One Less 7th Grader

The automated message from the Benbrook Middle High School principal came Sunday evening announcing the death of one of Jubilee’s 7th grade classmates.  No name. Details to be released later. Only the name was released.

I told Jubilee that when there are no details the death is often suicide.

Details were released concerning the Thursday night the viewing and Friday morning the funeral at the tv church in the old Food Lion grocery store.

Jubilee and I left Benbrook Middle High School (BMHS) at 10:45 Friday morning to attend the funeral.

(The school required the children turn in the bulletin from the funeral to have an excused absence.  Doesn’t it matter that the parent signed out and wrote FUNERAL on the form? There were too few bulletins so we collected a half-dozen signatures on a single bulletin and turned that into the office.)

Benbrook Middle High School is our local school.  It is one of the biggest, shiniest, newest schools in FWISD. I don’t know how it ranks on the bullying spectrum but, bullying is a problem. It used to be that the middle school years were cruel.  Cruelty is a k-12 game now.

I homeschooled my children for two decades.  It was hard.  It was really hard.

Having a child in public school is harder.

Jubilee and her friends practice maintaining low profiles. They don’t want to be noticed. They don’t want to become targets.

Invisibility is not a skill 7th-grade girls should have to practice.

The first week of school there was not room at the lunch tables for everyone. Children sat on the ground outside in the 100+ degree heat. The circumstances, ripe for hostility and bullying. The second day of school my daughter came home covered in chocolate milk spilled when boys fighting smashed into her while she was carrying her lunch tray. The school’s response?   I will paraphrase, “Meh.”

Two gymnasiums.  Not enough space to eat.

Last year Jubilee was bullied during PE. Male classmates tormented abused her for sport and for not knowing the intricacies of soccer. The teacher claims to have seen nothing. Everyday Jubilee was crying when I picked her up. How does a teacher not see that?  The teacher told me there was an imbalance of boys in the class and she asked the counselor for more girls. She knew there was a problem and STILL did not SEE anything?  My response, “Meh!”



She made it Jubilee’s fault that the abuse continued. She has to advocate for herself. She has to tell. She has to tattle. What does the teacher have to do? The young man who killed himself was in the same PE class. I doubt he faired any better.

Jubilee accessed her deceased classmate as one of maybe ten truly nice kids in the school. Smiling. Funny. NICE! Bullied.

Yesterday during lunch, a bully was teasing a heavy girl. The bully punched her in the stomach. She punched him in the nose-twice.  Good for her.

Bullying that was a problem the first week of school. Six weeks into the first semester and bullying remains a problem.

Homeschooling is hard.  Public school is harder.

Bullying picked up during the election cycle last year.  The vitriol escalated after the election.  Children yelling at the brown-skinned classmates, “Go back to Mexico.”  “This is our country,” “You don’t belong here.”

Waiting to pick Jubilee up after school I parked behind cars bearing enticement to vicious action against our current President’s running mates. Children read their parent’s bumper stickers and took the messages to heart.

Words matter.

The BMHS 7th grade curriculum has not gotten to the unit on bullying this school year.

We don’t talk about suicide. A suicide is a failure of family, a failure of friends, a failure of school, a failure of church, and a failure of character.

Suicide is taboo because a discussion about suicide raises too many questions and inflicts too much pain and guilt amongst the survivors. Suicide is complicated.

My head hurts. My heart aches. I am frightened for my child. I am frightened for your child. I am frightened that one of these bullies might grow up to be the President of the United States of America.

PS.  This painting does not yet have a title.  I see it as uplifting.  A triumph over circumstances.  A statement both bold and gentle.  It is 48 x 36 inches and $2800.  I chose it to go with this blog because of the raw nature of the piece.  One color.  Once pass.  The rare moment when experience and chance conspire to defy the routine and everything comes together on the first pass.

Most of us get more than one chance in life.
None of us gets more than one pass through life.

Make today count.  Sincerely, Gwen

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