being a teacher

To My Almost Nine-Year-Old Daughter

To my almost nine-year-old daughter,

It started with your long sleeves.  Do you remember that?  It was September and I couldn’t understand for the life of me why you insisted on every day wearing long sleeves too school even though it was 90 degrees out.  You finally told me it was because of them.  Those kids who had started calling you names, pointing to the hairs on your arms and making you feel ashamed.  I shook my head, reminisced about my own childhood and told you that kids could be mean.

I didn’t think about it further.

Not too long after, you were so mad.  I walked into the kitchen, home from work, and it was like the levees burst.  You told me about the shoving.  You told me about the names.  You told me how these kids kept finding you in the hallways, in the quiet moments in class, in the lunch line and told you, you were ugly.  That you were stupid.  That they wished you weren’t there.

We told your teacher, she spoke to you, to the kids, and we thought that was it.

One night you asked me what bitch meant.  Your dad and I sat there stunned.  Why do you ask?  You told us how during writing that day a girl had sat next to you and in her sparkly pink notebook she had written “Thea is a bitch” and then proudly showed it to you.  You knew it was bad.  You were so upset.

We told your teacher, we asked for a meeting.

But before then someone wrote on the bathroom walls.  Mean things about other kids and they signed your name.  Then told every child that wanted to hear it how you had done it.  You were so angry, I didn’t think you would ever calm down again.

We told the school, we got our meeting.

An investigation was started and yet it continued.

You learned to not bring anything special to school because it would be taken.

You learned to not walk by yourself in the hallways so that you would have a witness.

You learned to move when some kids sat by you.

You learned to calmly tell a child that you were not those things they said you were.

You learned to hold your tongue when all you wanted to do was lash out.

And yet, we felt your anger.  And also your fear; do I have to go to school, Mom?

Then one day, dad picked you up and you were in trouble.  Some kids had called you the “B word again” and this time you had had enough, you had pushed one of them.  Our sweet girl pushed another child.

We told you no way.  We told you that was not how to handle problems, and yet at the same time, we wondered, what could you do?  Because following the rules and being nice had done nothing.

And we waited for news from the school.  What did the investigation find?

Last night you told me that someone whispered to you during carpet time that you were an ugly fucking bitch.  At dinner, I had to tell you that no matter what another child says to you, you are not ugly.  You are smart, kind, beautiful and that we are so proud of you.

The school finally told us that there was a clear case of bullying and that there would be serious consequences.  And yet, does that really matter?  Because the same day as the kids were told to stop bullying you, one of them kicked you as you walked by.  “On accident.”  How many more on accidents incidents will you have to put up with?

This morning, you asked me to keep you home.  Please don’t send me to the mean kids.  I told you to keep your head up high.  To report anything that happened.  To interrupt the teacher if you had to.  That the adults know.  That they care.  That they are trying.

And yet as I sit at school, I wonder if I told you the truth?  Can we really stop it?

Your teacher is trying.  Your principal is trying.  We are trying.  And yet, is it enough?

So I write this to tell you again that those kids with those words don’t matter.  That you are perfect just the way you are.  That we will continue to fight for you just like you will fight for yourself.

So to my almost nine-year-old daughter; you are enough.  You are everything to us.  You are perfect just the way you are.  Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.



PS:  So many people have sent their love and support to Thea since I wrote this.  Thank you, because as much as I want to say it has ended, it has not. If you would like to send her a note of encouragement, you can mail it to her through me.  My address at school is:

Pernille Ripp

Oregon Middle School

601 Pleasant Oak Drive

Oregon, WI 53575

38 thoughts on “To My Almost Nine-Year-Old Daughter”

  1. I am so sad that this is still happening. You describe exactly what happened to my son 26 years ago when he was in grades 5 and 6 and he said that the only days he liked were the weekend days. I thought schools were now better at dealing with bullying but sadly that is not so.

  2. Pernille, you have brought me to tears with this piece. My mind is racing with the thought that there most likely, actually not likely, there ARE girls and boys in my classroom who are going through this. Today. I cannot help but think how unresponsive the administration in my school is to my complaints when children are reporting their problems. Our superintendent at the beginning of the year declared that one of our district’s goals this year was to address bullying. I’ve yet to see any action. I am going to send this to our staff and to the superintendent to hammer the point home. THIS HAS TO STOP! We are beyond platitudes and empty words.

    Please tell your daughter that there are people who care. She represents all our children. Give her a hug from this teacher in Pasadena. You are both so brave. I am with you.

    1. I know that we as teachers and schools can do everything we can, but no one can make another human being do something. We can suspend, we can in school suspend, we can call home. Why aren’t we more upset with parents? Doesn’t this behavior start at home?

  3. I’m sorry. I’m sickened. I want to help Thea. I am angry. As a Principal and parent, I have zero tolerance for this. Give Thea my strength, courage and love. You will overcome.

  4. This breaks my heart in so many ways. Although I don’t see it, I know it’s out there. Although I don’t hear it, I know it’s being said. I’m with you. I want it to stop but how? What can we do?

  5. My heart breaks for both your daughter and your family. Your letter describes so much of what happens in our schools and is simply let go. I pray your letter will make a difference when it is shared with administrators and with parents who must accept the fact that their children are the bullies. Hopefully, that will be the beginning of the change that must happen. Thankfully, Thea felt comfortable confiding in you. That says so much about your caring family. Please know that you are all in my thoughts.

  6. All three of my kids were bullied in school, and my middle son most of all. He’s in college now, and still scarred by the experience—but one thing he still carries with him is the sense that his parents stood behind and beside him. Even when you’re feeling helpless as a parent to protect your child, never underestimate how powerful that is, the feeling that your family believes you and believes in you.

  7. Pernille–your post broke my heart!-I’m so sorry to hear of all of this ugliness and meanness that Thea’s experiencing. The fact that it’s continuing on despite bringing it to the administration’s attention is horrid. I am an author–what is your mailing address? I’d love to send her something!! Many hugs for her, and for you!! ❤ ❤

  8. This happens to be my first time receiving your posts. How sad – Bullying is not acceptable at any age. My heart goes out to you and your family. Your daughter continues to be BRAVE – and yes that word begins with a B. She is BRAVE.

  9. Oh, Pernille. I’m so sorry. Both my daughters went through mean girl stuff, but not in third grade. I know how much you hurt because we all hurt when our kids hurt. Have you read Queen Bees and Wannabees? It helped me to help my daughters.

  10. She is more than enough, she is beautiful, and she deserves more. As a mom to an almost 9 year old, and a teacher in the same building I worry about this, how do we really end something when children have learned to circumnavigate those pesky adults. How do we keep all children safe. So that when I say, “With me you are safe,” it is 100% truth. Momma, the days are hard, the emotions are strong, and the implications can be hard. Keep marching on, for you and your daughter. There is a silent army standing in your wake.

  11. I was bullied badly. Not until high school but then badly. One day in person I’ll tell you the full story. I swear it partly led to me becoming a lawyer. Tell your daughter that every time I conjure up a brave girl grappling with the wrong things in life, the mean things, the unfair things, in one of my stories, I will think of her and make the girl even braver and stronger and fill her with more hope. And that will be in part because of her. Because of how she keeps holding her head up and fighting. Sending very much love. ❤

  12. Oh my goodness Pernille! This makes me so sad to hear that your daughter is going through this… As a parent and teacher , it is hard to see how this still happens in this day in age but also, to admit that it does. Bullying looks very different from when we were young; no longer is the bully in the hall putting your face under the bubbler, stealing your lunch money, etc. The bullies today are scarier, sneakier, look like angels to everyone else. Keep being there for your daughter and keep teaching her to do what is right… She is so very lucky to have parents that care so much as well as teachers and other adults that care and are looking out for her! My heart goes out to you and your family ❤️❤️

  13. Is there any way you can get her into a different school? I would strongly urge this. Sometimes, once someone has become the “goat” there is simply no way to change the dynamic. I’m so sorry to hear this.

    1. Bonny Becker I was thinking the same thing. Pernille, is there any way you can get your daughter into a different school? That’s what I finally ended up doing with my own child when the adults did not do anything at the previous school. It was heartbreaking. The effects of bullying are so pervasive that it takes time before a child is whole again. So sorry your daughter is experiencing this. My heart goes out to both of you.

  14. I am so sorry to hear this- shocked at what the children are saying and sad and angry that it is happening at all seemingly under the noses of the teachers. You are doing the right thing. Just keep telling Thea that she is enough and that you love her. Not everyone will be this way- it is just right now. I am curious about what kind of expectations for behavior are at the school. What do they teach in terms of character education? Sounds like whatever it is is not enough. Again, my heart breaks hearing this for you and your family.

  15. Oh my gosh! I’m so heart broken for Thea!! I just don’t understand how this could continue. As a teacher, I want to believe I would know and never let this continue. Have you had a meeting with the kids and their parents too? I think that is very powerful and I’ve had that happen before. The parents of those kids need to hear from you and Thea exactly what is happening and how she is feeling. I realize some parents may not care. After all, the apples may not fall far from the tree, but I would give it a try. ??? I know it may be tricky, especially if this is the district you teach in, but keep on them. This needs to be the teacher’s top priority – over curriculum.

  16. I’m heartbroken for your daughter—-and for my youngest, as she is experiencing very similar things this year. I’m unsure what to do as the things we’ve tried have not been super successful up to this point. I’m sending love and positive thoughts to both you and to Thea. I hope things get better soon for everyone. Much love.

  17. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. My heart bleeds for you Thea. I love how your Mommy tells you, you are beautiful, smart, and oh so special. Please keep this close to your heart and repeat it everyday and everyday you go to school.
    Pernille, it’s not easy being a mommy. I have raised 3 daughters. One was a bully and one was bullied. I didn’t find out until they were older. My youngest learned to be an upstander. I was so proud of Ella when she shared the times she stood up to a bully. I truly hope and pray that one day Thea will have an upstander to be there for her.
    Love and hugs!

  18. I’m so sorry Thea and your family are going through this. I’m a school counselor. If you need to talk to another educational professional, I’d be happy to talk.

  19. First this post just breaks my heart. Not sure what is worse, her pain or the frustration of not being able to stop it. On a more practical note — document, document, document. Schools/Administrators are starting to be held liable — let them know you are documenting and expect full cooperation. Shame it has to go that route, but sometimes it does. I know one option is to move your child (different class and/or different school). I would suggest telling the school you want the other child(ren) moved — the victim shouldn’t have to have their schedule switched. The other children should have consequences. However, always a balancing act of action leading to retaliation. This is just such an awful situation with no good or simple solutions.

  20. Pernille – your ability to be honest about life continues to make the world a better place. I’m sad that your family is having this, I’m warmed that you’re using it to help others while helping her.

  21. I’ve been thinking of sweet little Thea and I hope things have improved. If not, I agree with the folks above who suggested requesting that she be transferred to a different school. No child should have to endure this. Sending love! XXOO ❤

  22. My child has severe PTSD from school bullying and has not been able (HAS NOT BEEN ABLE) to attend school for over two years. His bullying incidents also triggered major medical issues which doctors are still trying to understand.

    If bullying is part of a school culture, I believe you will find very little success trying to impact the bullies, OR protecting the student. The school culture has to shift so the 80% in the middle (generally, 10% of kids are bullies, 10% are victims) does not accept bullying behavior. Sadly, it takes time and energy (and often money) to do and schools just don’t have enough of any of those resources.

    Your sweet daughter is so strong to have tolerated it this long. The bullies have noticed something about her that makes her special. They don’t feel special themselves, so they try to take that gift from her for themselves. It doesn’t work that way, but they don’t know that.

    I hope your school can find a good resolution to this. Initially, the solution presented by my son’s school was essentially to “jail” HIM. No outside recess, lunch in the nurse’s office, principal or other admins supervising him during passing periods.

    Things that the local school my daughter will likely attend (not the bullying school because I would lose my mind) do that I think help are: super short passing periods (not a lot of time to get into trouble). Staggered passing periods for different grades (6th, then 7th, then 8th). Teachers and Principal greet every student BY NAME every morning as they walk through the front doors. Principal said it is so every student feels noticed. Lots of school recognition, not only for academics, but also for leadership, kindness and courageous acts.

    Best wishes to you and your daughter.

  23. I have been praying for your daughter and you and the bullies since I read one of your posts about it weeks ago. It breaks my heart to learn the emotional pain a third grader must go through. I pray for the bullies as well as your daughter and you, because I believe, like Jennifer, the bullies are in emotional pain and “hurt people hurt people.” I am praying that one day, your daughter, you and the bullies will be able to heal and be reconciled.

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