Jamie Rathburn Became a Bully to Fight Bullies

Jamie Rathburn Became a Bully to Fight Bullies

Jamie Rathburn Became a Bully to Fight Bullies

Last month, Jamie Rathburn finally had enough. Her son, a third-grader at Greenbrier Elementary School in South Carolina, had been bullied once too often. Pushed to the edge, frustrated by what she saw as a lack of communication from the administration, she entered the school, confronted a group of third-graders and things went downhill from there. To say she went too far in her attempt to protect her son is stating the obvious. She’s already begun facing the consequences of her actions, starting with being arrested. The real question, however, is simple: could the situation have been handled better by all parties involved?

The answer is a resounding “YES!”

 Background

Rathburn’s son faced a number of instances of bullying throughout the school year, according to the frustrated mother:

He was told that he was ugly, that he was stupid, nobody cared, and he was called gay, he was cussed out, and when he reported those things, he was told to ignore it.”

She went on to read from a list of alleged incidents she documented.

Hit, kicked, hit with computer, shoved, jerked off slide ladder from behind his neck, kid tried choking him, he had small scratches and red marks on his neck.”

According to school administration, she did report the problem and they did investigate. You can read the administration’s full statement here. This statement illustrates a large part of the problem. Rathburn was told steps had been taken to punish the student or students found to have bullied her son but she wasn’t told what actions, if any, had been taken. The reason? The school was protecting the privacy of the student and his or her family.

With the incidents supposedly continuing, Rathburn’s frustration–and anger–built, as it would for any concerned parent in her situation.

From the reports I’ve seen, Rathburn did what she should have when she became concerned about what was happening. She contacted the teacher and administration. She documented what her son said was happening. According to the administration, “Ms. Rathburn was receiving regular updates from the teacher about her son’s interactions with classmates. The teacher offered suggestions to the parent and kept a close eye on her child and those accused of bullying.”

Sounds good, so far at least.

Except, as noted above, she couldn’t find out what steps had been taken to punish those bullying her son.

That’s when she took matters into her own hands and illegally entered the school, confronting students who allegedly bullied her son and cursing staff members when they tried to get her to leave.

School’s Response:

You can read the full statement here. But here are the highlights:

School administrators were made aware of the situation by Rathburn and met with her about the situation.

  1. The principal and teacher were taking “active steps to protect the child and remedy any inappropriate behavior from his peers.”
  2. Rathburn was receiving “regular updates” from the teacher, along with suggestions (one assumes on how to deal with the situation, but that isn’t made clear).
  3. While recognizing Rathburn’s frustration over not knowing what action–if any–had been taken regarding the bullying, the administration said that “to release this information to her would have been a violation of another family’s privacy.”
  4. Oh, and it assures the public it followed its policies.

Wow, let’s worry about making sure another family’s privacy is protected at the expense of keeping the situation festering. That makes about as much sense as the “Zero Tolerance” rule imposed by so many districts that has allowed bullying to run rampant on school campuses.

It is our opinion that the appropriate reaction to unhappiness with a school response is to have a conversation with the adults in charge. In this case, that would be the teacher, the principal and other school administrators, or the district administration, and not a hallway filled with eight and nine year-old children. There is also a formal complaint form that can be filed with the school or the district that would launch a broad scale investigation. Ms. Rathburn never filed the complaint form or contacted anyone at the district level prior to taking illegal action.”

No, she came to those who should have first-hand information about what had been going on, the people she’d entrusted her son’s welfare to during the course of the school day. She trusted them to protect her son.

Does that take the responsibility off of her to have escalated the complaints to the district level? No. But it also doesn’t relieve the school administration from taking steps, up to and including letting admin know what was going on. If for no other reason than from a legal liability standpoint.

Aftermath

According to the district, Rathburn illegally entered the school on the day in question–and admitted doing so.

We should point out that her arrest came after concerned adults watched Ms. Rathburn’s threatening, profanity-laden videos on social media and called law enforcement, not because our employees chose to file charges. She was placed on no trespass with Greenville County Schools after an internal investigation, not because she confronted a school bully, but because of her actions. Ms. Rathburn illegally entered a school (by her own admission), yelled at a group of young students because she didn’t know which boy she was looking for, and cursed a school employee.”

Rathburn said the tipping point for her was when “administrators separated her son from other students for his protection. She said anywhere her son went, his teacher followed him, including lunch and the playground.”

That statement alone, if true, speaks volumes. Either the administration was concerned about the bullying and what might be done next to Rathburn’s son or they thought he might retaliate. If the former, why segregate him instead of the bullies? If the latter, why not talk to his mother about their concerns?

Rathburn admits she cursed at the teacher and the school’s principal. She also, apparently, posted a Facebook video that so concerned parents and others in the community, they contacted police. Four days after the incident occurred, she was arrested on “a charge of nonstudent interfering, disrupting or disturbing schools.”

District communications director Elizabeth Brotherton told CNN via email, “The appropriate reaction to unhappiness with a school response is to have a conversation with the adults in charge.

Funny how Brotherton conveniently omitted that was exactly what Rathburn did. She talked with the boy’s teacher and school administrators. No, she didn’t go to district administrators but she did talk with the “adults” in charge.

Brotherton also commented:

An incident on the playground where her son was pulled off of a slide was addressed swiftly by school administrators and the child responsible was disciplined according to our behavior code,” Brotherton told Newsweek. “It was also reported that other students had made faces at him and comments about his haircut. In these cases you could argue that this is typical behavior from 8-year-olds. Is it kind? No. Is it right? No. Is it bullying?

That is in the eye of the beholder. These incidents involved other children in the class, not the child responsible for the playground injury, and did not rise to a level that required school discipline. His mom felt that he was being bullied, but that does not automatically mean that the school was negligent or uncaring in its response to the actions of his classmates.”

Part of me agrees with Brotherton. A lot of the incidents noted by Rathburn are what you expect kids to do to one another–at least if you are letting them be kids. But then there is the underlying question of if there was a pattern of behavior being exhibited by these kids and, if so, was it being adequately addressed by the “adults in charge”?

Zero Tolerance

For too long our schools have taken the stance that students can’t stand up to bullies. They are to report the bullying instead of pushing back. They are to trust the administration to deal with the situation. Yet, as shown by this case, they aren’t told what actions have been put into play. Unless the alleged bully is no longer in class or at the school, they know nothing.

Parents are frustrated because they don’t know what steps have been taken to protect their kids. The concerned parents are told, “if you don’t like it, take it up the chain of command.” Except they still find out little to nothing. District administrations hide behind the privacy excuse. They have to protect the privacy of another family. They have acted according to district policy.

“Trust them,” they say.

Rathburn went too far. She shouldn’t have confronted the students, especially since there is a question of whether the ones she faced off against at the school were involved with the bullying. She shouldn’t have cursed at the teacher and principal and she shouldn’t have taken to Facebook to air her grievances in such a way they raised the concerns of other parents.

In short, she became the bully.

But I can also understand why. As parents, we are supposed to protect our children. The law requires we send them to school. If we can afford it, we send them to private school. If we can afford it and have the ability, we homeschool. But not everyone can do either of the alternatives. Some of us are forced to send our children to public school. It isn’t unreasonable to expect our children to be protected while there.

Yes, Rathburn might have blown some of the so-called bullying incidents out of proportion. But if this was a continuing pattern of behavior by the students, can you blame her?

The sad truth is, there are no winners here and the real loser is Rathburn’s son, especially if CPS winds up getting involved because of what happened.

Welcome, Instapundit readers!

Featured image by Anemone123 from Pixabay. Licensed via Pixabay.

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18 Comments
  • GWB says:

    Very first comment: Where’s the dad?
    Second comment: Why wasn’t the kid taught to walk away until he just couldn’t anymore, and only then to haul off and bust somebody’s nose?

    Pretty sure I know the likely answer to both those.

    “to release this information to her would have been a violation of another family’s privacy.”
    And how is that the case? Unless it involves PII* of the child involved, or medical information, that’s patently false under current law.
    (* PII = Personal Identifiable information: address, phone number, SSN, etc.)

    Ms. Rathburn’s threatening, profanity-laden videos on social media
    Okie-dokie! Now, this could be overblown, but then again maybe not – based on her actions when going to the school.

    why segregate him instead of the bullies?
    Because current teacher indoctrination is often about “protecting” not about “punishment” (also known by us rubes as “justice”). They really can’t see how that plays out in terms of human psychology – despite all their psychology indoctrination.
    Then again….

    OK, I had other comments, but deleted them after reading the whole thing. I’m convinced the woman is part of the problem for her son. (I’m becoming convinced her son is likely bullied at home, too.) The separation of the child tells me he might not be able to cope with things like a less-than-friendly glance. (Though it could also be viewed as admitting culpability.) The mom seems to have a very tender child on her hands, and there’s little hope for him unless he toughens up. (She thinks 8yo’s are tough on him, wait until he gets to HS!)

    I put up with all this (and more) as a kid. I learned to deal with it (by progressing through various stages of response) and am not too awful of a human being. I hope this boy can get out of the tender stage and develop some steel. It’s his only hope, imo. (You can still be bookish and retired and an ODD, while growing some steel.)

    And, his mother needs to regain her balance in dealing with the crap of Life.

    • Amanda Green says:

      GWB,

      You asked some of the same questions I did when I started looking into the story. I haven’t seen any reference to the boy’s father.

      As for why he wasn’t taught to back away until he finally had enough and it was time to bust someone’s nose? I don’t have an answer to that. I’ll admit, that’s exactly what my ex and I taught our son, telling him not to worry about the Zero Tolerance BS. We’d handle it. But he was not to allow anyone to lay hands on him and put him in danger.

      I also agree that the privacy concerns are BS, but who knows? SC might have some idiotic law that makes it so.

      With regard to the social media post, Rathburn pretty much admitted she went off the deep end there. The fact she’s taken the FB post down pretty much confirms that.

      As for the rest of it, they segregated him because it is easier to do so with one child than with several. No, they didn’t consider–or possibly didn’t care–about what that would do to the kid’s psyche or what message it would send to the other students. It was all about taking the easy way out.

  • GWB says:

    BTW, Amanda, on the homeschooling thing….
    I know that state rules are different, and obstacles can be tough to overcome.
    But, in actuality, it doesn’t have to be expensive to homeschool. Books, curricula, and equipment can be had used for fairly cheap, and in some places can be rented*.
    I know one complaint is if you feel you require two incomes to get by. Well, one of the advantages of homeschooling is the great flexibility you have – you can homeschool in evenings and weekends. Some jobs you could get away with having your kid at your side. Siblings can teach.
    (* Yes, buying a microscope is a tad expensive. Some places have co-ops, where you can rent a nice one for a week or two to do your labs, then take it back and let the co-op worry about dusting the thing!)

    I know that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But it’s for a lot more than think it’s for them – I do what I can to dispel misconceptions and help folks considering it to see ways they might make it work. I won’t push it, but I will insist that it allows a lot more flexibility than public schools do.

    BTW, one of the classic un-homeschooling questions is *perfectly* apropos to this story:
    “What about socialization?”
    My response was to adopt another dad’s response:
    I used to worry about socialization, too. What was my kid missing by not going to public school?
    So I started beating him up and taking his lunch money once a week, and I don’t worry so much anymore.

    (It’s a JOKE, snowflakes! Unknot your knickers!)

    • Amanda Green says:

      With regard to the cost of home schooling, I wasn’t necessarily talking about the cost of books, material, etc., but the cost of a loss of income. Most folks don’t realize that you can homeschool without quitting work to do so.

      • GWB says:

        Yep, it’s why I put that in there.
        One element I forgot is the single parent. Even here, the flexibility can make a difference.

        We knew a few single-parent families homeschooling. It’s amazing what some of them pulled off between co-ops and shared teaching arrangements. And, while some of them were on financial assistance, none of them were “welfare moms”. They had jobs – and they still made it work.

        Not to say everyone has to do it, but it’s worth giving serious consideration to. Especially as the gov’t indoctrination centers become less centered on turning your child into a well-educated, well-mannered citizen and more centered on turning them into a drone and feathering their nest-eggs.

  • Orvan Taurus says:

    Given my own history, I don’t really see the mother looking after her kid(s) as the bully AT ALL. I’d be fine she went full Slappy Squirrel on the ratfinks. It’s the ONLY thing that is actually effective.

    • You can usually get what is needed by “bullying” the “adults” instead of the kids.

      I went so far once with one stubborn idiot as to pull out my phone and calling directory assistance to get the number of the most notorious ambulance-chaser in town. In front of the Assistant Principal.

      All of a sudden, it wasn’t so hard to clamp down on the thugs in training at that school.

      • Amanda Green says:

        Writing Observer,

        Yep. I’ve been known to embarrass my son on more than one occasion by standing up to teachers and one particular principal. In one case, the teacher hated boys and was doing all she could to fail every boy in her third grade class. In another, the principal decided it was more important to make sure her school’s standardized test scores improved than it was to give students an education. So she canceled the gifted and talented classes and put those students into lower achieving classrooms, canceled PE and replaced it with testing “review” classes, etc. Then she couldn’t understand why the GT students’ grades started falling. They were bored and pissed. That was a really “fun” conversation which ended with me pulling out my phone and calling the head of the school board and threatening to call the state board of education.

    • Amanda Green says:

      Oh wise ox, part of me agrees whole-heartedly with you. But then the media would twist and turn the story into one where she is the bad guy and CPS would be knocking on her door. It’s time we quit making it so difficult for parents in some jurisdictions to homeschool their kids and it is time we stop catering to the parental bullies who don’t want their children to face consequences for their actions.

    • Clair Kiernan says:

      That is my feeling too. I was bullied in school and the teachers did exactly nothing. No one was ever punished–nor did any teacher pull me aside to give advice on how to deal with it. I was left to deal with a Lord of the Flies situation every day for years. And this was almost fifty years ago. Public schools sucked then and are worse now.

  • cthulhu says:

    Take off and nuke the school from orbit……it’s the only way to be sure.

  • As an aforemention, it makes sense to not release the names of the accused students, particularly in the absence of definitive proof since any accusation, no matter how false it may be proven, can in this day and age forever destroy a child’s future; further not punishing children by segregation or perceived punishment due to an accustion also, then, makes sense. This is not to defend the actions of the school, since there is much evidence and particulars that haven’t been made public we just don’t know all the facts.

    More to the point of the article, this is a disturbing trend of “altruistic punishment” that the mother showed. If someone, especially a child, is designated as a “bully”, then any restraint is socially dispensed with, with the punishment of the designated “bully” becoming socially allowable, even if such “punishment” far exceeds anything that the designated “bully” had done. In this case, it wasn’t even a designated bully, but the school and thus the students at large who were deemed collectively responsible.

    Perhaps I’m a bit to sensitive to justifications of adults going after children whom the adult thinks were mean to the kids of said adult, but having been threatened with murder by a parent of a fellow kid that I punched back, after said kid threw a punch at me, I will remain skeptical of the justifications and excuses of adults who go to far.

    • Amanda Green says:

      In no way to I approve of what the mother did. I understand it–hell, I’ve wanted to do the same thing before–but there are times when you can’t do what you want. There were better ways to go about getting the needed results.

      As for not releasing the names of the students, that’s not really what her issue was. What she wanted to know was what action the school had taken with regard to the alleged bullies. The school could have told her that without having released the name of the students. It would have been simple to say they had been moved to another classroom or had been given detention for a week or in-school suspension. But there was no response to her requests for that information from what I’ve been able to tell.

  • Rich says:

    “Rathburn went too far. She shouldn’t have confronted the students, especially since there is a question of whether the ones she faced off against at the school were involved with the bullying. She shouldn’t have cursed at the teacher and principal and she shouldn’t have taken to Facebook to air her grievances in such a way they raised the concerns of other parents.”

    Complete Bunkum.

    The Principal, _all_ the Teachers and the parents of these kids all deserve a solid left hook to the jaw. And then perhaps some time behind bars if they are able to stand after that. But it will never happen because of “conservative” pearl clutching church ladies that can’t abide conflict.

    Welcome to the world your betters have made.

    Sending your children to public school is child abuse.

  • Lisa Carr says:

    I think as a “mama bear” the first gut reaction would be to go in and pop off on these kids. I don’t agree with this method but I can understand her frustration with the school and its handling of bullying. At some point, though, she needs to encourage her son to either walk away and if that does not work, to stand up for himself. Bullies antagonize others when they know they have the power to make them cry and be upset without much in the way of retaliation. I was bullied myself in elementary and middle school in part because they knew they could get a rise out of me. It wasn’t until I had a large chunk of hair pulled out of my head that I got good and pissed and backhanded the girl that I was left alone. I trained my son on bullying tactics at school and how to pay no mind to an instigator and move along as if he were not even in the room. They move on to find someone else when you don’t react to them. I also told him that (regardless of the school’s hands-off policy) that if someone hit him and he fought back that while he may be punished at school, I’d take him for a celebratory snack. As long as he doesn’t start anything, we’re cool. Sports like wrestling help with confidence, too. Not a lot of people want to mess with a wrestler. 😉

  • Meredith Dixon says:

    Why segregate the student and not the bullies? Probably because most of the class was doing the bullying.
    Back in the mid-’70’s, in middle school, after word finally came down from the principal that the teachers were to keep me from being (physically) bullied in their classes, one teacher moved my desk into the room’s coat closet and had me sit there, among the coats, for the rest of the school year, with the closet door only open a crack because otherwise my classmates would throw things at me. Two other teachers simply told me to go to the library during their classes rather than coming to class. The other three teachers moved my desk into a corner of the room.

    And for the poster above who thinks the kid “is a very tender child” and needs to “grow some steel,” baloney. It takes a lot of steel to be able to walk into a class (or worse, a gym locker room) knowing that you’re going to be beaten up and that you’re not allowed to defend yourself. My mother had forbidden me to fight, even to fight back.
    The same is likely true of this boy.

    • GWB says:

      My mother had forbidden me to fight, even to fight back.
      And how does that invalidate what I said? If his mother forbids him to fight back, then she is stymieing his ability to grow that steel.
      I have experience with this stuff – both as the bullied and as an adult trying to deal with a “tender child” in my care. Note, I used that phrase because this boy was NOT a snowflake, just a boy who had gentler pursuits and was not as mature in some ways as the other boys. The boy has to grow some steel or be isolated from other kids. Because Human Nature.

      This post had some holes in it – not Amanda’s fault, just the reporting is less complete than required to actually make full-throated judgments. I think I just pointed out some of the possible issues.

      As to your situation, my sympathies. It sounds like your teachers were evil. Hopefully current teaching pedagogy hasn’t made matters worse in that school.

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