For a while now, I’ve been thinking that my work was done. That the word has gotten out about bullying, that the school systems were putting a stop to it, that parents knew the signs, and that people were ready to step in and stop it when they saw it.
I’m pretty sure others have started thinking this way too. Nowadays, school administrators avoid using terms like “bullying” or “anti-bullying” when discussing the topic. They have started to say those terms have been overused. Better, they say, that we talk about creating a “safe school climate” for students. I guess bullying just doesn’t happen anymore.
To believe such a thing would be folly, and it would open the door for bullies everywhere to pick right back up where they left off. Something like bullying, an activity that has been so embedded in our culture that people actually think of it as just “boys being boys,” doesn’t simply go away after a few years of attention. Oh, you’re one of those who doesn’t think it’s that big a deal anymore? Listen to this story about a 13-year-old that has only recently come to light, though it happened in February.
A 13-year-old boy who attended Kopachuck Middle School in Washington state was filmed by another student with a cell phone as he was dragged along the floor by his classmates, with his own socks stuffed in his mouth, pinned beneath chairs while they scribbled on his feet and much more. There’s a 15 minute video of the incident available by clicking here.
The worst part about the whole episode was that not only was there a teacher present who didn’t protect this boy and put a stop to it, he was a participant as well! The teacher involved can be seen in the video taking part in physically harassing the young boy. The teacher has 18 years in the profession and knew that other children were videotaping the incident, but thought that it was “harmless horseplay.” He said that he “viewed the interaction as a matter of 'boys will be boys' and was allowing the kids a diversion from the normal after a long period of intense studies.”
Evidently, we still have quite a ways to go to sufficiently shift our culture away from the “boys will be boys” mentality. The public was not satisfied with the 10-day suspension without pay the teacher received and wants him permanently terminated from the teaching staff. I agree with this. But not because of some sense of justice or appropriate punishment, but because I believe this couldn't have possibly have been the first time that this teacher has either participated in such an incident, looked the other way during such an incident or spoken to students in such a way as to make them believe that this type of behavior is acceptable. He needs to go.
I’m all for working to create a “safe school climate” for our children. I think it’s an important and long overdue step that should have been taken decades ago. But I think it’s too soon to drop the discussion about bullying. There are still too many people out there who just don’t get it. They still think that it’s “just boys being boys” and a normal part of growing up. Well, perhaps up until now, it has been a normal part of growing up. But that needs to change. And we obviously still have a lot of work to do when schoolteachers can still be so far behind the eight ball on this.
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