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Sunday, September 29, 2013

I couldn't have said it better myself. What follows is from the home page of The National Association of Prevention of Teacher Abuse (NAPTA).

From The NAPTA:

"Teacher abuse is wrong, it is harmful, and we know it is the fundamental reason reform is not happening in our schools since it silences insider information, allowing those in power to mislead parents. Our schools reflect political agendas, not societal needs. Our school board elections are controlled by self serving administrations; few people are aware since terrorized teachers robotically march in line."
8:25 pm edt          Comments

Friday, September 20, 2013

Full Plate: Escaping a sick school.

I am sitting at the "dinner table"  of my life.  Got a "full plate" in front of me.  We're not supposed to eat so much as we age--and I am 57 years old--but my plate is overflowing with delicious stuff and I am gobbling it all up.  Got me a thick juicy job.  Side of anti-bullying seminars.  I'm trying to stay away from carbs and so I've not heaped a bunch of trouble on my plate.  My meal is covered in a lovely "I-am-the-mother-of-teenagers" sauce. It's all perfectly prepared.  

I am a real happy diner.

A few years ago I was a bullied educator who was" imprisoned" in a school of abuse. My plate wasn't full of good stuff.  I'd stand with bullied others in the serving line of the "prison" in which my school district had wrongfully imprisoned me.  "Next!" I'd hear as I shuffled through the serving line. "Get your tray up here!" the district servers would scream.  I was a reluctant recipient of the slop being shoveled onto trays.  Didn't want any of that stinky stuff. Couldn't tell you what was in that "coverup casserole." I only knew it was a big "pee-yew."  

I remember looking around at the other educator inmates.  I didn't ask them anything like,"Hey, do you smell that? Look! The servers are wearing masks and gloves!" because it was dangerous to do so. Most of the shuffling educators were dull eyed and round shouldered from years of this unhealthy and life threatening goo. 

One woman--and this horrified me--had cuts around her wrists. She was in solitary. Looked like she'd been shackled for awhile.  Young woman.  Others whispered that she'd taught kindergarten children. That she'd had to protect them from the principal. That she was a tough-and-tender-all-at-the-same-time truth teller. That she'd "got it good" from the district.  That they'd shut her up and locked her up and wouldn't let her talk. 

It was rumored that her tongue'd been cut out.  Her eyes, though, were still defiant.  Her eyes--when they caught mine--gave me courage.  They seemed to say, "You got nothin' to lose. Make a break for it!  TURN HIM IN! HOLD THE SLOP HEAPING LIARS ACCOUNTABLE!  Please..."

I broke out of that school and that prison for her and for me. I blasted through its thick walls with simple words: "I did not do what he said I did; I will not do what he wants me to do; everything he said about me and my work is a lie." I think I surprised my district's prison guards.  No one had done that before and so they stood stunned at the yawning hole of my escape. 

My courage inspiring compatriot didn't follow because her hands were cuffed behind her.  I imagine she smiled,though, when I was absent from the prison's cafeteria.

The walls of the prison school are reinforced now with more layers of lies and of bureaucracy.  They seem impenetrable.  Outsiders only see the pretty flags waving and hear the horns trumpeting.  They see the fine clothes the district leaders wear and they hear the fine words the district leaders say. 
They don't know that the place is a sick and abusive mess of a school.  

And the inmate educators don't know that, like me,  it is their true words that will set them free; that if just one would begin to take the inside scream and turn it into an outside whisper-- that another inmate might hear and whisper, "Me too"--that their collective whispers would grow louder and louder; that they would no longer have to whisper; that they would be able to scream on the outside: "YOU ARE LIARS!  YOU HAVE PUT US IN HARM'S WAY! YOU ARE GUILTY!"

And that it feels really, really good to do that.

Or maybe I'll have to sneak a nail file into the school prison and help them escape. Or maybe I'll have to finally go public with my story. Maybe my story's words written on a newspaper's pages will finally set the others free.

It would feel really, really good to do that.
6:59 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Letter to a dear friend....

I wrote this letter to a friend.  I've modified it a bit and taken out names because it's not about "naming names," it's about keeping children SAFE.  

 "I'm just, in general, concerned about the lack of knowledge concerning effective bullying prevention. So, I've decided to communicate my concerns to you about the 'The State of Bullying' document you'd sent to me as a good example of why I am concerned.
First, I am distressed by the use of the term 'bully' in the document to refer to the bullying individual. The creators of this document really need to stay away from labeling individuals as 'bullies' and stick with the behavior of bullying. My goodness! That's just basic stuff and they are 'leading the charge' in the State of Florida!

 Second, the issue of referral of bullied targets to mental health 
 professionals is important...and becomes almost unnecessary if 
 effective prevention programs are in place.

 Here's my feeling on that as a former target who sought mental health services: I am/was emotionally sound and healthy until I was targeted for emotional distress and bullying by my former principal and his sycophant.  I believe if school districts address the issue of bullying administrators effectively--and it's a national epidemic (I include below a link to the recent NEA article on the topic for which I was interviewed)--then other emotionally sound employees like me would just do their best; contribute, work hard, and get/stay excited about their jobs. What a benefit to a school district!

 The same holds true for children.  Like me, bullied children would not need mental health services were we adults in schools doing our jobs of keeping them safe by preventing the abuse from happening in the first place.  Just as it's not fair for enthusiastic and ethical teachers to be targeted for abuse because a school district isn't keeping its employees safe, it's also not fair that children suffer from bullying because we adults in schools are not doing what we say we are doing.

 Districts' leaders need to truly assure effective prevention programs are in place for everyone. They also need to assure respectful and ethical behavior from all of their school leaders.

Bullying and aggressive behaved individuals--adults and children in schools-- are the ones likely to truly need counseling services because of deeper issues as to why they act aggressively. They too, however, benefit from effective prevention programs.

Effective prevention is not hard.  It takes true leadership and commitment.

 By the way, the 160,000 children identified in the document as "staying home each day because of their fear of being bullied" is the exact same number of children identified in my 2008's Olweus training.  I would, then, ask this: Why are the policies and the rules and the documentation not reducing that number?

 Here's the link to the NEA article:

 Thank you. I share this with you in the spirit of true friendship."
10:13 am edt          Comments

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Continuing to "Dare Mighty Things...." (1 and 1/2 years later....)
"We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." Theodore Roosevelt, 1899

What is it about having been emotionally abused and bullied by a school principal that has put steel in my soul? Values instilled long ago by my father, now dead more than thirty years, rear up and out of my belly shouting "That is wrong!"

Employees are being abused and bullied right now throughout our nation's school districts. That is wrong. Employees are being silenced with fear and intimidation. That, too, is wrong. Employees feel alone and isolated; victimized by bullying principals and assistant principals.

My former principal, for example, has destroyed personal and professional lives. Obliterated them. They're off the map. Can't find them anywhere. That's wrong.

And my school district is on the wrong side. I do not speak of "their side" and "my side." No. I speak of a right and a wrong side. There is a side of truth and there is a side of lies. There is room for nothing else.

I write again and I state with conviction: my school district is on the wrong side.

There are many who caution me. Some are afraid for me.

There are others who are outraged at my audacious stab at honor.

I, myself, have moved beyond the throat clutching fear of reprisal from my district's leaders. In my sunny worldview, I think they will "come around".

But I am not now so naive. I know they may come looking for me still. Look to hold me accountable for something they themselves cannot identify.

I have, however, experienced an absolute certainty. Standing up for current targets; speaking up for past victims; finding my own voice to tell you about my own hellish experience of abuse; is the right thing to do.

Our 32nd president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote of "daring mighty things" in his 1899 "Strenuous Life" address in Chicago, Illinios. He spoke of difficult work that must be done.

This then is work that must be done. Abusive leadership in our schools must end. It must stop. It is, it seems, up to me then, to call out district leaders on their blind eye turning. It is time to hold schools' leaders accountable for their behavior, not just their students' test scores.

Ironically the walls of schools' hallways are plastered with character building messages. Courage! Truth! Honor! Friendship!  Children are encouraged to stand up for friends.  Tell the truth.  Be courageous.  "We will keep you safe from reprisal," we tell them.

Employees, too, must feel safe. They must feel safe to tell the truth, for that is the lesson children most need. At my former school there were monthly celebrations about values. I organized those celebrations. I organized them while ugly and untrue gossip about me swirled all around me. How do I know this? Because I had heard ugly words and derisive laughter about those who had gone before me.

My former school is not a safe place for the innocent.

Employees must feel safe to try new ideas, for that is how they will invigorate children. At my former school I was told "I would not counsel." I was only to "do what [my principal] told me to do." Only that. Even then I may have shuttered the windows of my creativity. Even then I may have only opened them to the world outside of my former school. I may have stayed in the dark place, like so many others at that school, of doing only and exactly what I was told to do..... If only what I had been told to do had been legal, I may have done it.

My former school is not a safe place for the creative and the honest.

Employees must feel safe to admit an honest mistake, for children seeing that will help create our new adult citizens. At my former school, mistakes made, although honest ones, are passed from person to person like baseballs from ball players' gloves. They are difficult to catch, but one better catch them and quickly rocket them to the next person. 

The most satisfying part is to bombard one person with all the mistakes; hard as rock hard baseballs coming from all angles all at once. That employee will stand with bruises and black eyes and broken limbs from the rocketed "mistake baseballs." There is no question that she will take the blame. It also doesn't matter that she knows nothing about any of this. It doesn't matter that most of the mistakes belong to the principal himself.

My former school is not a safe place for the guileless.

Employees must see their district's leaders honestly admit a mistake. Take charge, like Teddy Roosevelt. Dare a mighty thing. Dare to be honorable.  Dare to be courageous.  Dare to tell the truth.

There is healing in that.

There is trust.

There is peace.

There is, sadly, no mighty thing at my former school.

Sadder still is this: I am beginning to see there is no one, except perhaps me so far, daring mighty things in my school district.

I pray I am wrong.


10:14 am edt          Comments

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nothing's changed at my former school....
"How about my act of courage, strength, and emotional well-being--an act of self preservation--being officially labeled as having a 'psychiatric disorder'?" 

September, 2013: I wrote this last year (July, 2012)  when I was denied routine supplemental insurance because I protected myself from a principal's abuse and took a medical leave. His target at that time had asked that I support her when she spoke about her situation before my district's school board.

Since I wrote this, I have been contacted by another woman targeted by that principal. That makes two more bullied targets since me.  That makes lots and lots (and lots and lots) of bullied educators who've lost jobs, careers, and health because of this one man's abuse and a school district's support of that abuse.

The targeted woman chose not to speak at the school board meeting because she was placed where she wanted with the job she wanted if she wouldn't speak publicly. 
She didnt' speak and he is still a school principal.

Here is the piece:

"Out of that place.  Done with it.  See ya later!  Take off!  New school and new leadership.  Told the truth.  Time to move on.... 

Can't do it yet though.  Snipers shoot at me still.  I do not run for cover.  I do not dart behind rocks and shells of buildings. I wear a bullet proof vest.  The snipers' shots do not fell me.  But because I am not completely bullet proof, they may fell me still. Their weapons of destruction may yet take me down. 

But now I shoot back.  I do not passively wait until they "have their way with me."  I shoot back.  I load the rock into the sling. I let it fly. I tell the truth. 

I have been denied routine supplemental health coverage.  I have been denied because I left a well documented place of abuse.  How about that? How about my act of courage, strength, and emotional well-being--an act of self preservation--how about that being officially labeled as having a"psychiatric disorder"? 

I contend my former school is full of people with "psychiatric disorders"; abused people who, like abused animals, anticipate the next boot heel to belly; who themselves lash out at those who escaped; those who dug tunnels under gates.  Slipped away in the dead of the night.  Oh, how they hate those who got away... 

How about a school district ignoring--yes, ignoring!--years of reports of abuse?  Do they not know that one day they will have to answer to that?  I do not know if that time has arrived for them....I only know that time has arrived for me. 

I want to be done with it!  I want to say, "OK, it's on you school district, it's on you." 
I cannot.  

I am daily faced with adhering to my own words, my own integrity, my own honor--for others and for myself.  I am faced with either saying "no" or "yes, I will" to pleas from other targets for my support.  I am also faced with saying "no" or " yes you will, Kim; yes you will" to continuing to protect myself--now from the aftermath of my courageous acts--from denials of health insurance; from labels of fragile mental conditions.; from being too much of a risk to insure."

School district, know this:  I am not a risk.  I am not, at least, the kind of risk the insurers have labeled me.  I most certainly do not have a psychiatric disorder!  

I do, however, have stamina and fortitude.  I will stand before you.  I will let you know sides of stories you've not yet heard.  I will speak for myself and for others who are too frightened from too many years of what, I can only believe, is your unwillingness to address the abuse about which you've heard so many times. I will stand before you--oh, yes, with my heart in my throat--and speak.  I will speak the truth."
9:45 pm edt          Comments

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