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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail