School for "nerdy" boy?

I have a 6th grader who is a bright, good student; self-motivated, tests above average in everything.  But he's "nerdy."  Socially awkward, loves to be silly, even when other kids don't.  Really wants to be "one of the guys", but is usually a step behind, a step ahead, or just a step away from the group.  He loves sports, chess, science, & Pokemon.  He's chubby & has braces.  He is also kind, sensitive, thoughtful, and a great ally. But several kids in his Berkeley public middle school are systematically tearing him apart and breaking him down, day by day.  Never has he been picked on or bullied like he is now, and my enthusiastic kid is turning into one who hates school.  We have spoken with the teacher and counselor, but my kid is reluctant to complain.  I can understand that he doesn't want to be a snitch.  Any suggestions?  Is there a (public or private) school where avid learners are appreciated and encouraged (even by their peers), and where social awkwardness is ok, and tolerated, or even accepted as a norm?  I'm reading lately about bullying incidents in kids as young as 11, where they turn to suicide after months/years  of nastiness by peers.  I don't want my son to even need to think about that as an option. Thanks.  

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RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

I would suggest East Bay School for Boys. They may not have openings right now, but at the very least they can offer support, advice, and recommendations. Best of luck!

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

In El Cerrito, 6th grade is still part of elementary school, so that might work better for him. Try giving Harding or Fairmont a call to see if they have room, then check with the respective districts on how to go about a transfer. It is unlikely that the middle school (for 7th grade) would have room for a transfer so this may be only a 1-year solution but maybe that would be all it takes to get your son feeling better.

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

Does your son like listening to music, does he like to sing or at least 'experiment' with his voice?  If so, you might consider whether the Pacific Boychoir Academy might be a good fit for him. Boys of all types and personalities from Grades 4 through 8 share singing, camaraderie, and performances and tours together, and many of the graduates continue singing in the after-school program and touring through high school. The boys are also taught to be gentlemen, since they perform across the country and around the world, so a lot of the middle school 'yuck' that most of us experienced is channeled into more positive activities and teamwork. The music training is unmatched, and the academics are very good, and the 8th grade graduates go on to many Bay Area high schools, including the most prestigious private high schools (College Prep, Athenian, Lick-Wilmerding) as well as Berkeley, Oakland, and Lamorinda public high schools, among others. My son, now in 7th grade, started at PBA in 5th grade but I would have liked to have had him start in January of 4th grade when he first became interested in singing except that he had such a fantastic 4th grade teacher at our public elementary school at the time. I think there are openings in 6th grade now. You might consider calling the school to see about a parent and a student tour,

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

My nerdy son (now in high school) thrived at Black Pine Circle School.  Avid learners were certainly encouraged, and found their peers!  He loved the science, math and Maker programs at BPC.  He is still not particularly socially mature, but a sweet, friendly kid, and lacking in teenage drama.  

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

That kind of daily bullying is horrible! I'm so sorry you and your kid are going through this.

I'd recommend Park Day School. They don't tolerate any bullying - but better yet, there just isn't much in the first place. My kid is a "nerd" too, and honestly a bit socially behind the curve, but has found good friends among the other nerds (and non-nerds!) there.

Another good place for avid-learner-and-socially-awkward kid might be Black Pine Circle.

Good luck, and good for you for not accepting this situation!

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

As the parent of two "nerdy" boys who survived middle school bullying--one thriving at Princeton and one pursuing his artistic passion successfully--I want to say that your son sounds like a wonderful person who will be appreciated and valued as a friend and human being and have a satisfying life beyond eighth grade.

But the truth is, middle school is where bullies rule, and you owe it to him to do what you can to reduce the stress and toxic environment. One option is private school. East Bay School for Boys is well-regarded in terms of being sensitive to social issues. Some of the other private schools have bullying issues, but may be more responsive to concerns when problems occur.

A friend's child was seriously bullied at King Middle School and the teachers and counselor didn't really do anything until the family said they would pull him out and file a grievance. Then the intervention picked up, the bullies were dealt with by the school, and the problem was solved to the point the student stayed for three years. Families in BUSD hesitate to file a grievance and kids certainly shy away from attention, but the truth is, this is the only way sometimes that the intervention procedures can be activated. It's good for our kids to see how they can stand up for themselves, and it's good for the bullies to be called on their behavior. You might talk to the counselor asap and say this is serious, something must be done or you will file a grievance, which by the way is not a mean, personal whine, but part of the district process to be taken seriously. This isn't the jungle, the adults at the school know better and we need to hold them to their public avowal of a safe environment for all students. Outside counseling might help, too, because bullies do inflict harm that deserves support and understanding. I hope your son finds a place where he can be himself and feel safe very soon!

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

I'm so sorry to hear that you and your son are going through this. Kids can be extraordinarily unkind.

I don't know if it's an option given that you are in Berkeley, but I would recommend that you check out the Athenian School in Danville. It's a school that provides a great education and a nurturing environment. Unlike schools that throw out slogans about "being kind and inclusive," fostering community is an essential part of what the Athenian does. 

There are a number of kids from Oakland and Berkeley who take the bus from the Rockridge BART stop.

Hang in there -- you will find a place where your son is valued.

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

Hi there,

I'm SO sad to hear that your son is going through this. Which school is he at? I have a nerdy kid at King in 6th grade and was just thinking about what a great place it has been for her and her nerdy friends (boys and girls). If he's at King, PM me and maybe we can strategize ways to get him hooked into her group of sweet friends. Has he tried the different clubs and after school activities? My daughter does organized activities most days at lunch and does several after school classes with like-minded kids. It seems to me no matter which school a kid is at the important thing is to find some supportive friends to navigate the mine fields together.

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

I'm so sorry your son is having to deal with bullying. I know you're in Berkeley, so depending on where in Berkeley it may be too far, but you should look at The Athenian School in Danville. The middle school has excellent academics but is also very nurturing. They really care about the students there, and community and inclusion is a huge part of both the middle and upper school. Kids of all sorts, from "nerdy" to "arty" to "sporty" to whatever, thrive there. A lot of kids from Oakland and Berkeley go to the school and there is a bus to/from Rockridge Bart. 

RE: School for "nerdy" boy? ()

I am sorry to hear about you son's troubles. It must be very hard on him and you. My son is a bit quirky and we moved him to The Berkeley School and have been very pleased. They truly encourage kindness among the kids and have an amazing student teacher ratio. I would not wait for your son to really hate school before you intervene. Middle school is some of a boys toughest years so if you can make a change do, even if it's for a short period of time. 

Good luck to you both,