by Keri Peterson, Seconny – Special Education Consulting NY
Many parents have contacted me over the past several years with their concerns about their child being bullied and the school district’s lack of action. We see yet another case of bullying this week that has made the news; this particular student is a sophomore with a learning disability in Pennsylvania. School districts have an obligation to objectively follow their established policies and not ignore reports of bullying/harassment by any student for any length of time. A quick response always has the better outcome.
After his numerous reports to teachers, the adults in charge, no action was taken. So he did what the rest of us would do and took matters into his own hands and recorded the bullying as it was taking place. He wanted the bullying to stop. The derogatory comments that have been reported from the recording are nothing to be proud of and the students making the harassing and ill spoken ideas should have been reprimanded and removed from the classroom.
Despite the school’s bullying policy which promises no retribution for reporting bullying as well as its policy mandating specialized consideration of disciplinary action for students with disabilities ( which is not only a school district policy but MANDATED by the US Department of Education under IDEA) the school’s principal called the police and never alerted the mother that her son was being questioned by the authorities.
The student was forced to delete the recording and the school’s principal was threatening “felony wiretapping charges” for making a recording in an environment which one would be expecting privacy. What I would like to know is whose privacy was invaded? Prior to this recording the student’s privacy was invaded every time one of those bullies made their harassing comments.
What is happening in today’s classrooms is becoming increasingly problematic. Students should not have to put up with this type of harassing/bullying behavior and teachers, principals, and administrators need to take appropriate action at the time any student FIRST reports they are being bullied or harassed. Instead, it appears that students are being ignored and as in this students case he said ” I always felt like I wasn’t being heard”. I would think that if these situations are addressed when they are first brought to an “adults” attention, they would not escalate out of control. Ignoring the bullying behavior only gives the bully more power to continue doing what they are doing, they didn’t get spoken to the first time, so they continue bullying. The bullies are not the ones that are supposed to be allowed to have the power, district officials are supposed to step in and take that power away; helping to protect the dignity of the student being bullied.
There are plenty of websites to be directed to help students who are being bullied or harassed, but if and until the school district decides to take appropriate action, students being bullied will be left to their own devices and will ultimately suffer the consequences.