principal, my boss, said this to me: "This is where I got my first kiss." He then leeringly pursed his
lips and looked out over the ocean. He offered me champagne.
Why was I in that hotel lobby alone
with him? That, too, is a piece of this experience. Often I gave of my time (and money), not because I wanted
to do so, but because I was coerced by the principal. He often spoke of "expectations". His expectations
included many hours of my free time.
I'd followed him to the hotel where our evening eighth grade prom was held.
I'd brought evening clothes to school with me. As I lived far from the school, I stayed at school and changed there.
I did not know where the hotel was and so it was easiest to follow him in his car. We both valet parked our cars.
Entered the hotel together.
What if I'd accepted the champagne? What if we'd made a toast to his
first kiss? What if? I did not. Thank you, Jesus. I did not.
Whose responsibility is it to maintain
a professional decorum? Mine? His employee? Me? I certainly did not want to displease my boss, that's why
I was there. I did not want to be at this hotel at this hour with this man. I'd already worked all day and afternoon after
school. I wanted to be at home with my family. My husband. My children. Wanted to cook dinner and watch TV. I
was only there because it was "expected" of me. I knew that if I didn't chaperone this dance (or smile and
laugh with donors and eat the fundraising pizza the week before at the fund raising event....or "contribute" my
fifty dollars to his secretary's gift....or attend morning meetings an hour before my work day started...) he would "be
after me." That just doing an excellent job during the school day was not enough.
thanks." Thank God, I said "No". But sexual harassment is so much more than words. It's an inner
foreboding. A fog of knowledge that there is danger there. That we women are not safe with such predators.
words--their stories finally told--may clear the fog.
So what if I'd said "Yes I'd
love some?" Would that have diminished my story of workplace bullying? Bolstered it? Would you have
held me accountable? "Why was she there in the first place? All dressed up? Didn't I see her earlier
laughing at something he'd said? She was probably leading him on! She certainly looked like she was enjoying herself!"
national attention on sexual predators--powerful men who have women's careers in their control--has made me rethink my experience
of workplace bullying in a public school. I now focus on the predatory and sexual menace of my former principal. Although
I thought I'd analyzed my experience from every nuanced angle of the workplace bullying light, I'd not fully examined this.
It's time to dive in.
I ask myself why not? Why
not put this putrid piece under the microscope as well? For it is a huge piece of my story. Perhaps it is the story... Am
I embarrassed? Did I ever giggle girlishly at his cloddish jokes? Nervously flutter my eyelashes? Certainly I never
exposed cleavage, as others did! I dressed appropriately!
Oh I am angry that I must examine
this! I am exasperated with myself! I did not "ask for it!"
Is this what we women do? Take
the blame for men's boorish behavior?
I should not have had to make decisions such as
accepting or not accepting his offer of champagne. Because, just that assertiveness, put me on his bullying radar. "Ah!
This one is going to be fun!", he must have thought.
Early on I found my authentic voice.
Not all the time. Most often I avoided him as best I could. It felt safer to avoid the main office as that is
where he and his minions had offices. I already knew that three of those women, two counselors and an assistant principal,
had been cowed by predatory leadership.
My former principal called me "honey."
I did not like it. It made me feel...diminished and discounted. I told him not to call me "honey". He
disdainfully called many professional women "honey." He cursed at us. Used often the word, "fuck."
"Get the fuck over here!" to an assistant principal. "Why can't you stay the fuck out of things?"
to me. "FUCK!" at some mistake I'd made while he taught me something on his computer.
Even that! He and I side by side at his computer.... "Come here. I'll teach you."
Lord, this really does need my attention!
Sexual harassment. Power imbalance. Bullying. And so with
trepidation, I brought a chair up beside him.
Where are lines drawn? By whom? With
my predatory former principal, I had to draw the line. It was a dangerous thing to do. But I had to speak up for myself.
I was unsafe. Speaking up made me less safe with that brute. At first my assertiveness intrigued him. I was a
challenge! Later, though, he saw that I was a danger to him. That made him want to destroy me.
school district and board, in spite of its policies and rules against bullying, violence, and sexual harassment at school,
knowingly allows him to prey upon women...
Let's then, play out what might have happened if I'd accepted the champagne.
My inner foreboding would have grown. "YOU ARE IN DANGER!" My mind would have screamed. "I DON'T EVEN LIKE
CHAMPAGNE, you egotistical puny man!" But a tentative smile would have broken across my face.
go see the ocean...." Him to me. Me sucked into the vortex of his sanctioned predation. Me, a retired
flight attendant, for goodness sakes, and I'd never in 26 years been confronted with this kind of abuse of power.
Me to him with great apprehension.
He had the power. He felt he could do anything he wanted.