Several readers inquired the cause of Laurel's hospital stay. It was the stomach flu endured by a great portion of every other family in America this holiday season. She healed with a little time and love.
She's now dealing with an illness that doesn't change over time. Laurel's been the victim of bullying. Maren didn't believe it would ever happen to anyone in her family. In Mom's eyes, the frequent bits about bullies on the news, primetime t.v. shows, daytime talk shows, and even soap opera storylines were forms of sensationalism. Media had found another way to squeeze ratings out of a parent's fear. But it's real. It was an issue for Maren in middle school, and now it's a very present issue for Laurel. Fortunately, it's isolated to the bus. The family has an easy, though inconvenient solution. Laurel will probably be a car-rider for the rest of the year.
At first report of trouble on the bus, Maren chose minimal involvement, hoping Laurel would be moved to a new seat and going forward would be able to "handle the situation herself." A first grader cannot "handle" a bully.
The details will remain private. But the situation, the potential outcome, and nauseating guilt will be Maren's foremost thoughts for a long time. Laurel has an assigned seat on the bus as punishment for not staying in her seat. Unfortunately, this means she sits next to two other children also in trouble. So, here's the question: Does a first grader in trouble give up the right to personal safety while facing consequences?
Another question, too: How can you protect your children from bullies? For the record, Laurel attends one of the most well-regarded elementary schools in Central Florida. It would be nice if the school accountability report had a column/factor for number of bully incidents. On second thought, perhaps that would be bad. Principals would have further incentive to cover them up.