Let’s stand together to end all forms of bullying

As the product of Marshalltown High School, I have held my tongue far too long; recent events have motivated me to finally share my concerns. It is time that we stop overlooking a major source of bullying in our public schools – our beloved teachers. Let me be clear, I understand that being a teacher is one of the most difficult jobs in our society. That being said, being an educator comes with a large responsibility associated with the intellectual and emotional development of our youth population. At the core, our public school system serves two purposes: 1) to develop a critical, engaged, and motivated citizenry and 2) to provide a safe, intentional space. While we can debate for days about how effectively our schools serve their first purpose, for now I am more interested in the latter purpose. In attempts to bring a safe, intentional space for children, we provide shelter from the natural elements, food and physical protection from most danger. In rare occasions, we fail to provide these basic protections and tragedy strikes. However, even when our children are sheltered from the physical elements, a barrage of emotional warfare leaves painfully deep wounds and these play a large role in our children’s psychological development. Whether they are homophobic, racist or classist spurs or comments on someone’s appearance, size, intellect, religious affiliation, etc., acts of bullying in our public schools are disgustingly prevalent. In my time at MHS, our administration (with Bonnie Lowry at the helm) took large – but not perfect – strides to fight bullying in our classrooms. This hard work changed the student culture. It was – of course – not perfect, but I noticed a significant improvement in my four years of high school. This being said, no one ever talked about the rampant bullying and emotional damage caused by our well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) teachers. Which is worse, being called fat by a classmate in the hallway, or being told that you are stupid, immature and childish by an adult that you cannot avoid? If we are to expect students to treat each other with respect and dignity, why are our teachers not held to the same if not a higher standard?

(I have intentionally withheld calling out specific teachers at the high school, but I hope we, as a community, can stand together to end ALL forms of bullying.)