Archive for November 30, 2010


Several people in the faculty lounge were discussing bullying. One retired teacher said that in her day, everybody rode on the bus together and there wasn’t any bullying. Everybody played together and just got along.

A younger lady shared how her daughter had been the victim of pretty vicious tiny girl bullying in the 2nd grade in which nasty little girls laughed and whispered about her, told the teacher lies about the the little girl, stole her pencils and school work out of her desk, did things like sneaky hair pulling and kicking her on the bus and in class with teacher’s back turned (and then denying everything), and treating the other children that tried to help the little girl to the same tactics. If the child(ren) had attempted to fight back in any physical way, she would have been the one expelled from school. I wish I could say that this is an exception or an anomaly, but it isn’t.

I shared a story about bullying from my youth. I was a tall, skinny bookworm that preferred the company of my books to that of most of my (unread) peers. I was new in that particular school that year. A group of adolescent boys had run past me on the sidewalk, shoving me aside, knocking me and my books off the sidewalk, and nearly sent me sprawling. Nearly. I grabbed one by the hair, yanked him back, and whacked him across the face with my bag of books. A Steinbeck novel is not just hours of reading escapism but also makes a pretty effective weapon, along with my sci fi loves of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov! I knocked out a front tooth and served notice that the skinny alta gringa didn’t take no shit, and I had no further trouble.

I don’t think that anybody there truly understood what I was saying because I didn’t come right out and use a Powerpoint presentation with the salient points in bullet paragraphs. We have a lot more bullying in schools now because kids that are being bullied are actively prevented from defending themselves, and the strategies that are being used to stop bullies and bullying aren’t very effective. “It’s not nice to pull hair (etc.)” isn’t a very strong disincentive. Writing multiple page reports about the problem and sending them up the ladder punishes the teacher who has a shitload of paperwork already, and then the teacher is punished again because administration blames the teacher for not having control of the class. Suspending a kid from school so that he or she gets to stay home for three days and watch movies and play video games (or burglarize the neighboring houses)? Oh, please. Yeah, that would have made me walk the straight and narrow back in the day. Snort. Notifying parents only works if the parents care. Many don’t. Some parents that are notified come up to school and cuss out the school receptionist and principal.

Back in my school days, if somebody was sneaky pulling somebody’s hair while teacher wasn’t looking, they would turn around and punch them in the nose and teacher would say it served them right. This was actually a very good incentive for children to not engage in bullying. A big bully’s size advantage could be overcome by numerical superiority of many smaller children who Have Had Enough (or the element of surprise). A bully might be publicly humiliated by a much smaller child whipping his ass. In other words, bullies got a taste of what they dished out frequently enough that it provided a painful disincentive for picking on other kids. Not anymore.

You know why the kid that is defending him or herself from a bully’s assault gets kicked out of school, too, under “zero tolerance for violence” rules? My personal belief is that it is because at least one of the parents of said bully child is his or herself a bully and has in the past (or present) threatened administrators, school board and teachers with lawsuits and bodily harm. Rather than incur the wrath of said parent about why their pwecious 150 lb. 5th grade bully was kicked out of school for smacking around a 50 lb. third grader and the 50 lb. third grader who kicked them in self defense wasn’t, the rules are now incredibly stupid so that everybody gets kicked out.

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