behavior, classroom expectations, punishment, students

No School For You, Bully! But Did We Fix Anything?

The news broke last night that the 4 middle schoolers who were caught on tape tormenting their bus monitor received a year’s suspension from riding the bus as well as school.  A whole school year! (I should add they get to go to the district reengagement center, not just sit at home).  So while many cheered at the justice being served, I shook my head and once again thought about how we dole out punishment in the American educational system.

I am not here to argue that what they did was in any way justifiable.  I am not here to argue that they should not be punished.  But a year’s suspension?  Since when does any bullying incident result in a whole year away from school?  This seems to be another case of media sensationalism leading to excessive punishment, without actually thinking about how these kids could be helped instead.  Where is the repair?  The discussion of what led to all of this?  The plan for something like this to not happen again?

The sad thing is, we only know about this case because one kid foolishly published the video to Youtube, apparently proud of their achievement as bullies.  The bus monitor didn’t report it, or at least we don’t know that she did.  She also barely spoke up for herself throughout the ordeal, instead sitting their stoically taking whatever evil words they could fling at her.  How often does that happen, those untold stories of bullying that we only discover after it is too late?  How do school react to those stories where young children commit suicide due to the cruel nature of others?  What about the every day bullying that happens in our hallways, in our lunch rooms, at our recesses, right underneath our noses?  What punishment do those kids get?  How often do we say it is just a part of growing up, it is just a  part of school, it is just a part of life?  How often do we come up with a repair plan but then don’t follow through?  How often do we not believe the children that report the bullying?  So when a case like this one, that seems so cut and dry, we jump on it, flaunt our muscles, blame the parents and then punish those kids with every thing we have.  Those kids are going to pay.  Those kids will be an example.  Those kids will learn.  And yet, we don’t actually fix the problem.

So I wonder what can we as a society do to prevent these situations from happening?  And how can we serve justice in a way that makes sense, that makes children change their behaviors?  How do we focus in on all bullying and not just those cases that make it into the media, that start an outcry?  How do we teach children and adults, because adults are as much of a part of this as children, that bullying is vile and inhumane?  They say kids learn best from examples set, well, how are we setting the example?  What responsibility are we taking for all of this?  And how do we truly show kids that bullying is not just “not ok” it is deplorable?

2 thoughts on “No School For You, Bully! But Did We Fix Anything?”

  1. I would suggest a media literacy course for middle school grades and up. In this world of Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, kids need to learn about the long term effects of incorrectly using social media. What they do not realize is that incidents like this can follow them into adulthood and potentially taint their employment options.

  2. I believe these kids are being sent to an alternative school, so they're not getting a year away from school, unless your referring to a year away from their normal school. Im also pretty sure their parents waived their right to a hearing so I assume they are ok with the punishment. Is it excessive, perhaps, but I think the fact that it was videotaped makes the bullying that much more excessive. I might have just went with a semester at the alternative school but I do agree with a year long bus ban.

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