Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bully Bully

It appears that the new sex ed is now the bully curriculum.  I always knew that it was coming up when science teachers in middle school popped up on subfinder in droves.  Sex Ed or called FLASH here is the touchy, icky subject that gets taught once, in 6th grade and then never discussed again and only lightly in high school health classes with regards to STD's.   By then it is too late.

The reality is that bully curriculum now being taught in the same middle schools is also too late. In fact it makes it worse.

The amount of sexting issues and sex "problems" have occurred all across the country.  From the problems in a Los Angeles school to the one in Colorado.  And in both cases criminal charges were not filed.  But was  this resolved?  And more importantly how.

This is not about the problems with rape and sexual assaults in high school as that is entirely a separate and equally disturbing problem but nonetheless connected to the issues of bullying, sexting and confusion about sexual identity and maturation.

On Friday I was at a middle school with a similar problem.  They were at the end of the "Kind Campaign" regarding bullying.  This appears to be linked to one of the many "acronymed"  groups formed by two girls who were victims and instead of growing thick skins and working towards moving on in life, they decided to continue on living in the sphere of pain and sharing that with others while driving across country with a meaningful intent of spreading kindness.   Sometimes the best of intent means just that intent and the rest of it needs to be let go.

After sitting through 2 hours of these lovely young girls documentary with a lunchroom of 7th grade girls I thought "if this can't hold my attention at age 56 is this doing even close to that with these girls."  And when the exchange of apology cards and pledges began to be passed around I could see which ones were the mean girls and which ones were the targets.  Now that was educational.  ***

**my apology was "Dear Principal X, sorry you are a total moron" Clearly I am no role model. 

The course divided the kids by ages/as in class enrollment, then by gender with boys going to certain rooms with male teachers, girls by class in differing locations and well any LGBT kids or SPED I have no idea.  It was awkward odd and frankly again a reflection of how we teach being awkward into adulthood.

Then after two hours of this with pledges and apologies (at least that is what the girls did I have no idea what the boys program was )  all  of the kids were apparently to return to their respective homerooms to "decompress." The teacher had left for me this plan to do daisy chains, where each kid has to write 3 positive things on three pieces of paper and then we chain them together to link positivity.

On that note.. you have got to be kidding me!

The kids I knew instantly were already charged up and there were two boys  who frankly would not know kindness if it hit them over the head, which might explain that.  One boy was so angry and hostile and was wearing a "visitor" badge for someone unknown reason but that told me what I needed to know.  The other boy could not stop talking smack and was clearly in need of confrontation it was odd (and he recalled when I subbed there last year and went on an on about what I said at the time I was actually concerned that this kid was obsessed or just nuts as I cannot recall a year ago let alone last week so for a 12 year old boy to go on and on about it raised many a red flag).  As I had no "true" familiarity, history or real knowledge of the kids, the Kind Campaign, the problems that had happened earlier this year I elected to allow them to do nothing for that 30 minutes.  True it was a bad idea but I thought they would be responsible, read, talk or just do homework.  It was like watching a wild animal show. Their behavior, their inability to even show respect 5 minutes after having over 2 hours on the matter of kindness was irony on top of irony.

The respective class periods that went on for the rest of the day were not much better but they were at least only 30 minutes in length. The day could not end fast enough.  And the end of the day was the prep period and I had a TA who helped me tidy the room as I simply wrote that the day was a fiasco, that the kids were way too distracted after their respective assemblies. And when I read the article below it all made sense

The Teacher  had asked me to "grade" each class and left the instructions on how write up kids who were a problem and the process to follow to do so.   In other words just send it right to the office versus informing her of the problem, which is the absurd other custom of Teachers.  For the record I do neither. I try to resolve it without going the "in the file" route.    But when you see that on a plan I knew that there were problems in the class.  Throughout the day all I did was highlight the kids on the seating charts and it was 5 boys scattered throughout the day.  It was later that dat the TA then informed me who they were.  Two of  them (both in the 1st period where there were the largest problems and flagged me that the day was going to be hell) were the boys in the article above.   To say they are troubled would be an understatement.  And I knew none of that until the end of the day.

So I felt angry as the young lady shared with me the last few months of what ostensibly has been hell, the vulgar behavior, the aggressive threats and sexual language that dominates their cohort.  I asked if she had told her Teachers, her Parents or some one in Administration about all of this.  She responded affirmatively and then her next comment blew me out of the water:  "They are not being punished because X and Y are black and Mexican."  I knew that I had nothing left to add as frankly at age 12 the sexual language and that thought alone told me I needed to leave and never come back.  I felt set up and utterly at risk without having knowledge or having any support or someone to ensure that given the day and the problems that alone along with a substitute told me that I needed to get the hell out of there and never come back.  

So I asked the young girl to please have this conversation with her Teacher on Monday. That while I would not repeat the actual dialog I was leaving a note for the Teacher to reach out and speak to this young lady and to really listen to what she had to say about that day.   And to that I asked her if she had another Teacher to report to to sit out the last 10 minutes of the day and then I walked her there leaned in and said can this young lady hang in here for the last 10 minutes?  He responded yes, did not ask me who I was or why I was asking and I frankly was grateful.  I walked back to the class put a post it note on the class notes asking her to speak to her TA about some serious issues and then I grabbed my coat and bag and walked out, leaving the keys and Teacher folder on the desk.   I did not speak to anyone nor check out, I did not care I just had to get out of that building before the students were released and I needed to walk the anger and rage off.  I realize that I did not know what I was angry about - the little girls story of sheer terror, the rage I felt at the boys who invoked that terror and my desire to strangle them (an entirely also equally distressing response) and my anger at the school and the Teacher for not informing me as to what I was walking into.

So I needed to understand why in the last few weeks I have sat through variations of this.  The most innocuous of them was a middle school that had a local theatre production do a lesson gossip, rumor mongering and being a bully.  That was divided by grades but for seating reasons and thankfully I was at the last of the group and we were released from school so there was no "decompression"  or post lesson on the subject.   So that I was grateful.

These lessons are useless. Before the theatre production I was to review the bullying curriculum and discuss the issue and show a Ted talk on the internet and cyberbullying.   Nope in fact they acted once again like utter idiots proving my point that kids don't give a shit about this subject.   I have been through one where a member of the Seattle Police discussed the internet and cyber safety and of course laws on predators.

What none of them have done is actually show the laws about sexual harasament, pornography, and even threats and my favorite - the illegality of taping or filming someone without their consent.  These are a matter of laws.  And as we are moving towards new laws regarding cyberbullying even that needs to be shared and explained why our freedom of speech and privacy rights are being infringed upon due to this bullshit of harrassing, threatening, sexually intimidating and sharing of pornography.

In other words these programs are usless band aids that do nothing to stop this seeping wound.  If we have truant laws that arrest parents for this behavior then we need to start doing so with regards to this subject.  Parents need to be a part of this program as it is frankly useless and a waste of precious time when kids can barely write these harassing thoughts in a clear, cogent manner. At least if they are going to do it spell the words correctly and with some logic!

Time and money are two resources we cannot waste in public schools.  I am sure that is not being kind to the taxpayers, the children who are there to learn and to those who are not part of the problem and for which such programs are utterly futile regardless.

By Alexander Trowbridge CBS News October 10, 2013, 9:55 AM
Are anti-bullying efforts making it worse?

The month dedicated to the fight against bullying continues, as does the debate over what exactly is the best way to address the issue.

In recent years, parents, educators, researchers and politicians have stepped up the battle against a problem the National Education Association says has reached "epidemic levels."

There have been numerous conferences on the issue, including a "Bully Free" summit the NEA hosted Wednesday in Washington.

The growing awareness has been coupled with a growing list of prevention programs at schools across the country, and a growing scrutiny of those programs' effectiveness.

A study published last month in the Journal of Criminology suggested that anti-bullying programs could be having the opposite than intended effects. In an analysis of 7,000 students from 50 states, researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington found that students at schools with anti-bullying initiatives may be more likely to become a victim of bullying.

"This study raises an alarm," the project's lead researcher Seokjin Jeong told CBS Dallas in an interview published Tuesday.

"Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact -- some positive impact."

Those findings didn't come as a surprise to Stuart Twemlow, an established voice in the field and co-author of Preventing Bullying and School Violence.

"The doctor's research is completely supported by my experience," said Twemlow, a visiting professor of health sciences at University College, London. "The exact way to make sure that your program is a failure is to target a specific group."

Targeting bullies, is thus, according to Twemlow, a great way to fail at stopping bullying.

In a soon-to-be-published report titled "Rethinking effective bully and violence prevention efforts," Twemlow and his co-authors argue that such targeted bully prevention programs "are, at best, marginally helpful."

These programs fail, the paper argues, for several reasons, including the fact that many programs require resources schools can't afford, that they don't recognize the role of adults in bullying, and that they don't address the school's overall climate.

And, Twemlow and Jeong agree, they may actually give bullies ideas for how to bully more effectively.

"If you have a list that says do this, this and this in case of a bully, the thing you've got to remember is that bullies read them too," Twemlow said.

"Bullies are just as intelligent as other people."

The focus, Twemlow argues, should instead be on comprehensively reforming the school's overall culture.

"Bullies are not the cause of the problem. They're the result of the problem. The problem is in the climate of the school," Twemlow said.

"And when you have a lot of bullies at a school, you have a problem with the leadership of the school. And that's complicated."

The larger bullying prevention field has appeared to shift away from targeting bullies, and bullying behavior, toward improving the overall school climate of the school, as Twemlow advocates.

The NEA condemns zero tolerance policies that target and punish select forms of misbehavior, like bullying. A recent post on the education group's site is titled "Zero tolerance policies earn a big fat 'F.'"

At the same time, the group embraces the concept of improving the quality of character of a school's culture as a tool for preventing bullying.

"A school must do a lot more than put an anti-bullying poster on the front door in order to be bully-free," Joann Sebastian Morris, an NEA senior policy analyst said in a statement.

"Research shows that an entire school's climate must change -- which means changing the norms, values and expectations in a school so that students and staff feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe."

Experts, including Twemlow, warn that increased levels of awareness lead to increased reports of bullying, which can make it seem like the problem is on the rise, or that certain bullying prevention programs aren't working, and that this should be taken into account when assessing studies like Jeong's.

And what about anti-bullying month (or its longer title, Bullying Prevention Awareness Month)?

Twemlow suggests a name change.

"Pro-kindness month. But that would have as much sex-appeal as a dry bone."

Anti Bullying?

Bully for you

Wooly Bully

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