Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is why the bullies win.

What happens when you give up and leave? Bully, one: subordinates, zero. And the match sets up again with a new target. Who will that target be? People are ducking into their cubicles so that it won't be them. Work is not accomplished to standard in a fearful atmosphere.

The bully tells us that "if you don't like it here, you can go somewhere else." Well, of course, that is true, but it can be turned around on the bully as well: "Hey, if YOU don't like it here, YOU can go someplace else. You are not welcome to stay here and make life miserable for others just so that you can feel powerful and almighty or feed some long-held psychological need you have for control. In fact, why DON'T you go? NOW!!"

Walking away without a fight was not an option for me. If I walk away, I know that someone else will have to endure the same treatment (predictably, the next principal continued the bullying). I could not walk away and set someone else up to endure that; it would make me complicit in whatever happened to them, if I could have done something to stop it. Perhaps the next victim will have to endure the "treatment" for the seven years it will take to get their kids through college or reach full retirement or whatever; perhaps they will not be able to "go someplace else." They will continue to be subjected to the abuse.

I am occasionally criticized for this course of action. "Why don't you just give it up and move on?" That is not the point; it is about staying engaged in the struggle for the justice that is due the employees of Edmonds. Civil rights were not won by people walking away from the struggle; they were won by staying in there. We fail if we do nothing; we succeed if we try. "Winning" is not necessarily part of the rubric right now. In one sense, we will never "win" as our principled stand has cost us $800,000, not to mention the sleepless nights.

In the book "Black Hole in the Blueprint," documenting the San Diego schools' purging of senior staff, the author notes the suicide of a school volunteer because, as his wife put it, he couldn't stand to watch the way the teachers were being treated. A VOLUNTEER.

The last time I mentioned the psychological effects of bullying in this manner, Limon issued the "no trespass" order against us. The truth will not be changed by such tactics, Mr. Limon. Bullying puts people at risk of mental and psychological problems; you cannot deny it. Banning us from speaking to our former colleagues about it will not change that fact. And remember, Ken, it was that faculty member who first came to me saying, "I see how you are being treated.." I didn't start the conversation, but rather was trying to follow it up by expressing my appreciation for their concern and supplying some factual information about depression and risk. YOU are the one who badly overreacted, not me.

What is reported to us here on the blog and through personal conversations is that the administration of the Edmonds Schools has a large problem with abuse of power. Whether it's pianos or contaminated property or bullying staff or ignoring school board policies or pornography on computers or workers not putting in a full day's work for a full day's pay, they all boil down to "abuse of power." There is no one watching the candy jar and those in power are taking advantage. If all you do is give up and walk away, the candy will continue to be taken.

It's gotta stop somewhere. There is a poster that hangs on the wall of many classrooms in the District: "Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone." Do we want to show our students and children what that really means or will we show them by our inaction that it's just so much BS?


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mark, for you well written statement regarding bullies. You continue to amaze me with your determination to change practices at the Edmonds School District. The Blog is making a difference, not only in awareness, but you continue to keep readers up-to-date on the progress of the issues within the Blog. I pray for you to keep going until issues are resolved. God Bless you for the stength and energy you put forth in the Weblog. said...

I am terribly sorry. I should have included the author's name. It wasn't me. It was Richard Reuther.

Note to District's legal counsel: The time is 12:54 and I am responding to an email message during my allocated lunch hour - which, because of my industrious nature, is normally closer to 15 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I might add that the teachers pay for those posters largely with their own money. Lots of inspirational words out there but unless we actually put them into action, they are just that-"words, words, words."-Hamlet II, ii, 196 Shakespeare.

Mark, thank you for the clarification. The story belongs to many in the District; I'm just the one who is able to write it without fear of workplace retaliation. Glad to be of service.

Anonymous said...

What has Duncan been up to lately? Haven't heard much from him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I made an error in the writer of the article, "This Is Why The Bullies Win". Mr. Reuther, you write excellent comments and articles as well. I can relate to your frustration; I too, was bullied out of the District.

Anonymous said...

In the past year, I have had close to a dozen people tell me that they have been bullied out of the District or into early retirement in the last few years. In most cases there is no reason for the bullying as far as the target knows. How many more are affected but silent?

The UK is way ahead of the US on this issue. They have acknowleged the damage that bullying creates and have changed their labor laws to reflect this understanding.

If your "management style" includes bullying people, you do not belong in management and you certainly don't belong in education. Period.