On Thursday we made the disturbing discovery that some of our 6th graders are engaging in the most heinous kinds of bullying, hazing, intimidation and battery. Some of it is of a sexual nature. And they have taken it to extreme lengths.
Counselors, teachers, administrators, and local police met with our students this past week and some of their parents and we assured everyone in earshot that we were going to protect out children from bullying.
We were most disturbed that:
• we hadn’t seen it happening…
• that it was mostly among the girls…
• and that no one spoke up in defense of the victims.
And that the nature of the behavior was so offensive. One of the police officers recounted a similar story that took place at another middle school just the day before. He told us that a girl had been assaulted by other girls in a PE class. Her attackers had grabbed her from behind, held her, and put a condom inside her mouth.
Upon hearing the story and connecting it to our own events some of our teachers wanted to know what in the heck was happening to our children.
“What in the heck is happening to our kids?” she asked.
The answers were predictable: “It’s the media, the internet, the quest for YouTube stardom, the lack of values, violent video games, the economy, screwed up role models, missing parents…”
WAIT! Maybe it is some of those things. But WE create the climate in this school. We designed a rotating, departmentalized schedule that leads to a more fragmented day. We provide the structure and the supervision (and lack of it when we get complacent.) We established the flawed systems that reward and recognize students that abide by our rules and consequences (most of the time) for students who break them. We create the relationships. We influence the culture of our school more than any of these outside forces!!!
Bullying begins to take root in places where bullying is permitted. To find the source of why it happens, we only have to look in the mirror. Even some of our students reported that they took our advice when others were picking on them. They told an adult. And maybe the adults just blew it off because they were busy doing something else. Maybe they were overwhelmed with the alarming increase in students coming to report that they were being bullied too.
As school leaders we can say what we want about out obligation to tests scores and politicians and our quest to create the planet’s most amazing school. But job one is keeping children safe, and if we can’t do that, we need to step aside and allow our communities to hire the quality of principals that our children deserve.
(Cross-posted at El Milagro Weblog.)