Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When Adults Bully

Bullying is big in the news right now. As it should be. We need to be aware that bullying occurs and of the effects it has on the children and teens on the receiving end. Children in elementary school have committed suicide because of bullying; that may not have been the only factor in those suicides, but it's the one the news mentions.

What we tend to hear about is kids bullying other kids. A subject we don't hear as much about is adults bullying kids. But it happens.

I read a story last week (I apologize for having lost the link) about a high school principal who informed her students that if they were gay, they were going to hell; and if they got pregnant, their lives were over. This is bullying. Apparently the principal resigned after this speech came to light; this wasn't the only such speech she'd given her students.

I also read a story about a 13-year-old girl whose essay about the autobiography of Frederick Douglass included tying Douglass's experiences as a slave whose master forbade his (the master's) wife to teach Douglass to read, to her own experiences as a minority student watching the white teachers in her school fail--or not even try--to manage discipline in their classrooms and to reach the minority students in those classrooms. That girl, an honors student, began receiving failing grades from all of her teachers; the teachers refused outright to give the girl's parents any evidence that the girl's school performance had slipped; and it reached the point where the girl was sent to a school for "troubled" students before her parents chose to remove her from public education altogether and homeschool her. As far as I'm concerned, that girl was bullied by all the adults at her original school.

I've seen it myself as a student and as a teacher. Kids being told by the adults they're supposed to respect that they'll never amount to anything; that they might as well drop out; that they're failures.

When a child or teen bullies another child or teen, we can sometimes say, "Well, they don't know any better." But what is the excuse of an adult for that kind of behavior to a child, particularly a child they have authority over?

ALL bullying needs to stop. Including adults bullying children.

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