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Etan Thomas Headshot

Are Some Teachers Enabling Bullies?

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With the school year coming to an end, the issue of bullying still remains a major issue. Last school year in Ft. Myers it was reported that two girls at Dunbar Middle School pinned down an 11-year-old boy and was trying to pull off his shorts. He screamed and cried and pleaded for them to stop, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. While yelling hysterically for his mommy, no one came to his rescue. The girls are heard laughing as they manage to get his shorts off leaving him naked and exposed. They run off and post the minute long video on YouTube. Winknews.com ran the story June 1, 2011)

In another case at Storey Middle School in East Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas, 12-year-old Martin Mitchell claims that in class, four boys took an extension chord wrapped it around his legs and put duct tape around his body mouth and nose while a substitute teacher stood by and watched. (The Daily Mail Reporter ran the story on May 19, 2011)

Probably the case that received the most attention was of Casey Heynes, the 15-year-old boy who according to his father, had been the victim of bullying for several years, and can be seen in a video once again being tormented by a fellow student. But in an unexpected turn of events, he scoops the bully up and slams him to the concrete. Surprisingly, Casey, who was bullied and fought back, was suspended.

This year, the mother of a 14-year-old girl, accused of assault after allegedly attacking two other students with a hammer, said today that her daughter was the victim of bullying. The girl's mother, identified by KDVR TV only as Liza, told the station that bullying recently had her daughter looking at herself in the mirror and crying. The girl recently asked her, "Mom, do you think I'm ugly?" Liza told the station.

"I'm upset about the fact that they claim that there's a no tolerance bully policy, when that's a big Littleton lie," the teen's mother told KDVR.

Sawyer Rosenstein, a 12-year-old who dreamed of becoming an actor and once appeared on Saturday Night Live, got called all kinds of names at his middle school in Ramsey: "Fag." "Jewboy." "Whore."

A teacher saw him get slapped in the face and reported it. He told school officials the bullying was getting worse and begged them to stop it.

"I would just like to put this on file," he wrote in an e-mail to his guidance counselor on Feb. 9, 2006, "so if something happens again, we can show there was past bullying situations."

Something did happen again. Three months later, he got punched so hard in the stomach -- by the same boy who'd slapped him -- that it caused a clot in a major artery, putting him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Unfortunately, these incidents are not an anomaly. It seems like every other week another horror story is reported about some little kid being terrorized at school.

I was in high school in the '90s, so maybe I am out of touch, but it seems like bullying has gone to a whole new level.

I remember my freshman year at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., I saw a teacher named Ava Fisher stand up to a group of football players who were picking on a little boy. She was a 5'3", math teacher with glasses, and she had courage. She walked right up to them in the middle of the cafeteria and told them in front of everybody that if she ever saw them harass this boy or anyone else for that matter, not only will they have to answer to her, but they will be met with the police, school officials, and anyone else she could get. They got the message and knew that their bullying would not be tolerated.  

Now, I'm not calling on all teachers today to be Ava Fishers, but they should do something. Horror stories like these shouldn't be able to happen right under their noses.

How do we get teachers nowadays to feel a sense of responsibility that wouldn't allow them to turn a blind eye to vicious acts bullying?

I'm in no way implying its all the teachers fault. There's certainly enough blame to go around. There are some parents who are unaware that their little angels are turning into little terrorists at school. There are students who witness bullying and are either afraid to speak up or simply don't want to get involved. It's like that show called "What Would You Do?" where people walk right by someone either being beaten, crying for help, or some type of tragedy and instead of intervening, they choose to mind their business. Other students find bullying both amusing and entertaining. They record it and put it on YouTube for the world to see.

If everyone chooses to not get involved they are in essence enabling the bullies. There is a saying if your not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

Episodes of bullying can have a tragic outcome as seen in the case of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael who committed suicide by hanging himself in Cleburne, Texas.

According to an article on CNN called "Parents' suit says school ignored bullying that led to teen's suicide":

"Staff and students at the Joshua Independent School District observed several explicit acts of bullying, including Jon being thrown into a trash can easily a few times a week, but did nothing to stop it."

Also in the article it says:

"He was placed upside down in a toilet bowl, and had his head flushed several times at each occasion... Just prior to his death he was stripped nude, tied up and again placed into a trashcan."

The article also exposed that other students actually taped the event and put it on YouTube

How do we encourage the kids who don't find bullying amusing to speak up  whether they are the victims or simply observers? Especially when it too often appears that teachers are either unwilling or simply unaware.

Behavioral-Management.com posted alarming stats called bullying statistics. In this report it was revealed that...

-- 60 percent of middle school students say they have been bullied
-- 160,000 students stay home from school everyday due to bullying
-- 30 percent of students who reported they had been bullied said they had at times brought weapons to school
-- Bullying was a factor in 2/3 of the 37 school shootings reviewed by the U.S. Secret Service
-- 25 percent of students say that teachers intervened in bullying while 71 percent of teachers say they intervened
-- In schools where there are bullying programs bullying is reduced by 50 percent

My mom has been a teacher for 27 years for Tulsa public schools, and they just adopted an extensive zero tolerance bullying policy that on paper sounds great. But to quote my mom, "If teachers and students collectively are not willing to make the conscious decision that  bullying of any kind will not be tolerated at their school, the policy means nothing." Mom, I couldn't agree more.