The Other Bullying

This story has weighed on my mind since I read about it earlier this year:

On Thanksgiving, a grade-school gym teacher parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80/94 in northwest Indiana, got out of her Mercury SUV and walked in front of a moving semi truck.

The 32-year-old’s suicide shocked the tiny Ford Heights school district where she worked. In the days afterward, tension grew amid conversations by co-workers about what had happened and questions from the Army veteran’s parents. The turmoil peaked during a crowded meeting in December, when some teachers and school board members clashed.

The suicide note that Mary Thorson left centered on frustrations at the school, and her death spurred some of her co-workers to speak out at the public meeting.

Teachers described an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the two-school district, where little things snowballed over time.

“We don’t feel like we can speak out because we have been intimidated,” teacher Rose Jimerson said at the meeting. “We have signs all over the building about anti-bullying. … Our staff gets bullied.”

Mary Thorson was, tragically, driven over the edge. It is an edge too many of us find ourselves in the age of teacher bashing.

The same thing happened to Rigoberto Ruelas.

Between these two tragedies we see the two biggest culprits in the war on teachers: administrators and the media.

It is no coincidence that the media has made an issue of student bullying, a problem that has been around for ages, at the exact same time that they have taken to bullying teachers.

Can anyone say subterfuge?

Teachers, those who are actually in it for the long haul like Mary Thorson and Rigoberto Ruelas, were dedicated to the profession to the point where being a teacher was part of their identity. It is a tough thing for people in other lines of work, who usually frequently change careers, to understand. Being a teacher is who you are. It defines you. When people attack and insult teachers with words or actions, it is an attack on who we are as people. It is an attack on our very identity as human beings.

Sadly, it is tough to see how there will not be more tragedies like this in the future.

There is an online petition in Mary Thorson’s memory started by her father to stop the bullying of teachers. It is worth your signature, if for no other reason than a show of solidarity.

My heart goes out to Mary Thorson’s and Rigoberto Ruelas’ families. There are people who understand what is happening to teachers and fighting against it.

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4 responses to “The Other Bullying

  1. Michael Fiorillo

    Yes, there is this strange collective projection and psychosis – some of it strategic, some unconscious – whereby student bullying becomes the cause du jour, at exactly the same time when teachers are being bullied and demonized. Witness the recent spate of “perv teacher” articles in the local tabloids.

    it reminds me somewhat of the 1980’s, when there was an epidemic of child abuse accusations – many of them involving outlandish charges of satanism and the like – at precisely the time the Reagan administration was cutting budgets for child-related services, and there was an attempt to re-define ketchup as a vegetable, so as to water down school nutrition standards.

    There’s only one way to deal with bullies: stand up to them publicly. As a labor lawyer at the union I once worked at said, “Scratch a bully and find a punk.”

  2. Suicide is not something that should be used to push a political agenda with. The reasons for suicide are complex and nobody really knows why a person decides to take their own life. Even suicide notes do not give a sense of closure to the people around them as to “why”?

    This football player, Junior Seau, is the latest suicide that is in the news. I think it is simplistic and disrespectful to use a suicide as proof , in this case, that football (or some aspect or injury of football) caused his decision to take his own life. Nobody will ever really know and it is not a good idea to use a suicide as proof of any idea.

  3. What hope do the kids have when teachers give up, who wins then

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