I am going to be very honest here. School staff members are often bullies. This is not a problem in only one school. MANY schools have this issue. Any time you assert your will over another person, you are bullying. Any time you say a person must follow your directions or you will impose a consequence that you dreamt up, you are bullying.
I have observed school staff bully time and again during my teaching career. Many times a child was made to sit and watch all the other children play during recess because that child did not have the time or the focus to finish his or her “work”. I have seen children ignored when having a true emotional crisis. I have seen food withheld, which is illegal and was reported by the way, because a child did not finish “work” in the time frame a teacher allowed. It would cause no harm to let the child take work home to do with parents or to respond with empathy when an emotional crisis occurs. Yet, many teachers and schools punish instead.
I recently heard about another form of bullying by school staff in my home state. The Clay County School District in Florida has an arbitrary dress code because they think students are not responsible enough to dress themselves without rules. The powers that be in Clay County seem to think students won’t be studious if they see certain types of clothing. This is not acceptable because typical students can choose and dress in their clothing without incident. They are also responsible enough to focus even if clothing is “disruptive”.
“But gangs….”, people say. Gang members will find a way to use their signs and colors whether there is a dress code or not. This is true even when students are forced to wear uniforms. “But the boys will be distracted by cleavage, upper thighs, or a stomach showing”, they say. Breasts, as well as the other body parts listed, are not genitalia. Don’t you teach biology to your students?
There is also the pesky problem of assuming boys and men are controlled by their hormones and incapable of self-control. Dress codes force females to take the responsibility for this negative male behavior and have to “cover up”. But wait, not all males do this and they are all capable of rising above thoughts and hormones. Not only are dress codes sexist toward males, they are also sexist toward females. (I haven’t even bothered to discuss the facts that there are intersex people, people who love within the same sex, and people who are transgender. None of these folks are mentioned in dress codes, are they?)
Stop sexualizing females. Yes, I said it. Schools need to STOP SEXUALIZING FEMALES.
The truth is that many schools bully. They “support” anti-bully campaigns, then THEY bully.
I was appalled to hear of the treatment of a young woman who attends Oakleaf High School in Clay County. She was made to wear a shirt with the words “Dress Code Violation” on it. This is a form of abuse. No one has the right to sexualize this young lady’s body. By enforcing an arbitrary dress code and forcing her to wear this shirt, she was being sexualized by school staff. They decided to slut shame her and prove that they think males are incapable of learning because a female is in the room and clothed a certain way. This is bullying and, sadly, proof that we live in a rape culture.
The truth is that when we raise our children with love and empathy, they will not stare at another person’s body all day. They won’t sexualize others without permission. They will, however, have no need for arbitrary rules and bullying. Sadly, adults are a different story. Many adults grew up with adversarial authoritarian models and struggle to understand how to teach empathy and love in a non-coercive environment.
It is time for Clay County to stop the bullying and start educating. I am tempted to send a box full of books, for example Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, so the entire school district can become more educated with regard to the issues at hand. The truth is that I am saddened. My tax dollars help fund this district and THIS is how they treat our future leaders? Should Clay County want to train staff and school board members regarding the matters set forth in this writing, I would be happy to help. You can successfully teach in an environment that does not punish, bully, or slut shame. Parents and educators need to team up and provide a non-adversarial education model so that students can learn without fear and shame.