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It is all fun and games until someone figures out the bullies are calling all the shots. On Wednesday, February 25, three high school teachers at Wilson High School in downtown Portland Oregon were dismissed from duty and put on paid administrative leave for the possible bullying, harassment and hazing of various students.
Christine Miles, spokesperson for the school district in question, claimed the district only learned of the incident a few days before the 25th and did not know any specifics regarding where the bullying incident took place, or even if they happened on school grounds.
Twenty-four hours later, however, the details of the hazing and bullying which the three teachers had reportedly supported had become old news. The primary reason for this? Students talk. Once students begin to talk, no amount of cover-up will keep accusations under wraps. It is most common for students to acknowledge and discuss the hazing and bullying long before any school board or administrative department gets wind of what is happening.
One year ago in Bismarck, Arkansas, the agriculture teacher (later convicted of nine molestations) had been engaging inappropriately with students for nearly a year before the school board acknowledged the problem. Other teachers and students had mentioned it to one another, but administration did not catch on as quickly. As principals and superintendents have always said, “The students are the first to know,” as if that justifies them being the last to admit the truth.
At Wilson High School, the hazing was actually ingrained in an initiation-style, an unofficially condoned series of bullying incidents that had been perpetuated at the high school for years. It was only recently that a handful of students enduring that hazing spoke up, in regards to the degrading nature of the initiation. It included sexual embarrassment, generated when younger initiates were forced to read intimidating sex education texts aloud. The teachers in charge did not stop the hazing.
Teachers bullying students has not reached an epidemic level, but neither is K-12 harassment by educators a rare event. According to a website, GreatSchools.com, more students are gaining the courage to tell someone what is happening. Not only is Great Schools a sounding board for parents and children being hazed/subjected to bullying by aggressive power-hungry teachers, this website has also featured confessions of teachers who admit to bullying students in the past.
In the past there was little a student could do when bullied by a particular teacher. Even now, it is a torturous decision to accuse a teacher of bullying.
The most logical reason for a teacher ignoring bullying rests in a laissez-faire set-up, to let business as usual proceed in its expected pattern. In many instances, upper administration also supports a “hands-off” policy, not wanting the bad publicity.
In December of 2014, a particularly vicious hazing incident of bullying was reported by the dance team of Lakeridge High school in affluent Lake Oswego, Oregon (located southwest of Portland). The new girls on the team were all blindfolded, covered in pancake syrup, and provoked to wrestle in front of boys. They were also tossed into the both cold and polluted Willamette River at night, sans rescue equipment.
Lakeridge Administration refused to hear their accusations. The dancers who endured the harassment and testified publicly were ostracized by the head dance coach. They soon make the decision to leave the dance team.
Even though the students who open the curtain on a bullying teacher may be punished by an administration both fearful and blinded, the students are still speaking up louder and sooner than ever before. They are empowered and supported by one another, by social media, and their own critical thinking ability. Therefore; not only are the students the first to know, they are also the first to take action against bullying and hazing, even if school administration doesn’t have the guts to do it.
Opinion by Holly Hunt