"Bullying, coercive, abusive men and women--superintendents, regional
leadership, directors and principals--are the real reason schools fail. I know it in my gut. Good people are forced out. Fine
and fun people are targeted with "documentation" and "discipline." And what are we left with? Suck-up
sycophants who lie and cheat and cover up for the bosses. They have no other choices if they want to survive. Our school districts'
upper echelons of leadership are full of just such people. Abusive leadership and suck up, rear end kissing subordinates....who
happen to be the bosses of other subordinates....all sucking up, lying and covering up for each other...until the chain lands
flatly and completely in the classroom. There is no one to suck up to the teacher. But there are layers upon layers of danger
for that teacher if she has any ethics at all. The first layer of danger is the principal." (K.W., 2013)
If you are an educator and you are being bullied by your principal, here is what you need to
Ten steps to return to some sanity.
For sure, document each occurrence of abuse. Document others' abuse as well, because seeing others' suffering affects
you. Keep all pertinent emails. I documented much of my abuse by sending emails to my union rep. I did not at
that time realize that all of those emails were public records. Public records are a very good thing.
2. Call your union. In my case, a wonderful and caring individual helped me. I think it had more
to do with her just being a caring individual than her being a union rep...still, having her support and help was invaluable. If
you are not a union member, that's okay. Find a wonderful and caring person who will stick with you.
Check to see if your school district's "bullying and harassment" policy covers employees as well as students.
I have provided a link to all states' bullying and harassment policies on A Piece Full World's home page. Most school
districts adopt their state's model policy. Miami-Dade County Public School's policy is word for word Florida's model
policy. It covers employees.
4. If employees are "covered" under your district's
"bullying and harassment" policy, take a deep breath and....turn him/her in. You must do this before he/she takes
action against you. I faxed my report to my district's Director of Bullying and Harassment. I used Miami-Dade County
Public Schools' "Anonymous Report", although I did not choose to remain anonymous. The director did not know
what to do...and so, handled my report ineffectively. She's gone now though. Her employees turned her in for bullying.
Trust me, the irony is not lost.
If he/she has already taken action against you (my
former principal starts with a "Memorandum of Professional Responsibilities" after he has gather fraudulent "evidence"),
turn him/her in anyway. You have nothing to lose.
5. Know this: if you
feel you must stay on the job, you have taken a stand by turning her/him in...and that may help. He/she would have started
"documentation" against you most assuredly. It is best to report him/her first so that he/she is on the defensive.
Again, I did not know all of that at the time I was experiencing abuse. I just knew my health was at risk.
6. But the best thing to do is to take time off-- if you can--and begin to recover. You have been through
trauma and emotional violence. You will never be the same, trust me on that. My abuser's face comes to my mind often.
I was in great peril--emotional and professional peril. You probably are too.
I added this step later...and I am still going to keep the steps at ten!) Research "workplace bullying and violence."
Check out A Piece Full World in detail. I've been at this now for three years, so please contact me if you really
want to communicate with a "been there/done that" experienced person. I welcome your emails.
7. Find a therapist who understands the workplace bullying/violence phenomenon and who will really be able to
help. You are not alone. There are thousands of us out there.
8. If your abusive principal
has a history of abuse--and mine had/has a years and years long history of abuse--your district will probably transfer you
to a different school. Do not think for a second that your district will take action against him/her. District
leaders are in too deep. If your district takes action against your abuser, CALL ME IMMEDIATELY! I want to work
Also, do NOT allow district leaders to talk you into "sitting down" with
your abuser. That is NOT APPROPRIATE! Insist they recognize this as bullying and harassment.
9. If you are assigned to a new school, go. Recover some of your lost enthusiasm. Decide then what
your next steps will be. You are forever changed. You are, however, not alone.
Share your story. You have nothing to hide. You have no reason to be ashamed. I have found that matter-of-factly
sharing with others has helped me. I think it is helping others as well.
10.5 (because I
said this was a ten step process!) Accept that the world is a sometimes unkind place.
( same reason as 10.5) Accept, also, that there is still a whole lot of good in the world. Find it.
"Our society may be not
only fascinated but increasingly tolerant of the psychopathic personality [evidenced by victimized student/athletes being
admonished to just "suck it up" or "toughen up" or "get over it" by their administrators after
having just been bullied by a potentially psychopathic individual]. [...] Even more frightening is the possibility that "cool"
but vicious psychopaths will become twisted role models...where little value is placed on honesty, fair play, and concern
for the welfare of others [e.g. as long as they display considerable athletic talent and can help the school team win, some
behaviors may be "overlooked'']..."
"Without Conscience - The Disturbing World
of the Psychopaths Among Us."
--Robert D. Hare, PhD.
Ten Key Indicators of the Almost Psychopath:
From: "Almost a Psychopath" by Ronald
Schouten and James Silver.
1. Are they superficially
charming and glib, with an answer for everything?
2. Is there a lack of empathy, i.e., an impaired ability to understand and appreciate the emotions of others
and the impact of their behavior on other people?
3. Confronted with a difficult
moral choice, do they more often than not rationalize and arrive at a decision to act in their own self-interest?
4. Do they lie repeatedly, including when it is unnecessary or for minor reasons?
5. Are they conning and manipulative?
6. When they get
criticized for something, is it always someone else's fault?
7. When they cause
harm or hurt to others, is there a lack of true remorse?
8. Do they seem to have
limited capacity to experience and express feelings for others or maintain relationships?
Do they find it easy to ignore responsibilities?
10. Do people and situations
exist solely for the purpose of gratifying their needs and wants?
Desperate note to myself as I began to piece together the abuse I'd experienced:
I wrote the following in
the fall of 2010. I used this note when I consulted with an attorney. I also shared it with my regional superintendent
when he and I met the first time. We were alone, so he could deny that I told him. His name is on no documents either. I guess,
hypothetically, he could state he'd never met with me.
Anyway, I really don't
care about all of that. Even if, as Gandhi states, I am a "minority of one," the truth is still the truth.
Here's how I started my first conversation with my regional superintendent:
I read what I had written in preparation for my meeting with an attorney.
"Arrogance, deception, manipulation, coersion, threats, humiliation, upbraiding and more..."
The Workplace Bullying Institute's Negative
Conduct & Impact Continuum
bullying starts with the cloddish, inappropriate
stuff. You know: your boss's stupid jokes would be a good example. You better
laugh, though, or it will most assuredly get worse. The continuum moves, then, into general incivility. Workplace cultures are
determined by leaders, whether those cultures are warm, trusting and great places to work or they are toxic, dangerous and
abusive places you dread going to each morning.
that in mind here's what happens. Someone who violates a workplace's culture-say a "half glass full living"
individual transferring into a "half glass empty/abusive" norm will be (and this happens without
our awareness) over time, made to feel uncomfortable by those who have been there for awhile. Some of
those employees may have been positive people to start, but they folded to fit into the abusive culture. It was
the only way to survive. The "half glass full living" person will have to either abide by the abusive
culture's "rules" or get out.
same dynamic is also true for the "half glass empty/abusive prone" individual transferring into a happy,
vibrant, and trusting place. That individual will also have to abide by that workplace's trusting and
positive culture's "rules" or get out.
Incivility moves into disrespect
and this is where we see the onset of health consequences. In my case, for instance, I and other women were arrogantly
and dismissively called "honey" by my school's leader. Mild bullying follows. Again, in my case, my principal
would pass me and say things like: "There have been complaints. We'll talk later."
Mild bullying leads to Moderate to Severe Bullying. This is where it gets dangerous for the target. The goal here is obliteration. My
administrator, for example, screamed at me and swore at me. The target's indentity is at risk. That's part
of the goal. The impact of on going moderate to severe bullying is a feeling of emotionally being ripped to shreds. This
is where targets fall into despair and some commit suicide. See link below entitled "Teacher's
Suicide. School district's reaction."
Why does the abuser do this? Reasons vary. But mostly he does it simply because
Superintendents: This is from Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie
in their book, "The Bully-Free Workplace:"
your loins for the war ahead. If you do not have the stomach to stop the unacceptable conduct, you risk losing the confidence
of all of the other employees who are rooting for you to stop the bullying. It's your choice: stay in denial and coddle
the few or protect the vast majority."
Once at a
seminar on effective parenting, Dr. Robert Brooks said (and I am paraphrasing), "Ask parents this: What do you want your
children to say about you when they are adults? And what are you doing to make that happen?"
my answer. I want my children to say I taught them, through my actions, to: value people; hurt no one intentionally; work
hard and tell the truth.
So I ask you, school district leaders: "What
do you want your employees to say about you when you've moved on? And what are you doing to make that happen?"
Your legacies are at stake.
Targets: Here's what you must do to end the abuse. The most important thing to remember: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You
just hang onto that.
School district leaders: We'll
look at your culpability. Check out my "Your bullying principals are sleeping well" blog post.
first have some fun! Mr. Bully Boss has something to say.......
Bully Boss to Target: "Na-na-na-na-boo-boo!
Success! I've actually messed with the neuro-structure of your brain. Take THAT big girl! Gotcha now!"
Targets, are your telomeres frayed? I'll bet they are!
the heck is a telomere? Telomeres cap your chromosomes. Prolonged stress (like the psychological stress from
workplace abuse) adversely affects them.
out Elizabeth Blackburn's research on the effects of relentless stress on aging.
Question: Are you feeling socially isolated at your school? Isolation and exclusion are hallmarks
of workplace bullying. They're also hazardous to health.
In Robert Sapolsky's book, "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers", Dr. Sapolsky finds that social isolation
is a bigger risk factor for cardio-vascular disease than being overweight. It's bigger than smoking.
That's some warped good news for thin targets, I suppose. But for those
of us on the portly side, we're screwed.
Are you suffering physically? Do you cry easily? Does your heart beat rapidly just walking in the door of your
school? Does it jump just seeing your school leader's car in the employee lot? Do you
have chest pain? Rapid breathing? Headaches? Diarrhea? Want to puke?
No wonder he's able to document "weakness." He created it! That's his goal.
On going, unending abuse leads to feeling helpless and trapped. It leads
to feelings of being abandoned by peers and by school district leaders: leaders who say they will keep you
Hmmmm.....I don't THINK SO! They allow these J.E.R.K.S. free rein.
(added 3/31/12) Oh dear readers! An epiphany!
I cut the following from a piece by Dave Lawrence to school leaders in the state of Florida (you can find that piece on the
David Lawrence Jr. page).
Here it is (I'll talk about it coming up...)
Jack Shonkoff, the nationally known professor of pediatrics at Harvard
Medical School, reports: “We now know that adversity early in life can not only disrupt brain circuits that lead to
problems with literacy, it can also affect the development of the cardiovascular system and the immune system and metabolic
regulatory systems, and lead not only to more problems learning in school but also greater risk for diabetes and hypertension
and heart disease and cancer and depression and substance abuse.”
Dr. Shonkoff is talking about the effects of STRESS on
children. I'm going to go totally out on an unscientific, but-it-makes-perfect-sense limb and change up a few words
and we'll be talking about the effects of the ongoing, incessant stress of workplace AND school bullying
on PEOPLE, be they 5,13,25,or 50. Shoot, why not include 70 and 80 year olds too?!
Here you go:
Dr. Jack Shonkoff, the
nationally known professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, reports: “We now know that adversity (I'm taking out the word "early") in life can not only disrupt brain
circuits that lead to problems with literacy, it can also affect (I'm taking out the words "the
development of") the cardiovascular system and the immune system and metabolic regulatory
systems, and lead not only to more problems (I'm adding "teaching and")
teaching and learning in school but also greater risk for diabetes and hypertension and heart disease and cancer and
depression and substance abuse.”
that's it!! Our bodies deal with ongoing, unrelenting stress in much the same ways, whether we are a bounced around
foster child with a substance addicted mother or a 63 year old teacher targeted by her principal for abuse.
hair falls out.
minds shut down.
learn to read. Adults can't read either.
Kids and adults get sick. Real sick.
We die sooner than