I have longed to write this letter for so long and finally I have something which allows me to compel school administrators to GROW A SPINE! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/26/education/26bully.html?hpw
and for parents who believe private schools do not have this problem: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/30/opinion/30blow.html?hp
The tide of change is now focusing on parental behavior(s) instead of blaming teachers for everything which does or does not occur in a classroom. Administrators are now going to need to hold parents accountable for the egregious actions their child perpetuates on others and how it effects classroom learning.
In a 10-page letter to be sent on Tuesday to thousands of school districts and colleges, the Department of Education urges the nation’s educators to ensure that they are complying with their responsibilities to prevent harassment, as laid out in federal laws.
The sentence is simple, direct and clear. No Teacher needs to feel embarrased anymore about having to go to administrators for help around classroom discipline issues as if we are incapable and administrators have to stop pushing back on teachers and treating them as incompetent when behavioral issues (the vast majority are bullying related in some form or another) are out of control. Administrators – you no longer need to worry about how the numbers look regarding suspensions at your school as much as you need to start worrying about the reports from teachers and parents (who need to be given the power to advocate for their child) about you simply being to weak to do your job. Talking to children will no longer be as sufficient as adequate action.
The department issued the letter to clarify the legal responsibilities of the authorities in public schools and in colleges and universities under federal laws, the officials said. Certain forms of student bullying might violate federal anti-discrimination law.
“I am writing to remind you that some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal anti-discrimination laws,” says the letter, signed by Russlynn H. Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights.
“Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal acts and name-calling; graphic and written statements, which may include use of cellphones or the Internet; or other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating,” the letter says. “Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. Harassment creates a hostile environment when the conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to interfere with or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school.”
Parents, please take some notes:
(1) As your child’s teacher, I am going to give you a warning about your child’s behavior and then escalate the issue as your child’s behavior PREVENTS some or all of the students in my classroom from learning and this is intolerable. It is your responsibility as a parent to work with your child to change behavior and/or get appropriate help to manage your child. You have a responsibility to the community as a whole.
(2) As a teacher, I am going to demand my administrators and school board do everything allowable by law to make you and your child comply with making my classroom a place of learning and not dealing with the inappropriate behaviors of your child because you have abdicated parenting. I want the other students in my classroom to view school as a wonderful experience, not a scary one.
(3) You do not have permission to bully or harass me about your child’s behavior and how it effects their grades. As necessary, I will invite you to come to school so you can do the appropriate parenting you are not doing at home. I can not be solely responsible for what has not happened during the 5+ years your child has been with you. I can and will expect support from my administrators so I may do my job effectively.
(4) Parents of children being bullied and not being able to learn – please know that I am now empowered to do something and you no longer need to feel I am not doing anything at all as a teacher. In fact, I will explicitly help you drive home the message to administrators of what needs to change (I was already doing this personally, however my administrators lacked spine).
(5) The sign(s) on my wall about discipline and behavior are not just signs to cover a wall in poor condition – they are a clear statement of what will happen when student behavior prevents learning in my classroom. I expect you to work with your children at home to change their behavior. If you find you need more help/support on how to work with your child, I will gladly help you find school and community resources. I will work with you to learn how to limit the things which reward your child for inappropriate behavior – TV, iPhone, cell phone, computer and so on as I know for certain no one has ever died from a lack of these things (I have lived in third world countries and saw it/experienced it first hand).
The Teacher/Professor of Your Child while at SchoolP.S. – Two really important sources: Groundspark, Southern Poverty Law Center
Further update 8 November 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/us/07bully.html?hpw
Update: 24 November 2010
Paragraph Five and the last paragraph. I don’t need to make a comment – Mr. Friedman said it nicely!