What began as a disagreement between best friends ended with Lauren being bullied out of her school. Everything between the beginning and the end has been a hellacious nightmare of isolation, attacks, throwing up, crying, therapy, medication, and a school transfer just to finish 8th grade.
I’ve been documenting on Facebook the morning ride to school with the Middle Schoolers since 6th grade. We danced and sang to to our morning hot jam while driving in the Chariot for a little more than 2 years. I can’t even begin to express how sad it makes me to not have those girls around with their silly morning routines. The laughter and silence. The dancing and hand gestures. Starbucks and playlists. The accents and name changes. I welcomed those girls into my life as though they were my own, and even though they are no longer in my Chariot, I haven’t managed to lose them from my heart. If you’re reading this, I love you both. Still.
I made a playlist for the last day of 7th grade filled with songs the girls played ad nauseam. I cry when I hear Flo Rida sing about Shawty and her apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur because my mind plays back to the morning of my 47th birthday when the girls serenaded me with that song. And Lauren would play and tolerate Portugal the Man just for me because she knew Momma S needed one song for the ride just to balance out that Fireflies song and Ed Sheehan. And when I close my eyes, I can Feel It Still. And the Kai Dreams song Lost in You is still for me the theme song for the morning hot jam rides with my Middle Schoolers.
People began slowly dropping away from Lauren because who wants to hang out with the girl who can’t walk through the corridor without hearing “bitch! Fuck you! You’re ugly! You look like a boy!” The middle finger seems to be big in middle school. Making faces and throwing food on her in the cafeteria and throwing pens at her on the afternoon bus ride. And along with the girls who used to ride to school with Lauren in the morning, the meanness came from kids who used to be friends with Lauren as recently as September. But by October, it became obvious that even acquaintances were falling by the wayside. There were a few girls who showed some kindness, including a morning Middle Schooler who met with Lauren in the assistant principal’s office for moral support one difficult morning. I’m thankful for each and every attempt at kindness, though they faded quickly and dissolved into indifference and complicity. I’ll remember those attempts, but honestly I’m hurt and disappointed that more kids couldn’t stand up and support a girl who has been their classmate, teammate, and friend for years.
Paul and I have had face-to-face meetings with the assistant principal. Too many emails and phone calls to count. Messages to the teachers. I’ve cried in front of administration, the athletic director, and the school softball coach. I’ve poured out my heart to her teachers. I’ve gone to the school and prayer walked the property praying for a softening of everyones’ hearts and protection for Lauren. I can’t say enough good about the assistant principal Mr. Bryant. He met with Lauren repeatedly and tried his hardest to help. I think the principal Mr. O’Neal is a cowardly joke. When I asked to have a meeting with him to discuss how my daughter was buried out of his school under his leadership, he refused to meet with me. But in the eyes of my daughter who couldn’t focus past the next attack of bullying, Lauren sees Mom and Dad as part of the problem because while we were trying to do everything possible to fight for her, her reality was another day of anxiety and high alert.
Lauren tied the hands of the assistant principal by refusing to tell him who was bullying her. I think Lauren could withstand an FBI interrogation because she would not rat anyone out. She was terrified of people knowing she was a tattler. She didn’t want you to be punished by being taken off the volleyball team or by having suspension. Lauren protected you. And when the assistant principal finally had enough tangible info to pursue consequences, it was because Paul and I gave names and screenshots and info. Not Lauren. She’s not a rat. She protected you.
Paul and I have gotten texts from Lauren almost daily hearing about the cruelty she has endured at school. She hid in the bathroom instead of going to lunch. She has begged to be rescued from Jefferson. I’ve driven her to school just to turn back around and take her home in a fury of tears. I’ve lost track of how many days she has missed because of bullying. She has been pulled out of class many times to meet with the assistant principal so he could try to manage and control the bullying. So that’s even more missed class time. I’ve pulled her out of class to get her to therapy, and she is now on antidepressants. We hoped she could make it to January 18 to complete the semester at Jefferson. But by December 17, we realized she needed to plan on making December 21 her final day, and she could start Meadowlark on January 3 after the Christmas break. That plan fell through December 19 when it was decided she needed to be done before lunch, and Grace picked Lauren up at school and took her home. Lauren slept the rest of the day out of pure exhaustion. Paul took her Friday to Meadowlark to complete paperwork and have a tour so she would be ready to start after break. The photo above is Lauren’s post from when she and Dad left Meadowlark. It has been a monumental task getting her to a place of seeing this move as a positive thing, but finally she sees hope.
Lauren knows 2 girls at Meadowlark. Chelsea is from softball, and Ryleigh is from life. Both girls are excited about Lauren moving to their school. She will ride home each day with one of them. I’m making plans to pick up the other on the first day so Lauren has someone to walk into the building with. So since we sold the Chariot, I’ll be driving my new ride, the Cruiser. It almost seems fitting that just as we put away our old morning Middle Schooler rides and the old hot jam, we will now ride with heated seats. These Middle Schoolers will play their new hot jam. This is a new season of new friends and new adventures. What began and ended at Jefferson will begin again at Meadowlark.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.