That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

I love teaching.

I mean, of course, I have hard headed students and their parents aren’t much better. You need look no further than my two previous Takes 5 Hilarious Yet Inappropriate Things Parents Have Said To Me, A Teacher and 5 More Hilariously Inappropriate Things Parents Have Said To Me, A Teacher to know what I’m talking about.

I also love my co-workers. We may work in a public school building located in the hood, but I can tell the staff genuinely cares about the students and advocate for their rights to a quality education despite asinine policies that instituted by our superintendent and other administrators.

We have the students best interest at heart. They may not think that when we don’t always give them what they want, but I know the teachers in that building, based on conversation and attitudes, that our students come first in our eyes as professional educators.

However, there is one aspect of teaching that completely sucks. No matter what you say or think, this issue is in every building across the world. It doesn’t matter if the school is public, private, all male, all female, boarding, or charter. It’s everywhere. It’s a problem. It’s a disease. And it needs to be addressed so all students can have a quality education.

It’s not class size nor is it testing, although both of those issues need to be fixed. So what exactly is it?


Are you surprised? I know some of you may be. There’s a misconception about bullying in schools and the power a teacher has to stop them.

I don’t usually do lists in Takes with a serious tone, but I feel it is important to make sure everyone reads and understands the teacher perspective when we see any of this happen not only in our classrooms, but anywhere in the building. Hallways, classrooms, closets, bathrooms…Students manage to get anywhere and everywhere in the building to hide and fight. And there seems to be nothing done about it.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying actually is another word for harassment under many state laws, including the state I work in. And according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, harassment is defined as, "to create an unpleasant or hostile situation for especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct." It's basically when one or more people constantly taunt, mock, and attacked another person or group of people.

That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

How Do Teachers Recognize Bullying In School?

That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

I get asked this a lot. It’s actually really easy to spot. Usually, one or more students targets one or more other students and makes fun of them. From their hair to their skin color to their shoes, car, clothes, and place of dwelling, kids always find something to say or do to one another just because they can.

Bullying usually isn’t fighting, but it can result in it. Very rarely has it happened in my room or anywhere in our building. The fights that happen are usually between students who disagree on something or feel slighted in one way by someone else. Most bullying, though, doesn’t involve physical touching. It tends to be more mental.

If You Know What It Is And How To Recognize It, Then Why Don’t You Stop It?
That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

Because I can’t.

I wish I could give you a better answer for you, but I don't. Harassment is very hard to prove, especially since cameras in most schools are only in the hallways, not the classrooms, and the sound is typically not recorded. That means that the things students say to one another, which is the primary evidence of bullying, is hard to prove because there’s no evidence. And I, as a teacher, cannot legally film any students without prior permission from their parents or legal guardian since they are minors. That means if I have a student in a video that I filmed personally, I could not only get fired, but I could also lose my teaching license.

The second, and most aggravating reason, is the fact that I don’t make the rules in the state, district, or school building. Our policy and, after asking friends that teach in different buildings, subjects, grade levels, and states, it’s no different, is to write up the bully and give a classroom consequence.

What’s the consequence? A detention. No, I’m not kidding.

Bullying is dealt with an administrative level, not a staff or clerical one. I have to explain this a lot, and I don’t know why because no teacher has the power to do more than a write-up and a detention. It’s up to the administrators to take any further action. After a write-up and detention, I have no more power.

But Aren’t Write-ups Recommendations?

That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

No. Write-ups are just reports of what actually happened and what I did as a teacher.

Why Don’t The Administrators Do More?

Honestly? I can’t speak for anyone else’s school district since I don’t work there. But I do know that most of the reason nothing happens to bullies is because our state watches suspension and expulsion rates. The rates impact any administrators state evaluation, just like classroom management and control impacts a teacher’s evaluation. It’s more important to our state the students are in the building learning, and if they are constantly being suspended, they could repeat their respective grade.

The process goes like this: write-up, classroom detention, administrative action including, but not limited to another write-up, behavioral contract, Saturday school, suspension, school transfer, and expulsion.

In my four years of teaching, I’ve seen the same students being bullied by the same person, and I had only one case where a student was suspended. The suspension was two days. The other instances never progressed past the behavioral contract, even when they were violated. And every student that bullied while I was there continues to do it. It’s not always the same person they bully, but their behaviors do not change and they make some students feel unsafe coming to school.

Why Don’t The Parents Do Anything?
That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

Are you kidding me with this? Read my previous Takes about the dumb things they say to me just because their student is rude towards me, and I’m the adult. You really think they care about what happens to another student?

Some might, but other than claiming to ‘talk’ to their child about their bullying, they do nothing more. Actually, I had a parent tell me that the bullied kid shouldn’t be a p**** about it. And yes, that’s in a previous Take.

The only time a parent cares is when their child is the victim in most cases. Otherwise, they tend to stay silent.

Remember when I told you about the student who was suspended for two days? I actually called her mother to say she couldn’t get make-up work until she returns to school. Her mom didn’t care about her schoolwork. She actually cussed me out for reporting her for bullying and saying that had she known her daughter was being that way towards other students, she would have handled it. She then called me an idiot and hung up the phone.

Yeah. That escalated quickly.

Maybe The Bully Has Their Own Problems
That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools

Pardon my language, but absolutely I hate when people say that dumb shit to me. This is literally the one time where I don’t care what happened to the bully. There is no excuse for making someone else miserable just because you are. That’s how student suicides and school shootings happen by sympathizing with the bully instead of the victim. If something is wrong, then the student should talk to a teacher or principal, not make someone else's life a misery.

Look, I know teaching for four years doesn’t make me an expert, but it does annoy me that In that time, I haven’t seen much done about bullying. Part of it is state law that gets in the way of actually being able to do anything, but it’s also the fear administrators have when they suspend or expel too many students. Under law, it’s very hard to prove bullying. And I, being a teacher, do not have the power to change how my bosses and supervisors operate.

That Teacher Life: Why Bullying Is Allowed In Most Schools
Add Opinion

Most Helpful Guy

  • TadCurious
    I really sympathize with teachers who are dedicated and want nothing more than to teach and create a positive environment but have to deal with the public education hierarchy. And that hierarchy is all too often corrupt, in the sense that the things that should be most important aren't given the attention they deserve. Too many kids get away with too much crap. It's too hard for teachers to get them out of their classrooms when they're creating a hostile or disruptive environment for the kids who might actually want to succeed. I think that's a big part of why public education has suffered. Yes, every kid has a right to attend school and receive a free public education. But that right should end at the point that they are a threat or a disruptive presence to others. Get them out of there and let somebody else deal with them. I'm all for zero tolerance policies for some behaviors, and no more than one or two chances when it comes to others. Too many people who run the public schools don't have common sense, and a lot of that comes from how they were taught in Colleges of Education.
    Is this still revelant?

Most Helpful Girl

  • TheDevilInside
    I have just witnessed the budding of bullying in my 5 year old students today... one girl kept picking on this not, saying his coloring is not nice, his face looks like this... and it got him mad and he screamed out of frustration.

    You can sometimes see a bully being made when you teach rich people's 3-5 year olds. Some are really that bad, yeah. We have biters, kids that throw stuff at the teachers, scribbles furiously and angrily on the wall, screams at me when asked what is the color of this toy car... I blame the parents. Those are bullies in the making if not already bullies. So yes, bullies have issues, and that would be the parents. Some people shouldn't be allowed to have kids
    Is this still revelant?

Scroll Down to Read Other Opinions

What Girls & Guys Said

  • GreatnessBack
    I think everything needs to start at home.
    Parents have to be as proactive with their children's lives as much as possible.

    "Maybe The Bully Has Their Own Problems"

    I don't agree with your assessment on this one. I've known bullies, I've fought bullies bullying other kids when I was a kid, and most (not all) of them were troubled.
    Still you don't let them off the hook for the wrong they've done.
    Chastise the victimizer, help the victim and TEACH how to NOT be a victim.
    • Elarra

      It's different when the bully gets away with anything just because of a bad situation and I've seen it happen. Doesn't improve anything.

  • redeyemindtricks
    Good take. That has to feel *incredibly* disempowering, knowing just how little the system will allow you to DO about the situation.

    I'm not a teacher, but, just putting myself into yr shoes here, it seems there'd be two further frustrations, too:

    The same reason why yr hands are tied here, is the same GOOD reason why there are so many *other* checks and limitations on teachers' interactions with students in the first place -- namely, to safeguard the students themselves, from teachers who may not have their best interests in mind (as illustrated by sex scandals and so on).

    In other words -- You probably couldn't change the rules to let you do MORE about bullying... without *also* having LESS of a safeguard against OTHER kinds of teacher intrusion into students' lives.
    Like, you have to build a wall with X thickness between teachers' and students' lives... and the shit part of it is, sometimes X is too thick and sometimes X is too thin.


    I just *know* that the PARENTS who would become the biggest thorns in yr side -- if you had the power to be more proactive about these situations -- would be the "MY kid can do no wrong... how DARE you accuse her/him" type of parents.

    The trouble these kinds of parents would cause, would be 100x the appreciation you'd get from the parents who are actually fighting the good fight.


    Definitely a situation where there's no easy solution, at all. Well written exposition of exactly why that's so.
  • 0112358
    Most bullying has witnesses, and peer witnesses are most of the time the only people who actually have the power to stop bullying. Outside adults just aren't there most of the time, and there's a lack of evidence.

    I think -somewhat- unfortunately, there's been like a 40+ year (started before my time but has gotten worse) bias towards teaching all kids to not just tell an adult, which is maybe a good thing, but effectively to leave it to adults. We really do teach people not to intervene. Stay safe, stay back, wait for the professionals to handle it. Look at that video? It's what, 3 or 4 on 1 ... with about 50 witnesses. In fact, half of bystanders tend to passively watch which supports/condones bullying. The other half of the time bystanders are evenly split between encouraging the bully vs. intervening. Most interventions are successful.

    I think the biggest role adults can play is by creating open conversations in classrooms about what behavior is considered okay/not okay, and having students talk aloud about what sort of behavior they'd rather see stopped, and how they'd react if, for example, they were a witness and another bystander spoke out against the bully. Would they support that bystander, for instance? If a culture can be created where kids feel they should speak up -and anticipate being supported if they do so- the change can be huge.
  • gobsmacked3
    As a teacher/senior teacher of nearly 25 years experience having worked extensively across the UK and now Australia, I find this disturbing.

    Not so much the issue which is indeed global in its seriousness but more your willingness to file it in 'the too hard basket'.

    Granted, we are stricken by the framework we have to work in but it is our role to find a way to deal with issues. Whether this is through a staff approach to the issue or within the student/parent body, one needs to find a way.

    I think the main issue that stands out is your relationships with parents. I know they can be difficult and of obstructionist but we need to find a common ground with them. You seem very willing to view this as 'pie in the sky' and an impossibility. I would implore you to seek the advice of your mentor teacher for guidance over this for working with parents is paramount in being a good teacher
    • Elarra

      You must not have read the Take because you'd understand that the teachers aren't the issue as we have no power beyond detentions. It's the people above us who are in fear of their jobs. Pardon us for not being in charge of our bosses.

    • Elarra

      Also, my mentor teachers have been dealing with it for over 30 years. Maybe you shouldn't make asinine assumptions.

    • Read your take fully, and by your responses, it seems clear you cannot deal with any critique.

      Herein lies the main issue

  • Djaaaay
    Like fighting fire with fire , you must fight bullying with bullying. Saddens me to say it , but it's the the trueth of it all. Then it's always replaced with another bully as time rolls on. This right here is why I've been involved with martial offensive arts over 46 years now and that works wonders on stupid bully's.
  • Stevan7
    Wow you do have to deal with a lot of shit. Look even bullies are the one who suffer. Real problem are parents. I actually got mad while reading because i can not believe how fucking ignorant people can get. I don't know how to help you. Try to organize parent meeting and talk about it (If you have legal permission i would call out parents).
  • That's why I say Schools are a battlefield, a prison and everyone in there is being convicted regardless of innocence or lack thereof. I know I had my time in there and I'm glad it's the past now.

    I can not stand that freak show.
  • SovereignessofVamps
    I think people should just start fights with the bullies, first. If you can't get in trouble for fighting may as well throw the first stone.
  • Saoirse_Nua
    There is only one answer for bullying - Immediate expulsion from the school and referral to the police for criminal charges.
    • Prof_Don

      The issue, is that schools get paid based on the amount of students that are enrolled at the school. Expelling a student means less money for the school, and most higher-up school administrators don't want to sacrifice that money.

  • madhatters4
    i get that it's hard to address. i get that parents have to play a role. but it seems like pure negligence (not on your part but in general) to not try and address these issues. when we know what can happen as a result of bullying (self esteem and insecurity issues, physical and emotional abuse, and even suicide).

    i fully understand that it's complicated to deal with but to say it's too difficult to resolve seems like it's saying unfortunately there are aspects of child safety and well being that are hard to address so we won't address those things

    having children (the bullies and the bullied) go to guidance counselors. sitting down with the parents. OR simply having a bully punished all seem like reasonable starts to addressing the issue
    • Elarra

      It is a reasonable result if you worked with reasonable people.

      Truthfully, you can't even really blame the principals. They get their orders from the superintendent and if they tell the principals not to do anything, then there's nothing they can do, either. People are way too concerned about district and school report cards, test scores, and looking bad to actually do their job.

    • i feel like, and i know that the things you say go on, but that it should expose school districts and thus the government to litigation.

      if my child committed suicide or ended up having severe emotional issues that could be traced back to bullying, and i know the school didn't take steps to address the issue i'd lawyer up and claim criminal negligence.

  • SongBird3
    I was bulled for 1/2 my life. When I was younger I tried to tell teachers about it, and you know what they said? "Don't be a tattle tale" My life was being ruined and the system didn't give a shit about me. It wasent until I got to high school that it was gradual and it dies down (however, i learned how to defend myself at that point and got a lot more friends)
    Im not even mad that the school didn't, its the false hope that the school would help that pissed me off. You know what im talking about: the assemblys, the "ill call there parents", the slap on the wrist bs. Teachers, if you can't stop bullying ok, but dont put on an act like you guys are changing anything or anybody.
    They always wait till somebody dies to start caring, because they fear of lawsuits.
    • Elarra

      I've literally not met a teacher like that. Must've just been your school. But most teachers don't pretend like they can fix it. And if they do, I'd reckon it's because somewhere higher up than them told them to do it. I say and do a lot of things just because my superintendent tells me to. l because I'll get fired if I dont. That's why I invented signals to my kids while I'm talking so they silently know what I'm saying isn't my idea in case a principal walks in the a room.

      Also, you don't really know what those teachers did without you knowing. Teachers aren't obligated to explain anything to you. I've told a group of kids they couldn't skip my class because they were being bullied in it, but I still managed to get the principal to suspend the bully and take away her prom for being a butt in my room to the students.

  • archiz
    I absolutely hate bullying
    I ve been a bit bullied in HS so I know the feels
    the school def doesn t know how to handle it.
    • Prof_Don

      Oh trust me, the schools DO know how to handle it... these school just don't want to miss out on that money by having less students enrolled at their school.

  • Izumiblu
    And this is why a kid has to be taught to stand up for themselves and at times not ti listen to or pay attention to what teachers tell them or choose to act on or what the rules are. Believe it or not, a child does have a responsibility to act on their own behalf and it is at times perfectly acceptable that a child act on his own behalf but against rules or expectations set by the school. A perfect explanation of how a child can act correctly for him or herself and break the rules put upon her by the school.
    • Elarra

      I actually had that happen. I had a student who was so tired of being bullied that he punched the bully in the face. They got in a fight and the kid actually lost to the bully, but our principal was going to suspend them both for 10 days. I and a couple other teachers defended the kid that was getting bullied and brought up the several times this bullying was reported to the skill and nothing was done about it. He still got suspended but only for two days and the bully got 10. They both graduated, but still, it should never have been allowed to get to that level.

    • Izumiblu

      I think the schools give the false impression that they can handle this. I have never believed it, its obvious. A parent has to teach their kid to be able to manage themselves. If my kid did that, i would take him into the principles office and i would let the principle watch me explain to my child how he was right and the principle was wrong. I would have him learn that the world is not fair and sometimes you have to take your punishment for being right and then I would make sure he knows that i support him 100% and he will know what he did was right. That's a life lesson that is probably more valuable than any subject material taught in school.

  • Waffles731
    okay, so one question I have,
    If you were given the greenlight to change the laws yourself, what would you change about this
    • Elarra

      I would actually leave the law the way it is. The law isn't the problem, but rather how people implement it. I don't think it should take 10 or 11 reports of harassment just to get a student to a Saturday school. That's completely ridiculous. The government has the law in tact but if we so much as try to follow it and enforce it, our ratings go down.

    • Waffles731

      I've always thought that it shouldn't be politicians but a very large organization of teachers that make the rules about how schools function and get rated

  • Nuala
    Oh my god you sound like the kind of person who put in anti bullying week... my school JUST had anti bullying week! It was the worst!!! They made us do this BS breathing exercise every morning and we skipped CORE COURSES to attend anti bullying lectures!
    And how come whenever I read stuff like this you seem so out of touch with reality? Like seriously, are you sure you were not hatched out of a egg at the age of 19?
    If someones picking on someone else they know they are doing something wrong, they know they could get in trouble and do it anyways. So obviously don't care about what you're threatening so why are you threatening it? Why do people seem to think this'll solve the problem?
    • Elarra

      Yeah, it's pretty obvious you didn't read or at least comprehend what I said because had you done this, you'd realize you just re-worded my entire point, which is that thee people who have the power to stop it don't and there's nothing a teacher can do beyond a stupid detention. But since you're a kid, I'll let it slide.

      Also, tf are breathing exercises going to do when you're getting your face beat in? What kind of low rent school do you go to where they think breathing will fix the problem?

    • Nuala

      Yes because I'm a kid I don't "comprehend" what you're saying (thanks for making that assumption).

      Because what I'm saying is that the whole detention, suspension, expulsion, thing doesn't work.
      Well you are (unless I'm mistaken) saying these rules are not enforced.
      But I'm just a stupid kid, what do I know about being a kid and how they act?

    • Elarra

      It wasn't an assumption. It was an observation. Also, I didn't call you a stupid kid, but if that's how you view yourself, then I can't change that.

      So I was born at the age of 19 because I don't believe that school officials do enough to protect the victims? You're talking in circles. This Take was quite literally about how the process doesn't work.

      But, humor me. What do you think will work?

    • Show All
  • lumberman9
    The sad thing is some just look at it as part of growing up
  • Luci92
    This is sad to read, but it's the truth.
  • Dog19
    Can I talk to you please
  • haythemmaamri
    100% true
  • Adigelunar
    yeah unfortunately