Natalie was growing concerned about her daughter Brandi’s school performance. Her grades had dropped since the beginning of the school year, and she seemed reluctant to go to school. On some days, she complained of vague symptoms, such as stomachache or headache. On other days, she simply did not get out of bed. Natalie took her to the doctor, but there was no definitive diagnosis. She questioned Brandi about any problems at school, but Brandi was uncommonly quiet. Natalie then looked at Brandi’s Facebook page and saw a series of comments from Brandi’s friends about a school bully. When Natalie confronted Brandi, the child broke down crying and told the whole story. Another girl, who was two years ahead of her in school, was bullying her. She would tease Brandi in school, leave nasty messages on her Facebook page, and even threatened her on several occasions.
Natalie was furious and immediately arranged a meeting with the teacher and school principal. The school officials attempted to address the problem by speaking to the girl and her parents. The parents placed their daughter in treatment; she was diagnosed with a behavior disorder and put on medication, which seemed to work. Both the girl’s parents and the school officials explained to Natalie that the girl had an underlying medical condition that caused her to become angry and lack impulse control. The school officials were reluctant to suspend the girl because it was “not her fault” but rather a “biological factor” causing the behavior.
Natalie was still upset. She did not understand why her own daughter should suffer. She had a nagging suspicion that the bully’s parents were using the biological cause as an excuse for their daughter’s bad behavior.