Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Thursday, 7 February 2013

"Your mother wears army boots"

    "Your mother wears army boots" - that's what we used to say in my school days. 
   Based on the article below I supposed that the school should have been held liable for not punishing us in the severest fashion for our obvious "bullying".
    Now, before I begin my short rant, let me say that I never appreciated nor condoned anyone being "picked on". I never allowed it in my class or in the teams which I coached. Most often all it took was a stern - "I want you to leave him alone" - and the harassment would immediately stop.
I certainly am not in favor of "bullying" of any child or as a matter of fact, any adult either.
   But, my questions are:
What is the definition of "bullying"?
Is the occasionally childhood teasing really "bullying"?
Is a teacher's criticism of a student's poor performance "bullying"?
Is a teacher's insistence that a child do his homework "bullying"?
If a coach tells a player that he should have done better is that "bullying"
How about a parent nagging a child to take out the garbage?
   I think, like many things in America that are designed to improve society, the "Bullying Law" is being taken to unreasonable extremes.
   As I read the article it says "the incident" which implies that it occurred once. Does that comprise "bullying" or  is it just occasional, childish name calling?
   Additionally, it says "A.C. (the accused) is not a chronic troublemaker". I think that might suggest that he is not a "bully" but merely acting as children often do and without any malice.
   I also noted that the parent demanded $50,000 for "emotional damages" plus legal fees from the school. It seems that when there is the smell of money in the air, lawyers flock to a situation like bees to honey. Could that be the case here or is there legitimate indignation on the part of the parents who really think their child has been "bullied"?
   And lastly, if we care to take the "Bullying Law" to the extreme, as I think may have been done here, then how about this:
If a teacher is harassed and interrupted (and possibly insulted) while trying to teach a class is that "bullying" by the students.
Does the teacher have the right to press charges against those disruptive students?
Can the teacher sue for "emotional damages"?
Must the administration report the incident to the state?
   Let me reemphasize, I am not defending bullying, but I certainly think a rational approach to the situation and a reasonable definition of "bullying"  is required. If not, we soon may see almost every child (and possibly adult) in every school in the land being accused of "bullying" based  on every inane, occasional comment.;


  1. Sent to me by G.A.

    Good points made on the bullying laws. We seem to have lost the reasonable person standard when it comes to any laws in today's society. Usually these standards are applied to tort law, but they should be applied to these laws on bullying. What a waste of judicial time and energy.

  2. Sent to me by Chuck H.
    Kudos to you, Walt, you have offered a critique that should be thoroughly explored prior to the enactment of law and decisions of settlements pending. Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! God bless. chuck

  3. Coach,
    Well put. Bullying is an issue, and in this day and age of ubiquitous technology, it has taken a nastier and more insidious tone then when I was in your classroom 20+ years ago. That said, more litigation will not solve this problem. Better training, greater awareness, more education on the roots, effects, and solutions to modern bullying is a far better use of resources. I'm lucky, like you were Coach, to have sired smart, good looking children. My son's personality would remind you of my Dad's in some way. I tell my son and daughter that because they are lucky to have the things they have in this world that it is their duty to befriend and stand up for those kids in class who aren't as lucky. They are reminded of this every week. It isn't much, but it is a small step in the right direction that if more people stressed with their kids I think might be far more effective than lawsuits.

    Sam Gardner

  4. I remember saying, "Your mama wears combat boots." Then one day, when Punk Rock and New Wave became very popular, combat boots began to be worn along with the stiffest Mohawks that implanted nails in the scalp could produce. We all can remember those teens and adults who were out to make a statement of fearless rebellion. Yeah, I even had a girlfriend at that time who wore combat boots and she shaved the sides of her head as a precursor to the Mohawk. (By the way, I got to wear combat boots with my twelve years of military service but, that's another story.) Anyway, whenever I read these types of articles, I cannot help to ask... Does the American citizen understand what Rights are and that all Rights are protected by the Constitution?

    It goes like this. Everyone has the right to do or say anything that they want as long as the three basic fundamentals of exercising Rights are always met. So to have a Right, these three things must always happen:

    1. All human Rights have an equal responsibility. If you chose to act or speak without being responsible then you have chosen NOT to exercise your Right.

    2. All human Rights are associated by property. If you own it then you are responsible for it which means that you can do with it whatever you want without permission.

    3. All human Rights that may be exercised, cannot violate the Rights of others because others may choose to violate your Rights. Violation of the Rights of others is not a Right. It is plainly a Violation of Rights.

    * As Thomas Jefferson stated, "You only have the freedoms you are willing to fight and die for."

    So, how does this tie in with bullying?

    If you are working with commonsense, you have already figured it out. However, I will still explain.

    When a person speaks, they own the words of their thoughts. Yes, we all have the Right to say whatever we want as long as we all take responsibility for whatever is being said. A bully may not necessarily take responsibility and therefore "does not" have the right to say anything. Why? Everyone has the Right to happiness. A bully is usually trying to impose the opposite of happiness on another. If one person has not given permission to have their Right to happiness violated, then no one has the Right to bully. It is that simple.

    We as Americans do not generally understand the theory of how Rights are to be used in this country. Many will not act responsible and other will violate the Rights of others without permission. When viewed from another angle, what we are actually witnessing here is Disrespect. Yes, a student can disrespect peers as well as teachers. Likewise, teachers can disrespect students as well as their own peers. Disrespect is both a violation of the Rights of others as well as irresponsibility in both words and action.

    Do those who bully others intend to do so? Absolutely. We expect that teachers for instance, will show by example how to properly speak and behave for the student to learn and follow. The burden is on the teacher because of their age and experience in life. Plainly, teachers SHOULD "know better" just from experience alone. The children must be taught to know and understand the principles of how to get along with others. Students should be taught that they must give and show respect so that they can get and even demand respect in return. Often, a bully is demanding some sort of respect WITHOUT giving any respect in the first place. This paragraph describes what is meant whenever someone says that respect must be earned.

    More laws are not needed to control behavior. Proper education in the exercise of Rights with a strong emphasis on RESPONSIBILITY will do the job just fine. Don't get me wrong, parents need to teach this to their children as well as teachers.

    I would like to close by saying, this is an excellent article Walt.

    I hope my comment helps to shed more light so that others may learn.

    Thank you.

  5. Additionally, I failed to comment on the inserted article by John Mooney. It appears to me that the point of this article refers to the imposing of punishment for bullying by the state. So, let’s take a look at the issue.

    Bully: NOUN: (From the American Heritage Dictionary) pl. bul•lies
    1. A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.

    As we can see by the above definition, the keyword is habitually.

    Bully: VERB: (From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) bul•lied bul•ly•ing
    1. To treat abusively.
    2. To affect by means of force or coercion

    Is there a dilemma with the law system concerning bullying? Yes.

    When we pay attention to the definitions of bully, we notice that there are some specifics that must apply before accusing any student of bullying others. We must ask:
    1. Did this type of act happen more than once? This would satisfy the prospect of a student acting habitually.
    2. Would the student(s) who were attacked be considered smaller or weaker than the one accused of bullying? Again, this is by perception. (When I was a young teacher’s assistant, we had a classroom in which there was smaller yet highly intelligent twelve year old boy who would loudly call the other students idiots whenever they could not figure out answers to any of the school work. He was definitely intellectually superior to ALL of the other students. Would he fit the definition of a bully?)
    3. Was there any abusive treatment? I have to agree that in each case there was “verbal” abuse and possibly “emotional” abuse as well. Nothing “physical” to boot, however. Of course, “spiritual” abuse would have to be recognized in these cases also.
    4. Was there any type of force or coercion enacted against any of the abused? Laughing at a student about how a boy dances like a girl could be an act of coercion. This behavior could coerce the student to react differently to satisfy the offender.

    Making a statement one time should not constitute a person acting as a bully, even if the statement is hurtful or degrading. Repetition of hurtful or degrading remarks would signify a bully. So, the dilemma appears to be the difference of a one-time act versus multiple acts. The student who made fun of the young girl for having lice and changing her hair color may have done this more than once and therefore fits the definition of bully. The student calling another gay for dancing like a girl may not necessarily be a bully, he just made mean statement and should have been corrected for just that.

    Again, we must look at responsibility. What are we teaching our children? A child knowing the definition of gay would have had to learn this from someone. There are times when children create words to explain something that they would not know the REAL word for. I remember saying the word, “PADUMPSCUMP” when I was young. It looks like a variation of saying, “dump scum.” This is what children do when they want to place a label without knowing the Real word to use instead. As an adult, the correct word I would use is, “S#!t…” (I will leave that to be figured.)

    I think a simple apology letter written by the offender and read to the offended in the presence of EVERYBODY would work just fine. The letter should address how the feelings of the offended were not considered when offenses were made. That letter would then be posted as a reminder to the offender and all students that if these things ever happen again, there may be harsher punishment.

    This is America. No one should be in fear of exercising their Right to speech. However, it does not hurt to teach AWARENESS of the responsibility of our speech or actions toward others.

    Thank you again.


What do you think?