Editorial: Why do our schools punish the victims of bullying?

Michael Gold, Editor

I find it odd that we use a system of discipline that allows the victims of bullying in our public schools to be punished if they stand up to their aggressors. After all, isn’t that the best way to prevent further bullying?

During 2016, we heard from Historic City News readers giving their accounts of such incidents — both on the school grounds and on the school buses. Today starts a new year, we’ll have a new Superintendent, and, at least on this issue, I’m hoping a new broom in 2017 sweeps clean some of 2016’s problems.

Call me sexist if you like, it won’t be the first time I’ve heard that; but, I am especially sensitive to schoolyard bullying of girls by boys. I recall one such incident where an elementary schoolgirl, being bullied by a boy on her school bus, was shoved and then kicked as she walked past him at her bus stop.

In that case, our reader reported that the boy also punched her in the mouth. He apparently bloodied her lip and called the child inappropriate, sexually demeaning names.

The girl’s parents thought it severe enough to call the police. The officer informed them that the incident needed to be dealt with through the school and whichever school resource officer is assigned to handle these issues. We were told that the officer filled out an incident report, took the girl’s statement, and took pictures of her lip and cheek.

Later, on investigation of that complaint, we learned that the school district wanted to suspend the girl because, after she was attacked and injured, she turned and punched the bully back. I say, “bravo”. Per the school district, the girl should not have turned around to even address the boy. We were told that under “the matrix” of rules that students are expected to follow, she was just as responsible. What? We need to take another look at that matrix, in my opinion.

Because of the chain of command within the school district, to some degree assistant principals, or even principals, cannot step in and apply common sense to the circumstances of certain incidents — bullying being one of those incidents.

In fairness, the girl in this example did punch the boy; but only after being assaulted TWICE and feeling fed up and helpless with no real help after months. So, technically according to the matrix, the girl should have walked away. Did no one see a cause and effect situation that the school district could have prevented?

I remember feeling that the school district didn’t take the bullying seriously enough the many times it had occurred in the past. They were too quick to punish the victim for acting, once the violence had escalated. In my view, it does not seem appropriate for our schools to keep punishing our children for standing up for themselves — after the schools fail them.