How to deal with teacher bullies

How to deal with teacher bullies is the topic of this article. Posts to social media platforms like Tik Tok, Twitter, and Instagram are flooded with images of teachers and professors who are alleged to have bullied their students.  Does anyone know how prevalent the harassment of students by teachers?  It may be an under-researched. We do know that the social unrest, the pandemic, ever changing face-mask mandates, and inflation can give rise to adult frustration levels. And, it is possible that any employee under severe stress for which they have no control can displace their frustration onto others; particularly the weak. Teachers, professors and educators are no different from the rest of us.

Olweus (1996) conducted research to identify the maladaptive behaviors of teacher bullies who used their power position in the classroom to teach students with an air of arrogance and sarcasm. While not unlawful, these behaviors are certainly considered unethical. Particularly when the intended target is an under-age, helpless and defenseless minor who must remain routinely victimized due to compulsory education and attendance ordinances. About ten years later, Twemlow, Fonagy, Sacco, and Brethour, a group of researchers expanded upon Olweus’ study to refine and better define teacher bullying behaviors. While emphasizing the power dynamics, they sought to examine the ways in which nefarious teachers utilized their power to punish, degrade and manipulate a student beyond what would be considered socially acceptable (2006). But the funny thing about teachers who bully unsuspecting students: they rarely get caught and when so, they are often not disciplined. Further, 45% of the teachers participating in the study, when interviewed, admitted that they had bullied students.

What do Students say about Teacher Bullies

Are harassed and non-harassed students oblivious to the bullying behavior of adult educators? This was the question posed by Davies (2011). He wanted to explore the attitudes of the students themselves. Have they witnessed incidents of teacher bullying in the classrooms?  Davies found that 64% of the students participating in his study reported being bullied at least once. These students observed that while school policies were replete with warning signs, detailed information, procedures, and consequences enforced upon the perpetrator of peer-to-peer bullying; teacher bullying was not addressed.

Parent tips and parent support when adult bullying is suspected

1. Always make it a habit to speak with your child when they arrive home from school. Ask simple questions: how was your day, what did you learn, was there anything that happened today that was particularly distressful? The purpose of this light-hearted de-briefing session is to re-enforce what was learned in the classroom and to become aware of any potential problem areas (academic, physical, social emotional).

2. If your child indicates that he/she has been harassed or bullied, take a deep breath. Perhaps, from your child’s perspective appropriate discipline or classroom management tactics may be viewed as harassment, but the adult in the room may have been managing a disruption or seeking to better control his/her environment.

Ask for specifics, time the incident happened, where it happened, who was involved, what actually happened and if others witnessed the event.

3. Call the teacher or send an email asking for a face-to-face or virtual meeting (parent-teacher conference).  It is best not to write down the details in a lengthy email as the written word could be misunderstood, may sound much harsher as was intended; and it puts the teacher on the defensive.

4. During the meeting, explain the details as they were relayed to you by your child. Maintain your sense of calm. Remember if something untoward is happening, the last thing you would want to happen is to have the situation escalate or an adult seeking retribution by using your child as a tool.

5. Take a pause and ask for her/his side of the story. Ask for specifics, time the incident happened, where it happened, who was involved, what actually happened and if others witnessed the event. Next recall the version your child relayed to you. Look for similarities and contrasts.

6. You may accept his/her version, for now. But in the interim continue to receive debriefings from your child.

7. Spend a few hours during the weekend to build your child’s assertive communication skills as victims are chosen by bullies (regardless of age) because they appear vulnerable or because they may not have an advocate.

8. Take the time to teach your child that differences of opinion is a common occurrence in the world. Also help him/her understand that adults are human and are not flawless. Also start teaching your child problem-solving skills. How? The first step would be through modeling. As you work with your child to discern the truth and to resolve the issue, your child may learn quite a bit watching you as you work with him/her to find a solution.

9. If the behavior persists, call the school administrator and repeat steps three through six.

10. If the behavior persists, call the cluster superintendent and repeat steps three through six.