Nine year old Ashley was having a terrible time of it on the bus. For whatever reason, there were other kids who were always snickering at her. Once she gots on the bus, she sensed that they were always whispering things about her.
She was never sure what the snickers were about, but she usually heard things like “fat,” “dorky,” and “she’s so gay, she still likes playing with pretty ponies.” Sometimes she got papers crumpled up and tossed at her or an occasional spit ball landing in her hair. The bus driver wasn’t much help, nor was the bus aide. They never seemed to see anything and all they did was yell, which was totally ignored by the kids.
When I spoke to Ashley about it, my sense was that she needed some kind of protection. But, what?
I then got the image of the old stage coach days and thought it might help if someone could ride “shot gun with bulk ammo” with her, someone like one of the tougher or “cooler” kids on the bus. My theory was that if someone sat next to her who was a tougher type, that no one would mess with Ashley. The ridiculing would diminish. In fact it might just go away all together.
I asked my dad who was a retired principal at the time, what he thought. I knew that the Ashley types were his “bread and butter,” and I wanted to run my idea by him. He really loved helping the “underdog kids,” but he also was really good with the “tough” kids and understood how to get them on board. Whenever he had situations like this, he would make a wonderful marriage of the two extremely different type of kids.
When I told him about Ashley, here’s what he said:
“The principal can call in one of the tougher types on the on the bus (boy or girl) to ride stagecoach, like you say.
The principal could say something like this to the kid: “Look, I need a big favor from you. (Tougher kids love it when you appeal to them for help.) Ashley’s getting teased by a bunch of kids on the bus and they are making her life miserable. I wonder if you would be willing to sit next to her on the bus. I don’t want you to get into any fights or even to say anything to them – I just want you to sit next to her. For your help, we’ll work out a deal where you can get out of one of your classes once in a while for a free period. I think you’ll feel really good helping Ashley out. What do you think?”
That’s exactly the “shotgun strategy” that I was thinking about, and hearing this helped validate it for me, even if it was a bit unorthodox and perhaps a little “politically incorrect.”
After I spoke to the principal who agreed to give the strategy a shot, he appealed to a pretty tough kid named Angela to ride shotgun. Angela loved the idea.
There was no way that anyone would begin messing around with Angela. Angela took her job very seriously.
No more crumpled papers or spitballs flying toward Ashley.
Everyone was happy.
All of this because a tougher kid agreed to sit next to one of the ones everyone was ridiculing.
Sometimes simple solutions, can have great impact.