"Real progress requires pushing and shoving and urging
and cajoling and coaxing – and then pushing some more (courteously when you can, not so mannerly if the former doesn’t
--David Lawrence Jr., The Children's Movement
I have pounded words onto computer screens and finessed words into heads.
I have, as David Lawrence Jr. of the Children's Movement says, cajoled and urged and coaxed and pushed and shoved. I've
been courteous. Dave says maybe I need to ramp it up a little bit since my efforts to communicate to my school district's
leadership how to effectively eradicate bullying in our schools do not seem to be working.
I see little progress in regards to bullying prevention in our public
schools. It's been five years since I became a Florida Association of School Administrators' "Florida Bullying Prevention
Initiative" trainer and, although that initiative had success "written all over it," it's failed because school
districts' leadership stood in its way. Some of my district's leaders stood in the way out of ignorance and some were outright
about bullying prevention and being trained as an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer and an Anti-Defamation League
"World of Difference" trainer, not to mention being a "Workplace Bullying Institute" trainer has often
felt to me like stepping into a boxing ring. At the beginning of my great enthusiasm--for how could anyone not understand
that this worked!--I entered the ring unprepared. I got slammed with my bosses' "fists" of caution and intimidation
and lies. "Watch it."; Who do you think you are?"; "STAY OUT!" and, perhaps, the saddest of
all; "Huh? What's Olweus?" comments were/are placed like track field obstacles before me. But I am getting into
competitive "shape" and so, A Piece Full World is where I can ramp it all up and let it go. It feels good.
Recently an administrator
sent a bullying student to bring a bullied student to his office. Did he not know that sending the bullying child to
get the bullied child was heaving propane onto fire? Alone together, the "fire" of two girls with hurt feelings
exploded in the school's hallways.
can see "Bullying Her"-with a pass in her hand--knocking on "Bullied Her's" classroom door. "Is Chastity
here?": "Bullying Her" politely asks the teacher, "Mr. Jones wants to see her in his office,"; "Bullying
Her" demurely hands the pass to the teacher. "Bullied Her" sits, heart pounding, as "Clueless Teacher"
says: "Chastity, you're needed in the office."
"YOU SKANKY HOE!" rings through the hallways of the school, for
"Bullying Her" can now let it fly. She is alone with "Bullied Her." "YOU FAKE BITCH!"
"Ms. Werner, would you
talk with these two girls? There seems to be a problem."
My office is more like a firehouse than a counselor's office. I am putting
out fires that should not have been lit. Children's feelings are like combustible composts of fetid leaves. Their
lives' circumstances--broken homes, absent fathers, lost jobs--pour out of those children like gasoline from tankard trucks.
A "skanky hoe" insult, then becomes the match that lights the whole damn thing.
Many times a simple "I'm sorry I...." (fill in the blank) sincerely
offered from both to the other brings tears and smiles. It's that simple. They are, after all, children.
Recent "I'm sorry"
opportunities from my school include girls who do not share language but share disrespect. They share hurt feelings.
They share thrown fists and bruised arms.
They also shared, yesterday, the half circle of other children chanting "Fight!
one girl recently arrived from Cuba and another girl born in the US with parents from Haiti. Imagine how they communicate.
One perceived slight-one to the other--sets them off. They do not use many words, but they do--oh, they do--use
their elbows and their eyes. They suck their teeth and snicker and laugh.
They know all of middle school adolescents' bullying tools for they often
use them and receive them. They are the same in any language and in any country.
Come. In your mind's eye, stand with me by the doors to the
cafeteria. Stand with me and watch. Listen. How many profanities do you hear? How many children choked--"in
fun"--do you see? How much intimidation do you ascertain?
Do you see the silent ones? Do you see those slinking by and through
the fetid mass? They do not want to bump into anyone, for to do so would be for them lighting up like a bonfire. The
silent ones' fires--when lit by the kindling of a "Fuck you, asshole" comment, can be the deadliest.
Do you smell fear? I
do. I smell its pungent odor coming from there and there and there and over there.
Now see the cafeteria's security guards clumped together and laughing.
They are unaware.
and cajoling and shoving and coaxing...
visited a school. Security guards were strategically placed to assure students behaved. They were placed in known
problem places. They were attentive. Teachers stood by doors. They smiled at and were nice to everyone--each other,
the dignitaries and the students.
a peaceful day for all.
everyday--dignitaries or not--and combine that with weekly classroom discussions about respect in every classroom with every
teacher. If you do those things and you get children and adults in your schools excited about participating, you've got yourself
a bullying prevention program.