Ohio Civil Rights’s Letter to Schools on Bullying
Awhile ago, we received an email from our superintendent which included a link to the Department of Education website. The letter, written from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Ohio Civil Rights, is both a dissertation regarding what constitutes bullying, what form of bullying specifically violates one’s civil rights, and a strong warning to school systems everywhere to tighten up their anti-bullying policies. In light of all the recent lawsuits against school systems, it is a timely letter to all of us. Since it is such a critical topic which concerns each of us, either as students, parents, teachers, or administrators, I thought I should break it down over the next few blogs and take some real time with this sensitive issue.
The letter begins by defining bullying as behavior that “fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of its victims and create conditions that negatively affect learning, thereby undermining the ability of students to achieve their full potential.”
Sadly, we have all seen it. Maybe we have felt it. Maybe there was something different about you, something that stood out and caused you to be noticed. And the teasing started, and it hurt. But then the teasing got more brutal, and you didn’t want to go to school and face it one more day. Maybe it wasn’t you; maybe it was a friend, and you wanted to stand up for them when the bullying began, but you were afraid it would turn on you so you stood silently by and then hated yourself afterward for not defending someone you care about. Maybe you were the one doing the bullying, and you felt some power that had previously escaped you but somehow took away some hidden pain of your own as you inflicted pain on someone else. And perhaps even as you felt that burn of power, you also felt a deep sense of disappointment in the person you were becoming.
Yes, we’ve all experienced it in some form. We were either the one hurt, the one powerless to help the one who was hurting, or the one doing the hurting. Either way, we were all powerfully affected by what we experienced. And for that very reason, we all need to take a stand when it comes to bullying. We can no longer sit back and say that bullying has always been around. Too many have been damaged or worse because of this malignant meanness. It is time to stand up to the cancer that threatens us, our children, or our grandchildren. It is time to say no more. We owe it to all those who have been hurt to say, NO MORE!!!!!!