After watching one of her students blow his nose on other students, push them down and call them inappropriate names, Nicole LeMire, a fifth-grade teacher at Glen Oak Elementary in Ohio, decided to discuss the incident in her classroom. She addressed the bully by saying, “Do you know how your actions and words are hurting other students and your friends?” From her own account of the situation, “That is all I said.”
It was after the bully’s parents reported the discussion that the school board claimed LeMire had displayed poor judgment in trying to resolve the incident. The board fired her at an open meeting in front of her supporters. District Assistant Superintendent Linda Martin said, “By encouraging an entire classroom of students to bully this one student, LeMire had gone too far.”
Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational philosophy at The University of Illinois is an expert on bullying. She tells us that publicly confronting a bully is exactly what teachers should be doing – “We want teachers to have an open conversation about bullying in their classrooms.” She stresses, at the beginning of the school year teachers should talk to their students about creating a class atmosphere that says We do NOT accept bullying.
Are we, as teachers, expected to turn a blind eye to bullying? Are we supposed to pretend we just didn’t witness bullying? What message would such actions have on the victims of bullying? If bullied kids don’t feel supported, then what? The incident that led to Nicole LeMire loosing her job took place in the United States, a country that presents itself as a land of laws and procedures. Transpose this incident to a country where wealthy parents intimidate school directors and manipulate legal systems to yield to their demands, and LeMire could well have found herself imprisoned, or worse!
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