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Can we say this now? About Frickin time

Chris James

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Parents are responsible for what happens to their children at home so it is about time that educators take on the responsibility of protecting kids at school. Hit school boards in the wallet and they will have to pay attention. Otherwise, these are all such sad stories.


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Sorry Chris, but as compelling as the argument is I am weary of schools being saddled by so many things above and beyond education. Things such as behavior, interpersonal relations and common decency (if that's still 'common') should fall under the responsibility of parents. But over the past few decades, schools have assumed responsibility for not only teaching but: vision and hearing tests, inoculations, personal hygiene, physical development, mental health, feeding the hungry, and the list rambles on.

Schools and teachers must also ensure that no child fails academically, no matter how low they have to re-set the standards. (I attended the high school graduation of a California friend's son a couple years back who was one of 18 valedictorians - out of a roughly 200-member class. So extraordinary must each child be.)

And now people would have schools accept responsibility for students being bullied? Where are mom and dad? Come to think of it, of both the bully and the bullied? And schools should have to pay? Let's see... a million dollars can take 100,000 kids to theater or musical performances, museums, and the like. But it should instead be spent on lawyers for both sides and any resulting settlement. Not helpful. To anybody. 

Suicide is a tragedy. Suicide of a bullied child is a catastrophe. And the knee-jerk American reaction is SUE THE B*STARDS! But expecting teachers and school staff to observe the symptoms where their average student/staff interaction is less than two minutes per day is unrealistic. Time to remember that the parents are the parents and they need to accept the responsibilities that entails.

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The school acts - in loco parentis - meaning they take on the role of the parent whilst the child is under their care. Schools absolutely have the responsibility to detect and deal with bullying, thus ensuring the safety of the children attending the school. I disagree with the ideology that promotes sueing anybody and everybody for a failure in the system, however responibility of schools and educators goes beyond simply providing an education, the well being of the child comes first, and the school should be held accountable and if negligence is proven the principal or the education authority should be sacked. Parents have a responsibility too, but they cannot be in class with their children!


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School attendance is required by law.  As youngsters have to be in school, by law, so must schools, by law, prohibit bullying.  It is their legal responsibility to do so.  Any adult working in the school setting is part of this responsibility network.

The article states that many schools don't know how to go about this, don't have practical regulations in place, and thus fail their students not because they don't care but because they simply don't know what works to prevent bullying.  I think that's absurd. The fact is, that while a lot of principals may not know what works and what doesn't, there are many, many school districts that do know what works.  The information of how to set up a viable anti-bully program and enforce it is available.  There is no good reason at all for these schools not to have availed themselves of this information.



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The image of armed police patrolling the halls of a school is disturbing, but in some school districts this is what you get. Makes me wonder where we went wrong, how did we lose control?

To my mind the greatest offense created by bullies is the cessation of education. No child can concentrate on learning when they feel threatened. Dare to be different and a child gets picked on, becomes an outcast. and the target for bullying. Those who perceive they are the strongest pick on the weak, and oftentimes this is acceptable to the masses.

We can fill our schools with police, place cameras everywhere, and nothing will change until we have a means to reprogram the bullies. Much of their meanness is self serving, that look at me I'm a tough guy, I demand your respect. No matter what schools do to punish the behavior it means nothing if they are heroes at home or amongst their peers in the street.

I have read about in school suspensions and forced study halls meant to keep the troublemakers in line. Not working because they are still there in the environment with the victims. One bully in a classroom makes all the other students victims and makes education impossible. The teachers we have today cannot handle that kind of stress, they are already overloaded, and in many cases, underpaid. 

In the climate of today's government, the public schools are the losers...and of course, the biggest bully in the country sits in the White House. Kids bring weapons to school for protection and end up in jail. Is anyone asking them who they are trying to defend against? But certain segments of our population point fingers at the violence and advocate home schooling. The Christian Taliban is loving it.

Then we will end up with a whole society of kids unable to interact with one another...a no win situation. I hear that the schools in Canada are lovely....

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Thanks for the follow-up, Chris. This comment I agree with almost completely. I asked one of our county teachers this evening what her take on it is and she said the first thing to be changed if they want to get control of the problem is the abuse of social media. When the County Board tried to rein in its 'abusage' during school hours a couple years ago the community uproar was enormous. How can mommy and daddy warn Billy and Suzy that they'll be late picking then up today? So the errant/criminal usage gets a pass because there are some positives to be accepted. Or is there a cutoff point "after 'n' students commit suicide"?

And you're right that teachers are overworked, underpaid, and stressed to the max. The last thing they need is chastisement, job loss, or civil/criminal charges for not eagle-eyeing Bubba in the back row while simultaneously summarizing Chaucer for the entire class. And there are privacy laws that seem to frown on intercepting private communications (appropriately so!) not to mention the sheer number of messages that  float around a school of 2000 teens even during inter-period class changes. And I'm not too crazy about the Department of Education forming its own NSA branch.

There's still a lot of unknowns about the WHY of teen suicide. A good listing of factors can be found at:


But overall, statistics do little to help understand the crisis. Nationally, for example, stats show high school class sizes average from 8.5 students in Wyoming to 28.5 in Washington but without parallel suicide numbers.


That said, however, you've broached a critical issue with today's young people in this societal maelstrom. And it hasn't fared any better in the previous few administrations compared to the present. Perhaps it needs to be addressed far more from the PREVENTION mode than the PUNISHMENT.

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From the 1950s when I went to school, it was commonplace for teachers to bully students, and ridicule some kids they did not like for one reason or another. All students were subject to being caned or physically punished for not conforming or because the student was disruptive in class, but rarely because the student bullied other students. In hindsight, I remember that it was commonplace for masculine fathers to teach their young male children how to fight other kids. The father seemed to think that was their role in the family: teach the kid how to fight. 

In many families, this was done as part of the corrective beating of the wife as a lesson in how to treat a woman. If the child found that difficult, then either by example or instruction the child was taught how to become a drunken wife beater and by extension, a bully.

When the "home schooled" boy came home bruised and battered the father would intensify the lessons in schoolyard combat. These lessons turned out a child with internalised bullying personality, and often a conditioned response to authority, which the teachers of those days praised as being part of a successful education. This we can look at as being part of the training that was thought necessary in a time of social unrest such as war, and survival of the strongest amongst the children. We must not forget that tribal protections of the waterhole in prehistoric times were part of our evolution.

Of course, not every child had a father or teachers as I describe above, but the fear of difference or tribal conflict still influences parental and political forces in the way we raise and educate our children, and even the way we govern ourselves.

If parents try to protect their children by teaching them to fight or use their newly acquired fighting skills to bully other children then we have a formula for future tragedies in both the schools and our political environments. So, the children who have been taught to defend themselves with physical violence, or verbal abuse, of another child are likely to find themselves with violent skills that they misuse, that they do not yet understand that such violence is neither necessary or appropriate. Teach a child to defend themselves without compassion, without the accompanying restrictions on bullying, and you will likely create a bully.

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A major problem in the modern educational system is the size of the schools. I went to a school where there were under four hundred pupils. Yes, there were bullies but the teachers knew who they were and kept things fairly well under control. A friend has just retired from teaching at a modern comprehensive school. They had over two thousand students and she readily admits that she hardly knew any of them. She was aware that there was quite a bit of bullying in the school but, as she put it, 'we never knew the students well enough to know what was going on'. 

The thing is that school was in the town where I went to school. In my day there were three 'state' secondary school, one Catholic secondary school, one Church of England secondary school and two grammar schools. Now there is only a single comprehensive school for the whole area. All right, the students have a much broader curriculum that they can follow and they have much better facilities but all this has come at a cost. There is no longer the close interaction between staff and pupils that there was in the smaller schools. As my friend told me if a student did not take her particular subject, she was highly unlikely ever to learn the student's name, let alone anything about them.

Yes, large schools are a lot cheaper to run and can offer a wider range of subjects than smaller schools. However, would it not be better to put more money into the system and have smaller safer schools.

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I think the old ‘house’ system might be of great benefit in large comprehensive schools.  Call them ‘pods’ or ‘covens’ or by whatever educational jargon is currently fashionable, but a division of large school populations into subsets with staff trained and assigned to facilitate the civic well-being of these more manageable smaller communities might go far in detecting unrest and identifying bullying.


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2 hours ago, Merkin said:

I think the old ‘house’ system might be of great benefit in large comprehensive schools.  Call them ‘pods’ or ‘covens’ or by whatever educational jargon is currently fashionable, but a division of large school populations into subsets with staff trained and assigned to facilitate the civic well-being of these more manageable smaller communities might go far in detecting unrest and identifying bullying.




I am very much in agreement with Merkin on this. 

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That of course sets up a strong competitive environment within the school as a whole, each house against the others.  You Brits can speak to this better than we can.  Is this healthy on the whole, or divisive?  It would seem to me to create situations where, boys being boys, the strongest athletically and physically would have much more sway in the social fabric of the school and the weaker or less intense would be more subjected to the will of the stronger.  How does this work in actual settings?


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It depends on what basis the competition is encouraged. At the school I attended, and it was a working-class secondary modern school in a poorer part of the Black Country, only twenty percent of House points in the year could come from sporting achievement. They were split ten percent for team sports and ten percent for individual achievements. Ten percent came from academic achievement in each of the core subjects, English, English Lit., Maths, Science, History, Geography. Ten percent of the House points came from attendance, the final ten percent were for what would now be called social interaction. Basically, how polite you were in school, the after-school activities you took part in and your participation in out of school groups and activities.

Although one house could and usually did dominate the sporting activities between houses, they generally failed to win the House Competition because they spent so much time on their sporting activities that they failed on the academic and social side of things.

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By the way, Chris, a friend reminded me of something -- perhaps unique to Texas -- that changes the equation for me. A bit. As a result, I'll modify my disagreement and will okay higher payouts for bullying if the school is forced to pay it from high school football stadium tax monies! Just maybe along with serious anti-bullying programs.

The school districts have now topped out at $80,000,000 for a complex in Cy-Fair, TX, and I'm sure the costs will keep going up. Mind you, Cy-Fair is able so say it's much more than a mere jock house because in addition to the 12,000 seat stadium and 9,500-seat arena (i.e., basketball gym) there's also a whopping 456-seat theater. Equality at last! (Of course that requires 26 sell-outs of As You Like It per sold-out ballgame but such is life.)

And just maybe if that means they have to build the awesomadium elsewhere else, the jocks will migrate there as well and at least some of the bullies will migrate with them.

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4 hours ago, Cole Parker said:

And how much bullying was there?  Could the school control it?


Actually, there was very little bullying. I have to say I was probably one of the most likely targets when it came to bullying. I was, until my 4th year, one of the smallest boys in my year, I came from out of the area, so had not gone to primary school with any of the other boys there, and I had few real friends in the school. To make matters worse I was extremely not athletic and seen as something of a teachers' pet as I was constantly in the top three academically in each of the academic subjects for the year. The final nail in the coffin for me to be a potential victim was that I excused the two vocational classes we had (woodwork and metalwork) so that I could do typing, a class I had to go over to the girls' school for.

However, in my four years at the school, I can only remember one incident where I was a victim of bullying and that took place outside of the school. Even though I did not report it, the Headmaster knew about it the next day and the other boys involved were paraded in front of the school assembly and made to feel like right idiots.

One thing was that we had to wear a school uniform and the local community was very quick to phone up the school and report any incidents they saw which concerned anyone in the school uniform. The other important factor was that there were not the unsupervised spaces in the school where bullying could take place. Any area where a pupil might go was patrolled either by a teacher or a prefect.

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Thanks for that picture, Nigel.  And it's great to know you were safe at school.  I guess the schools there are much like those here: we have many where bullying has abated, and others where it still is a way of life.  

I've often thought the house system could be a great experience, or an absolute nightmare.  You're living cheek by jowl with all those other boys of like ages.  Boys with different personalities and capabilities and capacities.  I guess learning to survive comes first, then learning how to thrive. 

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3 hours ago, Cole Parker said:

I've often thought the house system could be a great experience, or an absolute nightmare.  You're living cheek by jowl with all those other boys of like ages.  Boys with different personalities and capabilities and capacities.  I guess learning to survive comes first, then learning how to thrive. 


Cole, I think there is some transatlantic confusion here. In Britain, specifically England, when we are talking about the house system in relation to schools we are not talking about boarding schools or even the residential houses within boarding schools. What is meant is an administrative division of pupils in a school into a number of units, called houses for the purpose of non-scholastic activities. Although the concept originated in the boarding schools, it was generally implemented in all state secondary schools in England until the late seventies, when it started to fall out of fashion, though apparently, it has come back into fashion again in recent years. 

The head of house, be it the housemaster or housemistress, would be the responsible party for anything concerning you that related to the school and was not the concern of a specific teacher, e.g. head of English. So, when I wanted to get a place in the bike sheds for my bike, it was my housemaster I had to talk to about it and he sorted it out for me. Again when I had a problem with the overall level of homework I was having to do on a specific night I again took this up with my housemaster.

The important thing about the head of house was that they stayed the same for your whole period at the school. Your form teacher and your subject teachers changed each year.   As such, they got to know you quite well and you got to know them well.

The house system works well where you have continuity of head of house over extended periods and the size of the houses is reasonable. At my school, each head of house was dealing with about one hundred students. That is manageable. The comprehensive which is local to me now uses the house system but each house has over five hundred pupils in it. There is no way that can work.

The important thing about the system, whether you call the units houses, pod or any other term, is that it breaks large student bodies down into smaller, socially manageable units.

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Cole, the system I am describing was how it was some fifty years ago. Unfortunately, in the 1960s there was a general move in the UK to the comprehensive system, which was based on the system in the States. Basically mixed ability schools with mixed ability classes. The argument in favour of it was that it provided equality of opportunity in education and allowed students to achieve in some subjects whilst they might not in other. However, the main driving force behind it was cost cutting. Rather than having four or five smaller schools with up to about seven hundred pupils in each you could have one massive school with a couple of thousand pupils. The administrative resources required for one large comprehensive was not much more than was required for one smaller school so you got massive cost savings. In addition, local authorities could sell off the land and property of the old schools for housing developments and industrial development.

Most of the new comprehensive schools were badly designed being built more along the lines of office blocks. As a result, they were hard to supervise and bullying became a problem. Fortunately, most of them are now badly in need of replacement and the new schools that are being built are being designed to minimise the opportunity in the school for bullying. Also, there is a move campus schools where age groups are located in different buildings across the same site, with separate specialist buildings for subjects taught across age groups.

Whilst many schools dropped the prefect system in the latter part of the last century it now seems to be coming back into use. A recent study showed that pupils felt safer in schools that used prefects than in schools that did not have them. With the re-introduction of prefects we have seen houses being brought back into schools which appears to be providing better support to pupils both in and out of school.

The main bullying problem these days seems to be cyberbullyin, which whilst school related is taking place out of school. 

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I wish we were as advanced with our educational thinking.  There has been progress.  Much bullying has been stopped.  Many schools have enlightened policies.  But not all.  We're a long, long way from all, and I don't know any public—for you read that private—schools that separate students by age.



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