In recent years bullying has come to the fore of societal consciousness as many cases have emerged of young people being tormented, harassed, and demoralised by their peers. In some of the more horrific instances, a common outcome has been suicide by the victim, unable to bear the torturous burden. Anti-bullying campaigns featuring a slew of affected celebrities have been pervading the airwaves in an attempt to put an end to the cowardly behaviour.
Perhaps our St Lucian counterparts should consider putting together their own media blitz as details are surfacing in a local case of bullying which has quickly escalated from bizarre to dangerous.
When I met Molly Allen, she was like a loose cannon ready to explode; outrage emanated from her pores. She pulled out several photos of her young, slightly-built daughter at various family activities and school functions. Then with a steely determination she launched into her story.
According to Molly, her ten-year-old, a grade five student at a Castries school, has been the on the receiving end of lewd slurs and physical abuse from a fellow male student. It is a pattern which began in Grade Four.
“She would come to me and complain and tell me what’s going on with this little boy. I am very sensitive with my kids. I would kill the smallest ants for my children. I let a lot of things ride but then it started with knocking, then it started to get disrespectful and out of the way. He would tell her about her mother, her father, curse her, hit her and these kinds of things. (My daughter) is very tiny, there’s no complaints about her. I went to the mother. She said “let children be children”. You talk to her, she will get on her high horse. You talk to the grandmother, you talk to the father, everyone wants to get on their high horse.”
Molly approached the class teacher who seemed reluctant to enter the dispute. Frustrated by the lack of support, Molly tried to turn the other cheek, encouraging her daughter to stay away from her classmate and hoping for some divine intervention. However, the constant badgering failed to cease.
Things appeared to turn a corner as the students ascended to a higher grade this semester but the goodwill soon disintegrated as the young man returned to his old tricks, constantly picking on her daughter. Frightened, the young girl asked her mother to start picking her up from school, hoping it would ward him off.
On October 24th, unable to get to the school in time, Molly asked the youngster to meet her at an agreed spot. When they eventually met up it didn’t take her long to realize that something was amiss with her daughter.
“When I got to her I saw she was panicking. She told me when school over she and a next classmate were coming down the road. The same boy who was bullying her and another child from their class were coming down, so the classmate told her to run because if they saw them they would start hitting them. So they started to run but eventually the boys caught up and started troubling them. This boy coming after her, telling her nasty words and cursing her up and all. She said she told him “I have nothing to do with you.” He started hitting her and running. He hit her in her stomach. She got a hard hit. She took her lunchbag and hit him with it. He still came back again.”
A passer-by from a neighbouring carwash stopped the fracas before more drama ensued. Completely fed up, Molly, with her daughter in tow, paid a visit to the boy’s mother at work, warning her to keep her son away.
“I tell her let it be the last day your son is hitting my daughter because I am tired of complaining to you and you not doing anything. You just having the child do whatever he want. So she said “What that have to do with me?” My daughter answered and said “Oh you don’t care?” My daughter told her all the things that were happening in the school but (the mother was) still getting on.”
Molly says that the argument continued with the other mother hurling obscenities towards her. Then she turned her ire to her young daughter and picked up a piece of wood to hit her. Molly dared her to follow through, promising her that she would have her locked up. With a final word of warning to keep her son away, the two left the premises.
The following day Molly agreed to accompany her still shaken daughter to the school’s Creole festivities. Since she was running late, Molly allowed the child to go ahead with a neighbourhood friend. Her daughter called her from a nearby phone booth to let her know that she had arrived safely.
According to Molly, that was the last time she heard her daughter’s happy voice.
Literally eleven minutes later, she received an ominous call from the school informing her that she had been attacked by the young boy’s mother. Molly rushed to the school to find that her daughter had been beaten up and was begging for help. She called the police only to be passed over to several different departments and was informed that no vehicles were available. Infuriated she went down to the station to seek assistance.
“They told me don’t tell them how to do their work. They said they’re trying to get a vehicle. Up to now they cannot get a vehicle. It was a kind of push around.”
Molly returned to the school where her daughter was now complaining of a stinging pain in her back, neck, and head. She rushed her to the Gros-Islet Polyclinic where the little girl was thoroughly examined. She was then transferred to Victoria Hospital where painkillers were prescribed and an ointment to reduce the swelling on her back.
However, on Saturday morning, the young girl woke up unable to sit up. Horrified, Molly brought her back to the hospital where she says a ‘proper’ doctor gave her a shot to the spine to alleviate the pressure.
She has been resting at home, leaving only to make visits to the Victoria and Tapion Hospitals where she has been undergoing testing. Potential spinal damage is a grave concern of her mother’s.
In the interim, Molly is bent on getting justice for her stricken child and she is attacking the cause with the fiery passion of a protective lioness. She is livid that the police only showed up to the school on November 1st – a full week after the incident.
“That is totally unfair. That is why crime cannot finish in St Lucia. They say they brought the woman in for questioning. If it was a minister or a doctor or a ‘somebody’, you think they would just let that woman go? They would have held her until they were done with their investigation.”
Of great concern to the mother of the battered girl is the continued presence of the alleged bully in the school despite a long history of disruptive and violent behaviour towards other students and staff, as well as the RSLPF’s continued lackadaisal reaction.
“If they think I am settling this matter out of court, they make a sad mistake. I am bringing the school and the parent to court. Both of them in jeopardy because they know about this child. The police are not doing anything. Nobody is doing anything. I am calling for the Minister of Education to do what they have to do.”
As she continues to on her quest to restore her daughter’s health and spirit, Molly has one last message for parents.
“I am saying to Saint Lucia, it’s time they stand up and fight for their children. There are too many children out there getting harassed, bullied in school, getting attacked, and we just say it’s a little thing. No! It’s more than that.”