Here is a sample of a classroom handout from Bullyproof: A Teacher’s Guide on Teasing and Bullying for Use With Fourth and Fifth Grade Students, one of several curriculum guides for dealing with bullies. It was published last year by the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women and the NEA Professional Library. The story is based on a true account summarized in “Sexual Harassment in School: The Public Performance of Gendered Violence,’' a report by Wellesley researcher Nan Stein. Her report appeared in The Harvard Educational Review in the summer of 1995. Ms. Stein advises using materials like this for discussion purposes, not for role-playing exercises.
Seven-year-old Pauline took the bus to school every morning, along with lots of other elementary and middle school students from her neighborhood. During the 30-minute ride, Pauline liked to sit and talk with her 2nd grade classmate, Sarah. One morning when Sarah stayed home sick, Pauline sat alone. Two 13-year-old boys got on the bus and sat down in the seat behind her. Halfway to school, the boys started barking like dogs. Pauline giggled, finding it silly to hear animal noises coming from older boys. Her laughter was abruptly cut short: “Hey, stupid,’' taunted a male voice from behind the seat, “this is what you are.’' Pauline stopped breathing. She could hear the frightened pounding of her heart.
The two boys continued barking for the rest of the bus ride to school. Several younger boys joined in, adding comments about sex and parts of Pauline’s body. Pauline recognized some of the boys from her class, but she felt too outnumbered and too scared to tell them to stop. Although Pauline wasn’t sure what all of the words meant, she knew that some of them were bad. She closed her eyes and wished that Sarah were there to hold her hand--or that the bus driver, clearly within earshot, would tell the group of boys to quiet down. But the driver didn’t pay any attention.
Pauline was a nervous wreck for the whole day. She was scared to be alone in class and in the hallways. She cried during recess. And Pauline was so worried about the bus ride home, she couldn’t concentrate on her school work.
1. If you were also on the bus and overheard the boys, what would be the courageous thing(s) to do? Write down a list.
2. What could the bus driver do or say that would make a difference?
3. Because Pauline is so much younger than some of the boys, does she have to endure their behavior?
4. What are Pauline’s options?
5. You are Pauline’s mom or dad. Pauline starts crying when you put her to bed that night. You ask her what’s wrong and she explains what happened on the bus. What do you say and do in response?
A version of this article appeared in the May 28, 1997 edition of Education Week as The Bus Ride