When adults no longer tolerate bullying by adults, maybe there’s hope for the kids
It’s been a topic on these pages and elsewhere for a while now in the greater conversation in and around Unionville, with some regrettably nasty — and some might argue ironic — statements and comments, even on this site.
Is bullying a problem in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District? Without a doubt. Is it being addressed by school administration? Yes. Is it going as well as possible? No.
There’s a whole world of discussion about the current school district efforts — and they are legitimate efforts, even if flawed at times. I’m convinced — I’m a district parent — that the district is making a good faith effort to address the issue, but it isn’t one that can be fixed with a flip of a switch.
But there’s a bigger discussion to be had here.
There’s been a lot of talk decrying the bullying issue in our schools, but scarcely one word about the bullying issues in the greater community — by adults, bullying other adults. How can we expect students and school administrators to manage bullying among kids, when we, as adults can’t manage it in the wider world?
As a reporter, editor and publisher, I see it professionally. I see it in the third person — I’ve seen residents bully elected officials (actually, way too much of late) and much more rarely have seen elected officials bully community members, other elected officials or members of the media. I certainly saw it in my days in politics, too, from folks inside politics to just regular people, who did everything to me from spitting on me at the polls in Pocopson to one incident involving a firearm, while I was knocking doors in Delaware County a decade ago.
Does it still happen to me? Oh sure — and in a professional environment, I take it as a positive sign when it happens to me: it means I have the upper hand, as I’ve learned that bullying is a sign of fear and desperation. In most cases, said bully will crumple under a withering look and my making it clear I will stand my ground. On rare occasion, a bully doesn’t get the hint, and things get elevated. But again, if you can keep a cool head (not always easy for me, granted) you can ultimately get it across to the other person that they are playing a losing hand.
When I see it happening to someone else, I actually get madder and often use these pages to point it out.
In more personal situations, especially those when kids are involved, such as coaching youth sports, it’s more difficult. I’ve had to temper my reactions — when the other person melts down, you have to set aside your ego, and move quickly to quell the situation, for the kids’ sake. Generally speaking, virtually all of the serious behavioral problems I’ve seen in coaching have come from the parents, not the kids.
And to be clear, this is only a tiny percentage of the adults; most have been wonderful, like the group I had this past winter in Unionville Recreation Association basketball, all were delightful and highly supportive.
Keep in mind that URA had to stop using youth officials because they were getting verbally abused at times by adults. And I can’t tell you how many high school coaches Unionville has lost because of this same behavior. I’ve seen adults, during high school games, constantly berate the team’s coach — in some cases coaches with long, successful tenures — during games.
Teachers have been bullied by parents, too — I’ve heard enough stories and it makes you sick.
Again, it’s a tiny number of people, but we let it happen, and it sets an example for the kids. Parents who bully tend to have kids who bully. And when kids see us allow others to do it, to turn a blind eye, what do you think they do?
So while it’s all well and good to ask for accountability from the school district on bullying, first we must demand it from ourselves and admit, honestly, right now, we come up lacking.