Classroom Technology Opinion

Stop Bullying: Schools Can Hold Hope

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — March 20, 2018 3 min read
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The use of Twitter to share news and to congratulate individuals or teams, or to remind of meetings or events has become a part of many educational leaders’ work of the day. Many, if not most students and parents are ‘on’ Twitter. It has become a favored way to communicate quickly and briefly. At first a vehicle for young people to speak to each other in brief terms, it has been swept up by adults and businesses. Its use was welcomed and used for good. The use of social media helped school districts pass school budgets, share information during emergency closings, and announce school events.

Then the bullying of others became a pervasive problem on social media. Those in education and parents became alarmed, considering both the moral and legal ramifications of this vehicle, now being used for negative purposes. It became such a concern that even (at the time) President elect’s wife, Melania Trump, spoke firmly about her concern about the use of social media for bullying. She indicated her investment of time as FLOTUS would be to end it. And, then, the Twitter wars of the adults became unhinged.

Now instead of pointing to adult behavior as a model for proper behavior, we have none. When the POTUS uses social media to call people names and spread untruths, what recourse to people have? Responding with the truth and/or opinion seems better than leaving the insults and lies sitting out there undefended. Katie Rogers reported in Monday’s NY Times

Throughout the weekend, the president attacked “lying James Comey,” the F.B.I. director he fired last year. He also celebrated the dismissal of Mr. Comey’s onetime deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, calling it on Friday “a great day for Democracy”

The article continued with a Tweet by John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. director.

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,” wrote Mr. Brennan, whom Mr. Trump once called “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington.” “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you.”

How Do Schools Address Bullies?

Children and adults demonstrate the same frustrating set of behaviors. One begins by calling names and saying hurtful and untrue things. If the ‘victims’ say nothing, the bully gathers steam. Now, if the focus of the bully responds, we have Twitter wars, as for example between the office of the President of the United States and otherwise high and respected officials (past and present) standing their ground. Everyone loses. If this were a personal conversation in a private room and rude and untrue things were said, a fiery response in words might silence a room but wouldn’t involve thousands.

Now, adults from all walks of life have taken to social media to trade insults and cause people to hurt. Many learned as children that names would never hurt you but that just isn’t true. They may not bruise or cause you to bleed but they are, indeed, hurtful. Mockery is the knife of the bully. Now, it is the POTUS who ignites Twitter wars. A Google search about bullying with children and adults suggests ignoring the bully, not becoming upset by their taunts, avoiding the bully, finding friends who support you. These aren’t easy for child or adult and they become more difficult when social media allows bullies to follow you everywhere.

Perhaps The Bullying Tables Are Turning

Sexual harassment is a form of bullying. The voices of the women (and men) who have joined together in standing up and speaking out and the lawyers who support them are taking a bite out of this giant called bullying. As they continue to fight and win, as people lose their positions and their living, we are hopeful the scales will be tipped. We always hold hope within our schools. Moral and ethical behavior of the adults will serve as models in the 13 year learning environment in which all children live and learn. There is a need to do better, always, in handling bullying among the students. Yes, even bullies need to be understood and they can benefit from counseling. We can raise children who see the current Twitter wars from the highest office as what they are, bullying behaviors. We can raise children who learn how to get along and children who do not need to bully or create a sphere of power over others, make others weak so we look strong. We can raise good human beings. Yes, we still can.

Ann Myers and Jill Berkowicz are the authors of The STEM Shift (2015, Corwin) a book about leading the shift into 21st century schools. Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or Email.

Photo by Alexas Photos courtesy of Pixabay

The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.