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Ballet Talk for Dancers

In person bullying in the studio


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I am seeking advice on how to best address bullying in the studio.  For those with experience, what has been the best course of action without causing a big scene?

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Without knowing many details, and with your wish to not cause a "big scene" -- we went with avoidance and more adult presence (which included leaving for lunch/downtime, and/or an adult coming in to pick up from classes or during longer breaks).  Some other strategies included a sort of "buddy system" (where those being bullied could spend time together in a group -- arranged by - or encouraged by -- sympathetic parents). 

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I don't know how old your child is. Assuming that he or she is on the younger end, still 13-14 maybe even 15 I would get involved. If your child is older 16+ they should be given some tools to try and deal with it themselves in my opinion, because we can't always step in and intervene as parents (assuming also that the bullying isn't physical). I do think that Eligus has some great suggestions. 

If this is happening during class, make sure the teacher knows about it. Be very specific however not at all accusatory of the teacher or they may become defensive. If it is not happening in class but in the studio outside of class, try being physically present when your daughter isn't in a classroom if possible. Also making sure that she has everything necessary with her such as water etc and that she can remain in supervised common areas with other adults present should help. I found that some of the worst bullying happened to my child when she went into the dressing room or to fill her water bottle in the bathroom at our old studio, out of the watchful eye of the front desk secretary or teachers. Sometimes teachers or the secretary weren't able to pay attention to the kids in common areas anyway during busy times, especially the teenage children. The answer for her was to remain in the presence of positive adults who were paying attention, either myself or some other parents who we told exactly what was going on. Other students who we tried to ally to help my daughter normally felt uncomfortable standing up to the bullies or they would end up getting bullied themselves. This was our very specific situation with some strong personalities involved on all ends of it. 

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Thank you both--very good advice.  The bullying happens in the locker room, and then in the classroom in a way such that the teacher is not aware.  The problem is that it is a "friend".  My DD is 13 and the student(s)--there's always more than one with onlookers who are afraid to "upset" the aggressor--is 12 and a partner in crime that is 13.  It involved taking a water bottle, biting the owner of the water bottle, and stating they would "kill" my DD for speaking up.  There was talk of pouring the water into some random person's locker.  Coincidentally, my dancer needed new pointe shoes last week and oddly she had weird stains on her dead ones that neither of us had seen before.  I just wish it would go away and chalk it up to immaturity.  My daughter cried on the way home because all the other students were asking my daughter if she was ok. On top of that, during class while they were working on end of year demo, my DD made a line up mistake and the student started laughing at her that the teacher helped her in her positioning.  This is her first year at dream school and loves it but doesn't understand why any of this happened and thinks they are all too old to be acting this way.

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This is terrible! 

This behavior is wrong at every age.

Threats to “kill” are criminal behavior even at ages 12-13. If there is a way to bring it to the attention of the school’s administration, they might need to know. I don’t know what the specific laws are about bullying where you take classes, however, at the very least, a decent school would have a strong interest to put an end to criminal behavior. It tarnishes their brand.

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Thank you Labrador.  It was a lot to take in last night on the car ride home.  The school handbook is clear on expectations and professional behavior compulsory for all students, as well as consequences.  Since the student is young and immature, I am inclined not to believe she meant what she said.  I am going to sleep on it and see what Saturday brings.  But then again...same student was bullying classmates a few weeks ago who did not agree with her regarding a teacher who is very no nonsense--trying to gather up support in an attempt to get her fired! At the very least, she is out of control with anger and needs some guidance.  

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I admire your reserve under pressure.

I have no words to address the behavior your last post describes.

I believe you will be given the wisdom to handle this, and strengthen DD.

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Thank you Labrador.  I will rest, reflect on the suggestions, and hopefully proceed in a way that is thoughtful

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I would absolutely take this to the adminstration. This is not just a mean words, but actual acts and threats.  Allowing it to go unanswered will only empower the bullies. If the administration refuses to address it, then they are encouraging that type of culture at the studio.  These are the kinds of issues that lead to teen depression and even suicide.  

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Thank you balletgem.  I know that's the right thing to do.  I also think the student that had the water bottle taken away and bitten should be the one to speak for herself, and my dancer to account for what was directed at her ("I'll kill you" and telling her not to be at HER barre and laughing at her for needing a correction).  I'm also mindful that we are new and don't want to make waves or appear ungrateful.  Not to mention the backlash that could happen to my dancer from students that might side with aggressors.  Moreover, I have become good aquaintance with the mom of this student.  I am thinking about a way to send email (but that then becomes public property) or better, call and speak to the school principal directly.  I think what I want is a reminder from administration to students and parents about behavior--not by mass email but a serious talk.  Ugh.  I cannot be silent because as you said, it emboldens the behavior and gives these girls the impression is that this is ok.

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When things have been taken to the administrators at our school, they usually try to address the whole class with reminders about behavior or talk to the family without naming accusers. We did have a student expelled for putting something potentially harmful in another student’s water bottle, so the harassment had clearly escalated. The parent of the bully never accepted that her child was a bully and denied that any of the actions attributed to her daughter were true, but enough kids were witness to the behavior. 

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Thank you for sharing your experience AB'sMom.  Gosh to put something harmful or anything for that matter in someone's water bottle... I feel sick thinking about what could've happened to the student.  Here's my follow up: I spoke with director who is experienced in dealing in these situations.  It will be taken care of just as you said ABs---no names mentioned.  I have every confidence that it will be helpful to all rather than hurtful.  And for the parent in your situation...boo.  I think we all know when are kids are not being the little angels we dream them to be.  I'm still dumbfounded as to why any of this would even happen.  What is the goal or purpose?

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Bavalay--Glad to hear this was taken care of in a professional and student protecting manner.  In today's times, it is important to let the Administrators do their jobs.  Threats of any kind are taken seriously these days or should be.  Sadly, we also have to teach our children that our slang of year's past does not work today.  Things like:  "I will kill you or I'm gonna kill you" used to be simply, flippant statements that everyone knew was a joke in nature based on when or how you said it.  Tone being everything.  Today, not so much. 

Even in elementary schools, threats like that are now taken seriously.  My bestie is an elementary school principal and she often talks about how many times she has to put threats into 1st and 2nd graders files simply because they are phrases that cannot be dismissed anymore and it breaks her heart to do so but it is necessary.  As adults, we grew up with some of those sarcastic and flippant remarks as normal and not as threats because of the tone we used with them.  Today, we need to teach kids not to use them at all.  


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  • 1 month later...

There have been students at our school that were asked to leave for just such behavior.   One of the students, I was the parent initiating the meeting with the director.  My daughter, along with a few others, were the victims of triangulation and other forms of bullying.  I spoke at length with a few of the other parents, who were on the brink of leaving because of the behavior, and 2 of us decided to have a sit down with the director.  My daughter was 11 at the time and the bully was 14. After outlining multiple issues on very specific occasions and situation,  I told the director that in no uncertain terms would I allow my daughter to continue to be subjected to such bullying tactics.  I also told her that while I didn't want to divulge names, that there were no less than 3-4 other dedicated families on the brink of walking due to the behavior. 

I was very clear and concise with my conversation and expectations.  It wasn't my expectation that the student be asked to LEAVE the studio, but it most certainly was my expectation that my 11 year old and no other students would continue to be bullied by this older student.  I didn't care how the AD chose to stop the bullying, that was up to her. 

I will say this though.  I was fully confident in my conversation and decision. I LOVE LOVE LOVE our studio and I now work there as one of the office managers.  I am very pleased with the way things turned out and I would have cried leaving, as would my girls, but I was prepared to go elsewhere if need be and we live in an area that supports that choice.  I will also say this. When the student was asked to not return, the entire dynamics of that level changed drastically...for the better.  

My point.

 Have conversations.  
Converse with other parents if need be, not in a gossip type manner but in a professional manner.  
Make notes of specific incidents that involve YOUR child with dates and times if possible and the result (crying, losing sleep, wanting to skip class, etc, etc...whatever it may be.  )
It's ok to make reference to incidences that involve others, but only those that your daughter was witness to.
Make it clear to the AD that this sort of behavior is not acceptable and ask what his/her plans are to protect your daughter in the future. 
Be prepared with a back up studio

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