f you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve had some experience with bullying at one point or another. While dealing with mean kids might just be another part of growing up, bullying can often go way too far and cause lifelong damage.
Most of the time, bullies are too young to realize the impact their actions might have on someone. Sadly, the recipient is also often too young to have the perspective to shake it off.
We’ve all been there and know that “sticks and stones may break your bones” — and that words can hurt, too.
Someone who knows this all too well is Deidre Fell-O’Brien, a mom of five whose teen son’s life has been turned upside-down by bullies.
Unfortunately, the perpetrators aren’t always held responsible, meaning that alternative action sometimes need to be taken.
Deidre decided to take to Facebook to share her family’s story and raise awareness about the serious impact bullying can have on a young life.
There has been a lot of talk about bullying lately. I would like to share my family’s experience with bullying.
My beautiful son Liam turned 13 years old on September 8. He should be in school with his friends getting excited about high school and playing soccer, but he is not.
He is at a medical center in Princeton NJ being treated for depression and an eating disorder. He has actually been hospitalized for 5 weeks. He hasn’t been home or slept in his bed. He hasn’t been able to watch football with his dad on Sundays.
How did we get here?
Liam went into 7th grade very happy. He had lots of friends, he was always on the go, meeting friends on 7th street, riding his bike, playing soccer and he loved food. A cowboy sandwich was his absolute favorite.
He made the 7th grade soccer team and was so happy and proud. He is an amazing soccer player and he earned a spot on that team.
As the season ended and winter came, Liam gave me back his iPhone. He said, “Too much drama Mom.”
Then he stopped going to 7th street. He hung out at home with us. I was happy but I kept asking if anything happened and was everything ok?
He said he was fine. He played soccer in the spring with his travel team. Soccer was the one thing that remained consistent. He played every day. He carried a soccer ball everywhere we went.
I kept asking don’t you want to go hang out, make plans with friends? He said no I’m fine.
Towards the end of the year, he came home very upset that someone had punched him on the way to the bus at school. Liam said he didn’t know who it was. I reported the incident but no cameras were in that particular area of the building and no monitors saw anything.
School ended and soccer tryouts came and Liam made the team we thought he wanted to make.
Liam didn’t pick up the soccer ball for the rest of the summer. I was so confused.
He started going to work with his dad at the racetrack. He started to ride horses and really liked it. He went up to Saratoga at the end of July for almost 3 weeks.
While he was there my husband said Liam is not eating like he used to and when he came home I noticed the weight loss. He started to eat just 1 meal a day.
I kept trying to talk with him. What is going on? Nothing Mom, I’m fine. I took him to the doctor and he had lost about 10lbs since June.
2 Days later he was admitted to Cohens children’s hospital. He hated it and said, I will eat, please let me come home. I went to bat for him. I thought he really needs to start school with his friends.
I went into Garden City Middle school on the first day and met with guidance. I met with the nurses and made them aware of what was going on with Liam. I was told staff would be aware and he would be safe.
Liam came home on Friday with a bruise on his face. I kept asking what happened? He said nothing, he banged it by accident.
That was his birthday and we went out to celebrate that night. He didn’t eat. He barely ate the rest of the weekend. He lost 5 pounds that first week back.
That Monday he didn’t go to school. We sat at the kitchen table and we cried and I said please tell me what happened.
He finally couldn’t hold it in anymore. He told me he was bullied terribly in 7th grade. It started when he made the soccer team. 2 kids told him he sucked and shouldn’t have made the team. There were unnecessary pushes and kicks.
He was told he was weird, he was fat, his freckles were weird, his eyebrows were weird. They used horrible language and called him nasty words.
I asked him how often it happened. He looked at me crying and said, “Every day Mom.”
They broke him, he believed he was no good and stopped playing soccer because it just reminded him of them.
Then he told me the bruise on his face happened on Friday, his birthday. He was putting his lock on his Gym locker and a boy came and pushed his face against the locker. He was alone in the locker room. There are no monitors in the Gym locker room. There are offices with glass windows where teachers and coaches are but not always. One of the most vulnerable places for a child is in the Gym locker room.
He was not safe as I had been assured he would be. I was told “Eyes would be on him.”
Liam was readmitted to the hospital. My husband and I reported the incident to the school. My husband sent a letter to the principal. We met with the guidance counselor and social worker.
The principal didn’t even show his face. The school conducted an investigation.
Meanwhile, my son had to have a feeding tube placed and was wearing a heart monitor because his heart rate was so low from malnutrition. He had to be transferred to a more intensive facility.
He is opening up more and talking about what happened and how terrible 7th grade was, he has a long road ahead of him. I wish he had come to us and told us earlier but he said he didn’t want to make a big deal or for anyone to get in trouble.
I went in to discuss the results of the school’s investigation yesterday. The results were unfounded.
I was told Liam’s perception may have been different from reality. They just couldn’t find evidence that this happened.
I have a picture of a bruise on his face, they said staff said he didn’t exhibit behavior that would suggest something just happened to him. We are so disappointed.
The bullies will continue to bully. All during this investigation the students continued to play on the school team. In professional sports, if you are under investigation for something, you usually aren’t on the field playing.
I just got an email about unity day next week. Wear your orange shirt to show you are against bullying. Seriously? What a crock of sh*t.
Parents, watch and listen to your children. I had a parent tell me her son had a heart of gold and Liam must be a sensitive boy! Again, I was speechless!
Liam should be able to finish 8th grade with the kids he started school with in Garden City. There are so many wonderful kids and families that have reached out and shared their experiences with bullying. We have received beautiful cards and letters of well wishes and encouragement.
Liam is truly a wonderful boy. He is kind and he loves his family. We miss him and want him to be home with us. So when you put on that orange shirt, really stand behind what it is supposed to mean. I think we can do more than an orange shirt. The school has closed their investigation, but this is not over. I want Liam’s story to be heard.
Make sure to Rasplove this story and spread word about Liam’s cause!