By Cindy Long
Kim Werner’s former principal
was identified by her union as the most abusive principal in the district.
has been targeting educators for fifteen years,” she says. “He lies. He coerces. He intimidates. He
screams and uses profanities.”
And he’s still a principal, while Werner is now an Olweus
Bullying Prevention Program Trainer.
After a year and a half of constant abuse, Werner took medical
leave and reported her principal. She was covered by the district’s Bullying and Harassment policy, and while on leave,
requested public records about complaints filed by other educators at her school.
soon discovered the horror other educators had experienced under his leadership,” Werner says. “I was shocked
and sick inside. These were simply people who spoke up and addressed his intimidation tactics. They suffered greatly–both
professionally and emotionally.”
Bullying leadership is often based upon fear, Werner says, and
because bullying principals are scared they “disperse that fear throughout their schools.”
are afraid that some piece of bad news will ‘get out’ about their schools and so they manipulate people and data
to meet their needs,” she says. “It’s happening throughout the nation.”
says that when she was bullied, she felt very scared and alone, but ultimately decided to take action. What others do in response
to bullying, however, can vary greatly.
“Some align with the bullying brute. That feels
safe,” she says. “Most hide. A few stand up and say, ‘That’s not right,’ but very few
of the ‘hiders’ will support those who stand up because they think it’s not safe, and they’re right.”
To help local NEA affiliates support members who are being targeted by administrators,
delegates to the 2012 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly passed a resolution to “Defend the Rights and Dignity
It calls for NEA to inform its members on ways to challenge
administrator abuse of teachers and other education employees, and to support local NEA affiliate efforts to defend the rights
and dignity of teachers and other education employees.
is no way children will ever be safe from bullying if adults in schools aren’t safe from the same. Until we assure
safety for ALL–children and adults in schools– we will continue to lose the battle,” says Werner. “It’s
treating others with respect and kindness and patience and love. That’s the real work.”
The success of an anti-bullying campaign lies in empowering an entire school--staff, students
and parents--in comprehensively addressing bullying prevention. The goal of a bullying prevention program is to infuse positive
values into the fabric of the school. It is not easy to do that. It takes time and commitment.
Success, also, depends on knowledgeable
and committed leadership. No campaign, however earnest the staff may be, will have true success without leadership on
this issue from the school's administration. Leadership, leadership. leadership. Or a program simply will not
So, assuming there is unconditional leadership support, how do you empower and educate the entire
school population on effective bullying prevention? You do that by training everybody at your school. You train
all teachers and all staff. You also select a program coordinator or co-coordinators.
Ideally, the training is one
and one half day. There is a lot of material to cover. That material includes defining bullying so that all begin from
the same vantage point. It also includes the "nuts and bolts" of effective prevention.
Effective prevention is like
the three legged stool. All three legs are essential to a sound and long lasting program.
The legs of effective prevention
1. School wide efforts. This "leg" includes, among other things, anti-bullying
rules and posters displayed throughout the school. It also includes a kick off event.
2.Classroom efforts. It's
of paramount importance that all teachers--and supported by the principal--facilitate weekly discussions around bullying prevention
and respectful behavior. It's also important that all teachers, although discussions can be altered to meet younger/older
student needs, discuss the same topic each week.
3. Individual efforts. Effective
interventions are necessary when bullying is witnessed. It's important that children come to expect the same consequences
whether, for example, they bully at the drinking fountain and Ms. Smith sees them, or Mr. Jones catches an eighth grade student
intimidating a sixth grader at the library. Also, practicing specific actions --what to do and what to say--when bullying
is witnessed is important.
Surveying students as to their feelings about bullying at their schools is critical. That survey
must take place before a program's implementation. The survey results provide a baseline from which to work.
That's how a school, or a school district, truly addresses bullying and works effectively at
ending it for good.
And for what it's worth, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is the best "out there."
I begin to
put together my own "Piece Full World:"
from "The Other Side:" Trombones, Hornets, and Snowmen...
Perhaps, then, it falls to me to put together the pieces of 1960's Mt.
Cory, Ohio. because at thirteen I left. My piece of Mt. Cory is a snap shot in time; at thirteen, in the summer of 1970, my
family moved to Chicago. Friends: Carol of long "thirteen year old girl" conversations about boys, and Barry, the
primary boy of those conversations; Dorinda, Martha, and Nancy, my church quartet singing compatriots; Dolores and,
again, Carol, fellow cheerleaders; cousins--more like brothers to me because they were more like sons than nephews to my father
and mother--Mike, Chris, Joe, and Bill; they all stayed. All grew up in or near Mt. Cory. Went to high school there.
Almost all stayed and married and raised children there.
I put these pieces together because, I think, I must. Something compells
me, wakes me at night with more and more and more to put into words. It is like a compulsion. I don't know why, after
43 years--most of them outstanding, fun, and fulfulled...some not--this is so. Right now, however, the only way to alleviate
this compulsion is to honor it. I honor it with effort. I do not, however, honor it adequately with my written words, for
how can I? That is impossible. Yet, still; that damn cumpulsion will keep me up tonight
if I do not keep typing.
Cory is my foundation; my roots there are deep. Mt. Cory is the place of the rich soil from which my life began and
grew. It is a soil enriched with my own family's history: a grandmother killed by a train; a nine year old cousin accidentally
killed by a bullet; a basketball star of a father--a breaker of hearts that young man!; a mother and her twin, stars in high
school plays; one twin yelling "Die you bally-ass! Die!" as she lept over an onstage couch. The other
twin, the "bally-ass" dying, I am sure, a spectacular on stage death.
I think Mom was the couch leaper, so Aunt Deane must have been the "bally-ass."
What is Mt. Cory to someone
not rooted there? A small, non descript place of five or six streets, two churches, a stop light. Small houses,
big yards; a volunteer fire department building from which the siren, I expect, still blasts for practice at noon on Saturdays.
"What did you DO
HERE?" my husband has asked on Ohio visits as a winter sky darkens at 4:00PM
. He--and I--have now lived in Miami for close to 35 years and he is from Atlanta, so, a fan of Ohio winters he is not. He,
though, does not know of snow fights and frozen hair (and snot). He was not there when Carol and I "unfroze" at
her grandmother's house, after a vigorous snowball fight with pretty much every kid in Mt. Cory, outside of town at a snow
filled gully. Carol and I playing a "who-can-read-the-most-without-stopping" competition from a book--"Start
over! You didn't say it right!"--as our hair dried and we warmed beside the furnace, giggling and laughing.
I do not know if Carol's
grandmother provided hot chocolate. I imagine so.
My husband does not know of the snowmen assembled with my dad in the same
yard my dad, as a boy, built snowmen; for I grew up in the same house as he. I have a picture of myself in that yard. I am
leaning against a rotund snowman. The bottom of the three snowballs of its body is much taller than me at six. That's because
my dad had left a warm house, a cup of coffee, and a newspaper, and had joined me in the pushing of snow as it creaked and
rolled, exposing the winter deadened grass with each shove. Dad had to stack the other two body balls in place. He then
lifted me to put in place its eyes, nose, and mouth. I think we used gravel rocks from our driveway.
I wish dad were in the
picture too. I wish he were leaning against the other side of our snowman. Leaning there, grinning, with his ankles
crossed like mine on my side of our snow giant. Guess knowing he was grinning behind a camera as he took a picture of his
grinning six year old daughter will have to be enough.
My husband does know that I played a trombone in the junior high school band.
He may not know that Carol played trombone too. I'd wanted a flute or a clarinet, but my cousin Phil had a trombone
I could use for free, and so, if I wanted to play in the band, it was that trombone or not play at all. I chose the
trombone. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, they too chose Phil's trombone, for I would practice on our front porch. To
the Thompson's and the Cooper's credit, no one to my knowledge, ever complained.
I used to worry that my puffed up lips, following a rousing trombone
practice session, would remain. I laugh now at 56 as I contemplate trombone playing being an alternative to "lip
enhancement." "Just pick up a trombone, press it to your lips and run through a few scales; you'll be good
to go for the evening," I'd say to clients of my new lip enhancement strategy. (Please keep this secret, just in
case I move forward with my "trombone lip enhancement" business plan).
Barry, the boy of the "Carol" conversations, would often
drive by our back street house-- that's probably the real reason I chose the front porch for trombone practicing-- and he
would beep; usually a double staccato, "beep-beep!" as he drove by in his new green Hornet. If that Hornet
passed my house without the double "beep," I was crestfallen.
It was then time for a "Carol" conversation...
Over the years, I have
closed my eyes and imagined myself in different places and what was there and there and there at that time of my life. What,
for instance, was on the wall of my Ohio bedroom when I laid on my right side? On my left? What clothes were in
my closet? Funny how the Ohio house is clear to me, while the houses of my family's many moves--Chicago and Pittsburgh
and Cleveland and Buffalo houses--are not. There's a large picture of flowers on my right in the Ohio bedroom, a small
window to my left. I can see the Thompson's house. There are books in the headboard of my bed. My favorites are
"Fairer Than She" and "Annie Jordan." There are thirteen steps to descend. There is a furnace in
the corner of the living room. Mom has hidden it with paneling. It looks nice.
There is a porch with a slamming screen door. Think I'll go
sit on it and practice a trombone.