A school system in demise is in no position to pile on additional non-academic goals when it cannot meet its basic educational obligations. Most of us old enough to have had a root canal do not know what cyber-bullying (CBY) is, nor did we previously care. But in order for me to make my case, I gotta define this omen that portends the decline of America as it was given to us by the Greatest Generation that survived the Great Depression and won World War II. Generation Sb, for Sedentary and brainwashed, are the grandchildren of the Red Diaper Doper Babies also known as Baby Boomers who managed to destroy our entire value system by subverting everything from school prayer to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Generation Sb is apparently too lazy and out-of-shape to bully their classmates the old fashioned way with sticks, fists, and switchblades. Today they use computer communications to ‘text’ nasty notes, affix offensive images on a photo of the victim, and get really mean on Facebook. How mean? Monique Bond, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) spokesperson emeritus for CEO Ron Huberman who, like her boss, has never taught school, said: ‘It (CBY) can lead to violence within the school.’ That is probably true Monique, but then sneezing in someone’s face can also lead to violence depending on whose face it is. Should we pass a nasty nose ordinance? Hey, with some bullies, all you have to do answer ‘here’ when the teacher takes morning attendance and you wind up on their lunch menu. That’s life.
I was okay with the previously expanded protective measures introduced into the state’s school code to address low tech-bullying and protect youngsters from physical harm. Indeed, it was only good sense to assist a child that has been harassed or threatened by a stronger and maladjusted student. When I was a principal it was very simple. If one kid threatened another, I considered the offending kid’s action an assault, as in assault-and-battery. Assault is the threat and battery is the action. The threat would get you arrested in the adult world and immediately suspended my school. Additionally, I advised high school parents that they could also bring police charges against a bullying student. Furthermore, I defined a fight as one person hitting another and the other responding in kind, regardless of who threw the first punch. I busted them both. If the the victim did not retaliate, then I suspended the bully for battery; and if there was any kind of weapon used or a significant disparity in height and weight, I also called in the cops.
Oh, BTW, for you new principals and deans, at the beginning of the school year give your parents notice that any student that runs in the direction of a fight, stands and watches a school yard fight, or verbally encourages same, will be busted for mob action. (same rule for food fights) Either trust me on this one or answer to your boss for your first riot and then have to explain to irrational and angry parents why you are suspending their innocent baby for simply watching. Even the NBA employs this rule and will severely fine any player that leaves the bench to get involved with an on-court scuffle. Also take my advice on this as well, any rule change you make during the course of the year is more likely to backfire on you than it is to make things better. Resist faculty pressure to impose new rules in midstream. Besides, new rules do not accomplish improved discipline any more than the old rules; constant diligence and adult supervision does.
My real issue with this cyber thing goes beyond the fact that our pampered children today are so delicate that we buy them bicycle helmets and have to protect them from keyboard violence. I find it absurd that CPS gives CBY the same weight as burglary, aggravated assault, or other felonies. Worse, the new policy gives the school jurisdiction over CBY that takes place away from the school and during non-school hours. Consequently, the school is required now to suspend, possibly expel, and if appropriate, initiate a police investigation for events they cannot possibly control.
Therefore my concern is a practical one. When a new discipline requirement is introduced, someone has to execute, administer, and enforce it. That someone is inevitably the principal in schools with small student populations or the assistant principal or dean of discipline in larger buildings. These people are already busy, burned-out, overburdened. The Supreme Court, in Goss vs Lopez, dictates that a suspension from school requires due process for the accused student. That translates to a school-level investigation of the facts, interviewing the students involved, and multiple parent conferences.
Our local NBC news affiliate quoted psychologist Dr. Bennett Levanthal, who probably never taught school either, who estimated that four out of every ten children are victims of some kind of bullying. If so, in your your average sixteen hundred-student high school, 600 mopes are targeted by bullies. Frankly, if the number of victims is really that high they should band together and form their own street gang. They could call themselves the Insane Snoop Payback Boys. No I am not making light of bullying, well . . . maybe I am. I guess I am stuck in the mud with the fact that young people should learn how to handle adversity, bad people, and disappointment without some government agency sending in a crisis management team. My 'bad,' but I am sticking to it. It just seems to me that our nanny-state nation is getting weaker and weaker every day, and I fear that our enemies have taken notice.
Back to the core of my argument. The last time I looked CPS principals are having difficulty getting basic things done. CPS recently reported higher test scores this year. Whoop-de-do. The average CPS ACT score for college entrance rose from 17 to 17.3. That is better news than last year, but certainly not good. The maximum score possible is 36 and there is not a four-year college in America that will accept an ACT below 20, and any senior with a score below 24 will have to get lucky to get into a ‘good‘ university. But I do give CPS credit for the 1.8% statistical gain. Perhaps the University of Haiti or Somalia Tech will enroll some of our CPS grads.
Look people, principals have always born the full weight of school reform. They do not have unions or job protection like teachers do. Principals can not earn tenure as administrators. They are kinda like Chicago Cub managers. You can’t fire the whole team, or the whole faculty, so you drop kick the coach.
FYI principals are required by Illinois school code to devote fifty-one percent of their time to instructional management. That means going into classrooms and monitoring what the teacher is doing and how they are doing it when there are children in front of them. However, if the principal is bogged down with discipline issues during the school day, it is physically impossible to get into those classrooms before the day is done. Indeed, clever and well-entrenched faculties know this and intentionally dump silly discipline issues on new principals to keep them from monitoring their classrooms. That is why teachers love new rules and principals do not. This cyber bully rule works against principals by robbing them of time and resources that are better spent on instructional management. How can you reform a school if you just do not have the time to do it?
If you have read any three of my columns you know that I am a vociferous opponent of CPS CEOs Paul Bean-Counter Vallas, Arne Basketball-Jones Duncan, and Ron the Useless Huberman, because they never taught school or were principals. The fact that Huberman permitted the school board to impose this CBY initiative on his principals is clear and present evidence that he does not know how schools work. Furthermore, like the Bean-Counter and the Hoops Dude before him, none of his senior staff, all of whom, have taught school are advising him properly. If they are, Hubie is not listening. Or, maybe school reform in Chicago was never anything more than a con game in the first place.