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Teacher and Student Bullying: Who Can Help? – by Rodger Dinwiddie


In our Feb. 3 blog, the case of Alex Merritt detailed by “Newsweek” magazine in a 2009 issue presented an unfortunate situation. He was a student enrolled in a part-time vocational program and was tormented with comments about being gay or as those who were making his life miserable said, “Alex’s fence swings both ways. Alex’s boat floats in a different direction than the rest of the guys in the class.”  This took place in 2007 and as the year progressed the taunts worsened. What really makes this juvenile behavior so unusual is Merritt’s bullies, who allegedly made all of these remarks, were his teachers. Newsweek reported the teachers denied the allegations.

In my work I have spoken to many parents who have called Students Taking A Right Stand (STARS) because they have heard about what we do in the arena of bullying prevention and intervention.  They call to express pain, frustration, anger, and sadness at what has happened to their child. Sheer exhaustion is paramount in their voice and in their stories. In many cases, they express that no one has listened to them. They have talked to the teacher, to the administrator, other parents, and even their children’s friends, often being met with apathy, disbelief and in some cases fear from other parents who do not want to get involved out of concern for their own children. 

If it sounds as if this is an exaggeration, I understand. In several cases I have scratched my head and asked myself if this could possibly be true. The stories seemed almost too hard to believe. However, the calls and stories are real, and  research by Alan McElvoy, Wittenberg University, validates these parents’ calls and concerns.  He points out that it is common to have one or more teachers in a school who are mean to students and most people believe that teachers who bully will be able to do so without getting into trouble and will not be held accountable.  If a complaint has been made – little ever happens and nothing changes.

While Alex Merritt’s story is horrible, the tragedy in this story is that it happens at all. One of the services that STARS offers is in-depth training for schools designed to address bullying in all its forms. It makes no difference …. Whether it’s peer-on-peer or adult-student, bullying poses a threat to the well being of everyone. If we can help, call STARS at 615-279-0058.

STARS is deeply committed to creating a culture and work space that centers on the power of relationships, that values diversity of perspective and experience, and that honors the dignity, worth, and contributions of all.