Thursday, November 1, 2012

Will a national strategy end bullying?

Teachers must be vigilant

But we should thank our teachers. I have had many teachers: elementary, high school, university profs. Our first teachers are always our parents.
The best teachers we have are the bad things that happen to us.
I was bullied in elementary school. I never learned my lesson. The name-calling, stealing some of my cheap, but important possessions. I did learn from those who bullied me.

I never spoke up when I was sexually assaulted on the TTC.
I never spoke up when I saw a man flashing his penis at me. It was at the corner, in his car, on my street. No, never told me parents, but I did tell a friend.
The friend told her mother, who told my mother. Thank goodness, or that incident would have festered in my mind for years. I felt guilty. I felt it was my fault. I felt dirty.

I learned from it. When I faced bullying in the workplace I spoke truth to power. There are many cases of Principals bullying teachers, women bullying co-workers. That power promised to protect me from a female boss who verbally abused me. The Powers-That-Be, however, are afraid of bad publicity in the media. They fear the consequences of bullying, whether it be data about suspensions for bullying, or an apparent perception that they failed somehow to prevent it.

It is my premise that a Federal piece of legislation will not prevent bullying. Ever. There will always be children who bully and bosses who bully. Perhaps, like child abuse, teachers must be obliged to report. I don't know. This doesn't stop some principals from telling a teacher not to report it, or interfering in other legal situations. Situations such as children stealing from one another, or from staff, children vandalising property.

No. Bullying will stop when someone steps up to stop it. We cannot prevent young people from committing suicide from mental health issues, but we can teach some of them how to manage bullying. These are life lessons.

They must demand passwords from their children, get on-line and see what their child is doing. Get in their face on Facebook, that grand experiment in Social Media. Check out their friends, check the browser history. Take away the cell phones, webcams, place the computer in a main traffic area of the home. Keep kids away from chat room. Using a family computer is not a right. I used to put the keyboard in the trunk of my car when I went to work. I would withdraw priviledges as a consequence for something or other. It worked well.

We must blame the bystander, and the bullier as much as victims are to blame for not reporting in some situations. Parents must speak to kids about abuse, speak truth to power.
If this does not resolve it, and often parents are unable, unwilling to do so, then we must step it up.

Family Members
Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins all must be aware of what is going on and help speak truth to power as well.

Teachers and Principals
We cannot blame teachers, I think, as they are often unable to do something, due to principal interference. Principals demand proof, which is often not available.
We have a grand portfolio of preventive measures. You can read some here. I have explained many of the things I have done. Just listen to Rick Mercer: Canadians are afraid to rant. They are afraid to speak out. Teachers are well-educated in face-to-face bullying, and cyberbullying. Sometimes they cannot act. What if teachers cannot help a child?

The Bullies
Once we identify them, we report them to their ISP (e.g.,, we talk to their parents, we confront them at home, at school. We use Restorative Justice.

The Victims
We must teach children how to help themselves. I've had shy students who embraced the bullying, as it was the only attention they got from peers.

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