished??? My 4 year old daughter (yup...4 years old!!) just started Pre-K not even 3 weeks ago. Already...she has heard the word nigger directed at her twice (by 2 seperate people) as well as the word bitch. I have talked to the teacher, wrote an incident report, quite frankly, at a loss for how to proceed. The truth is that while some parents may be horrified and embarrased to be told their 4 year old child is using such words, other parents quite unapologetically use these racial and gender slurs all the time.  part of me wants to pull my daughter out and another part of me is pissed because she has every right to be in a safe environment at school.

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