All posts tagged bullying

Anti-Bullying programs are political

Published January 22, 2016 by justicewg

The parents who are trying to improve the anti-Bully programs at Grandview Heights are exasperated by the resistance they have encountered, if I’m reading their Facebook page correctly. After all, nobody will say, “I am pro bullying”. So why is it so hard to change the school? The problem is that change has a political component that is not spoken out loud. There is a close concept to anti-Bullying, called “Political Correctness”, that adds a political side effect . Given the current climate, nothing political will be easy.

Palin calls“Political Correctness” a Suicide Bomb Vest

There was a lot of word salad in the speech that Sarah Palin gave when she endorsed Donald Trump, but her use of the term “Political Correctness” and comparing those who want to see more PC speech to terrorists, is now standard for those on the far right (which now seems to be the majority of the Republicans).

For the most people, the term PC is nothing more than an expectation that rude speech is poor manners. Racist and sexist talk is not acceptable from anyone who represents a business, it can get people fired if they imply that brown customers are unwelcome or that women are too dumb to use a product or service of any company. Insulting a potential customer group is bad PR.

There has always been a conservative push back against PC in political speech, and it is now become one of the top issues of the race for the republican presidential candidates. All of them complain that they are being held back by PC critics, and spend much of their speeches blasting the concept of politically correct speech, as though it was a foreign invader which infected us.

Trump has brought racist speech to the front of the conversation, with his beliefs that Mexican immigrants are bringing crime and disease, and that Muslims should be stopped at the border. He has normalized anti-gay and sexist speech, he calls his female critics ‘fat pigs,’ and ‘dogs,’ Trump has supporters who say, “he speaks out when we can’t, because of PC police”.

Bullying is mostly about prejudice

Kids who make fun of gay classmates, or fat kids, or any of the different categories kids are divided into are mostly allowing prejudice to become a weapon to use against others. An important step in anti-Bully programs that are effective is to teach that prejudice is wrong.

Parents who belong to a church that teaches that gays are evil have probably already contacted school board members, and told them that they will not stand for any rules at the school that imply their religious beliefs are wrong. Conservative parents conflate anti-Bully with “PC out of control”, and they will made it clear that they will be looking for a new board member to support if the school gets serious about bully prevention.

Politics are crazy right now, and it’s sad that they have leaked into the school system. I think they will be the unspoken gunk that will slow the gears of change for the foreseeable future.

The majority of the school board members are conservatives who have not given any public comments about political correctness, but they can be expected to follow their leaders in condemning it. Bringing in some new board members in the next election will be needed for change at the school.


Article in the Dispatch – Programs to fight bullying set up in central Ohio schools

Culp is quoted in the article saying “I disagree that the district isn’t doing all it can.”


Safe Schools for Grandview asks Culp for better bullying prevention plan

Published January 18, 2016 by justicewg
Bullying on Flickr

Photo CC Flickr by Laura Lewis


A good article in the TVN outlines the position taken by Safe Schools for Grandview, a group formed as a reaction to bullying in the Grandview schools. They created a survey in Oct 2015 that was filled out by 60 parents at the school, it shows the actual number of bullying incidents is much higher than the public record of bullying the school is required to track and publish.

A long history of hazing ignored

Grandview Heights schools have a long history of attempting to deal with hazing, most prominently during the term of board member Brian Cook (1998 to 2003). As city attorney he had to deal with the results of hazing rituals that sometimes caused injury ( a student was duck taped and thrown in a car trunk then driven at high speed over bumps and sharp corners). Paddling with boat oars was done. During his time on the school board he passed new rules and programs that sharply reduced hazing, but the attitude of “that’s the way we do things in Grandview” was difficult to change. There were board members who voted against curbing the hazing at the school. (Read the post where Cook talked about his work on the school board).

The board had one meeting

The members of the Safe Schools group also tried to go before the school board in the past. I posted the story back in 2012, during the 3 hour meeting anguished parents described the torrents of abuse some of their kids had to put up with on a daily basis. Promises were made to address the problems by the board members, but since that meeting there have been little changes other than some paperwork.

I talked to outgoing board member Adam Miller and asked him why that meeting changed so little at the school. He thought it may be traced to the “laid back” style of management that former superintendent O’Reilly used. Unless administration and teachers buy into any changes in policy and are made to be responsible for the implementation, any change in policies at the school will remain on paper.

The school board also makes it clear that they had little interest in follow up on bullying policy. In the past the school board has scheduled multiple meetings to deal with issues they cared about. The 2012 meeting was the end of the board’s public meetings or making statements on bullying.

The survey showed pervasive bullying

The Safe Schools group asked asked parents a number of questions about the experiences of their children and how they saw the school reacting to those incidents. The most important numbers – 74 percent of the respondents reported their child had been bullied – but only 30 percent had reported it to the district.

Both parents and children reported that they felt that the best action to take was to stay silent in the majority of cases. That might be a positive tactic if the child felt they could deal with bullying on their own, and then did successfully push back. Unfortunately it also is an indication of resignation, that there was no use in reporting because the school would take no actions. The survey found that in the cases where the parents reported bullying to the school, only five said the issue was handled appropriately.

Olweus Bullying Prevention Program recommended

The parent group has specific changes they would like to see implanted at the school, one of them is a program with researched backed effectiveness in prevention of bullying. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has an impressive website and they say they are the most researched and best-known bullying prevention program available today.

On the group’s Facebook page they criticize the present “Bully-Proofing Youth” Program. This program, presented by a therapist with no academic credentials in dealing with bullying, focuses on teaching the child defensive tactics and suggests that parents and schools stay out of the conflicts between children. The group members feel this is blaming the victim.

Watch Culp for his reaction

The school board has already shown that they have little concern over bullying at the school. The parents group has taken the correct path and made a pitch to Superintendent Culp, asking for more than the pages of documentation he has offered (and which must be labeled as the programs that have been tried and failed at the schools). Watch Culp to see if he has any interest in making changes at the school, and if he has any ability to make administrators and teachers implement those changes.

(Feb update)

Article in the Dispatch – Programs to fight bullying set up in central Ohio schools

Culp is quoted in the article saying “I disagree that the district isn’t doing all it can.”

When the news crews show up in Grandview

Published November 17, 2015 by justicewg

Channel 4 interview JosephThe recent threat of a shooting at the high school brought the Channel 10 and Channel 4 news crews out to do interviews with parents. There was the standard “the kid was not unusual, seemed quiet and didn’t stand out” sort of interview. There was also a “this is such a shame, we have soccer teams and a football team that are going into the state finals, it is upsetting for this shooting threat to be in the news”

There is an undercurrent of anger about the fact that news crews showed up to do theses stories about Grandview high school, expressed more openly in some social media posts. Some of that anger is pointed at the child who made a threat, but also at the news organizations that show up at the school.

It is true that kids who work hard and excel in sports are deserving of praise, and there will be stories about the victories of the sports teams on the local TV news. But I don’t think there was any mistake made by the assignment editors for the news crews, they should have been out in front of the school when the story of the potential shooting became public.

Sports victories are fleeting

In 1970 I was in the county finals for the wrestling squad at my high school, it was cool to have an auditorium filled with people cheering for me. It didn’t do much for the rest of my career, either in sports or further in life. That was OK, I didn’t identify as a jock, and I put my sports victories behind me. I saw others in my school who excelled in sports and kept clinging to the sports victories as the highlight of their lives. Those kids had some of the saddest stories as grown ups, their accomplishments were minor at the local factories.

Sports victories are a good way to encourage kids to be skilled sportspeople, a life long habit of keeping in shape will lead to better health. But the career options for someone who mostly uses their muscles rather than their brains was never great, and the options are getting smaller. A lot of those factories went overseas, the rest will slowly become filled with machines that need no operator.

How will we be remembered?

Some big trophies to add to the cases at the high school will be impressive to look at. Let’s not fool ourselves, a winning team is a fleeting victory, no matter how high in the tournaments our teams go those trophies are just some dust catchers after a few years. Nobody will be hiring based on how well your team did in high school.

If the worst outcome of the incident with the kid who made alleged threats of shootings at the school had come true, Grandview would have gone into the record books alongside names like Columbine, and Sandy Hook.

Is bullying a sport at Grandview?

We don’t know what pushed the kid to make threats of violence against other students, but bullying is always a good guess. I have heard from some parents that it is bad at the schools.

In 2012 there was a special board meeting for parents who had problems with their kids being bullied at the school. There was a three hour meeting filled with pleas from parents who saw their kids bullied at school, around town, and in social media. Kids were threatened and sometimes beaten up. I ended that 2012 post with the assumption that the school would react with some substantial actions to deal with bullying. I saw no real changes that happened because of that meeting. There have been no more board meetings to talk about bullying. There is a Facebook group for parents that is focused on solutions for Grandview, but they seem to have no support from the school.

The school board doesn’t want to talk about bullying, but they do have a form that parents can fill out and submit to report incidents. The number of reports filed are listed on the school website. If this is accurate, it shows a spike in the problems at the school, starting in 2014.

News crews are the warning sign that something needs attention

I can’t see inside a school that has a board that mostly wants us to go away, and throws up blocks in front of those who want to see what is happening inside. My guess is that bullying is rampant, and the board will do nothing about it. If they ignore the news crews, it is like ignoring a warning light on your car dashboard – it might be OK for a while, but it will probably be a disaster in the long run.

We might see more news crews if the worst happens and bullying leads to violence at the school. I don’t see the board doing anything to stop this from happening.

Bullies on the bus

Published June 21, 2012 by justicewg

It’s bullying month here (and most other places, it seems). Today’s example is the video of the grandmother and bus monitor who was bullied on the last day of school by some junior high kids. I don’t even need to link to the video, it has been shown everywhere.

Some thoughts on the video:

If your reaction was the urge to track the kids down and open up the whup-ass can, you lose. We are the adults here.

”Junior high kids are the absolute worst. By high school, some rudimentary empathy is starting to develop. But in junior high, they’re old enough to figure out what hurts, and not old enough to know why you shouldn’t do it. “

Some people are saying the TV is at fault. I don’t watch reality TV, but they say that bullying is constant, and approved, on those shows.

Somebody set up a donation site, and the grandmother has been sent $200K $600K by sympathetic people. At this point, she may have enough money to retire, and she can feel reaffirmed in her basic faith in humanity.

There is a quote from her saying, to paraphrase “I thought if I ignored them they would stop. They didn’t stop.” The conclusion is that you can’t ignore this problem away. There is a different dynamic here, kids bullying an adult, but the advice some give that bullying can be de-escalated by ignoring it failed.

Labeling the bullying as “sociopathy” makes it seem abnormal, when that could not be further from the truth.

She was quoted saying,“It’s scary getting all this attention,” Maybe the internet and all the news programs should rally a little less and leave her alone for a while. This could have been a local story, I don’t see the advantages in making it a national story.

But it is a national story now, so maybe something good can come from it. Maybe Junior high kids should be shown the video in class, and told about the consequences those kids had to deal with (and I’m guessing they will be severe, for a long time). If kids can’t develop some empathy from watching that, at least they can learn that these days someone always has a cell phone with video.

(Later) Each of the four kids who were doing the bullying received a one year school expulsion. A little harsh, I think.

Beating kids with boat oars

Published June 15, 2012 by justicewg

If you are a long time resident of Grandview Heights, you might remember that there used to be some rough hazing going on in the schools. This was not some long ago era, it was less than 15 years ago.

Hazing was a little different from bullying, it had the approval of the school administration. The fact that hazing was a tradition allowed a defense of the practice, “that’s the way we do things around here” can lead to the continuation of some really bad ideas.

I’ve been in contact with Brian Cook, a former school board member in Grandview. He was interested in the bullying issues we are currently having, and because he also spent 8 years as the City Attorney before being elected to the board, he had a close view of the problems bullying and hazing caused in our city. The following is what he remembers about some pretty bad hazing incidents.

One of the reasons why I decided to run for a seat on the BOE was to improve how our district treated at-risk students, including students who were bullied. As the city’s law director during the previous 8 years, I had become familiar with several disturbing incidents at the high school that put the safety of students at risk and, in my opinion, were not handled properly by the principal and the superintendent. In fact, one of the issues during the campaign in the summer of 1997 was the frequency of student hazing that was occurring in the community, and I stated publically that the administration was wrong by turning a blind eye to it. Graduating seniors (young men) were chasing and capturing incoming freshman boys and paddling (beating) them with boat oars, sometimes until they were bruised and/or bleeding. I think I still have newspaper articles about the hazing incidents that appeared in both the Dispatch and Tri-Village News.

One of the first policies that I introduced as a newly elected board member was an anti-hazing policy that was intended to provide overall protection to students and end some school traditions, such as “Slave Day” (senior students were able to choose freshman students and enslave them for a day) and “senior hit day” (underclassman football players were initiated by having to stand and endure full-blown body tackles by the seniors on the team). Slave Day in particular was very disturbing to me. I recall one incident where a freshman slave was bound and gagged with duct tape, thrown into the trunk of a car and driven at a high rate of speed through the streets of Grandview by his senior master. This policy passed with a 4-1 vote. The high school principal resigned shortly thereafter and we replaced him with Steve Allen, who grew up in an orphanage. He quickly, in my opinion, restored a safe atmosphere in the high school and held students, teachers and coaches accountable.

Brian Cook, June 2012

I can almost imagine the logic that was used to allow boat oars to be wielded in hazing. The ritual probably started with a short weapon, maybe ping pong paddles. Then some genius realized that canoes were moved with something that was also called a paddle. And if that was OK, then 6 foot boat oars must good, and were both terrifying and dangerous, which added to the cool factor. The bit about the duct taping and dumping in the trunk of the car is a major WTF, I don’t even see how that fits into a “slave” relationship. Obviously the practice had degenerated into a competition to see who could do the most horrifying abuse without engaging in real physical torture.

The paddling and other physical mistreatment that occurs in hazing sends the wrong message to children, how can administrators maintain the line that bullying is wrong, when they also allow ritualized abuse? There is also a legal minefield opened up when there is any approval shown for hazing, the school becomes a target for the percentage of blame. In a wrongful death suit, this could be a crippling cost for the school. All of this is pretty obvious, the puzzling question is why the abolishing of hazing didn’t happen years before.

The hazing that was common in the old days has been stopped. By the time my kids were in high school the stories about the old days of hazing were just brought out to scare freshman, and to remind them that they had it good.

Mr. Cook and others who worked for the end of hazing had some push-back, as evidenced by the board member who didn’t vote for it. Ultimately what ended hazing was a community wide acceptance that “that’s the way we do things here” is a poor argument that leads to much suffering for no good reason. If it is possible for an entire community to grow up and have more respect for each other, then Grandview can be credited for making big steps in the right direction.

I’m sure that the parents of the kids who are bullying in the school right now are using the line “that’s the ways kids are”. Maybe this is true. It’s not an excuse to do nothing about bullying. If the results of eliminating hazing is an indication, working harder to deal with bullying can be worth the effort.

Bullying in Grandview

Published June 11, 2012 by justicewg

I’m trying to learn about bullying in schools, because it is a hot topic in Grandview right now. I will be posting a few stories about the info I find in my research.

What is bullying?

According to the Wiki:

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability.

There are two important issues in this definition. There has to be an imbalance of power or status, which allows the bully to continue without reprisal. If there are two kids in conflict who are generally matched in strength and status then they are fighting, not bullying. There are plenty of fights in schools, and although fighting is bad I don’t see how it is advantageous for anyone to classify fighting as bullying.

The bullying behavior has to be extended over time to fit the definition. If a kid has a bad day and lashes out in a single instance at someone else, it is not bullying.

What was your experience with bullying in school?

A lot of your reaction to stories about bullying that is happening right now in Grandview Heights schools is dependent on the personal experience you had as a child. Some people had little trouble, and their lack of experience makes it more of a theoretical issue. The parents who had rough experiences as the target of bullies in their youth are understandably sensitive to the issue, and want better support from the schools than they had as kids. I don’t read much from people who were the bullies in school, they don’t seem to be very proud of that, but I would guess they tend to think bullying is an unfortunate but unavoidable part of the human condition.

I had almost no experience of bullying as a child. Maybe it was because I didn’t fit any of the stereotypes that allows kids to divide themselves into waring tribes. I was in sports and lettered by my sophomore year (but quit all sports after that). I had enough of a reputation to be OK with the jocks. I took all the college prep courses and spent a lot of time with the nerds. I hung out with the stoners some and could talk to the juvenile delinquents. I didn’t seek out the role of mediator, but sometimes I was able to diffuse conflicts between kids.

I think the real factor that prevented much bullying from happening in my school was that we only had 80 or so kids per class in the small rural system. There was no social “class divisions” to speak of.

My kids didn’t have a hard time with bullying as they went through the Grandview schools. One of them had a few issues with other kids, but that was not really bullying, more like sparing between two social groups. The other child had a class that was very non-aggressive, and although there was some of the hazing from upper classmen, the kids in his class were generally good with each other. This was noticed by the teachers and administrators, they commented on how well that class acted.

A culture of bullying?

From my experience, I don’t think there is a culture of bullying at Grandview schools. I think there are classes where it is a problem, and some don’t have that issue. I can’t see how the small class size in the city could allow the development of chronic bullying behavior – how do you develop established “gangs” with so few members?

My kids are three years out of the system, so maybe things have changed in the school. I’m interested in hearing the experiences of current parents.

I think there are some bullies in the school. That doesn’t mean that it is necessary to have a total re-focus of the schools to confront the issue of bullying. There are programs in place now in Grandview that are supposed to be dealing with bullying. Maybe those programs are ineffective, it can’t hurt to find out if there are better programs.

If there are just a few bullies in the school, and the teachers and administrators are aware of these kids, why don’t they focus on the problem kids? I have read that some parents of bullied kids feel that they get sympathy but no action from administrators to stop the bullying. Maybe the administrators are working on the bullies, and they can’t publicly explain what they do, for fear of breaking confidentiality. Maybe the administrators are not doing enough to confront bullies and take effective action to discipline the bullies.

The work of the administration is a black box, and it is the job of the school board members to look inside that box. It is important to remind the board they have a duty to take a hard look at the administration and not be passive participants in school policy.

This post was a sort of general one about definitions and my admittedly out of date viewpoint on bullying in the schools. In future posts I’ll talk about how anti-bully programs work, and what the studies say about their effectiveness.

Free screening of Bullied at H.S., May 18th, 7 PM

Published May 11, 2012 by justicewg

“Every day, thousands of gay and lesbian students are verbally and physically harassed in schools. Bullied centers on the powerful story of Jamie Nabozny, a gay teenage boy, tormented for years by classmates in his middle and high schools. Jamie fought back, not with his fists but in a courtroom. His historic federal case established that gay and lesbian students have a constitutional right to be free from harassment and bullying. ” – from the IMDB.

(I incorrectly listed this for a short time as the 2012 movie “Bully”, which is currently in theaters. The movie to be shown is the 2010 “Bullied”, a different movie.)

Discussion of the documentary and the issues facing Grandview Heights students will follow the 40 minute movie. Presented by Equality Ohio and Safe Schools for Grandview. Enter the H.S. building at the 3rd st entrance and follow the signs.