Today I would like to talk about this culture of non-accountability. It runs rampant in our schools when it comes to bullying. No one wants to stand up for the victims of bullying and say “This is wrong. It will not happen ever again on our watch. There will be consequences for what did happen.”
Schools would rather look the other way or brush bullying incidents aside or make excuses. There’s no accountability. No one is willing to stand up and say, “ENOUGH.” What happens, though, is that when one is allowed to get away with acts of harassment, intimidation, verbal and physical bullying, these behaviors will most likely escalate. When schools send the message that bullying will be tolerated, they send the message that they are not accountable for the safety of our children at school.
For example, if a child is exhibiting signs of aggression and bullying at 4 and nothing is done to put an immediate end to it, it will likely continue at age 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. That pattern on non-accountability and a sense of acceptance tells bullies that they have the green light to continue harming others with their hands, their feet, or their words.
I was reading some information on schools’ responses to bullying the other day and was struck by a comment schools in terms of how they handle bullying:
“Bad schools deny it, ignore it, justify it, rationalize it, handle it inappropriately, sweep it under the carpet, blame the victim of bullying, blame the parents of the victim of bullying, say they’ve ‘ticked all the boxes’ and make lots of impressive noises but take no substantive action.”
This quote really resonated with me. I feel we live in a great school district in terms of academics & opportunities. I have never thought otherwise until these past 2 weeks. Now I have mixed feelings about a school community I have loved so much and spoken of so highly when it comes to how bullying is handled.
We’ve been exploring our son’s other options for next year. We chose to move here to be in this school district and quite honestly I feel let down. I truly feel like the school doesn’t fully have my son’s back and that’s not a good feeling for anyone.
The main outcome of the meeting the other day is that the other child gets no punishment for his actions. No accountability. If this child Nick was running from–the same one who had just knocked him to the ground a few minutes earlier–had directly pushed Nick’s head into the metal rung, that would’ve been a bullying incident. Since Nick was running away from the kid who had just physically shoved him down in fear that he was going to hurt him again, then that gets called an accident. Really?
Schools teach kids to find a trusted adult to talk to when they are scared. They say that grown ups will help you. “If you think you’re being bullied, go tell someone.” I really think that some of the kids who are being bullied are getting mixed messages and wonder, “Why bother?” They want to feel like the school has their back and will help them, but is this the reality?
Each and every child has the right to go to school everyday and not be bullied, harassed, or abused in any way.
In fact, our district’s 2011-2012 Code of Conduct, the issue of bullying is addressed. What happened to my son clearly violated this Code of Conduct, yet there have been no consequences.
No person, alone or with others, shall:
1) Engage in “bullying” which shall mean repeated attempts or acts to intimidate or coerce
others by the real or threatened:
• Infliction of physical, verbal, written, gestured or electronically transmitted (cyberbulling)
• Attacks on the property of another;
• Verbal taunts, name-calling and put-downs including ethnic, gender or sexual
orientation based verbal put-downs;
• Efforts to extort money or possessions;
• Efforts to exclude others from peer groups.
2) These prohibitions shall exist regardless of whether the person against whom the conduct is
committed participated in, consented to, or acquiesced in the conduct deemed as “bullying.”
3) The reasoned and civil exchange of opinions or debate, protected by state or federal law, is
not prohibited by this section.
Also, as many forms of bullying would fall into the realm of criminal activity and endangering another child’s welfare, here is what our handbook states:
Criminal Court Complaints; Juvenile Delinquency Petitions
“Violations of this Code which constitute criminal acts and/or which endanger persons or property
will be reported to the superintendent and to the police…”
The system is broken. Not just in this school district, but in districts across the country. Since I started blogging about the incident which occurred exactly 2 weeks ago, I have received literally hundreds of emails from people around the world — from as far away as Australia to as close as our same neighborhood. The concerns are eerily similar when it comes to a culture of non-accountability.
There may be no consequences we view as appropriate for the person who caused our son to suffer a concussion, but you can rest assured my mission of standing up for my kids and helping others stand up for their children through this blog is far from over.