School Bullying Must Stop

Many of us celebrated this week, some with reckless abandon, the commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Schools and families give meaning and significance to the words that are printed on the Charters of Freedom documents: the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

In order for us to hold the words in these incredible documents sacrosanct our schools should be places for learning and growing without fear from bullying. In essence a place by where one can be any one he/she wants to be, within legal boundaries, without fear of harassment or intimidation.

Each school’s administration and faculty should help create an institution for learning and growing where students and teachers build each other up to succeed at the highest of personal levels. Certainly a difficult bar to reach, however it is the right one for which all schools should strive.

Seth Walsh at the vulnerable age of 13 hanged himself at the beginning of his 8th grade school year after enduring several years of harassment for being gay. He obviously did not have any independence from his harassers. Last week federal education and department of justice officials excoriated the Tehachapi Unified School District that the school administration failed in their duty to protect Seth Walsh from “persistent, pervasive and often severe sex-based harassment”.

In Santa Clara County we have created a task force of interested community leaders headed by former Vice-Mayor Judy Chirco looking into ways we as a county can come up with practices whereby we reduce/eliminate the bullying epidemic for all children. The task force has been meeting on a regular basis making steady progress. Their next meeting is at the County Office of Education this week.

The government in its investigative report said, “These sexual and gender-based acts of aggression, intimidation and hostility directed toward the student—particularly in light of their cruel, relentless and inescapable nature, in conjunction with the student’s young and vulnerable age—were clearly sufficient to create a hostile environment that limited the student’s ability to participate in and benefit from the school’s education program.”

I wonder how many Santa Clara County students are experiencing something similar to Seth. I fear it is far more than we know or admit.

In the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the Santa Clara County Office of Education Bullying task force, a lack of awareness, lack of commitment, and lack of skills to respond are three of a long list of local weaknesses that caught my eye. I fervently believe we can and must do better. A country that treasures its guiding documents called the Charters of Freedom must work to ensure every child is free to learn without harassment and intimidation.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

40 Comments

  1. Professor DiSalvo:

    I think you have made an important stand for our young people today, and I do ask many people to support you in your efforts.

    Bullying goes on at all levels of education.  At the College of San Mateo, there is a person who writes a blog about people who are heavy set, and continues to attack them for their appearence, and this is a faculty person.

    You, and your colleagues should develop a ribbon, for anti bullying, perhaps light blue or silver, and have a mass movement like they do for Breast Cancer or AIDS Awareness, and have a campaign for young people to wear it, STOP THE BULLYING, and demand stucdents and staff at all levels sign the pledge.

  2. Joe,

    School Board and teachers union run schools had to have a ” Bulling Task Force” to now discover that bulling is going on in Santa Clara County schools ?

    Really – Do the words:  out of touch, incompetent, clueless, and not paying attention describe sad condition of self serving public schools to now discover that students get bullied ?

    Really – does that give anyone confidence in public schools but then again we can expect that raising school taxes will again be the proposed solution to bullying and all other public school problems

    Shameless incompetency, too many inefficient school districts / administrators, too much teachers union self serving political control and why public is upset with lack of real school leadership and self serving public schools administrators, teachers unions, and School Boards that ignores oblivious school problems

    How long will it take for public schools to get Taxpayers Message – ” No New School Taxes, Improve schools with taxes you have ” ?

  3. Joe:

    Over two thousand years ago, an innovative social movement called Christianity implemented an approach to combat bullying based on “outside-the-box-thinking”.

    It was called “The Golden Rule”.

    No task forces.

    No government investigative reports.

    No “SWOT” analyses.

    Just enlightened social and moral philosophy.

    For almost 200 years, the movers and shakers of public education have been doing everything they can to suppress, repress, oppress, maginalize, minimize, sanitize, and otherwise “disappear” Christianity and it’s values.

    Arguably, the intellectuals and deep thinkers of public education have achieved significant success in de-emphasizing the antiquated principles of The Golden Rule and instead promoted the idea of developing and augmenting the “self-esteem” of those within the dominion of the public schools.

    Instead of “doing unto others as I would have done to me”, public school teaches “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!”.

    If another student has lunch money that I could use to buy a Jolt Cola, what’s more important?

    The other kid keeping his money? Or ME having a Jolt Cola?

    And if the other kid is smaller than me, so much the better!  It’s easier to take the money AND I feel more empowered by beating up the scrawny little twerp.

    I am not hopeful that ANY approach that the public education establishment invents to address the problem of “bullying” will do any good at all.

    The institutions and values of public education are deeply imbued with principles of authoritarianism and coercion which are the bases and justification for bullying.

    Any institution that demonstrates bullying behavior by commanding students NOT to pray, or wear flag T-shirts, or say “Amen” at graduation ceremonies, or requres students to “respect” objectionable or narcissistic behavior by other students is ill-equipped to lead any crusade to stop bullying.

    • Wow teachable..  I’m amazed at your Christian insight!  I mean, yes, god must be speaking through you.  Preach on, Amen brother!  Who needs the pot clubs when we can get high on Jesus!

      Christianity has no more place in public schools than Buddism, Hinduism, Tao, or Muslim.  Public schools should be a reflection of the public populace, and not of one single group.

      While it’s fine to teach kids about the existence of these religions, it’s up to the parent to teach the kid about the religion itself.  Even as a “Catholic” I see no reason to include religion in public education (and it should be noted, I’m sending my kids to private Catholic school, because I do value it so much)

      Even in “Christian” schools, bullying happens.  There was one little girl named “Ellis” that would pick on my daughter everytime she saw her.  Unfortunately I think one of the teachers didn’t like my girl, and even let this happen in front of me.

      I told my daughter Ellis is like that because she doesn’t have a daddy (single mom, Ya, I’m a dick)  My daughter didn’t seem so upset after I told her that.

      I’ve had more than my fair share of bullying, and I can tell you right now that the #1 issue is accountability by both the administration and the parents.  Has nothing to do with religion.  School teachers/administrators let kids they don’t like get bullied on, parents of the kids doing the bullying will defend to the teeth their mal-adjusted kid (maybe daddy was a gangster, mom was a junkie)

      I must say though, nothing in my life was more satisfying than coming home after a day of making big money in IT in my 20’s, clicking around the TV, and seeing one of my former bullies on fugitive watch.

      • > Wow teachable..  I’m amazed at your Christian insight!  I mean, yes, god must be speaking through you.  Preach on, Amen brother!  Who needs the pot clubs when we can get high on Jesus!

        > Christianity has no more place in public schools than Buddism, Hinduism, Tao, or Muslim.  Public schools should be a reflection of the public populace, and not of one single group.

        > While it’s fine to teach kids about the existence of these religions, it’s up to the parent to teach the kid about the religion itself.  Even as a “Catholic” I see no reason to include religion in public education (and it should be noted, I’m sending my kids to private Catholic school, because I do value it so much)

        It’s amazing how self-loathing Catholics can be.

        Vatican II REALLY screwed up Catholicism. 

        Catholics of the Cortese sect now gleefully accept that their values are irrelevant and that no one should pay attention to them.

        I once heard a Catholic education activist make the observation that (quoting a Greek philosopher):

        “One cannot NOT have a philosophy”.

        For those who are addled by sophisticated use of double negatives, what he was saying is that: “Everyone has a philosophy”.

        Even “not having a philosphy” IS a philosopy.

        So, if the philisophy of the public school system is to proselytize “self-esteem” and narcissism in place of Christian morality and the Golden Rule (which is actually embraced by multiple religious traditions), the Cortese sect is cool with that?

        Would it soothe your secular humanist sensibilities if the public school moral philosphers embraced the “ethic of reciprocity” instead of the Golden Rule?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_rule_(ethics)

        • >>It’s amazing how self-loathing Catholics can be.

          How is it self loathing to respect the belief systems of others as long as the overall moral lessons are the same?  I wouldn’t want anyone trying to shove Zionism down my kids throat, I wouldn’t want that written into law.

          >>Catholics of the Cortese sect now gleefully accept that their values are irrelevant and that no one should pay attention to them.

          Sect? I thought we were a family. Huh, I’ll have to refer to Websters for this one.

          >>Would it soothe your secular humanist sensibilities if the public school moral philosphers embraced the “ethic of reciprocity” instead of the Golden Rule?

          Because it needs to be taught in the home, not school.  My belief is if a parent isn’t teaching a kid these lessons in the home, then they’re not ready for school.

          If a kid isn’t ready to be a productive member of the student body, they need to be removed.  No Swot team, no fuss, just get them the hell out so the rest of us can study.  At least, that’s how they used to handle it.

      • > Wow teachable..  I’m amazed at your Christian insight!  I mean, yes, god must be speaking through you.  Preach on, Amen brother!  Who needs the pot clubs when we can get high on Jesus!

        Democrats mocking Christians again.

        They can’t help themselves.

        You left out the part about Teachable “clinging to his bible” and wanting to control women’s bodies.

        Were you part of the torch-bearing mob that wanted to evict baby Jesus from Christmas In The Park?

        • > Christmas has “Christ” in it.  Evicting baby jesus from Christmas in the park makes about as much sense as banning discipline from schools.

          Robert:

          You haven’t been paying attention.

          “Progressive activists” (probably with the blessing of Mayor Hammer) sought to get the Baby Jeses creche removed from Christmas In the Park.

          And, educators of the progressive ilk oppose effective discipline in public schools because it harms the children’s self-esteem.

        • Are you arguing with me for the sake of argument?  We seem to be in agreement (with exception to using Christianity to teach “the golden rule”)

        • Bronco,

          Christmas has “Christ” in it.  Evicting baby jesus from Christmas in the park makes about as much sense as banning discipline from schools.

    • Al Schlarmann,

      I agree that Project Cornerstone does very good work in our schools.  We have leading representatives from the organization serving on the task force.

      Joseph Di Salvo

    • Project Cornerstone is used in many of the local school districts.  Parents usually come in and read children’s stories about bullying and have discussions with the kids after.  Pretty good program!

    • My 11 year old, 55 pound grand daughter is a Cornerstone Kid at her school. She also has a Black Belt in Kung Fu. She has no problems with Bullying.
      One of her duties is to patrol the school yard and stop fights or harassment. Martial Arts Training might be an answer.

  4. How can you rant about school bullying when nearly every article you write is an attempt to bully people to support things they don’t want?

    Every day people like you force me to support institutions, causes and ideas I would never support if I had the choice.

    You are one of the biggest bullies I can think of.  And your bullying is more devastating than any playground bullying that could be easily solved if administrators would ever get out of the way.

  5. This essay is an astonishing admission by Joe that the public school culture is a failure in providing safety for a learning environment.  Aren’t you coming rather late to your newest revelation about this flaw in the public school culture?

    Let’s see.  The public school culture forces children to form cohorts by age which naturally reduces their contact with other ages, and which naturally emphasizes nature’s cruel differences in beauty, strength, height, eye sight, and social skills.  It ups the strength of social pressure to an intense degree through its age cohorts structure.

    The public school culture forces children to psychologically adapt to living in slices of time marked by a bell or other event.  Good work, Joe, on education’s emphasis on moving in lock-step with one’s cohort.  You preside over the culture of a jail.

    And don’t tell us about your fanciful pot of historical papers you refer to as the Charters of Freedom documents.  That’s one of the silliest things you have ever come up with.

  6. Most of these posts blame the public school system, as if bullying never happens at private schools. How silly. Every effort should be made to stop bullying, for both the victims and the bullies that may grow into criminals.

  7. Cary,

    Whether it’s “public school” or “private school,” 99 percent of all US children who attend “school” are grouped by some form of age cohort.  And most Western cultures provide similar structures for youth activities, such as Little League, AYSO soccer and even community rec center youth frisbee or drama.

    If you oppose discussion of childhood bullying at any level, that’s your choice.  Will bullying ever go away completely?  Of course not. So, it’s reasonable that people who already are paid to work with kids should receive at least some training to minimize bullying – whether they work in schools, sports, community or church environments.

    And, as a side note, nearly every US citizen believes it’s laudable to have knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Englanders of the 18th century might have said “pshaw!”  But the more we in the US all know about the actual wording of these founding documents, the better our shared rights will be championed and protected.

  8. “In the SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the Santa Clara County Office of Education Bullying task force…”

    Oh great, Joe, another task force.  At what cost?

    Kids and adults have been bullying each other since before we walked upright.  And now you expect a task force to stop it. C’mon Man!

    When I moved to CA I started 3rd grade as a 7 year old.  Naturally, I was smaller than the rest of the kids, and I was the new kid.  Thus, I was bullied.

    My Mom comforted me.  My Dad said fight back.  It took a while, but I finally did as my Dad suggested. I lost a few fights.  But once they knew I’d fight back, they stopped bullying me. TA DA!!!  No bullshit task force needed, Joe.

    The ideal task force world you live in doesn’t exist, Joe, nor is it likely to for a damn long time. Nor should it.  The world is a competitive place, Joe, and all the candy-ass remedies you suggest will ill prepare kids for a rough and tumble world. All you ivory tower types should just stay there and shut up.  A bully who gets his ass kicked is no longer a bully.

    • JMO,
      I think you raise an excellent point here. When I was growing up, I took a lot of heat from fellow students because I had flaming red hair. They loved to call me Woody Woodpecker. Like you, I took it for a while, and then I started to fight back. Believe me, once bullies see you aren’t going to take their crap; they go on to find someone else to pick on.

      While teachers at my school didn’t tolerate bad behavior, my parents taught me to fight my own battles. I was also taught to be respectful of others, and was certainly held accountable if I didn’t town the line.  They taught me that in the “real world,” teachers and parents wouldn’t always be there so I better know how to survive on my own. I thank my parents for that because I didn’t grow up expecting handouts, or look to others to solve my problems.

      Having said that, I think training your children to be tolerant of differences, and being respectful starts at home. Kids need to take responsibility for their own actions, and be held accountable when they screw up. We can’t keep raising youth who go with the flow and follow the crowd, or expect to be treated like they are the center of the Universe.

      I think teachers at school do need to intervene when they see bullying, or any other kind of bad behavior, but ultimately, I think parents need to discipline their kids, not schools.

      And finally, to you Joseph, you have neglected to mention/realize one very important thing here. Teachers are fearful to speak up in their own work place. They are being “bullied” by their own supervisors and your administration. Now how on earth can you preach what you do when the very people you want to correct the system, are being bullied themselves? And when are you going to hold these “administrators” accountable for their own bad behaviors?

    • Lucky for you, you didn’t commit suicide and as you put it; the world is a competitive place when you compete fairly.  Your mother and father gave you those options to see how Junior (you) might handle the situation. Luckily you prevailed and get to respond to posts and surf the internet.  If death weren’t a factor in schools today, I might see your point.

      I’d like to think that I could send my child off to school so he or she can get on with the business of learning the abc’s so they can compete using their minds instead of their fists. Wouldn’t you agree?

  9. I think Mr. DiSalvo is a sincere fellow.

    I also think he means well for kids.

    Mentoring might be the key here.

    On that subject, Joe, one of your frequent commenters is Ina Bendis.

    Bendis actually has been using campaign funds to join an eltist intellectual group so that she “can continue her work as the smartest school board member.”

    I think if school board members used their time like you to speak ot, or if some held some community meetings about bullying rather than money for snobbish intellectual groups, we would be a better place.  Keep up your efforts, you make a difference.

  10. I’m not sure that people realize the long-term consequences of bullying. Yes, suicide is a short-term effect. In the long run, however, refusing to deal with bullying sends the message that it’s OK to bully any time in life. Joe Average’s point is good: not only you but other institutions bully the public by twisting issues to fit their own agendas. Kids learn the techniques of bullying early and pick up other tactics from the adult institutions around them. That affects governance, social stability and personal relationships.

  11. Look for mandatory BLT “sensitivity” training for your first grader – coming soon to an elementary school near you.

    “The proposed curriculum will include a 45-minute LGBT lesson, once a year from kindergarten through fifth grade. The kindergartners will focus on the harms of teasing, while the fifth graders will study sexual orientation stereotypes.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,521209,00.html

    You’re a sneaky one Joe!

    With one hand you raise a distracting ruckus about bullying while the other hand slips the pro-gay agenda into the elementary school curriculum.

    All brought to you courtesy of Cali’s democrat machine / public employee (CTA) union cabal.

    • > You’re a sneaky one Joe!

      > With one hand you raise a distracting ruckus about bullying while the other hand slips the pro-gay agenda into the elementary school curriculum.

      By George, Novice, I think you’ve smoked him out!

      Good catch!

      The whole bullying thing sounded fishy from the beginning because there are groups that are bullied all the time and the educrat establishment doesn’t give a squat about it.

      The kids who were wearing American flag motif T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo got a lot of hard looks and hate vibes from the “minority community”, but somehow this didn’t seem to trigger any of the bullying detectors from the public education authorities. 

      I think they just told the red-white-and blue kids that they should be more “sensitive” and “tolerant” to “other cultures.”

  12. Mr. DiSalvo.

    Should be happy to know that the state is trying to comply to his requests to stop bulling ( or attempt to)

    California’s Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has introduced AB 9, anti-bullying legislation known as “Seth’s Law,”

    There is a problem though . School Districts don’t know how to handle students who are openly gay . Also there exists a ‘double standard’ when it comes to sex discrimination . As an educator who has seen High School behavior’s of students , sexism prevails.

    My question is just where were the councilors at school when Seth was being bullied ?

    Why did the school not stop the bulling ?

    Something went wrong here…………..

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  14. One solution on bullying…

    If our children can understand that every person they are surrounded by is both a learner as well as a teacher, and that nobody wants to be treated unkindly; then we might be able to get them both to help each other.

    The idea is diversity and that there is an inherent disadvantage when we place, for example, Asian students with other Asian students and that by placing students from other ethic backgrounds we can begin to learn from one another.  And teaching that both sides have weaknesses and strengths.

    I hope this is of some help and that we,  as unique individuals, can use the tools we have to allow for teaching and learning to once again take place in all schools and learning institutions.

      • > If our children can understand that every person they are surrounded by is both a learner as well as a teacher, and that nobody wants to be treated unkindly; then we might be able to get them both to help each other.

        Gee.  Sounds suspiciously like “the Golden Rule”.

        You and Alex must be some of those creepy Chrisians that Steve Cortese likes to mock.

        • We don’t have any Steve’s in our family (at least not that I know of)

          Were you referring to me?  Do you drink before you type?  How could you miss that my name is “Robert” when it’s on every post. Do you secretly practice being a Rastafarian and suffer from short term memory loss?

          No wonder you’re twisting my comment with your soundbites.  In the same comment I say:

          “Christianity has no more place in public schools than Buddism, Hinduism, Tao, or Muslim.  Public schools should be a reflection of the public populace, and not of one single group.”

          So I guess the point you’re trying to make for yourself is, you think ONLY Christianity should be respected in schools.  Way to give us non bigot Christians a bad name.

          Way to be open minded there.

        • BB,
          The topic of bullying is a serious one. I think it deserves discussion. I think we should stay on topic, and if you want to battle it out with Robert, feel free to address you comments directly to him.

        • > Or may be we are just two people who would like to see everyone treated with respect.

          Kathleen:

          How about Christians?

          Would you like to see Christians treated with respect?

          Can I tell Steve Cortese that you would like to see Christians treated with respect, or do you want to tell him yourself?