Phoebe Price

This week’s People Magazine has an article about Phoebe Price in it.  For those living under a rock, this would be the Irish lass who hung herself in response to being “bullied” at school.  Now, of course, everyone wants something done about it.  Sigh… Good luck with that.

The article dissects the events that led up to this horrific event.  With time slowed down and the luxury of hindsight’s 20/20, it’s hard to imagine that things went this far.  Yet, they do.  Often.  The article raises questions that we, as a society, need to answer.

The first thing, of course, would be to STOP calling the ongoing verbal, social and physical intimidation of another person bullying.  We need to call it and treat it as it really is: harassment.  Harassment, by the way, IS illegal.  By law, you are not allowed to do this to people.  Not only should we call it harassment, we should contact the police when it occurs.  That’s right, start that police file now. Seriously?  You’re feeling that this would be taking it “too far?”

Problem number 2: Are they children or are they young adults?  At what point do we demand/expect accountability?  I say this because, as a teacher, it’s not unusual to have students who watch rated R films from a young age, swear, and are physically out of control.  They are treated like ADULTS at home, yet when I expect them to academically set up, I’m reminded that they are “children.”  Pick one course and stay with it.  Once they are old enough to, potentially, become a parent, make them step up and be accountable.  That includes being punished for offenses that are, well, offensive.  As a society we need to stop babying our children.  Our goal should be developing in control young adults who are thoughtful, caring and hard working.  Instead, we’re creating brats.  Good for us, really…

Problem 3: We need to change how “bullying” is dealt with in schools.  As a teacher I find it beyond offensive that we are “training” our victims.  That’s right, we put the onus of responsibility for being bullied onto them.  We don’t really expect the bullies to control themselves (because we KNOW we can’t control anyone), so we tell the victims how not to be perceived as a victim.  We tell victims to “ignore” the bully.  We tell them to request that the bully stop (Anyone else got a rye, OMG! smile going on?).  We tell them to remove themselves from being in the bully’s reign.  Finally, if that doesn’t work (which, honestly, it doesn’t), the child can report it.  By that time, I guarantee you the victim has tried some other methods to get the bully to stop.  The bully, being an evil genus, walks into the situation with some SOB STORY about how… blah, blah, blah.  Sigh.  Needless to say, the bully is happy; the administration feels they’ve done their job; the teachers and victims are frustrated; AND there is a repeat of the same behavior.  Honestly, you’re going to ask someone to do 4-5 discrete things before reporting the annoyance and then question it? WTF? Oh, and I almost forgot that, at some point, the victim is perceived by the school as a cry-baby tattler.

Problem 4:  How much more sh*t do you want to put onto a school?  I don’t think anyone gets that we’re expected to meet standards (one lesson a day whether the students understand or not) and push students forward to produce test scores.  I DO NOT HAVE TIME to stop to deal with behaviors!  NO ONE at school has time to deal with out of control behaviors.  We have a job to do.  Yet, parents don’t see or feel it’s their jobs to teach their children to be in control.  In fact, a good many people in society fail to maintain control.  We’re a traveling free-for-all of amuse me or I come first.  Is it any wonder our children reflect this self-centered egotism of I can do whatever I want?  Get 2-3 of these kids in a class and I can’t teach.  Oh, but tie my pay to it, please.

Problem 5: School administrators are evaluated by both the number of suspensions and attendance.  You see, schools get the money to run themselves based on attendance.  No butt in seat, no money to educate.  More suspensions equal an ineffective principal.  Ineffective in your job means no job. Can you see how, maybe, just maybe, this method is failing our students and our schools?  There is no good incentive for an administrator to suspend.  Not only that, the parents will, most likely, sue. No good deed goes unpunished as they say.

In order to learn something we need to be willing to police ourselves and to have our children policed by others.  We need to set aside greedy egotism and actually accept being part of the bigger picture.  Until then, we are going to see more and more of this.

As the saying goes, great societies don’t decline, they commit suicide.

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