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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Musings. Let's see where this goes...

---My experience, I believe, is indicative of why school districts are still not keeping children safe from bullying.--

I think I am helping other people. I began this venture in "bullying prevention" four years ago thinking that my participation in the Florida Association of School Administrators' (FASA) roll-out of the Florida Bullying Prevention Initiative would be welcomed by my school and my school district.

It's not been welcome. In fact, that enthusiastic application to FASA and that desire to make a difference in children's live in 2008--and where that has led me--probably may have me on the verge of being fired in 2012. I am still being warned by my bosses to "watch it."

The Florida Bullying Prevention Initiative was a partnership between Hazelden Publishing and FASA. Hazelden publishes the materials that go along with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP). Anyone who knows anything about bullying prevention for children (and I did not at that time) knows that the OBPP is the vanguard program. It's the grand daddy program. It's the program on which every other effective program is based. It's the base for the United State's federal government's program. It's used by thousands of schools around the world.

I was selected as one of ten consultants in the state of Florida to be trained as an Olweus trainer. Although I was and am a school counselor, I did not attend the training as such. Other school districts sent employees. That made sense. For those districts that decided not to send employees, the ten consultants were to be used to train schools.

I did not know then how amazing an opportunity the Olweus training was for me...and for my school district. I just knew that at my middle school, kids were doing and saying mean things to each other. I just knew, too, that other kids were sad. I also knew that no one knew really how to help.

I just knew that I wanted to do something that would work.

Before my district found out I was going to the training as a consultant, those leading my district's efforts in bullying prevention were not going to send a district employee to receive the $5,000.00 grant training. Apparently (and I am going to be just a little sarcastic here) the hotel and travel expenses were too much. Once my district's bullying and harassment team found out I was going--and paying my own hotel and meals and gas and using my personal time from work because I knew this was over the top cool--they sent someone.

That someone retired four months later so the district still only had me. Seems they really didn't think that one through very well.

The "you better watch yourself" warnings began at the training. The selected employee--the one who four months later retired; the one I met at the training--told me something along the lines of my annoying influential people. I want to write the hackneyed "my actions were frowned upon" phrase. But it was more than that. It was more like a "frowning" cloud, maybe "frowning"quicksand. I didn't understand it then. I didn't understand I was treading on others' territory. I just knew this person wasn't very nice to me.

The training was tremendous. I was energized by being with people from school districts from Texas, Iowa and Trinidad, among others. I was delighted to share the training with professionals from across the state of Florida. I was, I must say--and as an aside-- amused to be one of only two people at the training who actually worked in a school. All the rest had, what I call, "mucky-muck" positions. I think that's a problem. I think those in "mucky-muck" positions; those in offices far from children's daily lives, no matter how earnest they may be, are not in touch with what it takes really to make these kinds of projects work.

Is it ok to write here that I like kids? Is it ok to write that I work hard? That I take on projects with vigor? That I want to"make a difference?"

I started these musings by writing that I think I am helping people. When I returned from my Olweus training, I thought those people were young people. Thought they were my students. Thought I had information that would help other adults help children feel emotionally safe. I thought that was the mission.

It took me awhile to begin to understand that bullying prevention programs for children are like cranks on jack-in-the-boxes--"Out pop the weasels!" The bullying administrative "weasels"--principals, district administrators and even superintendents--pop out and and warn employees to "watch it" as they, the over paid bobbing bosses, bounce to and fro before other bullying bosses stuff them back in the box to await someone else's naive turn on the crank. Then they'll pop out and snuff out yet another perky employee's enthusiasm. Stay away from the crank, whatever you do. You better "watch it."

I did not stay away from the crank. I turned it. Out popped an abusive, lying and cheating principal and his sychophants. Out popped his (and my) bosses wanting to stuff him back in. Out popped, not support for my earnest desire to bring in funding and training for bullying prevention training, but voices from district leadership to "watch it." Don't tell the truth about lying, cheating, coercive, bullying and abusive principals. Shut up! Watch it!

Out popped hundreds of voices of hurt, terrorized people from across the nation as they too, share their stories on a web forum.

I have learned that children will never be safe from bullying if employees are not safe from bullying principals and bullying school districts. That's the first work to be done.

"You better watch it," I've been warned by so many people over the last four years.

Here's what I'd like "to watch." I'd like to watch a big boss--a superintendent--admit there is a problem. Admit there are weasels in our nation's schools: admit they pop out as soon as an innocent hand reaches for the jack-in-the-box crank. Admit the only way we will ever keep the children in his schools safe from bullying is to begin to protect his employees from his bullying principals.

I'd like to "watch that."

4:34 am edt          Comments

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Click here for my district's bullying and harassment policy. You will see I have made comments....