Everyone is aware of peer on peer bullying and the Education system is emphatic about about not allowing the situation to arise and if it does how to protect the student who is being bullied. What about when teachers bully students. This receives virtually no attention. With the publicity surrounding peer to peer bullying, why is the idea of teacher to student bullying largely ignored in the education system today unless it involves sexual conduct? Is other types of bullying unplausible? Is there a definition for teacher bullying? Does it exist?
Bullying by a teacher is defined as a pattern of conduct, rooted in a power differential, that threatens, harms, humiliates, induces fear, or causes a student substantial emotional distress. What does that really mean? Abuse of power that tends to be chronic and often expressed in public, a form of humiliation that generates attention while degrading the student in front of others, students capabilities are debased and identity is ridiculed. In nearly every case of teacher bullying it is a singular target that this bullied repeatedly. Equally significant is that the teacher usually receives no retribution or other negative consequences.
Victims are chosen on the basis of either vulnerability or because of some devalued personal attribute the teacher perceives of the student. Once targeted, the victim is treated in a manner which will set the student apart from their peers. The teacher makes frequent references to how the student differs from other students whom the teacher perceives as more capable or valuable. As a consequence, the student because a scapegoat among peers.
Teachers who do bully feel their abusive conduct is justified and claim provation by the student. They disquise their behavior as an appropriate part of the instruction, as well as disguising abuse as an appropriate disciplinary response to unacceptable behavior by the student. However, the student is subjected to deliberate humiliation by the teacher that can never ever serve as a legitimate educational purpose.
Students who are bullied by teachers feel confused, angry, fearful, full of self-doubt, and have profound concerns about their competencies both academically and socially. The student not understanding why they were targeted nor what they must do to end the bullying, over time, especially if no one in an authoritative position intervenes, feels they are to blame for the abuse and feel a sense of helplessness and worthlessness.
Teachers who bully employ a number of methods to deflect any complaints about their offensive conduct. Convincing or attempting to convince the target they are paranoid, that they have misperceived or misrepresented the behavior in question. As an example, an abusive teacher will argue that a student who complains is simply trying to excuse their questionable performance, thus shifting attention from the teacher’s inappropriate conduct to a discussion of stands and student’s motivation for complaining. This minimizes the effect of suggesting to other that what is truly at stake is merely a personal difference, rather than a systematic abuse of power.
The bullying by a teacher effectively produces a hostile climate for the student that is indefensible on academic grounds; undermining learning and the ability of a student to fulfll academic requirements. It shares at its core the same attributes of other abuses of power such as sexual harassment or hate crimes. A hate crime is simply bullying by target selection based on characteristics of race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.
The bullying is non-physical but nevertheless pervasive and powerful with the student fearing shunning and humiliation as much as physical harm. The threat of humiliation is used as a weapon in this case. The students feels literally trapped in an environment where the abuse is imposed upon them and there is no escape. Any complaint abut the abusive behavior places the student at risk of retaliation by the teacher including the use of grades as a sanction.
Students are selected as targets based on some perceived difference by the teacher that is devalued. When the basis of the target selection is also based on discrminatory recognizable categories such as religion, it is called a hate crime. Regardless of selection process, bullying conduct by a teacher sends a clear message of fear that threatens the student, enhances their sense of vulnerability, and produces a loss of faith in the fairness of the schools.
A student victim feels emotionally distraught anf fearful, with no place to turn for help. When administration’s do nothing to defend the student, they are confirming the teacher has a right to use professional authority and endorsing and tacitly legitimizing the abuser’s mistreatment.
In the Supreme Court’s ruling in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education the Davis Court defined that schools receiving federal funds may be held financially responsible where officials are “deliberately indifferent” to harassing behaviors including staff to student harassment that are “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive”. This ruling defined four criteria in considering school liability: 1)school officials had actual knowledge of conduct, 2) schools were deliberately indifferent to conduct, 3) school had control of the abuser and where it occurred, and 4) the school’s response or lack of response was unreasonable given such knowledge. The ruling also suggests that schools have in pace policies and procedures to address abusive conduct such as teacher-student harassment/abuse. In effect, if the school has allowed behavior that creates a hostile environment for student in a classroom, and school officials have been given appropriate notice but fail to act, then the school risks both compensatory and punitive damages.
This one case alone proves that teacher bullying does exist. This case holds Administrators accountable for the actions of the teachers. If your student is a victim of teacher bullying, speak up and speak out. Sometimes as parents we are the only voice that is heard. It is our responsibility as parents to hold our educators responsible for their actions and behaviors.
Here are some differences between maintaining classroom control and bullying according to The Florida Anti Bullying Campaign;
Educators let students know they care. Bullies let students know who’s the boss.
Educators teach self-control. Bullies exert their own control.
Educators set ironclad expectations. Bullies rule with whims of steel.
Educators diffuse minor disruptions with humor. Bullies to disruptions into confrontations.
Educators privately counsel chronic discipline problems. Bullies publicly humiliate chronic misbehaviors.
Educators are judicious. Bullies are judgmental.
Educators, aware of the power they wield over their students, choose their words and actions carefully. Bullies wield their power, recklessly, frequently resorting to anger and intimidation.
Educators help all students feel successful. Bullies punish students for being unsuccessful.
Educators address misbehavior. Bullies attack the character of the misbehaviors.
Educators see each student’s uniqueness. Bullies compare children to one another.
Educators treat all students with respect. Bullies make it clear that not all students deserve respect.
Educators highlight good behavior. Bullies make examples of poor behavior.
Educators are proactive; they create classroom environments that minimize student misbehavior.
Bullies are reactive; they blame students for the lack of order in their classroom.
Educators educate. Bullies humiliate.