Newspaper videos show a suburban Dallas teacher watch one of his high school students get beaten by another student. This was not an isolated incident. That student was targeted for months. Since Dallas doesn’t have a policy, teachers are on their own in deciding what to do. In that environment, do you think that this is an isolated incident? Not likely. Is this only a problem for Dallas schools? Not likely. I have a lot of sympathy for the teacher (even though he was a relatively large man) and even more for the target, who’d been turned into a victim by school-system adults who were irresponsible. Don’t focus only on the teacher; focus on all the adults in the Dallas school system who abandoned that kid – from board members to principals and teachers and the teachers’ union.
Everyone involved in schools knows there’s a problem. Everyone points fingers at everyone else but no one takes the obvious actions. Why wait until there’s another killing or another suicide before they act?
Sometimes I get mad enough to want to see the bullies and the adults’ people’s pictures in the post office among the most wanted, or on television, so we can recognize the slackers when we see them at the supermarket. Who do I fault?
- Legislators and school board members: How can they not have laws and policies? I know there are lots of problems writing good laws and crafting effective policies, but if they’re not up to the task, resign and let us get some adults who can. We all know that if their kids were targeted, they’d spring into action.
- The teachers’ union: I’m appalled that the union isn’t leading the fight (read, “spending their lobbying dollars”) to make legislators pass laws and school boards implement strong policies to empower and protect teachers when they intervene. They have all the evidence they need to act.
- According to the article in the Dallas News, “Rena Honea, president of Dallas teachers association Alliance-AFT, says, ‘Teachers have intervened in the past. They have been injured. They have not been able to return to work. They have been reprimanded for intervening. So there is a huge question mark as to what's truly appropriate. Teachers who have intervened in the past have found themselves on the ground, suffering from sometimes serious injuries, a 2008 story by Tawnell Hobbs found. She found that assaults by students on Dallas ISD employees and volunteers had more than doubled over a 5-year span from 147 incidents in 2002-03 to 312 in 2006-07, according to district statistics.
- Of course, bullies don’t respect adults who don’t maintain lines of civil behavior. Of course, bullies will attack people, even adults, they think can’t protect and defend themselves.
- Principals and teachers: They’re stuck, hanging out to dry on their own, unprotected by their employers (school boards) and by their union. That teacher in Seagoville, Texas was risking his career and his personal life if he intervened. The attacker could have beaten him. The attacker and his parents could have sued him. No one is protecting him. He’s in a no-win situation. How come the school district doesn’t have a clear, strong program that requires principals and teachers to act?
- The bully and his parents: Have his parents done anything to teach their child? Has the kid never learned any better? How come the parents haven’t come forward to apologize or ask the police to prosecute their child? Are the adults in the school system so afraid of being sued that they’ve abandoned our children?
Harassing, bullying, abusing and beating kids are terrible acts. Irresponsible adults who have good reasons, rationalizations, excuses and justifications for not intervening are even worse. They convert targets into victims.
Targets can resist and get help from responsible adults.
Victims are unprotected, helpless and isolated. When victims grow up:
- They tend to perpetuate the pattern of being victims in relationships and at work.
- They’re not resilient; the smallest adversity defeats them.
- Happiness is fleeting; bitterness and depression is their lot. Anything good they get is never enough, never satisfying, never brings joy.
- They have no inner strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience.
- Their self-confidence and self-esteem may be destroyed. Anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation may be stimulated. They move easily toward isolation, depression and suicide.
The next articles will deal with what we, as parents, can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to our children; especially what we can do during the summer.
But the general take-home for parents is that all tactics depend on the situation – the people and the circumstances. So we must plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.
If your children are the targets of bullies and school officials aren’t protecting them, you need to take charge. With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome principals and other officials who won’t do what’s right.
“How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies. For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).