The Real Reasons Why U.S. Schools Fail to Deal with Bullies
I am a retired educator who has taught grades 6 through 12 across a variety of subject areas for 26 years. I hold certificates in six states and have taught in five of them.
Therefore, I feel qualified to discuss the issue of bullying in our schools based on my own experiences and those of colleagues that I have seen over the years.
School Bullying Is Nothing New
School bullying has always existed to some extent, but it has become a huge issue in recent years. Here are two stories that will give you some perspective:
- I went to high school in the late 1950s with a boy who is now a well known psychologist. He has always been small in stature. We have remained friendly over the years, and recently he told me that high school was hell for him because he was beaten up almost every day simply because he was smaller than the other boys.
- I personally suffered for years from the more silent form of bullying from a clique of girls who spent years ostracizing, criticizing, ignoring me and making up horrible and untrue stories about me. It was only when I became very popular and bought some new clothes in my senior year that they decided I was "OK". At that point, it was me telling them to put their fake friendship where the sun doesn't shine. Nonetheless, their bullying marred me, and to this day I get a little sick when I think about it.
Our teachers back then didn't seem to be aware of these things because we did not counsel with them like today's kids do. Thus, we, and other kids, had to learn how to deal with our own issues.
This may be one of the reasons I eventually became a teacher, and I can tell you that I was one who did address the bullying issue head on. However, I was just one person.
Many of my colleagues tried to stay out of these situations.
If confronted with them, they referred them to counselors and administrators. Some dealt with them, but more often, they either did not or were so ineffective that their efforts were in vain.
One of the main reasons for this failure to be effective is that there actually has never been a plan put in place that works! This article in Psychology Today explains that this is one of the main reasons schools fail to successfully deal with bullying situations.
Another and equally important reason, which is discussed at NoBullying.com is that, educators have become fearful for their own safety.
If the public wonders why more is not being done to stop bullying, they might want to put themselves in the shoes of today's educators.
Some Factors That Lead to Bullying
Those who take the time to research the underlying causes of bullying will see that although teachers and administrators can definitely be doing more to fight bullying, they are not the people causing it.
Schools are a mirror of society. Therefore, if the world we are living in is not stable, its children will not be stable, either. Look at these facts:
- An article in The Atlantic points out that for the first time in history, there are more single parents than couples raising children. The figure has now risen to 60%, only 6% of the single parents being men.This means there is one less adult available to nurture, train, and discipline.
- Earning a living has become increasingly difficult, so even families with two parents are forced to spend more time working than training and supervising their children. This leaves many children to their own devices for lengthy periods of time and causes many to feel isolated and unloved. They become frustrated and angry and often use bullying as an outlet for their inner rage.
- Abuse laws have made many parents afraid of disciplining their children, and for good reason. An article in Find Law makes it very clear that spanking is a fuzzy area that can send parents who do it to jail, so they simply refrain from doing it and don't understand that there are other methods they can use to discipline their children. Even when they do, they usually don't have the energy to use them or to be consistent when doing so.
- Many parents are unprepared for the responsibilities involved in raising children. Furthermore, the stresses involved in doing this, as well as in just trying to survive, leads many to abuse drugs and alcohol. These bad habits often lead to violence in the home, which children both suffer from and mirror in their own behaviors.
- Unstable home situations or those that are abusive lead to various levels of mental illness. This information put out by FultonCounty.gov discusses the causes of this problem in children and clearly states that psychological or physical trauma is one of the main reasons for this. When students feel unloved, enraged and isolated they vent their feelings on those who are unable to defend themselves.
- Instead of keeping students like these separated from the mainstream, schools were forced by laws such as "No Child Left Behind" and the "Individuals With Disabilities Act" to include them in standard classrooms. Now they are mixed in with mentally well students, which increase their propensity for violence due to the frustrations they feel in knowing they are different and are often treated as such.
- Finally, many parents fear retribution from their own children, so they ignore their violent tendencies.
Given these situations, any sane person would realize that effectively dealing with the problem of bullying in the schools goes far beyond the capabilities of teachers and administrators.
Lack of Consequences Is a Major Problem
Children are not stupid. They quickly learn that they can do just about anything and avoid consequences and use tools such as technology to help them achieve their goals.
Thus they get to take out their frustrations and rage by harassing, threatening, raping, extorting, beating and sometimes even killing fellow students or pushing them into committing suicide.
Even in the worst situations, the justice system often just slaps their hands.
In short, our society has created a culture of young criminals who, by law, must be kept in school until the age of 16.
Make no mistake. These kids have done the same things to teachers and administrators.
In the late 1980's two middle school students walked into a local high school during the lunch period. Without any provocation, they shot the principal in the face and killed him, and also shot a vice principal and a student teacher.
Where are they today? They've graduated from junior college and have gone on to live, marry and have families.
What happened at the school? Today, staffers who were there when this happened are afraid to go to work every single day, and the moment the word "gun" is mentioned, they panic.
Is it any wonder that teachers and administrators try to shy away from bullying situations?
More Reasons Why Schools Shy Away from Bullying Situations
Teachers and administrators are basically timid people.
They may have had some minimal self defense or counseling training, but it is hardly enough to prepare them for the level of violence that exists in some kids.
They also worry about lawsuits because whether they win or lose a case, the costs of dealing with one can be exorbitant. Lawsuits can also cause them to lose their jobs..
Violent students often have parents who are so substandard that they become violent when brought into the school setting. I have seen more than one parent arrested for threatening or attacking school personnel.
Things have gotten so bad that in some states there is talk of allowing teachers to bring loaded guns to school so that they can protect themselves!
An Impossible Situation
The bottom line here is that although schools are charged with overseeing the welfare of their students, the task of doing so has become impossible.
Teachers and administrators are not policemen, are not trained to deal with violence and shouldn't have to do so. They do not have the tools to stop school bullying.
They never have, and they never will.
Some staffers do what they can, but there just aren't enough of them.
When you have 100 adults supervising 2000 students, the numbers are simply overwhelming. If only 10% of those kids (and that's a reasonable number) are bullying regularly, that's still a potential of 200 situations per day.
Furthermore, schools didn’t create the bullying problem, so why should they be expected to endanger themselves in order to deal with it?
The answer is, most won’t.
Do you think schools are really responsible for bullying problems?
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle