When I was in fifth grade, I changed schools mid-year. In my new reading class, our teacher, Miss Theodore, picked on one little girl named Maryann every day.
Picked on is an understatement. The teacher was relentless—and mean! It seemed like a vendetta. I remember feeling embarrassed, and even maybe ashamed.
I was the new kid, and was shocked that all the others seemed to think it was normal for this teacher to verbally abuse this poor little girl day in and day out. In fact, some days, she spent most of the hour complaining about how stupid Maryann was. Those days, not much teaching was going on.
For the entire year, 40 kids listened to a teacher beat up on poor Maryann. It became so commonplace that we learned that it was OK.
I can only imagine that is how the 13-year-old boy felt when his teacher participated in him getting dragged around his Kopachuck Middle School classroom in Gig Harbor, Washington. He was videotaped getting a sock shoved in his mouth, and chairs stacked on top of him. In some parts of the video the boy reportedly was trying to laugh and go along.
How could he not? At 13, we do not have the maturity to say "you're hurting my feelings." That's doubly true if you're a boy. His only recourse was to pretend it didn't bother him.
The teacher, John Rosi, who has been an educator for 18 years, opted for a suspension in order to save his job. Then when the other kids learned of Rosi's suspension, they blamed the victim. The little boy wanted to kill himself because he couldn't bear going back to school, his mom reportedly said.
Shame on you, John Rosi. Your claim that you didn't think it was bullying doesn't wash. The videotape shows Rosi putting the boy in a headlock and driving his head into the ground. Teacher also lifted a boy up by the ankles. Is there any surprise that the other children mimmicked the same behavior?
After 18 years, you should have known better. You've officially made it on my "deserves a smack" list.
One of many problems with bullying, and other forms of verbal abuse, is that the victim eventually starts to believe the nay-saying. If a person is constantly being told she is dumb or stupid, she is going to believe it. To this day, I can't imagine how Maryann must have carried that abuse with her—back then, and likely still today.
Abuse begets abuse. Bullying begets bullying. If we get bullied, we are likely to bully others.
Children need to be protected. And yes, a 13-year-old boy is still a child. He deserved protection from his teacher. The fact that the district lets the teacher continue is equally shameful.
John Rosi, your goal as the adult was to protect your students. That is a task that you failed at miserably.