School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment. When an adult bullies a child, it is referred to as psychological, emotional, or verbal abuse. According to the American Psychological Association, it is as harmful as sexual or physical abuse. "Children who are emotionally abused and neglected face similar and sometimes worse mental health problems as children who are physically or sexually abused, yet psychological abuse is rarely addressed in prevention programs or in treating victims, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association."
While sexual and physical abuse by an adult to child, parent, teacher or coach is criminal in the eyes of the law, bullying or emotional abuse by these adults in care-giver positions is not necessarily.
Due to their influential role, it is possible that teachers are instrumental in teaching bullying. At present there is little to no research to confirm this.
While teacher bullying is recognized as serious and harmful, there are no statistics. However, according to one article, a high-percentage of teachers admit to bullying students.
Comprehensive research carried out in the UK found that teaching was one of the occupations at highest risk from bullying:
In another survey, the Economic and Social Research Institute found bullying to be more prevalent in schools than other workplaces.
There are complex issues with reporting bullying by teachers, not only for children, but also parents. By means of their position of power over the child, power that enables them to impact the child's present and future, children and parents are reluctant to report. There are specific signs that parents should watch for as their child is unlikely to disclose that the teacher is in fact the bully.
Furthermore, a teacher who bullies may present as a Jekyll and Hyde figure: they are often celebrated and popular so their abuse can go on for long periods of time undetected. Lacking research on teachers in classrooms, once again it is hard to be sure, but certainly in teaching a sport, we see adults often rewarded for bullying conduct that would never be tolerated or condoned if done by a child.
In a school setting, this is true for teachers in the classroom as well as in their role as coaches of school sports.
Parsons identifies teacher bullying as often being part of a wider bullying culture within a school, with a complex web of dynamics such as:
A common manifestation of teacher bullying is staffroom bullying where teachers are bullied by other teachers or school managers.
In investigating teacher bullying, it is important to differentiate a teacher or coach who is demanding versus one who is demeaning. So "yelling" for instance can be highly productive and motivating, but if it involves belittling and is laced with putdowns and swearing, it becomes abusive. Bullying by teachers can take many forms in order to harass and intimidate including:
Bullying of teachers can take many forms in order to harass and intimidate including:
Bullies often exploit positions of seniority over the colleagues they are intimidating by:
In some cases, teachers are ignored and isolated by colleagues in the staffroom or turned down for promotion or training courses. Other times, teachers are ostracized as whistleblowers when they report to administrators on students' reports of bullying being done by their colleagues.
Notably, there is little to no research on teachers bullying students. The power imbalance of teacher to student is greater than peer to peer and may well intensify the impact. Studies of child to child bullying, or parent to child bullying, for the present, must be extrapolated to consider the possible impacts of bullying by teachers which include:
The possible impacts of bullying of teachers include:
In April 2012, Stuart Chaifetz, a father of an autistic boy, released a video on YouTube providing evidence that his son was allegedly the subject of emotional abuse at the hands of his teacher and aide at Horace Mann Elementary School, in the Cherry Hill Public Schools district. The evidence was secured when Chaifetz wired his son before sending him to school. When he listened to the audio recording, according to one news report, "Chaifetz says he caught his son's teachers gossiping, talking about alcohol and violently yelling at students. He took the audio to the Cherry Hill School District, where officials fired one of the teachers involved after hearing the tape. Chaifetz's son was relocated to a new school, where Chaifetz says he is doing well." However, it appears that students with learning disabilities may be especially at risk for teacher bullying.
In 2011, select members of the Board, the Chaplain and Headmaster at St. Michaels University School were informed that teachers were abusing students in the basketball program. They received an eleven-page document written by a lawyer, who was also a parent of a student at the school, outlining the incidences of "child abuse" occurring on basketball teams at the Senior School. Parents were not informed; teachers remained in position. Although not knowing about this document, throughout the year, at least five families made significant formal complaints to Board members, the Chaplain and Headmaster about the abusive coaching conduct. In 2012, at least thirteen students, at the request of the Headmaster, approved of detailed, written testimonies about the verbal, emotional and some physical abuse they were suffering at the hands of their teachers who were coaching them as a co-curricular.
How they were treated by the Headmaster, the school's Board of Governors, lawyers hired by the school, and educational authorities was the subject of a front-page story by award-winning investigative journalist, Robert Cribb, as well as a CTV W5 episode. The story was the catalyst for a book, Teaching Bullies: Zero Tolerance on the Court or in the Classroom by Jennifer Fraser, PhD. Fraser's book puts the story in the context of extensive research into the work of psychologists, psychiatrists, and neuroscientists in order to explore the oftentimes taboo subject of Teacher and Coach Bullying.
Informed by research into the serious, extensive, and often irreparable damage to adolescent brains in particular, Fraser has launched an awareness campaign on Facebook and Twitter (@teachingbullies) in an attempt to get lawmakers to put emotional abuse into the criminal code along with sexual and physical abuse. Neuroscientists believe it does similar if not identical harm to developing brains.
In June 2014, Britain proposed the "Cinderella Law" which would put emotional abuse in the Criminal Code.
In Popular Culture
Teachers being portrayed as bullies have made into popular culture, along with works with teachers being bullied by other teachers, students, and even the principal.
Source: Bullying In Teaching