by Frances Edstrom, columnist
Apparently, bullying is a problem in Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS),, according to a survey conducted by WAPS of staff, parents, and students. Is this really a surprise to anyone who has ever been to school? Even if you went to a school that had no minority students, or was all boys or all girls, there was bullying. When teachers and administrators are constantly walking on eggshells, it creates an environment in which bullying thrives.
Something that struck me when I read the Winona Post article (May 1, 2019) about bullying was what about the bullies? Who are these kids? Do we know if our kids are bullies, who beat kids up, verbally abuse them, sling around racial slurs? Do we know if our kids are “mean girls” who encourage others to shun particular students? Do we ever examine our children’s’ behavior? Do we ever ask them?
It’s been pointed out that many parents are much more permissive than in the past. It could be due to the fact that parents are just plain too tired after a long day at work to set boundaries and voice definite behavioral expectations. It could be they do not know how to do so. It could also be that parents are so intent on their children liking them that they have abdicated their roles as teachers and mentors.
That is not exactly a new phenomenon. When we were raising our kids, we were often frustrated when parents of their friends would refuse to set boundaries, making our kids think that we were being mean. I remember one phone call to a parent whose child was allowed to hang around down on the levee at dusk. We knew from police reports that the levee was often a place where unwise and often illegal activity was happening, and we weren’t anxious to have our kids down there. When we asked the other parent if it was true that his child was allowed to go down there, he replied, “Oh, well, what can you do?” I thought, but didn’t say, “You could man up!”
As a parent, I guess I always assumed that if my child was either being bullied or being a bully, I would hear it from the teacher. But when a school system doesn’t allow teachers to deal with behavior problems, and parents are aggressively opposed to hearing anything negative about their child’s behavior, we can’t assume that we will learn the truth. It’s no wonder teachers look the other way, or worse, become part of the problem.
We aren’t told how the public schools deal with bullying, however, as the superintendent declined to comment.
Perhaps a promised report on the subject will enlighten us. Until then, it may be time to enlighten ourselves about bullying. Could it be that our child is either a bully or a victim of a bully? It may be time to find out.