In a heartbreaking video posted online Thursday morning, a nine-year-old boy is seen holding up cue cards, each one detailing how bullying has made him afraid to go back to school.
In that video, Zach (CityNews is not publishing his last name, and has blurred his face) claims he’s been called names and pushed around. After he complained, he said, his teachers told him to “man up” and “grow up.”
Zach said he decided to make his story public, partly, he said, to protect kids just like him.
“I just wanted to get it out there and I didn’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Zach said.
Zach and his family, who are from Mississauga, moved to a community north of the city this past September. In less than four months, his mother Alexandra says she had to take drastic action and remove all of her children from the school, after faculty failed to address Zach’s bullying.
“It makes me guilty, because I had to pull (my brothers) out of school,” Zach explains.
“Zach’s voice was stifled repeatedly, and when I tried to use my voice, my voice wasn’t heard either,” Alexandra explains.
The mom of four says after hearing her son was ignored at school, she sprung into action and reached out to the principal and teacher, repeatedly, until she claims she learned nothing would be done to remove her son from a classroom he was afraid to step foot in.
“Kids shouldn’t need to be advocated for every time there’s an issue,” Alexandra tells CityNews. “He should be able to be heard the minute he complained about something.”
Zach’s parents then encouraged him to make the video.
“Sharing it makes it not just about him, but it makes it about every kid,” Alexandra said. “They should feel like they could go to school and feel safe, and tell their stories, and be listened to, and this isn’t happening, so hopefully it changes for kids everywhere.”
Damian Brown, a registered psychotherapist and social worker, calls this video a family’s last resort, and said it shows how bad the problem really is.
“What really struck me is a child of that age has to take things into his own hands, because adults themselves don’t know how to deal with it,” he explains. “They realize it’s a systematic problem where they can’t affect change.”
When bullying is mentioned, Brown tells parents and teachers to not ignore it, but also not to intervene right away. Adults can often times get in the way, he said. The best first step, he said, is to empower the child, and give them the tools they need to respond.
“Try to help the child intervene on their own,” he said. “Then intervene if the child can’t.”
Alexandra says the bullying has affected the family as a whole. This being the only school available in their community, she says the family is now looking to move.