What Do You Do When The Bully At School Is The Teacher?

I have kids who go to school every day here in Ottawa. My children are now in high school, and since they started in Junior Kindergarten (way back in the dark ages, according to them), they have been fed a steady diet of what to do when the bullies strike. But what do you do when the bully in question is your teacher? This is the dilemma in which we have found ourselves.

One child, whose name and gender will remain anonymous to avoid anyone figuring out who the whistleblower is, has been faced with this issue for the last few weeks. Luckily for our family, it is not our teenager, but another child in class who has been facing daily torment from the teacher – who is supposed to know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.

Finding out this information was a bit of a shock. After all, we normally assume that the bullies at school are other kids. So, what do you do as a parent when your child comes home and informs you that the adult in the room is the one causing the problem?

In this case, the teenager in our house was first asked to take notes about what was happening in class. Over the course of a few weeks, there was not a day that went by without the teacher in question making fun of this other student. Each night, I tried to convince my kid that the way to deal with this problem was to confront the teacher. When that suggestion was met with an outright “I can’t do that, he’s the teacher”, I encouraged him/her to go to another teacher, or to the vice-principal for help in dealing with the situation. That idea, not surprisingly, was also met with resistance.

While the main message to children for years has been to walk away, or to inform on their peers, bullies do not seem to stop their abuse unless they are confronted about it by the victim. My child wanted to stand up for a fellow classmate. This same teenager has, in the past, been the sole voice standing up against the bullying of other students. But in this case, the bully is a teacher, not a peer. At an age where teenagers are just starting to learn who they are, how do they find the courage to stand up to someone they have been taught is an authority figure to be obeyed?

When nothing changed after several weeks, I took the step of going to the vice-principal to ask her to look into things, explaining my kid’s concerns. Since I was not in the classroom where the bullying was taking place, my teenager was called in to give an account of things. The vp, while supportive of my child’s worries, explained that nothing could be done unless the one being bullied reported the abuse. So far, as far as we know, that has not happened.

And so, we find ourselves in the same position, still without an answer to the question. Still wondering what future ramifications there will be for the student being bullied, but also for the other kids watching this behaviour-will they think that it is ok for an adult to pick on someone simply because they are older?

Let’s hope not.