Saturday, April 10, 2010

Born to Bully?

There is the age old question about genetics vs environment. I can't imagine a baby being born to bully. Is it possible there is an Alpha Dog gene? Are we actually only the sum of our genetic makeup?

Is it environmental? Do parents love one child less and the other children pick up on it and abuse the outcast? Is it a person feeling helpless compensating by bullying a younger or weaker child - with the parents' blessing or at the least a blind eye to what is happening? (Or in the case in the news, the school staff. Oh yeah, they know what the kids are doing or just don't want to know.)

It doesn't seem that bullies grow out of the behavior. We've all worked with the office bully. They are aggressive, often loud, forceful people. Even when they have learned to be subtle, they still bully one or more of their coworkers or subordinates. Generally we 'take' it and try to get our work done despite their disruptive presence.

They are toxic people. You know who they are - the person we're glad when they are off. The relief of knowing they won't be at work or driving into the parking lot and seeing their car missing is sure delight.

Like 'addictions' treating the behavior is only part of the solution. The cause, the precursor, has to be addressed. Whether there is a formal intervention or the bully seeks help independently, it doesn't go away on its own without [therapy] treatment.

So what do we do about bullies? In the case of the young woman who finally killed herself, I applaud the attorney for charging the other children who behaved in gang-like behavior toward her. Her tormentors were vicious terrorists.

However, I'd take it a step further and charge the adults (teachers, administrators, staff, and other parents) who were aware of the situation and did not act to help her. In my opinion, they aided and abetted the bullies to driving her to her death.

Yep, if it was up to me they would be on the child abuse register. I wouldn't think twice about getting them out of the school setting. We have child abuse laws that cover peer abuse. There are anonymous hotlines to report 'suspected' abuse. And God forbid those Child In Need of Care Children Services workers do not confirm on bullying, or the judges dismiss the cases. CPS means Child Protective Services. The law is clear.

Here is how it works. During an open house at school we followed our son's class schedule. One teacher - Math, everyone's favorite subject - bragged how he threatened to take the class to the courtyard to study as punishment because some kids weren't getting the subject material. Keep in mind that it gets over 100 degrees here in Phoenix. The school was on a block schedule - classes were 90 minutes. My kids are math-whizzes. My son said that he tried to help the students understand the material - they just didn't get it. Keep in mind that he was a kid without a teaching degree. (Doesn't that sound like me being bullied by my teacher because I couldn't read? Oh yeah.)

I have problems with punishing those who are doing what their supposed to be doing with the hope they will exert peer pressure on their classmates. (I know the military does it all the time - the theory is that people die if there is someone in the unit who doesn't follow the rules.) But it isn't the student's job to teach the material. I certainly think moving a class to 100 degree unshaded courtyards is not a viable teaching tool.

Well anyway, after talking with my son, I talked with the principal during the open house - as did other parents. The next morning I presented her with a letter outlining my concerns and that in Arizona one school had already been cited for putting students in detention outdoors. By the time classes began, that teacher was suspended and the principal taught his classes. She ended up teaching math most of the rest of the semester until a replacement could be found. Guess what? The whole class moved forward and were challenging the next upper grade level to a math contest.

You bet I'm glad I took action. I'm glad the principal asked other teachers and the students, and suspended the teacher quickly. It really isn't that hard to take a stand to protect our children. Wild animals do that much.

Kids don't always tell their parents about bullying so it is important to create a relationship where those problems can be discussed. Watch your kids and ask questions when things don't seem right. I'm betting that the young lady who killed herself didn't act like a happy, out going kid after the bullying began. And if school officials offer rhetoric and nothing more, then move your kid to another school. How hard is that to figure out?

The saying goes, we have the world we have because we agree to it. The group who started the facebook page have said they do not agree to bullying. Let's end it. It takes more than talk, it takes action.

More info on the young lady who was driven to suicide by school bullies.


  1. It is a dreadful thing when teachers bully, and not one person listens. We have to stand up and point the finger at times.

  2. True. In my situation I was still in grammar school. It never occurred to me to tell on a teacher. But I did comment on how I hated the new school and my mom should have asked why.

    I think bullies silently dare their victim not to tell - if they aren't believed then there is 'hell to pay' for telling.

    But bullies do stop when pushed by someone 'stronger' than them. The teachers and adm in that girl's school (in the article)should have acted. Coaches are often overlooked for bullying if they have a winning team.

    It is up to us, as you said, to take a stand. At the very least move the kid to a new school and get them some therapy so they know the abuse is not their fault.