Ignoring is a Form of Bullying (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Women Bullying Woman (Retrieved April 8, 2015 from 2.bp.blogspot.com)

Women Bullying Woman (Retrieved April 8, 2015 from 2.bp.blogspot.com)

Ignoring is a form of bullying.  It is as plain and simple as that.  There are many issues and situations in people’s lives about which others may be aware and/or somehow involved.  Behaving in a manner that is supportive and empowering regarding particular issues and situations is helpful to all involved.  However, ignoring the situations and/or issues, not taking them seriously, overlooking them, covering them up, and/or minimizing them in some way typically makes them worse.

I have remained mum, publicly, about a few situations that I have experienced within the past three months or so, in regard to education and related training, however in order for these situations to improve (at least for myself and in my own mind), they are among those that need to be addressed, particularly as they have involved a few of those in power positions above me who have behaved in a manner exactly as I have described above.

The longer I live, the more I observe and experience that most people do not treat others in the same manner or as well as I treat others.  Perhaps it is because I expect that others will treat me as well as I treat them, that I believe that I should be treated in the same manner in return.  I think that if it were not for those who have been supportive, empowering, and positive – those who “do the right thing” – there would be precious little hope in our world of people experiencing joy and happiness in their lives.

And, so I say again, as I have also stated in the past, “Thank goodness for those who do the right thing!”  We live in such a competitive society that I often believe and observe those who trample upon others rights and feelings are those who consistently move ahead.  Certainly, there are exceptions to that, however it is tragic and unfortunate that selfishness, greed, and materialism are often the persistent motivators for people’s actions. Simple survival is a relief for some, while the challenge and competition of trampling upon others is never enough for others.

So, as someone who is against bullying and retaliation, as well as one who attempts to prevent and eliminate bullying from situations, I must express, again, that ignoring, overlooking, minimizing, and not taking issues seriously are forms of bullying.  Sometimes, with the passage of time and/or the involvement of those who are supportive and whose contributions are constructive, these types of situations eventually work themselves out.

However, what happens when this does not occur?  These issues and situations worsen.  And, therefore, I often observe the person who is most negatively affected by them (in this particular case, myself), is blamed.  It is all too easy to for people to blame and point fingers, especially if they are in positions superior to you.  There are so few people who care to step up and take responsibility for their own involvement – or lack therefore – that created or contributed to the situation.

In the present situations that I have experienced, there have been those who have been supportive, however, there have also been those whose approach is to ignore, blame, and not take responsibility for their own involvement.  Sadly, a couple of these folks are in positions of power in academia in which, by virtue of their stature, they are not (or tend not to be) questioned by their colleagues or professional peers. These couple of folks also do not appear to respect their superiors, as I have observed, either.  While their actions may lack professionalism and while they may lack the care, understanding, openness, and compassion needed to better fulfill their duties, this is not something that appears to bother them in any way.  They know they will get paid regardless of how they treat others.

Sometimes, when you tell a person, directly, that he or she is a bully, it is taken to heart.  The person may actually contemplate the manner in which he or she behaves like a bully.  Positive change in that person can occur through a concerted effort to self-reflect and change one’s actions for the better.  In other cases, however, telling a person that he or she is a bully only further compounds an already ugly situation.  What is sad is that, often, in those situations, those who have been victimized by the bully are not heard and are those who are forced to tolerate the bully’s actions, or flee the situation because it never improves.

So, what is a person to do in these types of situations? The best things are to keep one’s cool and be honest about the situation.  In these ways, one may not be heard, but at least he or she will be true to themself.  I, for one, am tired of having to tip-toe around bullies.  It is tiresome to work with others, whether in school, or in personal or professional experiences, who are bullies. The world needs more people who are willing to step up and do the right thing.  Will you be one of them?

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Be a Halloween Buddy, not a Bully (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns (Retrieved from HauntedEve.com, October 31, 2014)

Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns (Retrieved from HauntedEve.com, October 31, 2014)

Things have changed alot for Halloween since I was a kid, and I think that’s for the better.  There are communities that have trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, costume contests, and other fun events at their fire stations, churches, apartment buildings, or other locations.  I also think that these events have a tendency for increased safety, rather than kids going door-to-door in their area, or even in surrounding neighborhoods.  One never knows the type of person who will be standing on the other side of the door, and/or what state or mood he or she might be in.

It was different when I was a kid.  Kids always walked around the neighborhood, dressed in their Halloween costumes.  We went door-to-door in my neighborhood in Collins, New York, a small, rural town outside of Buffalo.  I always remember that one of my parents took my brother and I around the neighborhood, or a parent of our neighborhood friends did so.  By about age 12, we were really considered too old for neighborhood trick-or-treating, however there were always many teenage boys in the neighborhood who continued to go out into their late teen years.

I remember, growing up, that there were at least three consecutive years in which my family’s house was egged by the older teenage boys.  After this occurred for two years straight, my brother and I vowed that we would try to catch some of them in the act, as we anticipated that it would happen again.  And, we were correct.  What happened that third year that our house was egged was really shocking, incredible, and discouraging to me about these many teenage boys in our neighborhood, whom I henceforth considered to be bullies.

So, on that Halloween night when I was about 12 years old, we had just turned out the outside lights for the night.  Only a few minutes passed before we heard banging sounds.  Mom, my brother, and I were watching TV and looking over our candy from the Halloween haul.  We all sprang into action.  We all ran to the front door, and found that our house was being egged.  My brother, who is younger than me, was the first one out of the house, running into the front yard, yelling and trying to scare the older boys off.

Following my brother out of the house, I lit out like I was on fire, racing after one of the slower boys after they all took off running.  About 15-20 boys had lined the street, surrounding our house, which was situated on a street corner.  So, all of these boys had a larger distance between us, and a better chance of getting away without being caught.  I continued to chase after this one boy in my stocking feet, gaining on him.  His heavy candy bag weighed him down as we ran through the back yards of three neighbors in the pitch darkness.  Having played in those yards, I knew them well, running without benefit of any light, listening to the boy ahead of me without being able to see him well at all.

By the time we reached the third neighbor’s yard, I tackled the boy, and we fell to the ground.  He was shocked that I not only caught up to him, but took him down.  He was filled with so much fear and embarrassment that he left his candy bag behind – my prize.  I took it home as evidence that I caught him, and was very proud of myself.  The next day, my dad went to the home of that particular boy – because I knew who he was – and he talked to his dad about what had happened.

Never again after that was our house egged.  It really shed a different light on all of those bullyish boys in the neighborhood who picked on my brother and I so much because we were good kids who always tried to turn the other cheek.  Unfortunately, adhering to a “Christian” way of behaving in those regards often sends an inaccurate message to others that we weak rather than strong, as we actually were.

So, my message this evening is to be a friend, be a buddy.  Don’t be a bully.  Halloween can be a scary and upsetting time for many people, especially children.  People’s nerves and emotions tend to run highly on Halloween, and it is no time for hurtful pranks and games that can turn ugly very fast.  It is better to be safe than sorry, and be kind to others on this one day of the year that can become unpleasant rather than fun.  Be a buddy, not a bully on Halloween!

Quiet Intimidation

All to often, when employees do report bullying and harassing situations at work, they have not just previously been intimidated into silence, but experience retaliation and a worsening of the situation following their report. More needs to be done to protect people from this, as well as to issue consequences to people who do it.

Mobbing and Bullying

 (Previously published in the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report)

©2014 Gail Pursell Elliott

“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed.” – William James

Of course when people are noticed in ways that are less than flattering or when only their shortcomings are noticed or taken into account, it is another form of intimidation that often crosses the line to abuse. People have a tendency, especially evident in the media, to jump on some information and begin to expand the possibilities for negativity.  I call this being ready, willing, and able to be offended and to spread that idea far and wide.  Actually, this is a form of mobbing and one which I find deeply disturbing, not only because of the correlations that I see but also the willingness of others to believe…

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LinkedIn’s Restrictions on Free Speech Constitute Cyber Bullying (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd. wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/)

Yesterday, I received a notice on LinkedIn that my group postings are temporarily being moderated because someone didn’t like that I promoted my new group, “Stop Youth Suicide,” in theirs. All of the 30 groups in which I promoted this group two weeks ago were related to counseling, child welfare, bullying, and social justice.

How sad is it that anyone would flag or report about that, and thus, have my group postings across my 51 groups be moderated by LinkedIn. I think it just goes to show that there are those folks out there who are very insensitive about this issue, and who are unable to cope with the perspectives of others that may be different than their own.  It also reflects how easy it is on LinkedIn for company staff to limit and restrict members’ freedom of speech.

This situation further reflects the punitive nature in American society in which well-intentioned people are often blamed and punished rather than being provided with an opportunity to defend and protect themselves.  LinkedIn is no different.  There is no appeal process for this on LinkedIn, and due process does not exist.  If one desires to be a member of LinkedIn, he or she has no choice but to agree to such policies as these that may be used in a punitive and restrictive manner, as I have experienced.

In one counseling group in which I promoted this group, my post was placed in the “jobs” section, not even in “promotions.” The group manager of that group is a licensed counselor! This is so sad.  The manager of that group eliminated my posting from the discussions section of the group, thereby removing any possibility for interaction and communication about the issue.  I have since left that group.

For all of you who are members in the LinkedIn groups that I have founded and/or moderate, I have always posted everyone’s discussions. If there is a member who repeatedly posts about topics that are not relevant to the group, I’ve sent them a private email message informing them about that, deleted those discussions that are not relevant, and/or moved them to the appropriate section, such as “jobs” or “promotions.”  Most often, people are understanding about group expectations, or if not, they leave a group.  I have known of a couple of people who were restricted by LinkedIn who left LinkedIn.

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/Cyberbully/teachers.html)

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/ Cyberbully/teachers.html)

It is important for LinkedIn company employees to recognize that there are often times when people report on others simply because they dislike them and are unable to cope with a good message that is promoted and/or shared within relevant groups.

As another example, about two years ago, I left two anti-bullying groups that were out of the United Kingdom, after having posted relevant issues to the groups.  One member of those groups reported on me for posting about issues that were not relevant when they actually were relevant.  When I informed the group’s managers about my concern, after having been blocked in those groups, the managers did nothing, effectively supporting the bully who made the false reports.  I, therefore, left both groups.  By not supporting the target, and placing restrictions on the bully rather than the bully’s target, LinkedIn is also be supporting the bully.

For no one to even provide a professional courtesy of sending me a private message to inform me about their concerns related to my posting, and then reporting me to LinkedIn staff, thus causing my postings to be moderated across groups, is insensitive at best and bullying at most. If a posting is not desired in a group, it is very easy for the group manager to delete it.  It is also very easy to send an email to someone, or post a comment to the discussion, reflecting a concern.

The Computer Ethics Institute has published the 10 Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Among those rules of ethical computer use include the following: “1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people; 2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work;…5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness; and 10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.”  Obviously, not everyone practices these rules of ethics, including those within social networks, as has often been evidenced.

For LinkedIn just to drop the hammer, effectively restricting my posting status across groups, is not only cyber bullying, but also removes my freedom of speech.  Those who report on other members, rather than attempting to resolve a situation, have no insight about and do not practice professional courtesy.  Instead, they are doing what they want because of being unable to accept or cope with the views and perspectives of others that may be different from their own.  Instead of becoming part of the solution, they remain part of the problem, and may also escalate the problem.

I would like to know in which groups my posting about the issue of preventing suicide is not relevant or welcome in their group…so I can leave their group and continue to post in groups where my views are welcomed and supported. I have emailed LinkedIn customer service requesting said information, though I doubt I will get the information that I desire. I have been oppressed too much and too often in my life to take this lightly.  To me, networking and sharing information about ways to prevent and eliminate suicide are serious issues.  Cyber bullying about this issue must not be tolerated.  I will not be silenced!

Follow-up (July 13, 2014):  Two days ago, a LinkedIn employee again blocked my posts and comments to nearly all LinkedIn groups (48 of them) in which I am a member.  Again, LinkedIn has required moderation of my posts and comments in those groups.  LinkedIn did not provide me any reason or notification of being blocked.  I have done no wrong.  This is another example of LinkedIn’s restrictions and removals of freedom of speech.

Follow-up (July 16, 2014): In response to LinkedIn’s restrictions on my group postings, I re-posted this article in two locations on LinkedIn.  The next day, I found that LinkedIn had further restricted my posting settings by blanketing all groups, including those that I manage.  LinkedIn’s policies in regard to such restrictions only enable and promote cyber bullying and harassment from other members, and further escalate the situation.  There are several other forums in which I have posted this article so that readers are informed about such institutional policies that reward accusers and harm targets.  I guess I should be proud that my speaking out about these issues has caused others to bully and/or harass me, as well as restrict my participation, however these actions are also a reflection on how acceptable bullying, harassment, and infringements on people’s rights have become.  If something is inherently wrong, I am one to speak out about it so that it can be changed and improved rather than entrenched and worsened.

References:

Computer Ethics Institute (2014).  The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://guardingkids.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html.

Bullying, Abuse, and Suicide Risk Among Students: Ignorance is Bliss for Disbelievers (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Recently, a man commented on one of my blog posts that I made last year regarding a particular school in which bullying (and worse) occurred by children and adults toward other children.  What was so shocking to me was that the man basically stated that he was physically abused by religious at a parochial school during his childhood, and he inferred that children should currently be treated more harshly (infer more abuse and violence) than what they already endure in many schools.  In responding to the man – and seeking to provide information for his understanding of the seriousness of the issue – I stated to him that bullying, abuse, and violence is extremely serious in the United States.  The United States has the highest child mortality rate of any Western country.  And, in the United States, Texas is the state with the highest single mortality rate (about 4%) of any state.

Why isn’t the American public outraged about that?!  Why do more people not stand up for and protect children, nor seek to listen to, hear, and understand them?  Why is it so easy for so many people to minimize, overlook, ignore, and discredit children?  It is no wonder that so many children and youth commit suicide when they do not receive the assistance and/or protection that they need from their families – or other adults, and then, experience bullying, abuse, and/or violence at school.  Children and youth are so vulnerable.  They are growing and developing, and are going through stages of their lives in which they are most fragile.

Too many people believe that children and youth should be harmed – and then, they call it discipline or disciplinary action.  Children and youth need support, care, kindness, understanding, and compassion.  How does American society expect children to grow and develop in a healthy manner when many of their role models, teachers, coaches, and/or other adults bully and harm them?  What is worse in a Catholic or religious faith-based school is when the expectation is that children are to be valued and appreciated, but are bullied and harmed by many of the very adults who are charged with protecting them.  The situation is not restricted to faith-based schools, but is present in all too many schools in the United States, both public and private.

I believe that much of the issue relates to the toleration, acceptance, encouragement, and promotion of violence – particularly media violence – within our culture.  So many television shows, movies, and other programs that have been deemed “entertainment” are so horrific that I have rarely watched them, now, over a period of many years.  Yet, for many people, the more violence they view, the more they want.  It is as if there is a competition in the United States in media and entertainment to produce more and more violent shows and movies.  That would not occur if people did not spend so much money to view violence, to play violent video games, to participate in sports that are violent, etc.

Thus, I have broached a few more topics about which most people do not want to contemplate, talk about, or take action to prevent or eliminate.  These are, however, issues that must be brought into the open and discussed if there is any hope for improvement in regard to them within our culture.  One person who takes his or her life due to bullying and abuse is too many.  Yet, there are dozens of children and youth who commit suicide in the United States, with such deaths continually on the rise.  Last I knew, there were about 135 reported deaths due to suicide in the United States in one recent year.  There are likely many more that are not reported.  And, many of these children and youth who commit suicide have been bullied and harmed at school, by their peers and/or teachers.

I have taken the liberty to post several links regarding children and youth who have committed suicide in such circumstances so that the man who posted his comment, saying that my article was “stupid” can have a better understanding that when someone is dead, the situation is too late to improve – and is far from “stupid.”  For this man, ignorance is bliss.  Following, therefore, are just a few of the 100s of links on the Internet (in no particular order), all of which I retrieved on April 30, 2014, related to children and youth who have committed suicide due to bullying and/or abuse experienced at school from their peers and/or teachers:

“Bullied 10-year-old girl commits suicide.” http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Girl+Commits+Suicide+On+Camera&Form=VQFRVP#view=detail&mid=7A9D5FDFA0071FC8A1657A9D5FDFA0071FC8A165

“Suicide of Amanda Todd.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Amanda_Todd

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince

“Suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamey_Rodemeyer  (One of my student teaching experiences was at a school that he attended, Heim Middle School, in the Williamsville (New York) Central School District.)

“Gay Ottawa teen who killed himself was bullied: Jamie Hubley was a figure skater and the only openly gay boy in his school.”  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/gay-ottawa-teen-who-killed-himself-was-bullied-1.1009474

“Suicide of Kelly Yeomans.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelly_Yeomans

“Girl commits suicide after boyfriend sends her naked photos to fellow students, Family receives $154K from school.” http://news.asiantown.net/r/26323/Girl-commits-suici–100-e-after-boyfriend-sends-her-nak–101-d-photos-to-fellow-students–Family-receives–154K-from-school

“Girls, 12 and 14, arrested in death of bullied Florida girl who killed herself.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/15/girls-12-and-14-arrested-in-death-bullied-florida-girl-police-say/

“How a cell phone picture led to a girl’s suicide.”  http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/07/hope.witsells.story/index.html

“Georgia middle-schooler commits suicide after bullying, being called ‘snitch,’ dad says.”  http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17616979-georgia-middle-schooler-commits-suicide-after-bullying-being-called-snitch-dad-says?lite

“Bullying allegations probed after boy, 15, commits suicide after first day of school.”  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/29/bullying-allegations-probed-after-boy-15-commits-suicide-after-first-day-school/

“Anti-gay bullying cited in Georgia teen’s suicide.”  http://www.projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/anti-gay_bullying_cited_in_georgia_teens_suicide

“My bullied son’s last day on Earth.”  http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/23/bullying.suicide/  (It is difficult to believe this already happened five years ago; I remember the news about it.)

“Ex-teacher gets 30 days for rape of girl, 14; judge says she was ‘older than her chronological age.’ ”  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/ex-teacher_gets_30_days_for_sex_with_student_14_judge_says_she_was_older_th/  (I am aware that the National Organization for Women made a formal complaint against the judge in this case, desiring his removal as a result of the sentence that he gave this man.  The girl committed suicide.)

“Teacher Kidnaps, Rapes Boy.”  http://abcnews.go.com/US/video?id=7390696

“Mary Kay Letourneau.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay_Letourneau

“Columbine High School massacre.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre

These 17 articles represent at least 29 people who died, either by suicide or homicide, in relation to bullying and/or abuse by peers, or abuse by teachers.  The articles also represent at least two other survivors of abuse who remain living.  The victims and survivors in each of these articles are reason enough why bullying and abuse must be taken more seriously, and be prevented and eliminated, especially in our schools.  Hopefully, the man who commented on a different one of my blog posts in relation to this issue no longer views it as “stupid.” 😦

As a result of the comments made by the particular man in regard to a prior post relating to these issues, I have been inspired to create a new LinkedIn group, “Stop Youth Suicide.”  I created the group today, and promoted it within 30 LinkedIn groups, and invited 70 people on LinkedIn from around the world to join.  Six fellow LinkedIn members – most of whom are mental health professionals – have already joined the group as of 5:30 PM Eastern Time today.  I have also promoted the group on Twitter, and will continue to do so.  Today, I have also gained additional followers and “likes” on Twitter as a result of creating this group.  (As of 1:30 PM Eastern Time on May 4, 2014, there are 55 members of the group!)

The comments made by the particular man – and the thoughts and attitudes of so many regarding these issues – definitely reflect the need for increased understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and support toward children and youth, especially those who are contemplate, attempt, and/or commit suicide as a result of bullying and abuse, that which is especially experienced at school from peers and adults.

When the Workplace is a School

There are too many people who are harmed by their bosses and peers through workplace bullying and mobbing. Sadly, it is not only legal but also commonplace in the US, whereas it is not in many other countries. The field of education is no exception. The US definitely lags far behind in protecting and supporting workers who experience damaging bullying and mobbing. Thank you for writing and publishing this article, Gail; I appreciate it!

Mobbing and Bullying

©2013 Gail Pursell Elliott

       With the new school year just beginning, many anti-bullying programs are getting attention.  A student came home last year after his principal had presented a well meaning bullying assembly program and observed that the program taught the students more of how to bully someone rather than how to stop it.  While that certainly was not the intent, the focus of many of the programs presented to students is on what not to do rather than on expectations.  Recently, New Jersey extended the interpretation of its bullying in schools legislation to include bullying by teachers, specifically meaning bullying of students by teachers which was triggered by a specific case.  It would have been easy to extend the law to anyone and everyone in the schools, regardless of status, if someone had had the courage and insight to do so.   

It is unfortunate that the interpretation of…

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“Student Exodus from Area Parochial School Could be Avoided” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

During this Summer of 2013, 15 rising fourth grade students left St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Only three new students entered the fourth grade in addition to the 15 who left.  During the Summer of 2012, eight rising third grade students left the school.  Only two students entered the school as new pupils in the third grade.  Interestingly, both of those students also left the school this Summer, after only one year at the school.  Additionally, the vast majority of students who have left are Caucasian; most others are of mixed race parentage.  Each year for the past three years, the school has considerably down-sized in terms of student population as well as faculty.  Currently, all grade levels have two classes; it used to be that most or all grade levels had three classes up until three years ago.

As a person who has been Roman Catholic all of my life, and who has provided a Catholic education to my child, the exodus of students and faculty from St. John Neumann School is concerning and disturbing.  One must ask, then, why there are so many who are leaving the school.  I have the answers to that, and it does not necessarily involve finances, budgets, or economics.

I suspect that I will come across as “the bad guy” to many by sharing this information regarding the school, however it is for my concern for students’ welfare, well-being, safety, and positive growth and development that I am doing so.  Additionally, my son is aware that I have a blog, and he also asked me to include his perspectives; my son is 10-years-old.

First, let me state that St. John Neumann School provides an outstanding – outstanding – education to the students.  Overall, my observations of what students learn through the challenging curriculum are well above my expectations.  Each year that my son was a student at St. John Neumann School, however, was a roller coaster.  There were wonderful and memorable experiences that he had with several outstanding teachers, however there were also many situations that he experienced by peers and adults at the school that were mentally and emotionally harmful and injurious to him. 

I often communicated with both school administrators and school system administrators, encouraging that greater sensitivity, compassion, and understanding be provided to the students.  Some of my suggestions were put into place, and some were not, and some were later removed after they were first implemented.  As an involved parent at the school, as well as an active volunteer for five years there, there was much that I personally observed and/or was informed about by students.  By far, the most serious issue facing students is the bullying, harshness, and often insensitive treatment they experience by administrators and certain teachers and staff.  I often encouraged upper administrators in the past five years to hold sensitivity training for employees of the school, though that never occurred.

Another very serious issue at the school is bullying that students’ experience from their own peers.  Some children repeatedly experienced bullying from teachers, adminstrators, and/or other staff, as well as certain peers.  This has created an unnecessary and avoidable stressful and hostile environment for many students.  One problem is because many of the school employees are so harsh and insensitive toward students, they are bullies themselves, and they therefore do not recognize, nor put a stop to student bullying.  Last year, more than 25% of parents responding to a school survey stated that bullying is a problem at the school.  I am one who has, again, encouraged school system administrators to hold anti-bullying and bullying prevention programs for faculty and staff at the school, however that has also never occurred.  Such training may help reduce bullying and increase sensitivity and compassion of adults and students toward other students.

A further big concern is the overwhelming pressure that is placed on students to be perfect in every area and in every way – academics, behavior, sociality, religion, and extra-curriculars.  Beginning with the youngest children, students who do not complete their homework are regularly disciplined.  In the past, teachers required students to stand outside for 5-10 minutes “on the line” – as they would say, on the outdoor paved parking lot play area, typically in the excessive heat.  This was an unspoken rule practiced by primary and early elementary school teachers and paraprofessionals.  Older children who did not complete homework are required to write answers to particular questions on a “behavior reflection” that reduces or eliminates their 15-20 minutes of recess time. 

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

For two of the past five years, another unspoken disciplinary rule practiced by at least three school faculty involved making students walk and/or run “laps” outside during recess on the parking lot, again, typically in the excessive heat.  Sadly, this practice appears to be somewhat of a common, unwritten practice in this area – requiring students to run laps as punishment in excessively high temperatures – as I have discovered that it occurs at many schools.  In regard to one second grade boy, I informed his father that he was required to run laps as punishment by a paraprofessional, outside in the searing heat, and the dad did not believe me.  How sad that some parents are not more concerned about what their child is experiencing at school.

Other teachers at the school regularly separated certain students from their classmates by requiring them to keep their desks far-removed from those of other students, whether for certain assignments or even months at a time.  I often observed where many teachers would use guilt, humiliation, and embarassment toward students to demoralize them into doing what they wanted them to, rather than speak to children with respect, compassion, and understanding. 

Early elementary students are also required to miss 45 minutes of lunch and recess by serving detention in the main office, including for extremely minor offenses.  Such harsh and unnecessary punishments are unethical, demoralizing, and depressing to many students, particulary those outstanding students who get caught in the crossfires of the political drama at the school.  In consulting with employees of other area schools, lengthy detentions are required only in the most severe situations of high school – high school – students, not early elementary students!  I personally requested of school administration to reduce or eliminate this practice, though there was no positive change, and in fact, only a worsening of it, amounting to nothing less than emotional sadism toward students.  When those who are charged with caring for children see nothing wrong with such unnecessary, harsh disciplinary action toward children for the most minor of offenses, definite positive change is needed. 

Also in practice at the school is suspending children as young as second grade – to my knowledge; one very sweet little girl was suspended last Spring for I cannot imagine what.  In other area schools, such a practice of issuing out-of-school suspensions to the youngest students is unheard of and entirely taboo.  Such a practice proves the lack of sensitivity, understanding, and compassion by school administration.

I feel sorry for the students who are at St. John Neumann School due to the harshness, coldness, and lack of sensitivity and compassion that so many experience from alot of adults as well as peers at the school.  I have often encouraged those in charge who could make a positive difference to consider being more sensitive, understanding, kind, and compassionate toward students.   Harsh, demoralizing, excessive, and/or inhumane punishments that are disguised as “disciplinary actions” – even for the most minor of wrongs – are well beyond what school employees should expect of children.

When students get seriously hurt or ill at the school, a parent is lucky to get a phone call or communication about the incident from anyone.  A second-grade student got a serious blow to the head during outdoor play, but no ice was placed on the injury and no phone call was made to parents.  Upon picking up the child from school, it was obvious to the parent that the injury was serious.  When the child spoke of dizziness a number of hours after the injury, the parent took the child to their pediatrician. 

A kindergarten student fell in the hallway and sustained a large gash near her chin.  Parents received no communications from the school about the incident, and only a band-aid was placed on the wound.  Upon removing the band-aid after the child got home, the parent observed the depth of the wound, taking her to the emergency medical clinic where she received four stitches.  There have also been instances in which students were genuinely ill, but when they asked to go to the clinic, they were refused by certain teachers and paraprofessionals.  Keep in mind that absolutely no communications to parents by anyone at the school was made in any of these situations.

Safety is also a concern at the school.  There are no security cameras at the school, so there is no tangible record of situations that occur there – it is one person’s word against another’s.  A parent can inform an administrator about a teacher who belittles, bullies, and yells at a student – such as, simply for asking to use the restroom – but without any recording of it, the administrator does not believe it, does not want to get involved, and further, had already behaved in a bullyish manner toward children, so it is a lost cause.

Additionally, even with improved security measures having been implemented at the school this past Spring, it has not actually gotten better.  All visitors are to sign-in at the front office upon entering the building, however have been many occasion – including since the new policies were implemented – that I personally observed people enter and walk through the building without signing in at all, nor going to the main office.  There are also repeated instances of no one being at the front desk at the main office when people enter the school. 

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

Last Spring, there was an actual “intruder alert” that occurred at the school that was not a drill; I was at the school volunteering when it occurred.  Parents were not informed by any school officials that the intruder alert occurred.  While the Superintendent stated in an archdiocese newspaper article that such drills and procedures regularly occur at all schools, a teacher at the school shared that only one such alert – whether actual or drill – occurred there in the past seven years!  If she means that such alerts and/or drills occur every seven years, she would be correct that they occur regularly, however it has been my experience that many public schools, for example, practice them between 2-4 times each year.  Because these drills and alerts are not “regularly” practiced at the school, many teachers really do not know what to do.  When fire and even tornado drills are practiced more than intruder drills, I for one, am concerned about the safety of my child at the school.

Teachers are also known to leave outside doors propped or even slightly ajar when they are supposed to be closed and locked.  Unfortunately, this is also a practice at many schools, so that late colleagues can enter the school undetected by supervisors.  However, that this is regularly being done on the hallway that houses the youngest children is a serious safety concern.

Again, I will likely be viewed as the bearer of bad news by sharing this information, however I believe that steps need to be taken to make improvements in order to progress rather than regress at St. John Neumann School.  I know I won’t win any awards for my article.  That my son – a 10-year-old – also wanted me to share his views about what he experienced at the school reflects the tone and atmosphere that is present at the school. 

While we have had many wonderful and memorable experiences at the school, as well as having met, interacted with, and befriended many people – including some truly great teachers – it is a serious concern when a school does not live up to it’s mission and standards.  When “teaching the Gospel values” of God and Jesus in the Catholic tradition is merely spoken but not actually practiced by many school representatives, there is definitely something that must change for the better. 

So, at $7,000 per student in tuition only, St. John Neumann lost a total of 18 students from the second and third grades in the past two years.  I think that’s a total of $126,000 if I did my math correctly, right?  That’s alot of money to be losing.  In business, it is always said that it is much easier to retain those people who are already part of an institution rather than recruit new ones.  However, in sharing my perspectives about this to both school administrators and school system administrators, there has been an apathy and lack of concern about it.  For me, personally, as a Catholic and having desired for my child to have a Catholic education, this is a serious concern. 

Thus, the reasons that I have described herein, I believe, are those that have caused the increasing exodus from and diminished size of St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Isn’t it time for a positive change?  My aim in sharing this information is not to be critical, however it is to be honest and urge for positive change and improvements to occur at the school.  St. John Neumann is surely an excellent school at which students receive an outstanding education.  And again, while we have had many wonderful, exciting, and happy memories at the school, there are also a number of issues that deserve both serious attention and improvement. 

It is definitely disappointing when a school of one’s own faith does not meet minimal expectations regarding the value and treatment of children.  Children should not be perceived, nor treated as bad what with issuing so many unnecessary and harsh punishments; it is the perspectives and training of the adults that need drastic improvement.  Maybe if more people put their heads together, praying and working hard in doing what is in the best interests of children, that will occur.