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I think I am writing this for myself today, as much as for anyone else here.

I have a thing about bullying. I can't stand it.

For the past several weeks, I've been battling with my son's school over a bully teacher who has done some pretty serious things in his elementary school classroom, and as parent after parent files a complaint, the principal, superintendent, school board fail to take these complaints seriously.

It takes tremendous courage to speak out and trust someone to take your concerns seriously, and not be considered a "tattletale" or troublemaker. If those concerns are ignored, it exposes all those involved to some serious retaliation, an escalation of the abuse, and a situation that rapidly deteriorates into something really dangerous.

If this is how my son's school handles complaints of bullying from parents, I can't imagine how horrible things are for the kids.

In the past few weeks, a new elementary school teacher at my son's school has called the questions of kids dumb and stupid.

When parents complained, the teacher denied it and the parents were ignored.

Then the teacher stopped calling the kids dumb and stupid when they got a wrong answer and simply decided to 'shoot' them, making a gun with his hands and blowing them away.

When parents complained this time, there was an 'investigation.' Four students were pulled out of the class for an interview with the principal, and put on the spot.

Oh, but the teacher had coached them privately before these interviews. God only knows what he said.

Meanwhile, he's let the kids watch Scooby Doo in class. Last week he cried in front of them, telling them a horrific story about his father being beaten with baseball bats as a young boy. The kids cried. The teacher cried and looked SO sad. The teacher said he wanted to bring his father, paralyzed from the attack, into the classroom.

The story of the baseball bats was a 'classroom secret' and the children were told that it is their private little 'family' story. But some of the kids were very disturbed and did tell their parents. At least one little boy was afraid to see the teacher's father in the classroom, imagining blood all over him from the beating.

Many of the kids now, are feeling sorry for the teacher, telling parents that those of us complaining are being mean to the teacher, trying to make him lose his job. When the principal asks them to tell the truth, the kids protect the poor teacher. Then they all watch Shaggy and Scooby and don't have to take tests or do homework.

I'm not making this up.

This is how bullying works. I am watching this happen right before my eyes, and my head is spinning.

Those of us who have been there can see it too.

The late Kathy Krajco could see it. Before her untimely death not long ago, she explained a lot to me about this kind of stuff on her blog. On Bully Teachers, she wrote:

Speaking of teachers, here is something all students and parents should know.

Narcissistic teachers (and weak teachers) use something I call "scapegoat discipline." Believe it or not, they actually target a kid in each section at the beginning of the year. This kid is the selected class scapegoat. Whenever the teacher isn't getting what he or she wants, they start yelling at the scapegoat for something.

The reason is simple: Only one kid gets abused, so the others and their parents don't care.

But all kids are intimidated by the show. In other words, the teacher abuses one kid to control the others. Simply by making an example of the scapegoat.

This is nothing rare. Every schoolyard bully does the same thing. Every brutal dictator does too. The Jews served Hitler in this capacity for example, just as the Christians served Nero.

The abuse of the scapegoat escalates to shocking levels, just the most vicious looks and snarling and contempt you ever saw - way over the top. Truly, anyone who witnesses it should think Teacher belongs in a padded cell, but incredibly these smooth talkers get away with it, year after year.

Of course the kids hate these blow ups. But who do they blame for them? Not the teacher. They are afraid of the bully teacher, so they suck up to him or her. They have nothing but admiring praise for him or her. They blame the scapegoat for always doing something to set the bully off.

So now the scapegoat is a pariah, on top of it all. Anyone who blows that off is devoid of empathy. Kids kill themselves over stuff like that. It ain't no minor matter. And every adult who knows of it is morally obligated to protect any child from it.

It ain't good for your unabused child either. It sucks him into the ganging-up on the scapegoat, which he will have to project his shame for. It teaches him to blame the victim and suck up to bullies. So ALL parents should be concerned when they discover this happening to ANYONE in one of their child's classes.

The gradebook can be evidence in some cases. For, at least in one case I know of, the bully teacher would actually mark the scapegoat on the seating chart the first or second day so she could remember whom to target.

The target seems selected on basis of vulnerability in the cases I know of. He could be a kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Maybe she's a wallflower. Maybe he has been in trouble with the school before. Maybe a kid with no father and drunk for a mother. Whatever.

Weak teachers who use scapegoat discipline always impressed me as slipping into it rather than plotting it. They don't act so terrorizingly crazy when they get mad either. They are just trying to blame their incompetence on having a section "stacked" with "bad kids," so that the constant uproar coming from their door ain't their fault.

They will often target two or three kids in a section (instead of one) to take all the blame. Scapegoat discipline just passes the blame though, it doesn't establish discipline, because the weak teacher can just scream. She can't terrorize anyone. So, the gross unfairness just provokes more disrespect of her than it deters.

So I can clearly see what's going on here, and so can several of the parents of the targeted children. For the other parents, ignorance is bliss. To them, I would repeat again what Krajco said:

Anyone who blows that off is devoid of empathy. Kids kill themselves over stuff like that. It ain't no minor matter. And every adult who knows of it is morally obligated to protect any child from it.

It ain't good for your unabused child either. It sucks him into the ganging-up on the scapegoat, which he will have to project his shame for. It teaches him to blame the victim and suck up to bullies. So ALL parents should be concerned when they discover this happening to ANYONE in one of their child's classes.

I love that part. Morally Obligated. To Protect ANY Child From It.

So that brings me to the Action part of the diary. The action that all of us are morally obligated to perform to protect our children. If you have a child, if you have a neighbor child, if you know of ANY child who is subjected to torment or despair, please protect him or her. Talk to your child. Ask him or her if a child cried in school. Ask what was the best part of their day and the worst. If you hear a story of torment - even if it not about your child - pick up the phone and call the parents of the kid being tormented.

Think about it. How many of us as kids ran home to our parents and told them we were being harassed and bullied in school? I didn't. I was embarrassed. I thought it was my fault.

Maybe the parents of the bullied kid won't care. But maybe they will. Maybe you'll be labeled as a troublemaker by the school, but maybe the parents will be so grateful to you for the heads up.

For me, being labeled as a troublemaker by the school is a badge of honor after hearing the mother of the child who was 'shot' break down in tears of relief (and horror) when she finally had an answer to why her child was crying all the time about going to school.

I'll be a tattletale or troublemaker anytime if it keeps a child from going down into a deep hole. Now other parents have come forward too, and we have a more powerful voice together. But let me tell you, this is exhausting work.

But it won't be so bad if we do it together. Right now. Today. Here's my plan:

1. Go here right now and see if your state requires all schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy: A Watch-dog Organization - Advocating for Bullied Children

 If your state does NOT have laws requiring schools to adopt bullying prevention policies go here and call on your state legislators to get their act together. GOOD anti-bullying policies DO work: Pennsylvania Schools Report Decrease in Bullying Behaviors

****Note: My son's school with the bully teacher has an anti-bullying policy, but it is not consistently and wisely enforced, it is not specific and does not apply to the teachers, so there is still much work to be done. If your state requires an anti-bullying policy - get a copy of the one at your local school. Know it, strengthen it. Make them enforce it.

If you child is being bullied, print out this Student Bill of Rightsand make it known to your school that they are on notice. The bullying stops now and you will hold your school accountable.  

2. Read about this groundbreaking survey being conducted by two heros in bullying prevention and ask your local school to participate:  

The YOUTH VOICE Project  - We invite your school to participate in a groundbreaking research project about bullying in fall and winter, 2009.

Bullying and harassment affect many students, yet few researchers have asked students what really works to reduce these behaviors. Schools across the United States are participating in a new research project by Dr. Charisse Nixon and Stan Davis to do just that, and you are invited to join them.

   This project has been approved by the IRB (research ethics review panel) at Penn State University. We seek a wide range of elementary, middle and high schools for this project – small, large, urban, rural, private, public and representing different geographic areas, ethnic characteristics and income levels. We seek schools that have implemented bullying prevention, harassment prevention and other social justice initiatives and those that have not yet implemented these programs. There will be no cost to the school for students to participate in this anonymous on-line survey.

   This research study is the first large-scale effort to ask young people what works in bullying and harassment prevention based on their own experiences and observations. The information we gather will help to identify the most effective and realistic strategies for targets of bullying, adults, and peer bystanders to use to prevent and mitigate the effects of bullying. We believe it is time for young people to help define what effective interventions may look like in the school setting. We believe that students are an invaluable resource when it comes to increasing our understanding of effective prevention and intervention efforts related to bullying. They are the true experts on what works.

   Our goal is to compile a body of knowledge of the most helpful interventions in order to help adults and youth reduce bullying and harassment in their own schools. We want to give young people a powerful voice in shaping future interventions. We will use their knowledge as the basis for a book and website which will guide educators, parents, and youth in applying effective interventions to reduce bullying and optimize students’ development.

   Identities of specific schools participating in this project will remain confidential and all student responses, anonymous. Each participating individual school will receive a detailed summary of students’ responses to the survey questions along with summary data representing schools across the United States.

   All students in grades five to twelve are eligible to participate in this study. The survey will ask young people who have been bullied or harassed what they, adults and bystanders did, and which of those actions worked to help them feel safer and more connected in school. The survey will also ask young people who have observed bullying and harassment what they and others did and what the results of their actions were.

   You can preview the survey at http://tinyurl.com/...

   To take part in the Youth Voice Project, or to ask questions, please email Stan Davis at stan@stopbullyingnow.com or Charisse Nixon at cln5@psu.edu.

About the researchers:

Dr. Charisse Nixonis an Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at Penn State Erie in Pennsylvania and is the author of several research articles. She is also the coauthor of "Girl Wars: 12 Strategies That Will End Female Bullying" (Fireside, 2003) as well as several scholarly articles.

Stan Davisis the author of Schools Where Everyone Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying (2nd edition, Research Press, 2007) and Empowering Bystanders in Bullying Prevention (Research Press, 2007). He trains schools throughout the United States and works as a school guidance counselor in Maine.

I love this part of what Nixon and Davis say:  Our goal is to compile a body of knowledge of the most helpful interventions in order to help adults and youth reduce bullying and harassment in their own schools. We want to give young people a powerful voice in shaping future interventions. We will use their knowledge as the basis for a book and website which will guide educators, parents, and youth in applying effective interventions to reduce bullying and optimize students’ development.

Imagine that. They are asking kids how they feel. What works for them. Wow. Pretty cool. How empowering for a kid to have his or her concerns taken seriously.

3. Black Friday is coming up. Will you be buying a present for your child's teacher? His coach? Her Girl Scout leader? Bus driver? Day care operator?

Instead of the obligatory candle or tie, why not purchase one of Nixon's or Davis' books and give those as a gift? I've read both of Davis' books and they are tremendous, and Nixon's are on my reading list next. They are tremendous resources for anyone involved in the well-being of children.

Including you.

Get moving Kossacks. We've got work to do.

Originally posted to the girl on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:38 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Not to throw shoes is the crime. Not to be outraged is the crime.

    by the girl on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 09:38:52 AM PST

  •  I get so offended (7+ / 0-)

    by the seemingly prevailing idea that bullying is inevitable. This relieves anyone of responsibility or accountablity for stopping it. Once upon a time, it was considered acceptable to beat your wife. Or to make children work in factories. Or own other people. These ideas are not acceptable now because some people said no, that's  WRONG. BTW, antibullying rules seem, from what I read, to usually apply to victims who defend themselves.

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:06:56 AM PST

    •  I agree with that - (4+ / 0-)

      the schools put these policies in place, fail to enforce them correctly, leave the targets on their own and the targets do all they can to stop it.

      Then they take matters into their own hands and try to fight back.

      Trouble is, the bully is a better liar, manipulator and has been practicing for a lifetime.

      Not to throw shoes is the crime. Not to be outraged is the crime.

      by the girl on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:37:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My 3rd grade teacher was a bully like that. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Virginia mom, the girl, dmw97, blackjackal

    I fervently wish for all teachers on power tricks to get the hell out of the classroom.  Handcuffed and perp walked out the door, if necessary.

    To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

    by Dar Nirron on Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:38:27 AM PST

  •  Thanks for this important diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Virginia mom, the girl, dmw97, blackjackal
  •  Oh I missed this diary yesterday. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the girl

    I'm glad I put you on my hotlist.  When my kid was in elementary school (20 years ago), one of my friends had a daughter who was in his class.  He told me the other kids were picking on her, and that he did what he could, but he was scared.  I used to help out in the classroom.  When my friend told me that her daughter was complaining, I said I would pay attention while I was in the classroom h helping.  I was heartbroken at what I saw--not in the classroom itself, but in the yard and between classes.  I agreed with her that she should move her daughter to another school, which she did.  Her daughter did fine there.  I don't know how she started out being the object of the kids' teasing and disdain.  It was very sad.

    •  You'll appreciate this (0+ / 0-)

      I was a homeroom parent volunteer and I sent a small benefit-of-the-doubt email to the teacher when the kids were telling us parents that the teacher was calling them dumb and stupid. I said even if he is innocently doing it, it is not healthy for kids to hear.

      The teacher responded by saying he wanted to talk to me, that the issue was valid.

      He also apologized to the parents of kids he had called dumb and stupid. The kids picked up on his example and were calling each other dumb and stupid.

      When I went in to talk to the teacher as he asked, the principal and teacher were sitting there, they did not want to hear anything I had to say and the principal banned me from the classroom - I hadn't even set foot in it yet.

      Now I am not allowed in the classroom. I was officially removed from my volunter position.

      Why? What was my crime?

      I didn't support the teacher. I actually supported my kid instead.

      There are so many problems and no training for teachers, and the kids who are mishandled end up so angry with the school. These kids should see the school as theirs, as their community. Not as the enemy who only punishes and doesn't protect.

      This teacher who calls kids names, 'shoots' them for getting wrong answers and who manipulates them is in class with the kids and I AM THE ONE WHO IS BANNED.

      How does that make sense?

      It it simple and pure intimidation designed to swat down any parent who wants input into the school's operations, and I have contacted the ACLU.

      I am not letting them get away with this.

      Secrets and silence are a bully's best friends, and this is coming from the top bullies - the teacher and prinicpal. The kids don't stand a chance.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Not to throw shoes is the crime. Not to be outraged is the crime.

      by the girl on Fri Nov 20, 2009 at 09:18:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is really terrible. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        the girl

        Is there any kind of School Board you might be able to talk too?  Keep us posted.

        •  The school board is not (0+ / 0-)

          in charge of this teacher - only the principal.

          It just says there is nothing they can do about the teacher.

          Now that I've brought the board into it, they ignore us completely. They must think we are going to sue.

          It didn't have to come to that.

          Not to throw shoes is the crime. Not to be outraged is the crime.

          by the girl on Sat Nov 21, 2009 at 05:03:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The School Board (0+ / 0-)

            should be in charge of the principal, as well as the philosophy of the schools.  It seems this should fit in there somewhere.  They just aren't doing their jobs.  Saying it's a matter for the principal avoids the overall idea of bullying teachers.  The school board could take a general position, if not a specific one, of allowing parents to participate regardless, or of not allowing teachers to bully the kids.  

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