Bullying: ‘We feel we are on the verge of losing our son’

School: A selection of stories of bullying by parents about their currently schoolgoing children

Over the past few weeks, The Irish Times has been covering the issue of bullying – how it affects people, the lasting impacts, and asking how we can best support those affected.

As part of the series, we asked readers for their views and experiences. Below are a few stories of bullying by parents about their school-going children.

‘There are a breed out there, akin to rattlesnakes’

On day two of fifth class, a girl in my daughter’s class, who sat opposite her at lunchtime, held up the lid of her lunch box over her face and said: “I can’t eat my lunch if I can see your face.” That was the start of it. The backstory is that my daughter had a bad fall at the age of three and ended up having a plastic surgeon operate to put her forehead together neatly. She has the smallest white line of a scar.

“The next week, the bully started to shoulder-bump her in the corridor, and she always had one or two enablers with her who would laugh and look at my daughter like she was some sort of a sad case. My daughter would change for PE, and guess what, one of her runners would go missing and she had to run around in her school shoes. She started getting notes saying: “You are a smelly f***ing bitch, we hate you.” She would open her copy book and there would be a picture of her there with an over-emphasised scar on her head.


“Truthfully, I should have gone in sooner, but I work, I am busy. I was hoping it would stop, but after a month, I made an appointment to see the principal. She appeared to take the situation seriously, spoke to the bully and the enablers who all admitted they had bullied her. They all cried.

“Things went quiet, but after Christmas, it all started up again – including: ‘Do your parents call you Scarface?’ There were parties; she was never invited. The mothers are worse. They were the typical PTA all-encompassing mothers; if they weren’t wheeling around a clothes horse with second hand uniforms for the sale, they were organising a boring coffee morning to talk about how disappointed they were the school weren’t offering after-school classes in Mandarin.

There are mothers who are hiding their little darlings and telling everyone that their little Mary isn’t a bully, she is a leader

—  M, Co Wicklow

Bullying in schools: how it’s changed and how to handle it

Listen | 25:20
More than one in 10 teenagers in Irish secondary schools experience bullying. It can happen in school, or outside it, on social media or in person. For her summer-long series, Irish Times parenting columnist Jen Hogan talked to parents of bullied children, adults whose lives have been impacted negatively by school bullying and to the children themselves. For this podcast she also talked to an expert on the ground, a school principal, Craig Petrie from East Glendalough School in Wicklow Town. Presented by Bernice Harrison.

“I got her out of there for sixth class. She is now nervous of making friends, trusts nobody. The teachers say she never responds in class. She has no confidence. A girl in her current school was being bullied. My daughter happened to witness it and took the bully down in front of everyone. It never happened again. She has a fierce sense of injustice.

“Bullying is real. It is not being dealt with. The main bullies, from what I can see, are girls. There are a breed of girls out there akin to rattlesnakes. There are mothers who are hiding their little darlings and telling everyone that their little Mary isn’t a bully, she is a leader. Mother rattlesnakes. If your school calls you and says your child is a bully, take it on the chin, face it head on – denying it will make it worse and enable your child to make others miserable. We really need to raise awareness about bullying among girls.” – M, Co Wicklow

‘We feel we are on the verge of losing our son’

“We have a beautiful boy. We adore him. He’s now 12 years of age... always a gentle, happy soul that just wanted friends. Two years ago, the bullying started in school in a prestigious area. Started with hurtful comments. Progressed quite quickly to the boys taking bets on kicking, hitting or slapping him. He was stabbed with pencils daily. He gradually became more withdrawn. We were in and out of the school continuously and they kept promising they’d get on top of it. My son lost all his friends because his friends got scared that they would be targeted as well. His schoolwork went downhill, he became painfully lonely, and then 12 months ago, he stopped talking altogether because if he spoke ‘he would draw attention to himself’.

He speaks a small amount but stays in his room most of the time with no friends. We will never recover. We are beyond devastated

—  C, Co Dublin

“The school tried to act on it, one boy apologised and moved on. The others got worse. The bullying became psychological: ‘Kill yourself’, ‘Everyone hates you.’ Finally, he was badly beaten up. It was all caught on CCTV. What came home to me from school that day still wakes me up at night.

“The school was hopeless, the parents were worse, not one apologised or took responsibility. The gardaí were sympathetic but couldn’t do much. We moved my son overnight to a different school and after months of counselling, night terrors, and a lot of Lego, he has improved very slightly. He speaks a small amount but stays in his room most of the time with no friends. We will never recover. We are beyond devastated. We feel we are on the verge of losing our son as a result of this. We want to move out of the area but can’t.” – C, Co Dublin

‘The result was my daughter became a bully’

“We are living in Northern Ireland. The relationship between the Irish and Brazilians in my understanding is rich and peaceful. But as soon as we moved to Belfast, the bullying problems began. We met the principal and teachers, and they said they would contact the parents and solve. However, then someone sent me screenshots from my daughter in a WhatsApp group ‘answering’ the bullies for the first time. They put her in the group to mock her, she left, and they added her again. And for the first time, she decides to be what they are being with her for a year: a bully.

“This is the part that tears me. We tried all we could to make them stop politely, we paid a fortune with counselling for her, and the result was my daughter became a bully to defend herself. Reading her messages about ‘ending her colleagues’ was the worst thing because she never had to do this before and is against our principles and what we taught her to be. When I asked her why she did it, she said to me crying, ‘I was too tired to accept this in silence’.” – L, Co Antrim

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen is Health & Family Editor of The Irish Times