Can I protect my daughter from bullies?

Last week and this week CNN and Anderson Cooper AC360° is featuring An Anderson Cooper Special Report – “Bullying: It Stops Here.”

Tonight, Friday, October 14 at 8 and 10 p.m. ET, Cooper hosts a town hall: “Bullying: It Stops Here”.

For as long at it is available on YouTube I highly recommend watching the October 5th episode. There is astounding video of what one child endures on the bus (in part 3 of 4) and a sickening video of a principal intervening in a active incident of bullying (in part 4). They are must-see videos (links below).

Be warned this show will likely make you sad and furious.

I have spent a lot of time discussing and role-playing with my daughter how to defuse the hostile situations that she encounters and may encounter in the future. It is important defuse them so they don’t escalate, but it is also absolutely essential that she feel that she can defend herself too. She has a series of responses that she uses to answer back to ignorant and hateful statements. She has crafted arguments on her own and with us to answer comments which come from a variety of loathsome discriminatory origins: religiously motivated bigotry, misogyny, physical disgust direct at LGBT individuals, etc.

Sometimes she quasi-jokingly says she will sock the perpetrator in the nose. Of course I make it clear that a violent response to a hostile situation is not okay, but truthfully after watching the videos of what these kids endure, I find myself thinking that she would be justified if she socked a bully in the nose.

At this point I do not trust that if she went to anyone at the school that they would be able to effectively deal with the situation. If schools cannot figure out how to productively address issues of diversity and bigotry before there is a incident on the playground, in the cafeteria, or on the bus, I have NO FAITH that they will be able to deal with it once it is happening.

One thing that becomes crystal clear from this program is that principals, teachers, all school staff need to be trained how to deal with this. They are clearly at a loss about how to respond.

How would school personnel know how to handle LGBT bullying if the school district, the school, and the principal have never made crystal clear what will and will not be tolerated? If there are no institutionally prescribed consequences for homo-prejudice before there are incidences of violence, how is a teacher supposed to have any power to do anything?

And how can we trust our schools to protect our kids when teachers like Viki Knox in New Jersey makes public statements about her own personal homo-prejudice? How many other Viki Knoxes are teaching in our school classrooms, but are smart enough not to out themselves as bigots on Facebook and Twitter? We are yet to see what will happen to her, but America would not tolerate a public school teacher in 2011 making racist statements on Twitter and Facebook because they were offended by Black History Month being honored in their school.

I now see that my daughter and I have to role-play and problem solve what she should do in a situation where an adult is as ill-equipped to handle LGBT bullying as the principal in the video in the AC360° October 5th episode. I need to make her aware that some teachers are bigots who cannot separate their prejudices from their obligations as educators bound by a duty to all students.

Her teachers say they love having her in class; they praise her polite and respectful demeanor. Yesterday at I even overheard my daughter thank the maintenance man for taking such great care of the school. I am happy that she is that kind of child, but I will not have her politely subject herself to ill-prepared, perhaps ill-intentioned, school personnel and their potentially destructive “interventions.”

I hope that Anderson Cooper AC360° and CNN will continue to make this episode available to the public. Allowing continued access to this material would be a real contribution to raising awareness about the lives of LGBT youth and the need to end bullying.

Here are the links:

“Bullying: It Stops Here,” part 1/4

“Bullying: It Stops Here,” part 2/4

“Bullying: It Stops Here,” part 3/4

“Bullying: It Stops Here,” part 4/4

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