The Institutionalized Bullying Campaign grew out of the larger fight to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Many organizations across the country were hearing anecdotal accounts from members who were being bullied by school administration and staff, but were unable to address the harm being done to them.
Here are the ways we have learned Institutionalized Bullying have impacted different communities in the education system:
Some of these members were retaliated against with the tools of the STPP and ended up getting suspended from school when they were the ones being bullied or the school didn’t address or normalized the behavior resulting in escalating interactions between students and/or staff. Even when the school knew about the situations, often nothing was done. How many suspensions were a result of unaddressed bullying behavior?
Parents have encountered behavior from school administration that tries to silence or disempower them and prevents their full participation in their child's school. This can be look like not having access to interpretation for immigrant parents and dismissing their concerns due to language access. It can also look like parents being discriminated by school staff and treated with disrespect or like they are not capable or their child is beyond the schools help. In some instances parents have been retaliated against by the schools when they have tried to advocate for their child in the school. This can look like when parents have been threatened with or in some instances actually have been arrested or have had ACS called on them.
Teachers have experienced Institutionalized Bullying through the “teaching to test” model that most of our education system uses to demand higher test scores as a measurement for how effective a teacher is. Often when teachers have pushed back against education policies they believe do not serve the best interest of their students, they are unsupported, reprimanded or targeted for pushout by school administrators.
The inherent problem of the current bullying narrative and policy-orientation is
a) it operates on the assumptions of bullying only happens between student to student and not as a broader institutionalized issue where a culture of bullying is enabled
b) the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a key enabler and benefiter of how bullying is handled, because it never gets to the root of actual behavior issues and respond punitively to every conflict
c) keeping bullying as a student to student issue/problem ignores the way students, parents and teachers have been pitted against each other in the education system to prevent them from allying with each other to take on systemic grievances and solely places the responsibility/burden of change on students.
d) when education departments around the country are willing to champion the issue of bullying, but respond with zero-tolerance discipline and more policing which further entrenches the culture of bullying into schools.
We are currently in a Story collection phase of the campaign to document and share experiences of students, parents and teachers being bullied in the education system, its impacts, and best practices. The hope is to utilize these stories to expand the narrative of bullying and develop a grassroots campaign to address Institutionalized Bullying.