Have you ever bullied or been bullied? There’s an old adage that until you stand up to the bully, it will only continue. The Simpsons have made bullying comical every time Nelson picks on one of his classmates. But in the real world, bullying leads to many problems including depression and suicide. It isn’t something to be taken lightly.
One third grade teacher, Tamu Francis, at Brooklyn’s PS 191, put a brand new spin on bullying. When she saw one her students being attacked, she separated to two boys and called the instigator to the front of the class. Asking the accused bully “how would you like it if he hit you back,” Francis states the kid who had been bullied took her rhetorical question, that was only meant to teach a lesson, out of context and began punching his former attacker. Francis quickly diffused the situation again, but the damages had been done. This time, the kid who had humiliated his classmate initially was now standing in front of the entire class embarrassed and sobbing.
Francis was brought before an arbitrator at a termination hearing where evidence was presented stating she made such comments as “when you act like a dog, you get treated like a dog” and that she encouraged the alleged victim to hit the bully back stating, “serves you right.” Francis’ stellar 13 year career may have been her only saving grace as the arbitrator and school board decided not to terminate her. But she didn’t leave unscathed as she was fined $10,000 for her behavior.
The greater question is what lesson did she teach. Did she teach the bully the consequences of his action and show him how it is to be on the other end of cruel acts? Did she give the kid being bullied a sense of pride and ability to stand up for himself? Or did she just perpetuate an already ugly scene? Many will differ in their opinions, but what ever happened to sitting the boys down and making them hash out their differences, shake hands after? You can’t always fight your way out of a problem and violence should be the last alternative. Now the bullied became the bully. Is that really the best solution? Did the school board make the right decision by not terminating Francis?
Only time will tell, but we need to start teaching our youth better coping skills and better ways of expressing themselves. No one wants their child to be bullied or for their child to be the bully, but if we don’t facilitate better actions plans, bullying will be the least of the problem. Take a look at the video below. How can we change the culture of bullying? Speak Up!