What About This . . .? By Wayne William Cipriano

If you read the front page article entitled, “Moms Tell School Board – Bullying Is a Problem and It’s Being Ignored” in the 23 August, 2018 edition of the Douglas County Herald, you know as much as I do about the School Board meeting’s attention to a bullying problem in our Ava schools and I hope, shared my disgust.

I wasn’t at that meeting, but I have attended others where the School Board handled very complicated issues and the reporting in the next issue of the Herald has always been startlingly accurate, recalling items that have slipped my memory even after only a day or two. Thus, I am sure the article is completely credible and fully comprehensive.

Bullying in schools probably exists everywhere in one form or another and always has – at least where we have permitted it. Sure, it’s true that some students invite, almost beg for bullying attention because of the way they dress or speak or walk or behave. But as we all remember when we begged for the keys to the family car when we were teenagers, begging doesn’t necessarily equate to getting. I’ve never been bullied. I’ve never been a bully. But, like you, I’ve seen bullying. I’ve stepped in to stop it a time or two, and I’ve stood by and let it happen a time or two. And even after more than half a century that inaction still shames me.

We have all, it seems , grudgingly adjusted to a school system where the average graduate cannot speak in complete sentences, reads haltingly, cannot write legibly, cannot speak in public, knows very little about history, civics geography, knows virtually nothing of science, and even basic arithmetic, let alone mathematics, drives these new graduates to abhorrence.

Speaking with employers or those involved with institutions of further learning one hears the same complaints: “knows nothing!”; “wants to learn nothing”; “irresponsible”; “unfocused”. And in every conversation sooner or later you hear the phrase, “feels somehow entitled.”

We taxpayers fork over, according to what I’ve heard, somewhere around $7,800 per student per year for their “education”, and we get students adept at thumb-tapping electronic messaging to each other consisting mainly of the question, “Wha RU doin?” and the inevitable response “Nuttin.” I guess we are satisfied with this state of affairs as we allow it to continue.

But at the very least, if no effort is spent educating our students, shouldn’t our schools provide a safe, secure, dare I say friendly, place to warehouse our children until they are of an age to serve as wage slaves to buttress our commercial economy?

Instead, some students experience a jungle. How many? Who can tell since being the object of bullying is only exacerbated when a student finally complains about it to someone in authority.

Who bullies? It is always those who are deathly afraid of being seen as powerless, perceived as not nearly as cool as they wish they were. They select the weak on which to prey and do so away from those strong enough in character to interfere with their pathetic rituals.

Bullies are punks in the truest form. Bereft of any teaching or positive modelling by guardians at home, failed by other institutions like schools and religions, they never understand real strength, real integrity, they know nothing of compassion, they have never known personal value. And those around these bullies for whom they perform, lack the courage, as I did on occasion, to step up and stop it.

There have been many attempts to explain bullying in schools (and in life), with no doubt many ideas of remediation – most far less barbaric ( and much less effective) than taking the bully by the scruff of his or her neck and launching them out the front door of the school with a swift kick to the seat of their pants. But, whatever the remediation, the first step must always be recognition that the problem exists and the next step must be a plan to deal with that bullying. So, what happened at the School Board meeting when two parents rose to speak to bullying in our Ava Schools?

Was appearing before the School Board the first measure taken by these mothers in response to the bullying of their children? I do not know either of these women, so I do not know for sure, but I am pretty sure they first engaged teachers, and then, probably, made contact with school administrators. One mother said she had done so and received only one response to the several outreaches she had made. Was our Superintendent of Schools notified of the bullying problem? Again, I do not know, but I suspect before these mothers stood before the School Board and everyone else there, they took advantage of the next step up and called or met with Dr. Jason Dial.

Once more, I do not now this for a fact, but logic tells me that each of these progressively more ‘official’ contacts at school, from teachers, to administrators, to our Superintendent, produced results that were unsatisfactory. I’m guessing unsatisfactory because ultimately these ladies stood up before the School Board, school administrators, faculty, staff and the public and reported ongoing damage to their children that was, and should be, troubling to anyone who listened to them.

One mother read a letter written by her daughter explaining how bullying had affected her. How humiliating must it be for that student to have her feeling thus exposed in public? How frustrating, how devastating, for her mother to feel so powerless to protect her daughter in any other way.

A second mother spoke to the dehumanizing effect of bullying behavior had on her son, even more despicable when perpetrated by “popular” students and a “teacher’s son”, making for that student a scholastic experience ruined forever by fear.

These two, perhaps emblematic students were attacked by bullies, abandoned by their classmates, ignored by the faculty, staff, and administration, except we were told, by one singular educator: high School Principal Dr. Teresa Nash.

And when, having most probably made their way up the bureaucratic slope of our school system, these parents speaking in public before faculty, administrators, staff, citizens, and six members of our School Board, what are the results?

One and only one School Board member speaks, ignoring bullying and commenting only on the strength demonstrated by these mothers as if none of us could recognize those strengths without the school board member’s direction. The other five members of School Board, afraid of what I wonder, sit in absolute silence.

No faculty member speaks up. No staff member speaks up. No other parents speak. No students. No casual visitors. And the administration? Our Superintendent, the leader of our school system, alone declares, “the issue would be viewed as serious.”

Is a task force suggested to examine this problem? No. A committee delegated? No. Is a faculty member, a staff member, anyone asked to delve more deeply? No. Is there even any discussion, any discussion at all by the School Board? No. Is anything proposed to deal with this problem besides, of course, viewing it as “serious”? No.

So let me ask one more question that I hope is in the minds of all Douglas County residents and taxpayers: “What the %$#@ is wrong with you people?”