Friday, March 16, 2012

The Worst Kind of Bully

When we think of bullying, our thoughts conjure up images of student versus student.  As if that weren’t bad enough, there now appear to be increasing instances of teachers bullying students.  Just as some teachers show favoritism toward a particular student, the infamous “teacher’s pet, there are those few teachers who single out a particular student to bully.  What does bullying look like?  It can be labeling a child (“lazy,” “loser,” “whiner”), ignoring a child, dismissing a child’s ideas, always putting child at end of the line, always calling child last for an activity, slapping a child, speaking negatively about the child to other students, speaking negatively about the child to others in front of the child, treating the child differently than others.  These are just some examples.  Bullying by teachers can be any form or harassment or intimidation. 
Just a few months ago,  a New Jersey school board took action against a special ed teacher who bullied a student.  The teacher was videotaped verbally bullying a 15 year old student with special needs.  The student was recorded repeatedly asking the teacher to stop calling him "special," which provoked responses from the teacher, such as, "What does the title on the front of that school say? 'Special education,'" and "You want me to call you normal, and you don't even know what it is."  The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave until the charges were certified.  The charges were certified December 5, 2011 and the teacher faces a period of up to 120 days of unpaid administrative leave or until an administrative law judge renders a judgment.
What can you do if you suspect your child’s teacher is bullying?  Ask to visit the classroom.  Speak to the teacher.  Email the Principal or, if your child is in special education, email the special education director / student support services coordinator.  Start with the teacher, if you can.  Perhaps the teacher is unaware of his or her inappropriate and wrongful behavior, and its effect on your child.  Tips:
·         In discussions with school personnel, be as factual and specific as possible, keeping your emotions in check. 
·         Make a list of points you want to raise, and arrange in order. 
·         State the number of instances the offending behavior has occurred, with dates and times, if possible. 
·         Explain the effect on your child, again being as specific and factual as possible, explaining your child says he or she is embarrassed, cries, says he or she doesn’t like the class or the teacher, does not want to go to school, is now biting nails, etc. 
Bullying by teachers can be more harmful than bullying by peers.  Students subjected to bullying by teachers may suffer severe consequences such as insecurity (here is a person of importance and power who thinks I am worthless) or anger.  It can affect the student educationally, physically, socially and emotionally.  There can be long lasting damaging effects.  So if your child complains about a teacher’s treatment of him or her, look into the situation, beginning with asking your child for specifics, for facts. 

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