FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Teachers Who Bully

by Dr. LAURA FINLEY

While bullying between school children has rightly received much attention in recent years, other types of school-based bullying are rarely discussed. Bullying of students by their teachers remains a significant problem and is every bit as dangerous as peer-to-peer bullying.

Teacher-on-student bullying takes many forms, ranging from physical to verbal and emotional abuse. Like youth bullies, teachers are most likely to pick on students they perceive as vulnerable. Teachers can take advantage of the inordinate amount of power they have over students and can generally feel safe that they will face no repercussions, as school systems are set up by adults and supposedly any and all “discipline” is for the child’s “own good.” Parents and administrators often do not believe students who report that their teacher is a bully. There are no tools specifically designed to measure teacher-on-student bullying, while there is a plethora of surveys and other data sets about youth bullying.

Sometimes, however, incidents of teacher-on-student bullying do make the news. Teaching Tolerance featured a story in fall 2011 about a teacher who encouraged her class to make pig noises at a boy she thought needed to be more organized. That same fall, the Today Show aired a video of a teacher berating a special needs student for her appearance and her class performance. The tape was captured when the girl’s parents sent her to school wearing a wire. On the tape, the teacher swears, verbally humiliates the girl, and throws a chair around the room.

In October 2012, another teacher embarrassed a six-year-old boy who kept twirling his hair by tying it into pigtails in front of the class. Later that year, an elementary school teacher encouraged students to spit at a 9-year-old who had made a “raspberry” at a classmate, while a New York City math teacher was “reassigned” to administrative duty for swatting at and spitting at students. Students claimed that this was a regular occurrence that just happened to be caught on video. In June 2013 the Huffington Post reported about a Florida science teacher who harassed his students by writing test questions like this one: “A 50 kg student has a momentum of 500 kg m/s as the teacher launches him toward the wall, what is the velocity of the student heading toward the wall?”

Policies at many schools allow this type of abuse. Corporal punishment remains an option for school districts in 20 states, despite decades of research showing that it is harmful to students and counterproductive. In their 1999 book Dangerous Schools, Irwin Hyman and Pamela Snook document the stories of students who were hurt so badly by a teacher’s paddling that they began hemorrhaging. Students told them horror stories about being beaten with all kinds of implements, often in front of others so as to maximize the humiliation, all with the approval of the school district. They also told stories of other types of degradation, such as when teachers refused to allow them to use bathroom facilities and they were forced to urinate on themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: Most teachers do not do these things. Most teachers work hard and care deeply for their students. It is also true, however, that most students do not bully anyone, either. Yet we still work to end the problem of bullying because we know how awful it is, both in the short and long term. I believe that we must also critically examine teacher-on-student bullying as well, including those policies that endorse abusive behavior. If we do not, our silence says that bullying is OK as long as the perpetrator stands in front of the classroom.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail