The Reversal of Roles

May 24, 2012
By Charlotte Boyle BRONZE, Darien, Connecticut
Charlotte Boyle BRONZE, Darien, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

There are four major words that are often mentioned under the topic of bullying: perpetrator, ally, victim, and bystander. Whenever I read about drastic cases of bullying in newspapers or magazines, most of the articles mention the school administration as bystanders. It seems that teachers see the bullying, but
rarely report it, and when the teachers, as authority figures, take passive stances, it looks like they are condoning the perpetrator’s actions.

The worst case though is when the teachers actually become the perpetrators. A boy in my twelve-year old brother’s class, David, left their school after being teased by a teacher. David’s homeroom teacher was the middle school Latin teacher, and in homeroom he would point to each student and declare what gender noun they were (masculine, feminine, neuter). This was at an all boys school, so everyone should have been “masculine”. The teacher, however, called every boy masculine except for David, whom he labeled “neuter”. Pretty soon, the other boys starting calling him “neuter” as well, and the situation escalated until it caused David to leave the school midway through the year. His parents were so infuriated by the school’s response that they pulled their two other sons out of the school before the year was done. Usually when someone leaves in the middle of the year, the full tuition still has to be paid, but in this case the school gave full refunds for all three children.

When I asked my brother about the situation, he replied that the teacher had not meant any harm, and it had initially started off as “a joke.” I think victims can have a tendency to laugh things off, not wanting to make a big deal of something that they think will stop soon. Especially in a boys’ school, where masculinity is important, no one wants to appear too sensitive. By not speaking up for his or herself though, in turn the victim becomes his or her own bystander. When the victim adopts a passive stance toward the taunting directed at him or her, other people are more inclined to see the perpetrator’s actions as harmless, maybe even funny. They might even join in on the taunting themselves, since it is easier to bully in groups where individuals do not harbor all of the responsibility. By initially laughing when his teacher called him “neuter”, the boy in my brother’s class probably did more to help perpetuate the label than to end it.

Judging from the school’s attempt to compensate David’s parents, it is obvious that the administration knows it should have responded better. Since the perpetrator was David’s homeroom teacher and the adult he would usually go to in these instances, the school felt unsafe to David. The school did not provide a safe environment or adult David could talk to for support. Kids should try and be allies for themselves, but teachers should also never condone bullys’ actions by taking a passive stance, and they should certainly never be the perpetrators.

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