DEAR AMY: My wife and I live in a predominantly Caucasian town. I am Caucasian and my wife is Asian. We are raising our 11-year-old Asian granddaughter. She is a wonderful child. For some time she has been the victim of racial abuse from some kids, and one boy in particular. This boy has called her slurs in front of her classmates. I have been to the school principal about this, and the boy has been reprimanded. His parents have been notified and he has even been given a two-day suspension. The problem is that he just keeps it up. School officials have told us they have done everything within their power to stop this but can do no more. Is this behavior illegal? Is there any recourse that we might investigate to help put an end to this?
DEAR GRAMPA: I don't often suggest this, but I think you should call a lawyer. The school has a duty to provide a safe environment for your granddaughter (and other children). If this bullying is continuing, then I don't believe the school has done everything in its power to make it stop. It has acknowledged that it happened by suspending the boy; evidently the child and his family aren't affected by this consequence.
This also presents a learning opportunity for both children. A counselor should work with the offender to educate him about the impact of his actions. In addition to being told that his actions are wrong and unacceptable, he should understand why. He should acknowledge his actions and apologize to your granddaughter, ideally in front of the class.
You should support your granddaughter's efforts to stand up for herself, but mentor her also to feel compassion and sorrow for a boy who is so ignorant and cruel. She should do this from a point of pride in herself and an awareness of her own strength.
Do what you can to connect your granddaughter with other Asian children, through specialized language, music or dance lessons.
DEAR AMY: We are a group of six women who have been friends (co-workers first) for more than 20 years. Some are married, some with grandchildren, and all are retired/semi-retired. For the past few years, one member of our group has become nearly impossible to reach via phone (no computer/email/cell), and when any of us leaves a voice mail, our calls are seldom returned, with either no reason or some vague or lame excuse (if any) as to why. She claims her friends are very important, but we are finding that hard to believe. She makes plans with us for lunch, dinner, plays, etc., but often does not show up or calls to say she won't be joining us. What can we do?
DEAR UPSET: Your friend's behavior is erratic, and I wonder if she is dealing with some health (or other) problems that she is shielding from you. She could be suffering from depression (or another health problem); she could be an alcoholic, have financial troubles, family worries or be in an abusive relationship. She might also have an unresolved personal issue with one or more in your group.
Rather than doubt your longtime friend's sincerity or chastise her for her rudeness and unreliability, you should approach her in an attitude of concern. Her connection to your group might be an important lifeline for her. I hope you will extend it even further, to see if you can learn more about her situation and, if possible, help.
DEAR AMY: "Mom Who Cares" wrote about her depressed teenage daughter. I could have written that letter myself a few short years ago when our daughter was in high school. Turns out, our daughter is gay but did not know how to tell us. She was afraid we wouldn't love her anymore. She was certain she would lose all her friends. She was suffering with worry and was very depressed.
Another Mom Who Cares
DEAR MOM: Your response may help other families recognize their own situation. Thank you.