What would you do if your child’s teacher made the students in his class line up and hit him, one by one?
As you’ve probably heard, this week it came out that a San Antonio-area teacher decided to “teach” Aiden, one of her kindergartners, “why bullying is bad” by having all the children take turns hitting the boy. According to Amy Neely, the child’s mother, the teacher did not call her to let her know that Aiden was allegedly bullying other kids. The teacher also did not attempt to talk to Aiden about his bullying behavior or problem solve with him about it—or even give him appropriate consequences. Instead, she consulted with a co-worker who suggested they punish the child by having all the kids hit him.
What’s worse, some of the students said they didn’t want to do it because the boy was their friend, but they were afraid not to comply with the teacher.
While corporal punishment in schools is still legal in some states, it’s done by teachers, not students, and there are requirements in each state as to how to carry it out and what offenses are punishable.
Amy Neely, the child’s mother, filed a police report after she found out what had been done to her son.
Just what was this teacher thinking? And what lesson did she teach the kids in her class, ultimately?
In my opinion, she taught them that:
- You should fight brute force with greater brute force. Bullying should be dealt with by escalating to a more aggressive, systemized form of bullying.
- The adult in charge can’t be trusted to respond in a calm, thoughtful way. This person can force you to do something that you know is wrong.
- The teacher has the power to make the class turn on you and physically hurt you.
- Instead of using problem-solving skills to learn how to behave, it’s more important to get a “bigger hammer” (as James Lehman cautions against) and “win” the fight.
This whole situation leaves me to wonder why the teacher in question could not think of any other way to handle this situation. Most schools have some kind of policy set up around bullying these days, if I’m not mistaken. If she was stumped, why didn’t she contact the school social worker, guidance counselor or principal?
When the hitting got too extreme, the kindergarten teacher apparently intervened and stopped the kids from doing any more damage. Both teachers were put on paid administrative leave while the matter was being investigated, and the teacher who suggested the punishment in the first place is not returning to school next year.
The bigger question here is just how do you think those kids are going to respond the next time a child bullies them? Do you think they will be empowered to go to a teacher—and will they even be able to trust their teachers, when it comes right down to it? And what about the kid who did the bullying in the first place? Do you think he will stop that behavior, or has he just learned that he, too, needs to get a “bigger hammer”?
What would you do if this happened to your child? And how should this teacher be dealt with?
Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of one reptile-loving son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.