A Piece Full World

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Forgiveness does not come easily to me...

 "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forgiveness does not come easily to me.  Hanging onto the rope of indignation has callused my emotional hands; muscled me up. Early on--in the two years following my having been a bullied target at my school--I thought letting go meant falling into the abyss of more abuse; that letting go meant an emotional death of sorts--a playing of the "so-obviously-wrong-to-support-such-brutes" game my school district had created to protect its many abusive "buddy-principals."  I thought it was a place of death--sharp and pointed "gotcha!" rocks meant to impale truth; maybe a hot desert with the bones of other employees picked clean of the meat of their own reports; picked clean by the beaks of the vultures of my school district.

I did not want to be another pile of bones, so I hung on. I shut my eyes tight and hung on.

But, because I was so desperate, I'd not looked down.  I just kept holding and holding and holding on. It had become my mission to NOT LET GO; only that.  I'd lost sight of why I was hanging there; why I was kicked over the edge--and of how at first I'd begun the journey to what I'd thought would be ``castles of kindness--schools free of bullying and filled with honor, led by smart, kind, and creative monarchs/principals--only to find myself hanging tenaciously now for six years from this rope of indignation and outrage.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

In Atlanta--at the Dr. Martin Luther King Center and his boyhood home, I thought of Dr. King's sacrifices and his dreams; his courage. At the entrance to the center is a mural created by Louis Delsarte that depicts Dr. King's life. 

Let's stand together at the mural, dear readers.  Look left, please. See Martin as a boy surrounded by his devoted family.  Imagine him at the dinner table of his boyhood home--the house we've just toured--each night debating and discussing his Atlanta, Georgia world's wrongs and rights with his father, mother, grandmother.  See him in the bed he shared with his brother.  He's reading, reading, reading until late at night; until his father calls out: "Lights out!  I love you!" 

I marveled at the vibrancy that exists still in his boyhood neighborhood.  I could see him--Sunday morning walking to church; after school outside and playing ball with neighborhood children in those same streets.  

Now, look straight on at the mural. There he is, this time leading a movement; this time surrounded by his devoted followers.  There are thousands of them.  

Ah. There is Bull Connor, too.  Bull Connor of the unleashed dogs and hoses.  Bull Connor, himself a leader of something very different than that something of Martin Luther King. 

Bull Connor, too, has thousands of followers.

"We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Look now to the far right.  See a seemingly innocuous and mundane place that, with a shot ringing out, would become a symbol of suffering.  It is the Lorraine Motel.  It is on its balcony that Dr. King drew his last breath. Beside its depiction on the mural; beside the desperately pointing fingers--"There! There! The shot came from THERE!" (oh, if only finding the shooter and his gun would allow us to rewind that piece of our nation's horrors!)-- of the people surrounding Dr. King as he lay dying on that balcony is a quote from his speech given the night before.  Let's read it together:

"I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

Being here, with you, helps open my eyes; helps me see--know--that forgiveness does not mean I acquiesce. I open my eyes. I look down into the lushness of the chasm-- that which I'd thought was a place of death--beneath me; into the heart of my own inner peace and strength. It is from that place and with its truth that I look up.

It's beautiful."

8:41 am edt          Comments

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some responses to others on the topic of workplace bullying in schools


 Written to a friend of some influence when he encouraged me to stay the course...

"I do not surrender.  I have found that my weapons are enthusiasm and willingness; that my armor is truth; that I share these weapons and this armor with others; that the enemy can be slain..."

The outrage builds and the veil begins to lift... A diary entry during the horror...

"Here is my experience; O and H are scheduling Bullying and Harassment presentations now through district to meet policy.

My feeling:  I believe they "hide" behind my goodness and my integrity.

I will continue to be honest.  I will continue to be fair.  I will continue to do my BEST for CHILDREN--IN SPITE OF O! C! H! R!"

Recent responses to bullied educators...

 Your words ring true!  I've been frustrated when communicating with, say, my husband.  He doesn't fully understand...because he's not meant to understand!  It all comes together for each of us in different ways because that's the way it has to be.  In the beginning of my journey back to some joy, the thing that kept me sane was my own voice--a whisper at first and now a "from-the-roof-top" confident shout--saying inside: "You did nothing wrong! You speak truth."

"It is great that you have information to use.  One thing I'd done--and I did it without thinking about positive or negative consequences, but the consequences were all positive--I documented through an email to my union rep.  I just let it all spill out and as other abuses happened, I built upon the previous email  That was important for me as those all are/were public records. 

My school district's "Bullying and Harassment" policy covers employees.  I used that policy to report my abusive principal.  If your district's policy also covers employees (and many do not), that, too, is important.  I clearly see that I "saved" myself and my job by reporting him before he took action against me.  There was no doubt that action against me was going to happen.

I hope this is helping.  You are looking for help.  You are researching and so you know that most often it is the most ethical and enthusiastic people who become targets.  I've been at this--as a target and now an advocate--for six years and I've accepted that public education is in crisis.  But that crisis is not because of teachers.  The crisis can be laid at the feet of favoritism and cronyism played out among school board members.  

It's important to look outside of the bubble of bullying and have moments "off." Those moments must be actively sought at the beginning.  For me, today, it's a purring cat wanting attention.  He's making me smile.  Find your reasons to smile....

I think contacting David Yamada of Minding the Workplace and the Workplace Bullying Institute are places for you to start your search for a capable attorney.  I did not go that route.  Florida's model bullying and harassment policy covers employees (and my district uses the state policy) so, I turned my principal in for bullying.  I, like you, have a pile of irrefutable evidence of fraud.  I also have evidence of many other educators who were bullied by him.

Here's a link (see below) to Nevada's SB164. It speaks to safe and respectful learning environments and covers employees.  This is cut from it:

"Existing law provides for a safe and respectful learning environment in public schools and prohibits bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment or intimidation. (NRS 3 388.121-388.139) Existing law requires that any instance of bullying, cyber- bullying, harassment or intimidation involving a school employee or pupil be reported to and investigated by the school’s principal or his or her designee."


I hope this is helpful.  Feel free to contact me again.  If you would like to tell your story, I'd be happy to feature it on A Piece Full World.  

 Many, many people cautioned me to keep my mouth shut.  I have not (!). I do not "put his name out there" because it's really not about him.  It's so much bigger than my experience....and that's the saddest thing of all; that it's so common. Just check out what happened in your Atlanta "backyard." That debacle--and the conversation about how in the world teachers could change answers (how could they not in that abusive culture?)--is actually what launched me. I got angry.  I knew how impossible it felt to me to say "no" to my brute. The pressure to conform is like a tsunami... "just do what he says and you will be okay..." I understood that in Atlanta there had to have been many teachers who didn't want to turn their pencils over and begin erasing and changing their students' answers...but they just "did what she said...." They did it because they worked in a sick place called Atlanta Public Schools...

Here's an interview I had last year with the National Education Association (NEA) The issue of bullying administrators is so prevalent that the NEA provided guidelines about workplace bullying prevention to school districts.


Thanks again.


It is, it is, it is! I'll sing a solo or in a choir (I hope it's a choir because that means I am singing with a lot of other people, but I'll sing alone if I have to) that children are not protected from bullying by policies.  And that's not all...starting in classrooms with bullying prevention lessons does not work.  That's a "bottom-up" ineffective process.Preventing bullying begins "top-down" with leadership--kind, fair, honest women and men; superintendents and school board members--treating each other and all who work for them--well.  That is not happening.  Instead we have cronyism run amuck.  In my district we have "friends in high places" protecting their poor and pathetic "buddy-principals"--those they themselves placed in schools.  There's your problem!  And there's your solution; all wrapped up in one big ugly "problem" ball of favoritism at the expense of children in schools.

Honestly, it is the sickest thing I have ever experienced.

I just keep writing about it on A Piece Full World; www.apiecefullworld.com



7:13 am edt          Comments

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'm on vacation!
Hey all,  I'm taking a week off and enjoying a vacation with family.  I'll be back soon!
2:39 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, July 5, 2014

More Story...

There've been at least fifteen targets/victims of my former principal and I think there's another one "coming my way."  Not sure.  I just suspect that her lateral transfer to my school--a swap of sorts between assistant principals made by my regional leadership--is again about him...and her having said "HELP ME!" And if that's true, that will make four since I left. There may be more.  I don't know. I'm just talking about the three who've contacted me--and now her.  

So.  A recap of my experience.  In 2011, I was transferred from that school to my current school. I'd reported him for his bullying. The district covered itself with charges against him--charges of school board "Rules of Ethics" and "Duties and Responsibilities" violations. The guy lied on documents and used my name and said I did stuff on Sundays (couldn't even get that right. I mean, c'mon!  If you're going to lie, do it right and choose a weekday for goodness sake!). But I know now--and it really makes me sad--any possibility of holding him accountable was not the reason for the charges. The charges were just more butt covering in case I went public.

"Hey, hey, hey! We looked into the whole mess and it was just a misunderstanding!" district leadership would have said to the media. "Werner is just a cry baby and is most definitely NOT a team player..."

I am certain many, many "man (and woman) hours" were spent on my report. How about that?  There're your tax dollars at work: not into the classroom to educate your children, but into the courtroom to protect your children's psychopath of a principal.

The "investigation" of my former principal took all of a few weeks before charges were "unfounded" and he and his buddies could continue on their "yellow brick road" of bullying. And thus, at least four more employee casualties have been transferred out. Happily, that yellow brick road doesn't seem to be leading to a superintendency.  I'm grateful, at least, for that. I'd have to send all the public records I have to any school district hiring him.  I couldn't just let them hire him--with all of his wonderful recommendations from influential people--without them knowing "the other side," right?   I'd be called upon AGAIN to "come forward," wouldn't I?  I'd have to.  I'm just made that way.  For good God Almighty, how could this individual be foisted upon an ENTIRE school district?! 

Back to my new assistant principal. I've not yet met her.  I've not had any "heart-to-heart" conversation.  But I know her name--and not from the "hey-guess-what-we're-getting-a-new-assistant-principal!" news of my school.  I know her name from her having signed documents that were used against a teacher. There's her name as a witness to one of his many attempts at a teacher's career obliteration. There's her name on trumped up charges. There's her name...  Oh, I can feel her unease!  There she is in his office--right there at the conference table.  She's facing the teacher. Neither she nor the teacher has slept in days. 

He, of course, is well rested.  

I can see her looking with pleading eyes of understanding at this targeted teacher! "It's not you!", her eyes might speak. "But I have no choice.  My career, too, is in jeopardy if I do not sign these forms!" And so she picks up the pen with fingers shaking, and signs as a witness. 

"Forgive me", her eyes speak as she signs.

The targeted teacher is the teacher who called me in the middle of the night so distraught that when I listened to my messages in the morning--I'd missed her call as I was sleeping--I truly thought she might have killed herself.  She was that desperate at 3:00AM.  

I was grateful to call an acquaintance at the school and find that she was in her classroom.

"Come on. You'll be my witness." When I worked there--tip toeing though the abuse field of mines--I'd often hear him say that to his two female sycophants, a counselor and an assistant principal, as he'd start gathering "evidence" against a someone-of-some-integrity-who-was-horrified-at-what-was-really-going-on-at-that-school. He'd flick a finger and off the two of them would go.  They'd probably discuss later what he/they had "seen" so that the stories would match.  

My future assistant principal, I suspect, was often summoned by his finger flick and maybe--just maybe--she finally said, "uh-uh.  Not me again.  This is not worth it.  HELP ME!  GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

I cannot wait to meet my new assistant principal.  I cannot wait to shake her hand and say, "Welcome. Welcome to the "We Survived His Abuse" club.

10:09 am edt          Comments

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