Home / Classroom Controversy / The emotional abuse of our children: Teachers, schools, and the sanctioned violence of our modern institutions.

The emotional abuse of our children: Teachers, schools, and the sanctioned violence of our modern institutions.

I want to start this article by doing a little thought experiment. Imagine for a moment that you are in a group of twenty people. In that twenty people there is a defined leader and that leader is responsible for motivating you, teaching you, and otherwise organizing group activities.  Things are going along OK but then at some point the group leader decides that they aren’t happy with the activities of the group. Some of you are going to the bathroom too much, some of you are too easily distracted, and others are simply not following the rules. You, in particular, are a problem for the group leader and so in an attempt to control your behavior and enforce “the rules,” the group leader singles you out and forces you to sit in the middle of the group on the floor for a week.

Forms of emotional abuse: ISOLATION Physical confinement; limiting freedom within a person’s own environment. The group leader says it is for your own good and that it will teach you life skills, but for you it is an emotional horror show. I mean, can you imagine the emotions that you’d feel? Singled out in a group of twenty, publicly labelled as a loser too stupid to follow the rules, the subject of derisive and degrading attention, isolated, even terrorized by the psychological horror, you’d be traumatized for a long period of time, maybe for life. And this would be true even if the group you were in was relatively supportive. Even if they downplayed the social isolation and public shaming, you’d still feel it at a deep level. We are social beings after all and as the great Robert Merton said, we get our self image in part by the way others see us. And if we think others are seeing us as some stupid loser (which is actually the intent of socially isolating someone in this fashion) then that is how we are going to see ourselves. And that can’t help but have a negative, disturbing, impact on us.

Forms of emotional abuse: DEGRADATION – Of course, chances are the “classroom” you happen to be in isn’t so supportive. Your illustrious leader has isolated you and degraded you in front of his or her charges, and they are likely to do the same. Human beings, children, adults, learn what is modeled to them, so if an authority figures models isolation, degradation, and abuse, chances are that the people watching are going to do it to. Sadly even when you leave the confines of the classroom, even when you leave isolation and re-enter the social fabric, degradation is going to follow you. This means that the deep psychological, emotional, even spiritual trauma of the initial event is going to be revisited on you over, and over, and over again. If this sounds like hell on Earth, you’d be right. Even adults buckle and break under the abuse of degradation. And its just gotten worse. Adults model emotional abuse to children, and children take the hammer and bring it down even harder. New social media like Facebook has made emotional and psychological terror a ubiquitous, and, sadly, inescapable, phenomena.

Forms of emotional abuse: REJECTION Refusing to acknowledge a person’s presence, value or worth; communicating (by word, deed, or example) to a person that she or he is useless or inferior; devaluing her/his thoughts and feelings. Of course the sad thing is, it is a lot worse than just your own personal feelings about it. The reality is most groups would not be supportive. A lot of psychological research in the sixties (look up Zimbardo’s prison experiments) showed very clearly just how ugly it can get for people who are publicly separated and isolated. People, even close friends and family, turn on you when an authority figure labels, isolates, and rejects. There can be a snow ball effect. First you sit in the middle of the room and feel bad, while the authority figures treats you with derision and disrepect. Then the people around you start to treat you differently. They laugh and point fingers and find other ways to isolate and exclude you. They avoid you at recess/coffee break, talk behind your back, titter and laugh and generally extend the boundaries created by the initial isolation.  Pretty soon you become a bonafied social pariah, avoided by all and excluded by many. Of course from a social control perspective the whole things works very well because having experienced that kind of trauma once, you’ll never want to go through it again, and so for sure you’ll jump into line and tap along with the tune provided (either that or you’ll confirm to the anti-authoritarian stereotype). But of course once you’ve been labelled and humiliated, rejected and degraded the long term emotional damage is done and all that left to do is find a good therapist.


Talking about it now you can see, it just can’t be a good thing and as an adult experiencing something like that you’d probably (hopefully) recognize the abuse for what it was and leave the group. I’d certainly encourage it.  Research (see below) shows that people who experience emotional abuse have problems with anger, attachment, bonding,  emotional responsiveness, and have problems applying even basic social skills. How damaging would that kind of public isolation and rejection be for you if you actually put up with it? So if you’re experiencing something like that, get up and walk away. And if you see someone else experiencing it, stand up and challenge the behaviour.

Forms of emotional abuse: PUBLIC HUMILIATIONExposing a person to unwanted attention; using social exposure to manipulate and control; encouraging others to exclude and harass. Now of course, saying it like this makes a solution to the problem seem relatively easy, just get up and walk away. But now imagine that the team leader has authority over you. Imagine that your group leader actually had the power to confine you to that “box” in front of twenty of your friends and colleagues. It would be bad enough to begin with, but it would be even worse under conditions of force and duress. Not only could you not get up and leave no matter how you were feeling, but all the negative emotions would be amplified to that point that even a tough, independent, adult might succumb to the damaging effects of the abuse. It is not even too much to say that a sensitive adult may experience post-traumatic stress. After all, being shamed in a public space is a traumatic event by any standards.

Outcome of emotional abuse: Emotional abuse of children can result in serious emotional and/or behavioural problems, including depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement, and poor social skills. One study which looked at emotionally abused children in infancy and then again during their preschool years consistently found them to be angry, uncooperative and unattached to their primary caregiver. The children also lacked creativity, persistence and enthusiasm. Indeed, children who experience rejection are more likely than accepted children to exhibit hostility, aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviour, to be extremely dependent, to have negative opinions of themselves and their abilities, to be emotionally unstable or unresponsive, and to have a negative perception of the world around them.

So, if you are following along with me now you are probably thinking that this form of bald faced abuse of power and authority is something that we, as a civilized modern society, should be able to do without. There’s lots of way to motivate people without resorting to either physical or emotional abuse. In fact, as anybody with a clue will tell you, physical and emotional abuse are horrible motivators leading to far more problems than they solve. So imagine now that we take this box thing and do it to children in school. Imagine you have a twelve year old daughter and imagine the teacher has threatened that child that if they don’t behave and live up to expectations, they are going to have to sit on the floor for a week. You remember what school is like, and how horrible children can be to each other. I imagine that a psychologically and emotionally defenseless child would be TERRORIZED by even the thought of that sort of public display and humiliation. You can imagine the damage done should the child actually be forced, by the teacher, to submit to the public humiliation. Self esteem would take a hit, their social network would probably crumble, and the effects would no doubt trickle out into the schoolyard in ways to innumerable to enumerate in this short article. Schools have a hard enough time dealing with bullying to begin with without teachers painting a target on a child’s back in this fashion.

Now I know what you are saying, no school would ever do something like this. I mean, we now know that emotional abuse is bad, and we know that isolation, rejection, and public shaming is emotionally abusive, and we would never allow our teachers to engage in it. Shockingly however, emotional abuse is a problem in school. As a parent I have had to go to bat for my kids several times. For example, my son’s teacher put his name on a board and publicly humiliated him for not doing his work properly. When I told her that her public humiliation was making him feel bad, all she could say was that if he wanted to avoid the bad feelings, he’d have to perform to her expectations. I was shocked that she seemed so unconcerned about his feelings, and when I pointed this out to the principal, and when I said that as an adult post-secondary teacher it was against the law for me to even post student ID numbers in a public space because I was not allowed to violate their right to privacy and safety (in Alberta FOIP laws protect adults from this sort of public exposure, so why not children??), he said that the classroom was hardly a public space. But of course, it is a public space! Not only does everybody in the school get to see how my son is doing, but parents of the kids that go to the school can have a look as well, so I don’t know where he got his “not a public space” comment, ’cause clearly it is. And that’s not even the worst of it you know. Last week my daughter came home and said that her teacher told her that if she didn’t perform as  expected, she might lose her desk “privileges” and have to sit on the floor for a week.

I’m not kidding.

If my twelve year old daughter can’t “make the rent” in her classroom, her teacher is going to identify, isolate, ridicule, and publicly humiliate her by taking away her desk and forcing her to sit on the floor in the midst of thirty of her school age peers. And while her teacher says that it probably won’t be a problem for my daughter, I am horrified nonetheless that even the threat has been issued. I mean, this same teacher, and this school principal, would never ever in a million years think they could pull a stunt like this with adults (can you imagine how upset the teaching staff of the school would be if I put their names and pictures here, put them in a box in public, and held them up for public shaming and ridicule? Furious they’ll be. I’m sure it will be bad enough that I’ve just pointed at them in this fashion), so why are the feelings of our children so irrelevant that they do not even register on their radar? Frankly I feel sorry for the three kids she’s done it to in the past. I mean, I’ve read the research, I am counselor by trade, I am aware of how profoundly damaging something like this can be, and frankly I am shocked that professional teachers seem unaware of basic psychological research. I hate being such a boisterous critic, but this is important. The research shows this kind of thing undermines creativity, damages productivity, and causes social problems. As a society we’re always looking for ways to save money so if these practices undermine our global competitiveness and cost us in terms of damaged creativity, lower productivity, and the cash dollars it takes to deal with social problems, then on those grounds alone we should be up in arms over this kind of nonsense. If you ask me though, protecting our kids from emotional harm is reason enough.

Bottom line?

If our education system is turning out teachers and administrators who don’t think twice about emotionally abusing our children, and if as parents we can’t see that abuse, and don’t stand up to stop it, then we as a society, got a problem.

What can you do?

Since writing this article I’ve got a lot of email from parents whose kids are experiencing emotional abuse at school, and teachers witnessing their colleagues perpetrating abuse. If you are a parent, here are some things you can do.

  1. First thing you should do is educate yourself about the horrible consequences of all forms of child abuse. The internet has made that sort of thing easy, and I regularily post articles on this site discussing the consequences of what I would call Toxic Socialization. See for example this article on the long term consequences of child abuse.
  2. Second, talk to the teacher. If that doesn’t work, talk to the principal. Teachers and administrators often don’t see their actions as harmful so part of your job is to educate them about it. Print out this article and show it to them. Be confident when you approach them and make it clear to them that you feel they are hurting your children.
  3. Pay attention to the initial reactions of teachers and principals. In some cases they’ll be sympathetic, but in other case they will react in strange ways. If you sense a note of weirdness, I strongly recommend recording any conversations and keeping any email transcripts you have. Tell them you want to record. If they refuse, refuse to meet or insist on email. And don’t let them tell you that email is no good, and they’d rather do it in person, because in person is better, because it is not. Email is the best way to discuss things happening at school because it allows you time to calm down, think, and consider, and it provides you with a legal record of anything they say to you.  It is because of the record it provides that some school administrators, the ones who act weird, don’t like it. At some level they know what they are doing is wrong, don’t let them hide that reality away.
  4. If the school doesn’t allow you to record the conversation, do it anyway, but check your provincial and state laws first. In many locations it is totally legal to record conversations as long as one person knows about it. In some states, no. Don’t do anything illegal in your area, but do whatever it takes to protect your kids.
  5. If you can’t get no satisfaction, and if you are able, or if your kids are old enough to be home alone, pull your kids out of school temporarily. Send an email to the principal telling them what’s happening. Tell them to arrange for your child’s work to be sent home and then allow your kids to do the work at home.  Tell the principal and the teacher that your child won’t be coming back until they have sorted out their abuse. If the principal threatens you with truancy action, tell him to “bring it on.” Say you’re happy to go talk to a judge and tell the judge why you’re pulling your kids out. Nothing stops an an abuser faster than the possibility they might have to explain their abuse to others.
  6. If that doesn’t work, and you have the option, pull them out of school permanently and home school them. You’ll have to check the options that are available to you but it is becoming more and more of a viable possibility. My kids are now fully home schooled and they love it. They aren’t exposed to the abusive students or the abusive teacher, they are happier, healthier, and are doing way better than before. There are challenges, of course, and as a parent you have to have the time and the resources to do this, but if it is an option, consider it. The more people who do this, and the more we are vocal about why we are doing it (abusive schools), the more schools will be forced to think about, and change, their actions and behaviours.
  7. Publicly humiliate your school. Download this article, write a short paragraph about what is happening to your children, and send it to your local media outlets. We all know the outcome of chronic bullying can be horrible violence, either self inflicted in the case of suicide, or inflicted on others in the case of school shootings. Remind your media contact of the long term consequences of emotional abuse and see if a little media attention doesn’t shame the bullies into stopping. At the very least the media attention will draw other concerned parents and teachers out of the woodwork.
  8. If you have the resources, talk to a lawyer. It is becoming increasingly easy to build a case for serious long term damage caused by teachers abusing in schools. It will take just one successful lawsuit against a teacher that abuses your child, or a school that enables it, to really start to change things.
  9. Build a website and sue the schools. The quickest way to stop all this is to build a website and populate it with articles and research that proves damage. Once this is done lawyers and litigators have a resource they can use to argue for damages! It won’t take more than a law suit or to force legislators and lawmakers to make it illegal for schools to abuse our children. It can cost as little as 20 dollars a month for a website, and research assistants tasked with collecting, collating, and summarizing articles  can be had for $20.00 an hour or so. A few thousand dollars is all you would need. I will personally help anybody who has the time and resources to do this in any way I can.

Of course, sometimes as parents we don’t see what’s happening to our kids at school, but teachers often do. If you are a teacher and you witness emotional abuse, here are some things that you can do.

  1. VIDEO! Everybody has video these days so if you witness something, videotape it and put it online or send it to the media (usually online is better these days). The trick here is to EXPOSE, EXPOSE, EXPOSE. Don’t just stand there, fire up the smart-phone and change the world.
  2. If you can, let the parents know. Quietly talk to them at the next school gathering and let them know what you see.


Since writing this article a few years ago it has attracted alot of attention from parents, students, and teachers. Recently it has been picked up by Educational Testing Service in the U.S.A. It is to be used in their teacher certification materials. The contract I signed specified a license for 50,000 teachers over the next ten years! A lot of student teachers will be reading this article over the next decade. I have to say, when I wrote the article I had no idea the life that it would take on.

Up until now, the discussion generated by the article has been, I feel, constructive. However recently it is attracting some very negative commentary, always from teachers (or people claiming to be teachers) in the K12 system. These teachers display anger, hostility, and defensiveness, act like I am attacking them personally, suggest that I have a particular vendetta against teachers, and even call me names like “idiot”. I can see why some teachers would be angry with this article. However, I would like to assure any teacher reading this article that I have nothing against teachers. Like everybody I’ve had both good teachers (I actually ascribe my success in University to the intervention of a single, caring, English teacher) and bad teachers. I have had teachers who have supported me, and I have teachers who have engaged in profound and devastating acts of emotional and psychological abuse. I even had a teacher who sexually molested the girls in my grade eight class. He went to jail, but the damage is done.

I think teachers as a whole often do an amazing job within the political, economic, and social limits within which they must act. However, unless one wants to make the case that the school system as it is works perfectly for all those involved, unless one wants to argue that all teachers are necessarily perfect in all respects and never hurt children, and unless one wants to dismiss the growing list of student/parent accounts of bullying by teachers listed in the comments section below, there is no ground for defense.  Kids suffer in schools just like they suffer at home. To deny this is to deny the victims a voice and to undermine and subvert the possibility of open discussion and necessary change.

Of course, parents and students also have to be accountable. Abuse and neglect in the home often translates to misbehaviour in schools. Parents can deny it if they want, but it happens. I am a parent and unfortunately I cannot claim perfection. I had my first child when I was nineteen and I was not emotionally or intellectually equipped to deal with that. I myself was dealing with the abuse and neglect in my own childhood, I was immature, and as a result the poor child experienced years of abuse and neglect.  I feel bad about it even to this day, and even worse because there is nothing I can do to fix it, but it happened. I have two teenage children now and even though their childhood is a vast improvement over my own, or even my first born, we still struggle as parents. We are not perfect and we make mistakes. I feel bad about the way we treated my first born, but we are very proud that we grew and did better with a subsequent cohort.

Anyway, I don’t want to ramble on. My main point here is that we’re all perpetrators of abuse at some point. There is no sense in denying that, no sense in judging each other as a result, and no sense in getting worked up over an open discussion. I became a better parent, and a better teacher, by admitting to my failures and weaknesses (denying was such a waste of energy anyway), by talking to therapists, teachers, even my own children about it, and by searching around for ways to improve my understanding of human beings in general, and children in particular. We worked hard to translate greater awareness and understanding into better behaviour. I am hardly perfect in this regard even today, but I am a much better parent now as a result.

If this article amounts to anything, I would like it to be a catalyst for awareness, discussion, and change. Whether you are a parent, a student, or a teacher, take what you read here and listen. Listen to parents anguish and confusion over the abuse their children experience. Listen to the teachers struggle as they try to do good within a system that is underfunded, under supported, and arguably broken.  Listen listen listen and when you are satisfied you have heard, discuss, think, and make change.  We need to do it and we need to do it now because our children are suffering, and we are to blame. We are raising generations of damaged children. It is horrific to think about it, but every single girl that my daughter has connected to since she was ten has revealed an emotional disorder to her (depression, cutting, suicidal ideation)!  She has friends as young as twelve who are already on antidepressants. This is not normal; this is a sign of serious societal dysfunction. True, parents and teachers are not the only ones to blame here (we can draw in the media, corporations who continually pimp products, a political system that privileges every other form of spending over education, and so on), but we are still front line agents of socialization and we have a duty to make it better for our own children, and for all future generations. There is no excuse.

So, if you are a teacher and if reading this article makes you want to lash out at me, take a deep breath. I am not blaming and judging anybody, and I am certainly not wanting to shame and punish teachers for “misbehaving” in the classroom. I know the negative emotional impact this has and I think we all got to stop doing it to each other. I am simply saying, there’s a problem and we need to fix it. We fix it by a) becoming aware of it, b) talking about it, and c) coming up with positive, inclusive (for parents, teachers, and students) solutions. It is time to end the suffering and abuse. Our children and our children’s children are depending on us getting this right once and for all.




Dr. S.
November 2, 2015



Brendgen, Mara, Wanner, Brigitte, & Vitaro, Frank (2006). Verbal Abuse by the Teacher and Child Adjustment from Kindergarten Through Grad e6. Pediatrics, 117: 5.

Hyman, Irwin & Snook, Pamela (1999). [amazon_link id=”0787943630″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dangerous Schools. What we can do about the physical and emotional abuse of our children[/amazon_link].

Krugmen, Richard D. & Krugman, Mary K (1984). Emotional Abuse in the Classroom: The Pediatrician’s Role in Diagnosis and Treatment. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 128: 284-286.

Moeller, James R. (2002). The Combined Effects of Physical, Sexual, and Emotional Abuse During Childhood: Long-term Health Consequences for Women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 17(5): 623-40.

Cite This Article

Dr. S. (2012). The emotional abuse of our children: Teachers, schools, and the sanctioned violence of our modern institutions.. The Socjourn. [http://www.sociology.org/the-emotional-abuse-of-our-children-teachers-schools-and-the-sanctioned-violence-of-our-modern-institutions/]

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Michael S. (Dr. S.) is a scientist, sociologist, author, mystic, and mystical poet whose interests are human psychology, human society, spirituality, consciousness, global pedagogy, and global transformation. He's busy writing about a dozen books all of which are aimed at enlightening the people and transforming the planet in line with the purpose, and for the benefit of, All. For more from Michael, visit michaelsharp.org, sociology.org, or his personal favorite, The Lightning Path.


  1. “f my twelve year old daughter can’t “make the rent” in her classroom, her teacher is going to identify, isolate, ridicule, and publicly humiliate her by taking away her desk and forcing her to sit on the floor in the midst of thirty of her school age peers”

    Indeed, step out of line little girl and you will face the dire consequences of exclusion, isolation, public humiliation…what else? Our eductation system trains our children well for their future as submissive adults. It’s like a subliminal mental coercion to obey at all costs or else indoctrinated at an early age.

  2. Great article. I really appreciate the soc journal there is a lot of interesting articles on here that make me think and have opened my eyes.

    It is good you stand up for your kids like that but you must get so frustrated and want to pull them out. The teachers probably look at you as being the crazy one. It’s so obvious to me now how much abuse we get subjected to at home, at schools etc, everywhere we should be protected.

    The singled out kids are treated differently, I remember one boy when I was 6 or 7 maybe, who always got in trouble. When he swore, the teacher would disrupt the class, take him into another room and wash his mouth out with soap. He would cry. Everyone looked at him to be a trouble maker and I know everyone had an opinion of him without really knowing him. I am pretty sure we probably laughed about it sometimes. No one would have thought about the impact this kind of treatment would have had on him.

    I was a ‘good’ kid, but I even look at how teachers treated me which would have made other kids feel bad. Sometimes a teacher would require two students to go to every classroom in the school to get a card signed by all the teachers, I got to do this a lot because I was a favourite. This would have even made other kids feel bad, or jealous, or even have negative thoughts about me. This kind of activity should have been rotated around the whole class.

    But then the children abuse each other. You are singled out if you perform well, singled out if you perform bad, teased if you don’t look a certain way, teased if you don’t do certain things. Kids want to fit in so you want the ‘cool clothes’, the expensive name brands. You might start smoking in the toilets, or one stupid things kids used to do at my primary school is get a wad of toilet paper, wet it and throw it up on the ceiling where it stuck. I got teased for being flat chested, and for having big eyes. I used to hate public speaking aswell, doing book reviews when you are about 10, having to stand in the middle of the class terrified me.

    Then in high school I got teased for apparently having a big fore head. Not by many, only a couple who were supposedly ‘friends’ but you never want to feel different when you are school. Then you have your cliques, the nerdy groups, the popular groups. I was an in betweener, I spoke to everyone I didn’t care if they were nerdy or popular. None of that crap matters once you leave school, except the damage it causes to the individual in how they view themselves.

  3. Hi Kristy, that crap does matter when you leave school. It is what you have learned in school about hierarchy, exclusion, the formation of groups, differential rewarding (i.e. only the “winners” get trophies) that forms the basis of The System. I had a talk with a vice-principal a couple years ago about this and I’ll write an article soon about it.

    • Hi Dr. Sosteric,
      I just today am reading this article (finding my way here as I have come to my wits end on how to “control” my 3rd grader about his classroom behavior; apparently it is assumed that I can somehow telepathically do this from work and when I’m not around him), and was curious to know if you ever did publish the article highlighting your discussion with a vice principal which you you make reference to above. If so, please let me know the link – I’m pretty anxious to read this. Thank you and thank you for your commitment to society and these causes. Only through learning our faults and shortcomings as human beings can humanity progress in a positive way.

      • I am Ophelia…All this has been going on with my 8 yr old for the past 3 yrs..abuse by teachers, lunch ladies, bus driver…and everyone else in between, takes turns with my 8 yr old’s emotional stability, so much so as a result of all the abuse, he has developed a nervous tic…
        Please try reaching out to me as soon as you can via my email…I am ready to seek legal help? I have been taping these people for the past four years…they will not be able to explain any of this in court…I thought I was crazy, I went online, only to find out after reading your article…that I am not.

  4. If schools reflect society in a micro level it may be “normal“ to see the kinds of realtionships that we see in society right there in the classrooms. Be that as it may, schools use a well known system of prize and “some kind of punishment“ for the ones who discard rules or are not able to follow them or are bad at some way. Inequality is the problem we come across at schools and it is something that is not adjusted with democratic values, ideals of free society, society of free individuals where children have the right to be free and sponetaneous as much as the grown-ups allow. Fortunatelly, children always try to push the limits but , on the other hand the grown-ups must give their best to provide them opportunities to express themselves and their, somewhat juvenile ideas and needs. This hostile enviroment that is latent in schools manifets itself in some ways that are described in this post. But what I think is more important is to see whether the school and the education system achieves socialization even with these kinds of negative phenomena, that are indeed real manace and trouble for the young. Namely, children can behave very cruelly and some teacher can perform inadequatelly or even negligent, or worse, but let us not forget that every school is a “society’s nursery “and the group life and coexistency we have there mostly mimic “real“ life relations. School is not the perfect place to send our kids but the best we have in a sense that it provides the variety of actions, relationships, happennings and experiences that would otherwise stay unavalibale to the young. It is a harsh world we live in and concerning this fact, schools are doing very well, in my opinion. Of course, emotional abuse and any kind of suffering that can be felt by the young should be dispelled out of schools. The word `school` come from the Greek language and it means leisure or free time, it is the time when we choose what to do not being tied up with obligations and systematic pressure. Maybe the problems lies in bureaucratization of scholls and industrial-like principle that seeks products and production process, in this case knowledge and people. People are just factionally and i some respect susceptive to these kinds of influences, and up to a point. This crisis is surelly the crisis of identity amonst teachers and pupils , as well, but nobody must not ruin anybody’s life for mere trivial reasons or caprice. Let us ask, what is the power the grow-ups have regarding the youngs, and what kind of division is that. School as an institution has its dark sides, just as any other factor of socialization, it is all left on behavlf of individuals who behave in a proper manner and reasonably and the vice versa.

  5. Reading for a literature review in my sociology course. ]:3

  6. hi dr. sosteric!! how about this. emotional abuse against a studdent who is forced to stand up in a high school math class, and told that he is stupid. or a college professor telling me to shut up because I talk to much. High school in michigan, is like being in prison. how about sitting in the principles office all day, for no reason at all. you pile up alot of these and you have an emotionally abused child. sometimes you can be isolated, even though you are part of the group.
    great article. Robert

    • Yes, that is absolutely correct. Robert, we all very sensitive beings, living in a very sensitive body, and that body (while quite resilient), is nevertheless very easy to damage. Even ugly words undermine its integrity. Hurt the body a little and it activates defense mechanisms to protect itself. Hurt it enough and the defense mechanisms are undermined, and real damage occurs. you can ALWAYS heal the damage, especially if you know what you are doing, but it takes some time. The biggest obstacle to healing is often simply trust. Take your typical abused child, who are they ever going to trust? Their parents failed them, their teachers failed them, the psychologists and other professionals failed them, and now they don’t trust anybody. I can understand why. They don’t want to open themselves up to more hurt, they don’t trust that “professionals” have anything useful to say to them, and they are most often right. But at the same time, if they cross paths with an authentic healer (and not juts one of the millions of charlatans out there) who has a clue, then there is a danger they’ll skip right on by. Any authentic healer knows, the first thing you have to do is establish trust.

      p.s., what do you think of this song by Taylor Swift. It is called mean and it is about abuse. it is such an amazing song.

      • Also, Dr. Sosteric,
        I am located in the New York metro area. I really like your way of thinking. I would be interested in and open to my child talking to a “professional” about what might be bothering him. He has in fact started having some behavioral issues at school. I suspect this is because his teacher is always on his case, makes note of his behavior in front of his classmates and so on and so forth. I have yet to see one example of positive reinforcement (no smiley faces on his homework, no encouraging notes home, nothing). I do get the sense that he feels singled out. He is a bit chatty and over-excited some of his peers have even called him weird. He is a highly intelligent child, but as is often the case with this population, also highly sensitive. Please, if you yourself are in the NY area and are in practice please let me know. Otherwise I would be grateful if you could make a trusted recommendation for a colleague or two in the area that you think might be able to help. FYI – I don’t believe in medicating so I want to avoid that route. So much can be accomplished through digging into and working through one’s feelings.

        Thank you!

  7. Are any of you teachers? Have any of you gone through teacher training in this country? Just curious as to what an educator’s perspective would be…

  8. I have taught young undergraduate students, and you can see the emotional peril on their faces when they start universities. At Wayne State University, a lot of time is taken up trying to make the student comfortable, with an initial university experience. I might be wrong but maybe #3 should read Erving Goffman’s books “Presentation and self in every day Life”, and maybe “Stigma” Maybe Dr. Sosteric (a Great professor) could help me with number #3. As far as teacher training, everyone goes through it, when you step into that classroom for the first, second, third time. Robert

    • Yes, like going to college and having to tow the liberal political line or risk not matriculating: like not wanting to step a the name of Jesus written on a price of paper. You’re part of this same crap: only when it suits you is it postcolonial imperialism, but if it’s to trod on the values of conservatives, it polictically correct. Shame on you. And yes, there is a difference between winners and losers.

  9. I’m reading this article for my sociology class, and I just want to say that I don’t agree with it at all. Sure, isolation can be emotionally abusive, but only to a certain point. The idea that it’s humiliating to have your name written on the board for failing to complete your homework is a bit ridiculous. I mean, c’mon. When I was in second grade, my teacher did the same thing, but nobody in my class felt humiliated about it. For one, no one really laughed at or pointed fingers at someone whose name was on the board, and even if they did, it was nothing to be ashamed about. I had my name on the board at one point, but in no way did I feel embarrassed.

    Also, did you ever stop to think that teachers only tell students they’ll lose their desk privileges in attempt to motivate them to do well? It’s better to threaten someone so they perform well rather than to baby someone and have them continue to do poorly.

    I’m sorry, but people who feel humiliated and emotionally abused from such minor incidents such as the ones stated above need to toughen up.

    • Gregory, how the hell do you know that “nobody felt humiliated by it.” How the heck can you speak for everyone in your second grade class? Better yet, how dare you speak for all the children in your school in this fashion. How do you know what your classmates might have felt? I certainly know you’re not speaking for my kids because they have felt humiliated and hurt by these sorts of practices. It hurt their feelings and unless I want to be insensitive and uncaring towards their feelings, ignoring them or telling them to “toughen up and not have feelings,” then that’s enough to stop it. Its just like hitting somebody else. It hurts, it should stop. Just because its “emotional” doesn’t mean its any less hurtful. In fact, quite the opposite. Emotional neglect and emotional abuse is far more damaging that physical abuse. The consequences linger on for decades.

      As for losing their desk privileges, that’s just barbaric. You would never do that to an employee, or a colleague, or anybody else, and if you did you’d be charged. Fear of abuse is not an acceptable motivator and if you think it is, then as a therapist my questions go immediately to your family of origin and I wonder what sorts of emotional and physical abuse you have experience, and how it has been normalized in your life. Its is simply not better to threaten people to perform. That’s abuse, abuse, abuse. Hitting someone, hurting them, hitting them, calling them names, or publicly shamming them to get them to perform is abuse, abuse, abuse.

      You know, when I did my undergraduate degree two decades ago university professors could not put names on boards in this fashion. Marks used to be available on doors (back before computers) but names could never be put up. Why? because people found it offensive, unnecessary, embarrassing, and invasion of privacy, and unnecessary. Nowadays when it comes to adults, its even enshrined in law. In Alberta where I teach FOIP laws make it illegal to share private information about people in public spaces? Why? Because it is offensive, unnecessary, embarrassing, and an invasion of privacy. Professors can get into real trouble for doing the sorts of things that you are suggesting as a matter of course.

      So my question to you Gregory is, if we can’t do stuff like this to adults, who are presumably more emotionally mature than children, why do we think its OK to abuse our children in this fashion? What makes you think its cool to tell a six year old child being emotionally abused by their teachers or parents to “toughen up.” Why is OK to threaten innocent and defenseless children with horrible exclusionary practices like losing their desk? If you did that to an adult, you’d be sued. But if you do it to children, who are weaker, who have no legal recourse, who haven’t got the power to speak out, and who are in sensitive periods of development, it is worthy of a medal.

      Are you serious?

      I’m sorry, but people like you need to take a good hard look at yourselves and why you feel its OK to engage in emotional bullying of little children. The last thing our children need to hear is to “toughen up” and to stop feeling. I don’t care if you’re male or female, your feelings count and if somebody is hurting them, you have to make them stop. And if you ask them to stop and they tell you to “toughen up,” “man up” or in any way encourage you to put up with the abuse, then that person is probably a bully finding excuses to blame the victim (oh you’re so weak you can’t handle a little punch here and there) in an attempt to make themselves feel good about their bullying practices. But call a rose a rose, and a bully a bully.


    • Gregory, I am not as well educated as many of the people in this thread; I am still in community college. I just want to say that I remember feeling like I was going to throw up every time a teacher put my name on the board for missing an assignment, or publicly scolded me, or made me miss recess because of my poor attendance, which was due to my dad’s work schedule being so difficult that he had to take my brother and myself to work with him. The education system treated us poorly, though we had no alternative to the situation. My teacher sent me home with a report card at the end of the years saying I would be held back for 2 Fs, even though all of my standardized testing was good. I remember standing in the school yard with my friend and her mom, crying while my friend’s mom looked at my report card (my dad couldn’t be there due to work). She pulled me behind her and marched into the classroom, yelling at my teacher. He then said he only put that there to “shock” me into applying myself, and that I was being moved to the next grade due to my test scores. I was in 3rd grade, and my poor grades were due to the previously mentioned lack of attendance. The next year I had no friends in my grade, due to being made to sit in for every recess I was at school for in the previous grade. I begun spending my recesses in the library reading books alone, as the other kids had begun to find taunting me fun. I had gum stuck in my hair, I was pushed, my things were stolen, and I was seen as a problem kid even though I never spoke out in class. When a boy physically attacked me on the play yard, I kicked him in the ballsack, and his mom (yard duty) ran up, and threw me to the ground. I don’t know where she was when he started the altercation by throwing a basketball at the back of my head, and pulling me back by my hair, but apparently she missed all of that, and wouldn’t believe otherwise. Another yard duty rescued me, and asked me if I meant to kick him. She said if I said I hadn’t meant to hit him, I wouldn’t get in trouble. I told her I meant to kick him, I just didn’t mean to hit him in the privates, since I kicked at an angle and couldn’t see him well. A week of suspension, and the boy got nothing. His mom got fired though. Jump ahead to middle school. I have no idea how to socialize with other people, and I am scared of them. In a crowd, I start feeling like I may throw up-I am still in school with all of the classmates who used to tease me, and it didn’t stop. At least my friends from my after school program were there (They were in different elementary schools before). I am no longer quiet when a teacher tried to shame me about my work, though now I am not doing it by choice. I argue the point, I even ruined an English assignment on purpose by informing my teacher that The Giver is part of a series, and that the boy and the baby live at the end, and have a village where Jonas is Mayor. I then ask how she could possibly not know that about her own assignement- did she assume we were all too illiterate to have possibly read the books? Anyway, now I am an active conflict. In high school I find friends, join a nerdy club, etc. Life is getting better, but the bullying from other classmates gets worse, and I drop out of school and switch to independent study. Ironically, it seemed that the only problem for me with school was that everyone else was there. I shoot up to a 4.0, graduate high school a year early with Honors. My entire problem was the fear and social stigma that started with how my teachers and superiors treated me in elementary school. I no longer automatically respected my teachers, and basically distrusted everyone new. I kept the exact same friends I met at 5 at my after school program, and stayed sheltered in that friend group for my entire public school education. It took me years to slowly work my way out of that garbage. I feel like I am no better for my experience, I don’t think I got stronger for the hardship. I feel like I lost something important. Now I have to try hard to remember what is socially acceptable with new people, and I have to deal with panic attacks in crowds. Side note: there were 3 suicide attempts during those high school years. Two were close, but I was found and had my stomach pumped, etc before I died. A lot of self harm, etc. I used a fake name and a burner email to write this, as I don’t actually want this information public about myself. I just want to say that bit of story to the guy who says I should have toughened up. Screw you, sir. I made it without ever really fixing the problem. I do my coursework in college, I have a good GPA, but I don’t know anyone else’s name in any of my classes. I take all the online classes I can, and I work from home. I have to take Ativan just to play at a local Magic the Gathering Tournament now. As a side note, again: My brother suffered from the same problems, even though he tested into the gifted program in elementary school. They kicked him out of the program for lack of attendance, and then he just gave up on everything when he finally got back to school in his 6th grade year. He said it was too easy. Why bother? He managed 5 Is and an F one year. He only got to move on to the next grade due to his end of year STAR tests scores. Kids attacked him and teased him as well. One time two boys intended to shove his head in the toilet, and he socked one in the solarplexis hard and made him kneel down, gasp, and throw up. My brother ran out of there and got a teacher, but he’s the one who got into trouble, even though it was two boys against him, and they started it. Luckily, my dad understood that, and let my brother play video games the whole 2 week suspension. Anyway, He gave up. He dropped out of high school, and didn’t get his GED for years after that. Now he works retail, to pay his rent, and basically lives on the internet. He just sits alone, every day. Great use of his gifted mind. Thanks school system! That’s the worst part of it. I know he has so much more potential than me, and they killed it in him.

      • I have a son in a public school in a town of 3,200 people. I wish I had time to write down here everything that has happened to my child in the past 3 years. My child is a Jr in High school this year and 3 years ago when I noticed that he was the only player not to play one single play, game after game, and even after told he was going to start or going to play or they would make it up the next game becasue they forgot he was there. Then he decided to go out for track since they cant single you out, he started months before manditory practice and the principal /coach/ athletic director/ booster board member/ parent of a student athlete told my son he could do both sports baseball and track, and then the first day of baseball practice called me yealling where the hell is your son? “He’s at track practice” Then I was told he has to chose….after I spent hundreds of dollars on both track equip and baseball. They begged him to play baseball because he can play very well. It turns out he reluctently chose baseball and then sat on the bench all year. Never started one game after again being promised he would start and play that week, coaches asking me If I was going to the double header 150 miles away and I did go, he did not start, he didn’t even get in one single play in either game. This went on for the first half of the season. Then the one time they asked if I was going he did start and played the entire game. Next week he was told agin he is starting, i wask asked if I was going so on and so on. He didn;t playe either game again. So I talked witht he coaches again, asking if he was ever disrespectful, dud anything wrong, no no no he is just inconsistent . Oh so he is inconsistent and your son just makes mistakes ok. prior to the season the team was warned if they were ever caught drinking after a game or even on weekends that the consequences per district policy is automatic 5 game suspension, one week from school, second offense wuld be removal from the teamexpulsion from any other sports for that calender year…so not only were they caught onece and nothing happened, they wer caught again IN UNIFORM and noting happened becasue the coach/principal /athlectic directos son was one of the intoxicated players in uniform. His son was also caught with pot in his locker and that was covered up, 3 weeks after the second party my son made a mistake and had a tobacco pouch in his mouth at the school gym at a non manditory weight class one hour prior to the first bell. A questionable suspendable offense but he was sent home in 2 minutes. No consistent consequenses just nepotism. Parents are supposed to be notified if their children are caught drinking for good reason and intervention is supposed to be imposed. This crap goes on and on and this is just part of what is going on. I went to the coaches and talked politley with them, I went to the principal and spoke with him about fixing what is broken so I dont have to make his abuse and actions public. I just requested it stops. A week alter another incident. so I went to the superintendent and told him of the issues…..both of them tell me its a grey area. YES A GREY FUCKING AREA I GET IT! If you parents are in boosters your kid plays. We have the smallest 11 man football team in the satte of CA, a toatal of 17 players….yet my son who is the fastest athlete in the school does not have a starting position on offense or defense. %0 to zero in the foouth quarter and after again he was told he would start and play this game he did not even wehn loosing 50 to zero in the fourth quarter with 7 minutes left. Can anyone see the mental, moral, emotional and social abuse here ? Abuse of power at its finest.

        My son also donated 600.00 to the same organization these idiots run. He donated it wanting the funds to go to players who could not afford a lettermans jacket. Not only have the hid the funds and where they went, nothing was ever reported to the board about the 600 dollars, nor was my son ever given one single thank you from anyone in any form nor was I. Not that I want or need one but my son worked his entire xmas vacation cutting, splitting and sellng firewood to help out those in need. But nothing was ever said about his good deed. Not impressed yet? Not bad enouhg for you? There is so much more it would make you sick. my sons mother died 10 years ago. the local sheriff detective went to his school and pulled him out of class. Nobody notified me at any time, then the detective did not read him any rights, but asked his some very disturbing questions. Ready for this one? I’ll bet you that you are not.

        The detective got a report from a guy that went to school with him that I killed my sons mother and buried her body and they never found her. The detecive found out before he questioned my son that this was a ridiculous story. however the dective asked my son “Do you know where your mother is?” My son said yes sir the same place she has been for ten years,” Where the deteive asked…my son replied “HEaldsburg cemetary.” ARe you sure?” “yes my son said why the …are you asking me this?” The deteive said ” Have you ever been told by your father that he murdered your mother, burried her body and NOBODY will ever find her/” NO! GOd no! WHY are you asking me this? ”
        are you sure your father never told you he murdered your mother…………..?”

        So I ask you who to trust? My son is a very respectful young man. Even after he wuit football 2 weeks ago, he continued to be respectful and apologised to the coach for letting him down….the coach replied to my son “you know too bad you are a quitter, you would have started this week.” One week later he told my son “this would have been twoo weeks in a row you would have started….”

        Sure when pigs fly….these incompetent bastards are all cowards. It is a vile vulgar display of hiding behind the “GREY AREA” of district policy and having the power to do the shit they do with no consequences. other parents have moved thier children to other districts. I am disabled and dont have the ability nor will I ever run from incompetent bullies that think they are going to win an army veteran in any form of combat. And that is what this is……cat and mouse abuse of power combat.

        I will win….I will find the right agency or news station to investigate on sink this corruption once and for all. I have no idea when…but I have been calm….and the storm is coming……this is just part of the things too ther is much more….I dont need more…but I have it.

    • Just curious do you have children?

  10. When I was in Graduate school, if I did not complete a seminar requirement, the professor sometimes uses humiliation as a way to embarrass the student into doing the work. Emotional isolation from these incidents, causes problems, that awakens the person to the isolation found in prior events. As an instructor, I never let my students become isolated from one another. Dr. Sosteric a kind and caring instructor, never would do that either. Wake up greg, your past experiences will direct your feelings and behavior in graduate school, when your work is trashed, and you feel two feet tall. So Gregg will ask himself, where did that come from? Toughen up is like the ignorant in psychiatry saying snap out of it. If I had Gregg as a student, a little compassion would replace the deniability he feels. Robert

  11. if you don’t work with kids Gregory, and I’m guessing you don’t even have kids of your own, then what makes you think that you have anything to say about their emotional or developmental needs? And a poll of young adults, or adolescents, asking them about the emotional trauma in grade two, isn’t exactly a reliable measure. If you are serious about this question, what you need to do is ask a seven year old how they feel in the moment, not years later when they’ve been told, directly or not, that their feelings are not legitimate and they should toughen up. When I asked my seven year old how he felt, he said he felt uncomfortable and ashamed. When I asked my daughter about losing her desk, even the thought of it frightened her.

    So ya, our opinion about where to draw the lines differs. But what is your opinion based on Gregory? You don’t work with children, but I do. You don’t have children (I assume, because if you did you’d be much less likely to be taking your position), but I do. In fact, you’ve probably never research the impact of the things you’re talking about here, but I have. And FYI, the school agrees with me on this one. It didn’t take them more than on hour to pull their ridiculous program of public shaming after I said, stop it or my kids aren’t going to your school. I had a talk with the principal of the school who admitted it was emotional abuse. He even admitted that my public shaming of his teacher made him and his school look heavy handed. I mean, the first version of this article pointed a disapproving public finger at the school, the principal, and the teacher. It made the principal and the teacher feel embarrassed and uncomfortable (and maybe even a little shame) and so, honoring their feelings, I removed the identifying marks because it clearly made them uncomfortable. Huh?! Look at that Gregory, the adult comes to me and says “Michael, please don’t publicly evaluate us like this because it makes us feel bad” and I say, of course Mr. Principal, let me remove the identifying marks because I don’t want you to feel bad. You on the other hand still think it is OK to publicly shame a child, even though I’m sure you’d admit the child is much less likely to speak out, and much more likely to just bend over and accept whatever the “trusted adults” choose to do to them. Uck. But just because the child is less likely to speak out doesn’t mean the child isn’t feeling bad, just like the principal and the teacher. Only difference, we’re much more likely to listen to an adult when they ask us things and much more likely do disregard our children when they say something. Its easy to dismiss the child who says “that makes me feel bad.” If a total stranger says it though, well then we listen. Twisted.

    In any case, and frankly, Gregory, you don’t know what you’re talking about here. You’re obviously insensitive to the developmental needs of children. You think you can comment on their psychological or emotional needs, but that is pure hubris on your part. You have no qualifications as far as I can tell, or even basic sensitivity to the needs of children. I mean, how old are you Gregory? Twenty? You say you’re not damage by your process at school, but I think you are. Had you not been subjected to shaming practices, had you not got the message to “toughen up,” maybe you wouldn’t have cut off your emotional responses like you did, and maybe you’d still have the ability to empathize and understand children. You are good example of what schools do to people. They make them insensitive, cut off their ability for empathy, and encourage them to misunderstand, disregard, and devalue the emotions around them.

    My son said it hurt his feelings. My daughter was terrified at even the thought. What would you have me do Gregory? Tell them their feelings are “wrong,” or that they shouldn’t have them, or that they should change those feelings into something different? Would you have me threaten them with public shaming, or mete out some physical abuse on them for not “being tough” in the way that you think they should. Forget you Gregory. My children’s feelings are relevant and important and I won’t let teachers, schools, or anybody else for that matter, hurt them in any way. I’m sorry your parents didn’t defend you, but that’s no excuse to allow it to happen to others.

    The bottom line, the school practices make them feel bad about themselves. What else is there to say except, that’s not right, let’s fix it. Schools and teachers have a responsibility. Children learn what they model. If their teachers don’t care about how they feel, if the teacher model public shaming, students will pick it up. Why do you think children bully Gregory? It is because there parents and teachers have taught them, through word and deed, that’s it OK to hurt another person. Gregory, it’s never OK to hurt another person. If you do, you need to stop and if you don’t, even after you’re asked, you’re a bully. That’s what bully’s do, they hurt others even after they’ve been asked to stop, and they come with excuses to blame the victim like its there fault for the abuse.

    Kudos to my daughter’s school for admitting they were wrong and stopping the abuse.

    Shame on you Gregory for drawing a line that allows it to continue.

  12. For one, don’t be so quick to judge my upbringing. I have a great relationship with my family, and NEVER was I abused by my parents while growing up. And secondly, to answer your question, I’m far from an emotional bully trying to justify my actions. I don’t even work with children. I’m just an undergraduate student fresh out of high school.

    As I already said, I understand and agree that humiliation can lead to isolation and result in negative consequences, but I disagree that such minor practices cause emotional damage. Do you remember the red light, yellow light, green light discipline in grade school? If you behaved badly, your name was moved from green to yellow. It’s purpose is not meant to scar you. It’s meant to warn you to behave, so why should you feel humiliated when you’re name is isolated? There’s no reason to. Only once was my name moved to yellow, and my reaction was “Oh crap, if I keep behaving badly I’m going to end on red light and get sent to the principal.” I didn’t feel humiliated, bullied, or scarred. This is the same as with having your name on the board. It’s a form of discipline that works, and it’s not harsh.

    I’m not saying you directly tell the kids to “toughen up” if they feel humiliated. All it takes is, “Hey, it’s nothing to feel bad about. These things happen, nobody’s perfect.” On the contrary though, I know I’m not alone in saying that it’s nothing to feel embarrassed. I conducted a small poll in my group (9 people) as part of my project. 8 of 9 said they did not feel humiliated by such forms of discipline, and everyone agreed that the consequences didn’t leave a long lasting scar.

    I am a compassionate person, and I am not in denial as Robert says. My opinion on where to draw the line between what qualifies as emotional bullying/abuse is just different than yours, plain and simple.

  13. I just got served. But can you PLEASE stop bringing my parents into this, because FYI I just asked them about what they thought about these public isolation methods and they both agreed with you. They think these practices in schools are humiliating and, above all, completely unnecessary. The only reason they never defended me is because I was never embarrassed by these public humiliation methods and thus never had to go to them for help. I admit, I’m being intolerant and only basing my opinions on my personal experiences/feelings as a child. But can you accept the fact that some people (such as myself) are simply less emotional than others? This doesn’t always have to be the result of schools’ poor disciplinary measures like you keep assuming in my case. I’m just not as sensitive as some people and never felt emotionally abused the few times I was isolated in grade school. However, that doesn’t mean I’m “damaged”, nor does it make me any less compassionate, for I am a humanitarian and I truly enjoy making people happy.

    I’m 19 years old, so no I don’t have kids. Like I said, I was only basing my thoughts on their development from my personal experience as a child, which wasn’t painful for me. I’ve never had to experience a child coming home to me emotionally hurt because of a practice that could’ve been avoided, but I imagine I would feel the same way as you.

    Again, I admit I was wrong. I guess toughness isn’t the issue, but the fact that everyone reacts differently to isolation, and that needs to be respected. I was being ignorant of others and not thinking outside my own head. Why should the whole class have to know when a student has failed to complete his or her homework? As you and my parents have stated, it is really unnecessary. That issue could just as easily be handled privately, and no one would have to face humiliation, whether it hurts you or not.

    Sorry for the hassle.
    Thanks Doc.

    • Hi Gregory. No hassle. This is what university/teaching is about. If I thought this was a hassle, I probably would have picked a different career.

      Anyway, I get that you are basing your opinion on your personal experience, but even that’s not good enough. We’re talking about emotions here, and feelings, and oppression, and bullying (by teachers), and abuse and the thing is, as a male, your socialization desensitizes you to this kind of thing. At birth you are given a blue blanket and subsequent to that you get the message that boys are different than girls. Boys are tougher, less emotional, less sensitive, and so on. And it’s not just words, you (well maybe not you, but boys) get punished for having emotions. I see it all the time, from the daddy who tells his little boy to “soldier up” when what he really needs is some kindness and a hug, to the wife who says she wants a sensitive male but then gets all crazy and abusive when the male actually dares to speak a feeling, boys are punished for showing emotions (which are deeply associated with “weakness” in our culture, for some reason). Heck, I was socialized male and I still remember all the shit and abuse I got whenever I crossed gender based emotional boundaries. So I don’t know? Is it that you are just tougher than others, that you can handle ridicule and public shaming, or is it that as a male your natural emotional sensitivity has been suppressed and repressed? It is a fair question. Boy and girl babies don’t display much difference when it comes to their sensitivity to pain (they are all pretty darn sensitive), and I know my own male child is extremely sensitive and easy to hurt, and my big alpha male rottweiler is the biggest suck of them all. He just wants to be touched all the time. So I don’t know? Are you just “tougher” or are you the same as all the other young adult males out there, cut off from their emotions, and forced to scrunch up their sensitivity to avoid the abuse that comes when you violate gender-based emotional expectations.

      I can’t answer that question for you. It could be either. You’re young though so I suspect you’ve never considered this kind of thing before. But you should, especially if you’re a sociology student ya? It might be OK for a psychologist, or a physicist, or somebody else in one of the lesser sciences to miss the significance of gender, or to use their own life as unexamined evidence for things, but sociologists need to hold themselves to higher standards of sophistication, IMHO. It is the only way we’ll ever hope to truly understand this thing we call society.

      Nice chatting with ya!

  14. Gregg. Relax and take it easy. You are just like many undergraduates who bring their frailties to the door step of the university. Why use self justification as a way of denying what you really are. A troubled undergraduate who does not understand that you will learn to sift out all that hatred and frustration. In my classes, students are allowed to deal with inequities of their upbringings, by diving into the vast field of sociology. If Dr. Sosteric is your instructor, pay very close attention to what he does. Take the blindfold off and live your life, because you will be changed by the experiences of a new realm. Robert

  15. My 15 year old son has demonstrated some pretty severe behavoral changes this school year, most significantly in his extreme reactions to doing homework. This is a child who loves to learn, and even loves to teach. He went from being team captain of the science bowl for the region, to failing biology, refusing to do assignments, and sleeping in class.

    This is the only class he has his kind of trouble in.

    It’s not possible that this is the due to something like lack of sleep or drugs. On the other hand I get the distinct feeling that the teacher is single ing him out. She has a very frantic type of personality, which is already hard on my son, who has aspergers. But to make matters worse she holds him accountable for things over which he doesn’t have control. In a meeting just the other day he said he is sleeping and it upsets her because she sees it as a behavior problem. ( I see it as his reaction to her but I didn’t say that to her.) I told her that he responds better to a gentle, tender, nurturing type of teacher. She was very mad at our meeting, and I believe she took it out on him that day, including forcing him to stand during class for falling asleep, holding him accountable for an optional assignment that she did not give him time to complete, and generally having a harrassing attitude towards him.

    Fortunately I have irrefutable record of the details of our conversation, so now that she retaliated against my son, I have evidence.

    I’m not sure about her to go from here but I know I have to protect my kiddo, and get her away from the others.

    Any help would be appreciated… Wish me luck!

    • She was very mad at our meeting, and I believe she took it out on him that day, including forcing him to stand during class for falling asleep, holding him accountable for an optional assignment that she did not give him time to complete, and generally having a harrassing attitude towards him.

      If i were you I’d be screaming blue murder at this point. I’d insist that he be removed from her class and I’d also be threatening legal action. What she is doing is emotionally abusive and if you don’t stop her from doing it, the effect on him will only get worse. You got to do something.

      Go straight to the principal of the school with this. and see what that does.

  16. It would be interesting to see how this abuse varies by class, race/ethnicity, gender, local culture, etc. My experience in a middle/upper-middle class suburb of a major, Midwestern, American city is drastically different than the one my children are having in a rural, lower-SES southern town. The same goes in comparing their experience with same-aged cousins back near by hometown today. Just as parenting styles vary by social class, which by some scholars have been explained by parents’ occupation and children’s expected occupational outcomes, this is perhaps just another way of preparing young people for the class-based realities, occupation and otherwise, of adulthood.

  17. Beth A comparative study would be an excellent idea. The commentaries on this article are excellent. Robert

  18. Thank you for posting this. I had recently come to the realization that most of my life I’ve tried to avoid making mistakes or being punished, because of the emotional abuse I faced at school. I realized I had become a bully because I never felt validated in school.

    I have Autism and sound sensitivity. My sound sensitivity was always dismissed as a phobia, I’m 30 so this was awhile before the awareness of Autism today. I kept trying to punish people for not obeying rules, not in real life, but on Tumblr.

    I really have learned so much about myself, and how I react to the idea of punishment, because in 3rd grade I was held after school. My teachers ignored me crying till my face was red, emotionally manipulated me saying I couldn’t go home. I associated that event, as well as other situations with being held against my will. I even had a teacher who found me asleep after school, I was lucky he found me or I’d have been trapped at the school for the night.

    Things were so upsetting to me, I can relate my fear to that of someone being trapped in a horror film. No one should have such a troubling childhood, they feel only horror film writers and directors understand them. I mean, my parents understood, and like you they went to bat for me. The stories my mom could tell you about the I.E.P meetings.

    I realized I probably never allowed myself to admit how bad things were because I have a otherwise good life. I own several game systems for example, so I felt I can’t complain when I have things this good. It’s become apparent how destroyed I was by the experiences I had in public school.

    I hope this article can help others realize just how damaging the experiences you mentioned really are to school children. You would have thought Columbine would have been a wake-up call to the idea something was seriously wrong with how kids were beng treated in school.

  19. So helpful! My 10-year-old daughter was singled out and kicked out of ballet class last week because she didn’t understand a particular dance move. In front of the class, the teacher asked if she practiced over the weekend (which was Thanksgiving Holiday.) My daughter told the truth and said no. The teacher said “leave.” There were no other adults in the building so my daughter was unclear on where to go – or for how long. She didn’t know if she was kicked out of the class forever – or what it meant. Who was supervising her during this time? Fortunately, she had her cell phone and called me. She will never go back to the class again. Unbelievable.

  20. I just found this article and wanted to say thank you for speaking out about abuse in schools. It is a tragedy that children have to suffer at the hands of teachers and other school staff members that are trusted to care for them. My daughter was verbally and emotionally abused in kindergarten by her teacher and the assistant, mainly over use of the restroom. There were several incidents including my daughter being denied use of the restroom, then punished for going to the restroom with permission

  21. Hello my name is marie and I am having troble with my son school. this was my sons first year at school and on his first day he had trouble adjusting their reaction was he needs to be medicated I took my 6 year old son to 3 doctors 3 phycologists and he now sees a theropist every week. Not one felt he needs medication but the school felt that was wronge pushed harder call child pertective services lied to them about abuse had my 6 year old coming home saying things like its my brain mom I can’t control my brain I need medication.. they would not allow us to change his class room nor schools within or outside of the school district now truency officers call me regularly and I am forced to return him to that horrible place. I have tried everything I can think of and fear for my childs wellbeing but seem helpless to protect him. We have been told his shear size is intimidating to other students and have had students calling him fat throwing thing at him ect. Yet when he fights back he get told he needs medication and is kicked out for the week or told the school will not except him unless he has seen a phycologist. I am at the end of my rope and do not know what to do if you have any suggestions that may help please don’t hesitate. We live in the country and internet is very exspencive or I would home school.
    Thank you for your time and hope for some help.

  22. seekingsoundadvice

    An 11 year old found gouging out marks in a wooden desk with a scissor point. When asked why – he answered ‘because my teacher keeps ripping up my papers (worksheets) because some kid runs up to her and tells on me for ‘rushing’ (hurrying through it). ‘ As a parent, I just wrote a note to his teacher to ‘please stop ripping up my son’s paper for being accused of ‘rushing’ – this is causing him emotional distress. He has confided in his father and myself that this has happened 4-5 times this year. We must now ask that you stop this. Also, please refrain from making remarks to him in regards to my notes to you. Thank you.’ I can only hope it will end here. Any suggestions?

    • My response to this kind of thing has always been to pull my kids out of school. Just say, you’ll send them back when the school gets its act together. IF you are confident then the school usually backs down, straightens out. The last thing they want to do is be answering questions from other authorities, police, etc., about why you’re not sending your kids to school. Just be strong about it. Don’t accept any violence against your children.

  23. I myself have been experiencing a similar problem with my 12 year old sons school. For some reason or another the school dean does not like my son and if any problem arise my son will usually be one of the first to be questioned. An incident happened just before Christmas break where he was accused of opening the girls bathroom door. Without any adult witnessing anything he was sent to the office where he was yelled at and verbally abused by this gentleman if he can be called that. He then called me and proceeded to yell at me over the phone telling me he wanted my son out of his school that no matter what school i took him to he was going to have problems because he would make sure he spread the word of what a problematic kid my chils was. All this was while my son sat in his office he then read my son an email by a teacher stating that she wanted to sit him outsite of her class and that if she could do to him what she does to her own kidsshe wouldnt be allowed to work with children. All this sounds like verbal abuse and threats towards a child who they are suppose to be protecting. He continues to stop my son in the hallways to question him about different things including if i was trying to get him fired. I have had two meetings with the school principal and no results. This thursday after our last meeting when i brought up him harassing my son strange enough the next day was called to the office again now being accused of bullying but the teacher who was in the classroom says my son wasnt feeling good and had his head down the whole period. When i went to gather signatures from the teachers to prove my son is not a bully i was only able to get 5 because they were told they were not to speak to me and before signing anything it would have to be approved by the same dean but that they were shocked when this man informed them about this since they have not had problems with my son just minimal trying to test how and what they could get away with. I really dont know what else to do i do not want to just transfer him out because that would just be giving up and allowing this man to continue what he is doing. Im originally from New York and now living in a small city i have found its very difficult to get anywhere with concerns because they all know and back each other up. I will be up for my final battle with this man tomorrow before i have to figure some different way to go about this. Any suggestions please im a desperate mother looking to help my son succeed and have a voice of his own.

    • You know, I’m just overwhelmed by this. I know abuse in schools can be bad, but the level of toxicity, and the resistance to accountability and change, is overwhelming. For what its worth, I’ve experienced this pattern before. I brought up some serious allegations against a psychologist’s incompetent and damaging testing practices in the protestant school board, and those involved sent little private emails to each other reinforcing their own faulty world views the whole time and undermining the legitimacy of my concerns. Their strategies where as obnoxious and annoying as they were transparent and pathetic. The corruption and lack of concern went straight to the top and ultimately nobody really cared that the psychologist was incompetent, or that her testing practices might be providing erroneous and damaging date on the children she was in contact with, they just want me and my wife to shut up and go away. What was absolutely horrifying to me was that even the professional body of psychologists in Alberta (CAP) seemed unconcerned. I brought my concerns up to one of the top members of the organization (who deals with complaints and the “public” interest) and all he could say about my charges of incompetence and unprofessional practice was “well psychologists are busy and so sometimes we have to cut corners.” I was absolutely horrified that a professional psychologist in charge of a professional body that oversees other psychologists would treat my child with less respect than a hunk of metal. I mean, can you imagine taking your car to a mechanic and having the mechanic tell you they “cut some corners” on the brake job because they were too “busy” to do it right? You’re horrified even thinking about it and would never imagine saying that to anybody, yet how many people would look with the same degree of horror at the representative of CAP who said the same thing about their son or daughter, or think it is OK to treat human children with such a grotesque level of disregard and disrespect?

      What is perhaps most distributing is that they did this to me despite my stated expertise in psychometric testing, and my advanced graduate level credentials. I don’t have to imagine what they would do to a member of the “general public” without the same background and credential. They will do everything in their power to shift the blame onto you, your parenting, etc. Sometimes that may be true, but often it is the violence and abuse in the schools that is the exacerbating problem.

      Ultimately we had to move our children’s schools twice before we found a place, not perfect, but where the staff and administration were open and where they did not brook teacher abuse and professional incompetence. Until we get more people turned onto the crimes being committed against our children by the schools they attend (and of course most teachers are not like this, but then again it only takes ONE to do permanent damage), it is going to be a tough slog. There has to be some way to maybe organize and publish on this, bring people together to start talking about it.

      maybe a separate blog education.sociology.org or something like that. Would parents out there right about their experiences if we set up something like that?

  24. I am sitting here in tears, reading this article.
    My daughter is 17 and has dealt with this most of her life.
    It begins with the students and then the teachers get on board, it is heart crushing to stand by and watch it year after year…I’m not sure how long ago this was posted but Please put a stop to this for your daughter, My child has been bullied, ridiculed, tormented and isolated by students since the sixth grade. She went a whole school year sitting alone at a lunch table cause no one would sit with her afraid of being a target a well. This started with a small group of girls and then growing.
    Once the teacher jumps on that bandwagon and not only condones the behavior but encourages it, then it is all over…..
    We have had several great teachers that have been great and a few with stories I could go on for days about the behavior and comments being like those of the students.
    My daughter has always been a little socially awkward, she is a loud talker, sometimes is overly excited and tends to interrupt when talking, She may have a form of ADHD and we have tried meds when she was younger, These only made her feel sick and she hated feeling drugged. She can be what some might say as annoying, but she is not mean to anyone and goes way out of her way to try and please people.
    We have watched year after year with her wanting to be accepted by peers and trying so hard but it seems like once you get that label then it’s only a matter of time before you are sitting alone again.
    My daughter has had many accomplishments through her academic life, Drill team president and officer but even then the girls would never respect her and almost not acknowledge her existence most of the time,
    She has tried almost every activity from theatre, dance, poetry, debate, ETC that she could find to try to prove herself worthy, eventually each of those begin to get chipped away as the school year wears on and it’s like holding your breathe this time every year hoping for the school year to end so my child can have an emotional break…
    So now my daughter is 17 and we are in the senior year of High School and here I am holding my breathe again.
    We switched to a school that offers dual credit programs for college last year.
    She went through last year almost unscaived.
    This year has been a little more emotional for her with several students coming from the same school she had gone to all through former grades and so the stories of don’t talk to that girl began to grow slowly like a cancer, now I am dealing with a teacher again that not only has two girls that don’t like my daughter but if my daughter interrupts the teacher (which I know is not appropriate) or may not have heard all of the instruction. This teacher proceeds to talk openly about her in class making fun of her saying I knew she wouldn’t know what to do, that’s why I called on her and laughing over excessively and nudging others on the shoulders in class to do the same.
    My daughter said this has been the tone set in this class for her most of this semester. Today was overwhelming for her and she left the class.
    My daughter will graduate from High school this June with an associate’s degree in science at 17. She will also graduate with cords for DAP in math, science, and hopefully Spanish, she will also have cord for community services.
    We are so proud of her. She will be the first woman in our family to graduate from High school. (as you can probably tell by my grammar). However she has been crying all morning cause she knows the torment she will receive in this class the remainder of the year, and wants to drop this class.
    I have e-mailed this teacher and she will be calling me this afternoon. I really needed to vent this, as well as finding myself back in her 6th grade year printing up articles to educate the principal about what my child was going through. I hope I will be able to put two words together when speaking this afternoon.
    I mainly worry every day that this is the set tone for my child through her adult life in maintaining jobs with stress, relationships and basic day to day emotional and cognitive issues. Its seems to have been thus far. I am desperate to help her cause it never seems to end.
    Thanks for reading.

  25. I desperately need advice. My son 14 y/o has 4 lates over policy so they will not allow him to participate in the end of school year 8th grade class day trip and the 8th grade dance. The 8th grade class will be entering High School this year so I feel these events are extremely important and that he is being socially isolated from his peers which I feel can lead to teen depression, social withdrawel, etc.. The principal says “no”. He says I can go to the superintendant. My son has zero behavior issues, nice kid, places football and basketball, gets along well with others..Please help, I know “rules” are made to be followed so I don’t want to undermine school policy BUT I feel strongly thAT this is extreme for having 9 lates school year, or just extreme period! Am I wrong?

  26. Parents need to be advocates for their own kids. If they saw their child struggling to stay above water in a swimming pool, they’d jump right in and pull the child out of the water. But throw that same child into an emotionally abusive setting at school, and the parents hesitate to trust their own instincts. Surely the teacher – or the principal – would never treat their child like that!

    In a parochial school, I’ve found that parents are even more hesitant to question authority. It’s like the god-like status of the priests carries over to the school personnel. Parents would never consider questioning Fr. So-and-so! Teachers seem to merit the same sort of unquestioning fidelity – to the children’s detriment. In a parochial school, parents end up questioning what what they see with their own eyes and doubt whether or not their child really IS having trouble staying afloat. Surely a priest or teacher will come to the pool’s edge and scoop up the child if he’s really on the verge of drowning – right? WRONG. But the parents won’t jump in!

    I’ve been a teacher for 16 years and have three grown children of my own. I’ve had to advocate for them from time to time, and I’ve done the same thing for my students who needed it. I’ve also taught the parents of my students how to stick up for their kids in school – what rights they have, for example, during an IEP meeting. Recently, I’ve seen grown men grow teary-eyes, their voices choked with emotion, when recalling emotional abuse at the hands of elementary school teachers.

    Emotional abuse hurts. It’s damaging – both short-term and long-term. Lives can be ripped apart by its effects. What do you think happens when a child learns that school isn’t a safe place? He shuts down. Stops trying. Some even drop out of school. The economic implications are obvious – but consider, too, the social implications. What sort of spouse will this person be? What kind of parent will this person be? Long-lasting pain is sometimes dulled with alcohol. Just visit an open AA meeting to hear what the consequences of alcoholism are. DUI, DWI, jail terms, revoking of licenses (hard to stay working without a way to work), etc. And these days, alcohol use is frequently paired with drug use. The nightmare goes on…

    For any school district, any diocese, any school anywhere to minimize the effects of emotional abuse on our kids is criminal. But it’s going to take lots of awareness and lots of active voices before schools get the message.

    I know our kids are worth the fight – I pray you do, too, and that you’re not afraid to jump in the pool while everyone else is content to look on!

  27. Woody Allen has a pretty good call on this one:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZwaSOFMFIg

  28. Geoffrey Edwin Harris

    Geoffrey Harris
    Have found that the most important thing to know when dealing with people is that most (not all) of them are basically gutless, craven, cowards, including, and especially the blustering bullying types, who often have “authority” (teachers, managers, parents) etc. They are sh**ting blanks. Often when one challenges them and calls them on it one finds they have nothing and no one to back them up. For example, read in the sub teaching book the reason it was recommended that the instructors not make threats was because of the risk of being called on it and students finding out that the instructors basically had nothing and would not carry out their threats.

  29. Hi
    We are forcing our children to go to school and face all the insult by their teacher. I am a single mother and principle is threatening my kids.I tried my best but nobody helped me.I tried to call superintendent she fixed meeting but she didn’t come. Our trustee never bother to pick up my phone or call back. My kids are suffering. One day my daughter said I want to suicide because of this principle. No way out. Who can stop this cruel behaviour?

  30. I have been having the same problem with my son as well as witnessing emotional abuse by principal and teachers. For example one morning after I walked my son to his 3rd grade classroom I noticed a little boy sitting outside his classroom sitting on the floor crying. One of the other students alerted the teacher about the boy. Just then the teacher came out but she didn’t noticed me standing there. She told the little boy crying and I quote “Are you gonna just sit there and cry all day!” The teacher looked up and her eyes level with mine. She then darted back into the classroom unbelievable. As for my son his 4th grade teacher met me and my son after hours on the parking lot. (I pick up my son after school in my vehicle). The teacher says to my son “Do you have low self-esteem. Do you feel bad about yourself. His desk is a mess. Well my son was so distraught. I have reported the matters but now my son is in 5th grade and the emotional abuse is continuing by this 4th grade teacher who has spread false rumors to other teachers that my son is “hearing voices” and that he is “different” etc etc.. I called the principal this year and told him my son is being “harassed.” The principal went as far to say everyone is “frustrated” with my son there at his school. I am shocked how the educational system is run by incompetent people. They place no value on their students.

  31. Thank you for writing this. I am an adult now, and I still am severely traumatized by what my shitbag teachers did to me. I’ve always stood out (even though I never really wanted to), some idiot teachers would pick on me for that, but the worst one was sort of my surrogate mother who acted like she cared about me but would still humiliate me in public every few weeks whenever I didn’t behave exactly as she wanted (not necessarily breaking the rules). She would hold conferences with the whole class to address a single student, not even so the others could give input, just so everyone could watch. She deliberately ignored the abuse I was suffering at home because it didn’t fit in with the model of the strong, independent star she had for me.

  32. I have recently found that my son (8) and 2 other students in his class have been removed from a central grouping style seating arrangement for behavior issues. I can understand for maybe the remainder of the day if they are distracting the group, but this has been going on for over a month. He and the others are being excluded from group activity on a daily basis. The worst part about it, as I spoke with some other students at the bus stop, they have stated this is going on in every classroom. This is a model of discipline in our school district. How can this be allowed, and accepted? In our days the disciplinary methods were more on the physical side. Most of you may know what I mean. But it happened behind closed doors and not in front of other students. After reading this forum, i started to feel that he is being isolated for way to long. And it is show in his actions. He is starting to hide in his room and never wanting to go outside. What should I do?

  33. It’s difficult to take this article seriously when there are such obvious proof-reading errors in it. “Principle” and “principal” are two different things.
    I would also like to to read suggestions as to how to improve our schools, while enforcing the necessary rules and boundaries without subjecting children to humiliation. It seems like you have a lot of complaints, but not a lot of constructive feedback to improve things other than “homeschool” which is not attainable for many working families.

    Thanks for the copy editing assistance. I appreciate it. As for suggestions, there are some, but they all come down to either a) stand up and fight or b) get the hell out. What else is there to say, expect maybe encourage people to post their stories of how they fought back. Do you have a story to share?

  34. I really loved reading your article. Such a wonderful thing to read. Thank you for standing up for the abusive system in which this country and this world operates.

  35. This made me cry Today was my son last day of school and as I walk him in too his class room I see that is desk is literately like 10 ft away from the other children. Though his teacher seems great his associates I have had many problems with this year. I have also seen depression in my son that past 6 moths after reading this I think I know why? SO sad I don’t even know what to think right now, wish I could home school, but I barley have time so it is hard for me to imagine it. Thanks for this info its good but hurts to see.

  36. I have had it with my child’s teacher…a whole year of abuse and it has come down to this email after she hung up on me.

    Maybe if you did your job and graded the papers yourself, you would of had the papers all sorted out. Instead you berated my child all morning and threatened her with not going on her fieldtrip. It is time to retire when you don’t want to DO YOUR JOB. A teacher is supposed to help, nurture and motivate a student.  Not belittle, put down or scare a child. Good job on wrecking yet another one if my daughter’s days at school. P.S. You are sadistic to have allowed that group of brats target my daughter and her friend all year. Just because my kid doesn’t fit the type a student, does NOT give you the right to treat her cruelly or allow others to. Yes I may have dropped a curse word when trying to deal with you, but I believe it is nothing  compared to your actions and what you have allowed all year to be done to my child and her friend. In church you need to ask for forgiveness for your actions and the emotional mark you have left on children’s souls. You can never take those away, shame on you. YOU NEED TO RETIRE! If you even think of taking this out on my kid, I have NO problem having a nice get together with you and sorting this out in person. Unlike yourself,I don’t take my frustrations out on little kids and abuse them. I never felt gratification picking on easy targets unlike yourself. I have reported you to the dept. Of education for the emotional abuse and for treating my child who has an IEP in such a distasteful manor. I am consulting a lawyer and your name is being brought up. You are a tired,used up, poor excuse of a teacher. You give teachers everywhere a bad name. I pray for you to retire. I am making it my project to see you punished by as many organizations  and advocates for victims rights as possible. Good riddance to you, ya old warn out lousy Bitch!
    P.S. I am warning as many parents about you as I can, but please note that you already have the bitch teacher stigma attached to your name from many parents in the district.
    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • How incredibly rude of you! Berating the teacher while referring to her as b***h. You’d be better served by attending to your own atrocious spelling and grammar; perhaps then you’d be able to help your child in a practical way!

      • Cate, that’s a very telling response. It is a transparent attempt to silence this parent through a bit of globalized public shaming. This sort of behavior is precisely why parents like Farah above get so upset with the system.

        Please understand, I’m not trying to justify Farah’s response. I think dialog is curtailed when emotions run too high. I just think anybody who is going to respond on this blog should take a deep breath and take the time they need to find positive ways to express their anger and frustration. Picking on each other isn’t going to help at all.

        Parents should understand that teachers face incredible pressure and this pressure often beats them down and, over the course of decades, breaks them. Teachers should understand that parents are increasingly desperate to protect their children from the long term emotional and psychological damage incurred in our current school system.

  37. I myself a high school student,we all have different kinds of problems,in general we face homeworks pressure and most importantly exam pressure but thats a different topic here its about abuse ,rejection and many negativities which is common among average students.These days there are laws being imposed so that we kids can get good education and develop into a well behaved and mature adult but if our teachers are supposed to treat us in this inhumane way then how are we able to be positive while learning?
    Lets take the example given of the twelve year old girl if she is humiliated and isolated in this manner then its sure that her classmates will try to comment and tease her which might have a bad effect on her mind and lead to serious consequences.Even in our school our teacher has her/his ways of punishment for not accomplishing the work on time but they don’t take away our desk priviliges our abuse us.If thats the case then the girl should immediately cross her line take actions against the teacher.I’m not telling to become rebelious or indiscipline but it is the common excuse given by many adults against us,the growing ones.They usually say if you would do it the other kids do the same ,why ?are we kids dumb can’t we speak up for the right thing when our elders are wrong?Ofcourse we can,when i showed my mother the above article she was just shocked and just uttered a sentence,”This shouldn’t be the case….”
    After giving a serious thinking i surprisingly debated on the topic with her and she even agreed that if it is necessary we should voice up for the justice.

  38. You are ridiculous, people like you are the very reason that children turn out so bad. Please do keep your spoiled brats home, and wow welcome them to the real world when they grow, unless as probably will happen they will continue to live at home past their 30’s. Such ignorance.

    • Actually, it is you that is the ignorant one. Ignorant of the growing body of research that indicates it is abuse experienced in childhood that is the reason kids turn out with anger, hatred, mental health issues, etc. A growing body of solid research is proving that it is abuse heaped on children in childhood that creates monsters we deal with today. So thanks for being such a misinformed and arrogant part of the problem that you helped create, and everybody else has to deal with.

      I really hope you are not a parent or, God please forbid, a teacher. But if you are one or both, you need to know that personal injury lawsuits are always dependent on proof and evidence of personal harm. The research is growing rapidly and it is becoming increasingly easy to prove long term, debilitating, personal harm as the result of the abuse we experience in childhood. It is only a matter of time before an angry parent or child sues the “old school” teacher, principal, and the school that protects them.

      I’m so tired of hearing the nonsense that abuse “builds character” or that assaulting children with physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual violence is what they need to survive in the “real world.” These are just cheap excuses used by bitter and angry people to justify their spineless violence against defenseless children. I wish I could be there when the lawyers come for you. I wish I could see you eat your words. I wish I could see you pay for the damage you’ve done.


    • Speaking of people creating monsters. John Lennons’ Killer recently admitted that he killed Lennon because “he had felt excluded since he was a child and needed the notoriety of killing Lennon to fill the gap that was in me.”

      read article

      So who is really responsible for the death of John Lennon. The man who pulled the trigger, or the society (parents, teachers, “friends,” and schools) that created the monster?

  39. Today my son was humiliated bc he forgot his homework. Week 2 of school and teacher makes him call me in front of entire class to tell me he is a habitual homework forgetter. I told her it is unacceptable to humiliate him and call me at work for this..why not send a discrete email? Why humiliate him in front of his peers? He is on autism spectrum with adhd, and has an iep, shouldn’t she consider he is doing his best? Sadly no. I’ve emailed superintendent and principal. I wish I could just home school my boy.

  40. My children go to a private school. Where the principal is the owner. My daughter was bullied the first week of school. The teacher provided an excuse for this behavior. The next two days my daughter refused to go to school because it’s the same girl who was a bully last year. I posted the situation on Facebook and I didn’t name the school, teacher, principal, or children’s names. The principal informed my children’s father if I don’t remove the post and apologize to her she will kick my children out of the school and report me to dcf.

  41. This is the letter I wrote to my child’s teacher on the third day of fourth grade. I did not have to write to complain about any of her teachers in the previous year. I am very emotional about this. Please let me know if I overreacted.

    Samantha came home extremely distraught today. She said, “Mrs. —— yelled at me a lot today.” She said you yelled at her for the following:

    1. She was told, in front of the entire class, that she received a zero for not having her cursive book. She felt humiliated because of this very public shaming. Her Cursive book was lost. It is not home and she insists she did not bring it home on Friday. Unfortunately, she did not write her name on it, so it will be difficult to determine whether another child accidentally took it. Please assist her in finding the book or supplying her with a new one. She will make up whatever cursive homework was not done. A zero will not help her complete the assignment.
    1. She did not have all the extra school supplies you requested. Those will be brought in in the near future. They were not in the 4th grade kit, which was supposed to contain all the supplies needed. Unfortunately, I am fully disabled due to MS and am not able to drive to purchase supplies. They have been ordered from Staples- your patience is appreciated.
    2. She did not bring in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Samantha has memory problems. She is extremely forgetful. If she is not told to copy it into the
    Agenda, she will not remember to do it.
    3. She did not write the full date on the top of her page and forgot to write a few words. As a result of this, you erased some of the work she had already done and told her to erase everything else on the page. This upset her greatly. In the 3rd grade she did not always write the day, month and year. She would have responded better to a simple request to complete the assignment, rather than the punishment of erasing and writing the whole page over.
    4. She wrote her Cursive assignment in her notebook, because she forgot you said to write it on loose-leaf. As I said previously, Samantha does have issues with remembering things. She is not doing this out of disrespect to you or maliciousness.
    When Samantha is yelled at, she tends to shut down. It is not an effective motivational strategy with her. In fact, it causes her to make more errors. Please call me to discuss this matter at your earliest convenience.

    • I don’t think you over-reacted. You are quite reasonable and reserved. I would have been a lot less so if I found a teacher had verbally assaulted my child and humiliated her in front of a whole classroom.

  42. Your article is absolutely wonderful. I am currently completing a paper. My thesis is “Despite education and training, teachers should avoid bulling their students as this leads to long-term mental issues like depression, anger and acts of violence.”

    You articles have proved an immense amount of information for me to link teacher bullying to depression, anger & acts of violence. It has been an amazing journey to find such a lack of research and/or findings regarding teacher bullying.

    This must be due to the shame that the public schools would experience, the outrage of parents to know what they had originally thought to be true. Could you imagine the overwhelming letters, emails, phone calls & visits that schools around the U.S. would receive if this would be “truly publicly exposed”?

    I need to get back to my paper but I just wanted to say thank you for all your research and postings of your opinions and knowledge that you have done. Great info & very intriguing the way you link them!

    Great job & thanks again!


  43. My daughter was kicked off of her 8u softball travel team last week because of something her dad said or done just wanted to hear what others thought about this and if it can even be legally done?

  44. Dr Michael,
    My granddaughter is 6 years old and attends public school in Redlands California. My daughter called me yesterday very upset because my granddaughter had come home with “poop” in her under wear. The teacher does not allow the first grade students to use the restroom and if they do, they will receive a “sad sticker” on the board. My granddaughter was so desperate to not receive the “sad sticker” she tried to hold her bowels. My daughter called the teacher immediately and the teacher defended her position on no restroom use. The teacher then asked to speak with the child. My daughter told her no and that this needed to be changed immediately.

    Today they have a meeting with the principal.

    I believe this absolutely abusive behavior from the teacher.

    What are your thoughts on this.

    Janet Jones

    • i think that goes beyond abuse to torture. Even inmates in a prison are allowed to go to the bathroom whenever they need to. I think if you do a little internet research, or ask your doctor, they’d tell you that “holding it” is harmful. You should mention that in your meeting. Tell the school you consider the practice physically harmful and medically dangerous and back it up with some research.

      That teacher shouldn’t be teaching children. Clearly she has some emotion and psychological issues that prevent her from being a healthy educator and guardian. I don’t think she should be harmed, but she should be given a job as far away from children as can possibly be managed.

  45. I regularly volunteered at my son’s school for 3 years and the way some teachers, cafeteria staff and bus drivers would just scream
    and treat this poor elementary kids was horrible that I had to stop going because I would go home depressed, just feeling so sad and helpless for those little ones. It was almost as if they were in boot camp, my son struggled with 2 screaming teachers to the point of him having nightmares and stomach pains often. The constant bullying of kids is another problem that still in this day is a big problem that this school seems to not take serious. What happened to teachers who love to teach and actually enjoy doing it. What happened to those day’s when school was fun and even though kids didn’t want to wake up early they still looked forward to going. Sad

  46. Hi im a grade 9 student from Australia i am currently in my fourth term and this one teacher and group of head of years have been non stop picking on me but my main problem is my science teacher she repeatedly comes over to my desk grabs my study planner flicks through every page picks up my book and if i haven’t written word for word or haven’t completely finished something she will stop everyone and announce exactly what i did then tell me to start over again even if i wrote in pen instead of pencil or vice versa one such incident that particularity stands out is when she ordered me to sit at the front of the room to which i replied that i cant due to eye sight problems that i have to sit towards the
    back of the room in the middle of that row she then called me a liar and said if i didnt go up there she would be sending me to the office my mother then wrote a note kindly telling her to back off i have eye problems no need to be a bitch a then proceeded to start a small journal to record all her wrong doings until she went through my things that i had bought with my money and gave it to the head of year i have also been forced to further humiliation such as when i had sprained my ankle to “hurry up and go to the office for ice if its really that bad” and when i return to “Why are you here” instead of a friendly are you okay? Or feeling better” i cannot remember many more details as my records were taken and it pains me to remember i do however cry and become emotionally ill the night and morning before her lessons i am beginning to no longer feel sad upset and tired but angry awake and imagine her being killed in horrible ways even though i sometimes feel remorse after thinking that
    Ps i apologise for any grammatical errors or disjointed statements but different events came back to me and damn auto correct

  47. I am an RN. I ride on a school bus with a 10 year old girl with a seizure disorder. I don’t work for the school district. My young student has an aide at school because of the seizure disorder. This aide does degrade, try to control, and humiliates this very sweet girl. I really like this child, but when I first met her she was rude and defiant. Then her aide was absent for 3 months because she had fallen at school and broke more than bone. Her replacement was a young woman with a naturally ability to care about her student and also to teach her wonderful social skills. I was so happy that things were improving. Actually, until the child’s regular aide returned I never realized what was goung on. Within 2 days she was sticking her tongue out, and being rude. She often takes it out on me. I’m really angry, but I don’t work for the district and could lose my job; but something has to be done. (The reason I know what’s going on is because I go into the scool at the end of the day to walk her to the bus and I see the interaction between the aide and student. What can I do. This child’s life is being ruined.

    • I don’t get angry because the child takes things out on me. I guess I am safe. I’m angry when I see this aide demeaniing her.

  48. My husband and I are putting together our documentation to take to the headmaster of our daughter’s high school concerning abuse and rampant inappropriateness (several teachers involved). We would really like Dr. S’s advice on how to approach this situation and if he believes we might have legal recourse with the information we have. Our child is leaving the school, but we are concerned for other students who will continue to be targeted. Is it possible to have a phone conversation or email conversation with Dr. S?

    • My grandson is having problems with a particular teacher who without a doubt targets josh and singles him out by moving him to sit on his own. I am at my wits end because he is the type of child who does not like to draw attention to himself. Theres been an incident again today and josh has walked out of the lesson and rung me in tears to pick him up. Do I have the right to remove him from any lessons being taught by this teacher?

      • I would remove him; then, if the school threatens to sic the authorities on you, explain to the authorities why you took him out.Say the police, or the judge, or to the media that the school teacher is bullying your child. Tell them if they threaten you to “bring it on”. I bet the thought of having to explain themselves to outside authorities will cool their engines.

  49. I thank you for this information it was very helpful. My question to you is what type of lawyer would I need to contact and I need all of that assistance. My 14 year old daughter was just kicked out of school for protecting herself on Friday May 15, 2015 due to a boy staring at her uncomfortably. She has a special case that the school is aware of at age 10 she was hit by a van as a pedestrian, and was diagnosed wit a tramatic brain Injury. While Mississippi has no resources to help her situation like Michigan has where the actual incident occurred she is just left without help. The principle said she had no right to pull any scissors even though she had asked to be moved away from the child and he still followed her to taunt her even more. the teacher had told him to stop but he didn’t so my child felt she needed to scare him away from her because she didn’t know what he was going to do. On another occasion with a different boy he had touched her breast, and another occasion a boy hit her and she retaliated by grabbing him by his throat, she was chastised and nothing was said to that child and it was prior to this past incident Friday. I am just tired of these little boys being protected by the schools and when my child acknowledges that someone is bothering her she can get none. I’m going through my own issues myself but my child needs my help so I know how to put my problems aside. I am in school, on section 8, receive snap benefits and receive only $70 a month for utility cost from section 8. Please email me back so I can help my child. Today she has an assessment with memorial behavioral health at 5pm just so she can return to school to take her 9 weeks test to pass to the 9th grade. I feel helpless and very angry that she is being punished for something that the teacher could have immediately stopped before it had gotten that far. I feel that after he didn’t listen to her she should have sent him to the office especially after he made it his point to follow her across the classroom, the child was being insubordinate to her which is grounds for removal.

  50. What parents need to realize is often the child they have at home is not the same at school. Educators must control behavior in the classroom in order for students to learn. Writing a students name on the board or placing them in time out encourages them to think about their behavior. Everything isn’t abuse but some teachers do exploit their power at the expense of the child’s feelings. Time out and other practices are meant to motivat and discourage undesirable behavior. Students know when they do something wrong but will continue to do it if they aren’t warned or realize there is a consequence. They should also be rewarded for commendable behavior.

    • Hi Art. You are correct about the need for time outs. However, writing a child’s name on a board is not a time out, it is a public revelation of their inability to conform. It does not encourage introspection, it encourages self deprecation and, if its chronic and severe, self mutilation. It totally destroys an individual’s self esteem. It makes them feel bad.

      My son’s teacher did that to him once and I asked him how it made him feel. He said it made him feel bad about himself. I’m sure it is the same for all kids who are publicly shamed in similar fashion. Frankly, I don’t believe any teacher has the right to make my children “feel bad” about themselves. That is emotional assault, pure and simple, and it should be illegal because it causes long term damage to the individual, lowering productivity, causing social problems, undermining health, etc.

      You can teach/discipline children without making them feel bad themselves. It just requires a lot of time and individual attention, which is something that is hard to come by these days what with large class sizes and the skewed priorities of our modern world. We can do it, we as a society just have to learn to value our children a lot better.

      Dr. S.

  51. Maria Lindquist

    Dear Dr. Sosteric,

    I am having a issue with my kids private school and would love to have your advice on this matter. Let me give you some background before I tell you my issue.

    My husband passed away from cancer 3 years ago and now I am a single mother of two beautiful loving children. I have a 2 year old and a 13 year.

    Both of my children have been attending the same school since kindergarten and are doing very well under the circumstances. My 13 year old son is an honor student and is a very kind and considerate boy.

    He is now the Vice President of the school and was running for President until both positions were taken away from him as a form of punishment for what he said to a opponent. He just finished tutoring a 4th grade child and was escorting the child in the hall way when 3 girls surrounded him. Two of girls were in running for office and one was running for President like him. I will call her girl #1- she said to the child he was escorting “Vote for me for President’! The girl #2 said Vote for me for Vice President, girl #3 just listened. #1 girl said “I turned in my speech early”. #2 girl said “That is what a good president should do”. Then my son said ” Because you were unsure of your speech”. My son realized that the child he tutors wanted to escape the tension and left to exit the building and my son followed.

    Then my son was questioned by 2 teachers and was told that #1 girl went to the school teachers that were in charge of the elections because she was crying and felt hurt, paralyzed. This is what he was told by the principal. My son is not very good at expressing himself when he is confronted and gets very nervous and fumble his words, really does not remember what happen. The school teachers and principal feel that he is not telling the truth. The principle lashed out at him in private and made him to feel like a real loser and stated to my son that he damage this
    girl so much that it just made her hurt and caused her pain. The principle then said he had to be punished and suffer the consequences for his actions. So he took away the one thing that my son was looking forward to and had worked so hard to achieve…..his Vice President status and the future of running for President. My son is so devastated and beyond repair that we have seen a professional child therapist who said the punishment was “absurd”. Well report from the therapist is to follow. I have meet with the principal and because I am not in the best emotional state, I have a slow death while in his presence during our meeting because It will have such a severe impact on my sons welfare and well being. I beg for a better resolution because I am afraid how much damage this will incur on top of my sons grief. Life sucks!!!!!!

    Is pretty much what my son said. HE was a very confident, happy boy and has his plans made out to attend a very prestigious high school because of his good grades. The boy is such a pleasure to have in the classroom is always on his report cards and has never had a problem or conflict with his fellow students. If he did he would resolve them himself. Now the my sunken not bare the humiliation that awaits him when he goes back to school. Today we will meet with our school Priest and see if we can get any resolution. I am a very active volunteer in the school and everyone at the school is very supportive of us.
    I look forward to your advice.

  52. I work at an early learning center and I believe that the way the owner of the center treats the children is too harsh and controlling. She even talks about some children being smart and some are not. She treats the children as if they are soldiers and brags about how she is the “chief”. She thinks the children respect her but what I see on their faces is fear. She believes a teacher needs to push the students to learn to read and do math at the age of even three years of age. I believe in working with the child at his/her pace with patients and encouragement and building up their self esteem by focusing more on their abilities . What they don’t know , slowly introduce it . I believe young children learn through play but my boss wants them sitting still on a chair at a table reading and writing. I’m there cause I deeply care for my students and can’t give them my back and walk away.

  53. My son is being bullied very badly at school and after repeat letters and meetings with the teachers , my son is still being bullied just horrible. His coach even allows it to happen. My son is in the fourth grade and this has been going on for years. The last time my son was cornered by the buoy and punched in the back . When he got home and told me , I wrote the principal a letter stating that if he didn’t get this matter taken care of that I would have the local news investigate this situation. Well as a result of that the principal called cps on my and lied to them saying he believed my son was living in a house with no water and also physical abuse due to the fact that we had no water. For the record….. I have a waterwell so I never run out of water. I hired an attorney and the first meeting u explained to her that I believe it was the school because I threatened them with the news. Come to find out it was the school. The cos worker never showed up at my attorneys office and and have decided to close the case due to lack of evidence. My son failed school because of this. What can I due to get our lives back on track and how do I encourage my son to want to go back to school where all this evil stuff takes place and can anything be done to the principal for causing such grief to our family

    • You need to document, document, document. You should document your sons moods, document his anxiety when he doesn’t want to go to school, document incidents, date, time, etc. Document exchanges with the principal, with the coach, and everything. You have to document damage, basically. You have to prove to a court that the treatment that your son is experiencing his causing him damage. So lowered grades, refusal to attend school, bed wetting, whatever you see as evidence. Right it down, date it, associate it with specific events if you can, and put it all in a folder. Then when you’ve documented enough evidence, go see a lawyer and see if the media will pick it up. It is no guarantee, but documentation increases your chance of legal success.

      I don’t know what you can do to get yourself and your son back on track. Sometimes schools handle it, sometimes they don’t. Unfortunately there are no accountability mechanisms, AFAIK, that allows independent observation of the activities of teachers and school authorities.

  54. Thanks for taking the time to produce this article, its very helpful for parents in distress about the trouble their little ones face.

    Is this abuse? My daughter was separated from her twin at primary school as the educational policy stated that it was better to split twins up rather than them be taught in the same class room. As a result she cried every single day she went to school. She is now in her second year at junior school, she has spent 2 yeas forming a friendship group, she is happy and doing well. However the school is now splitting up the classes so the children get used to change, mixing with their piers and preparing them for the big change when they go to senior school. She has been placed in a class with one friend and one girl who always picks on her. Her friends other ‘best’ friends have all been kept together in another class. She is absolutely distraught and a very unhappy little 9 year old.

    • Hi Rob.

      Yes, I would consider this profoundly abusive. It is abusive because it forces an emotionally disruptive disconnection between your two daughters, and it is doubly so because it extends the separation over time, and does it in a way where your daughter’s are constantly reminded of the separation. You can see just how bad this is by simply observing your child’s distraught response. The school made your child cry over and over and over again.

      What kind of school is this? What policy did they cite to justify this action? And better why? Why is it better to separate your daughter’s.

      She is now in her second year at junior school, she has spent 2 yeas forming a friendship group, she is happy and doing well. However the school is now splitting up the classes so the children get used to change, mixing with their piers and preparing them for the big change when they go to senior school. She has been placed in a class with one friend and one girl who always picks on her. Her friends other ‘best’ friends have all been kept together in another class. She is absolutely distraught and a very unhappy little 9 year old.

      This is horrific. The school is deliberately traumatizing young children.

      Are you in a position to ask them why they think that “preparing children for change” by traumatically separating them from their attachments is a good thing? Can they point to a line in a policy document that gives them the authority to manipulate children’s emotional development in this manner? The school is harming your children,

      Attachments are critical to a child’s intellectual and emotional development. Primary attachments with parents are critical (and later, primary attachments with an intimate partner), but attachments between siblings or friends is important as well. You can search the internet for information on attachment, and what happens to people when their attachments are not secure. A good place to start is with the below article.


      or this search


  55. Abigail Williams

    Why don’t you all just pull your children out of these schools instead of cowardly hiding behind this website voicing your concerns. I know these teachers are over worked under supported and under paid and are trying there best to give everything they have for sometimes up to 25 children in the classroom, let’s see any of you handle that. Day after day teachers are being pulled on emotionally and physically by parents and students to provide different needs to multiple students. Instead of bullying teachers why not support them MORE so you can get the results that you are looking for, for your children that you care so much for in these classrooms. Parents only see there school agree children maybe 5 hours a day while teachers have the responsibilities of your children 9. If some of you had the responsibility that teachers had, you would have long committed suicide from the pressure. What is going to end up happening is there is going to arise a generation where no one wants to be a teacher and then home schooling will be the only option. Good luck :)

    • Hi Abigail

      Yes, you are correct. Teachers are overworked and underpaid. They struggle with huge classrooms and don’t have the support they need to do a good job. Parents make demands, sometimes unreasonable, and this makes the teacher’s job even harder. Teachers are stuck in the middle, that’s for sure, and it is not a pleasant place to be. But this is not the child’s fault, nor is it the parents fault. I also think you are correct that parents and teachers should work together, but not in the way think. The problem is that school’s are underfunded, and schools are underfunded because the people who currently control our governments prioritize war, private profit, and ideological indoctrination over true and authentic education. This is a problem with social priorities and wealth distribution (see my Rocket Scientists Guide to Money and the Economy). We have more billionaires than ever before on this planet, yet our teachers and students are suffering under a yoke of increasing class size, and diminishing support. The AGT (America’s Got Talent) view of reality is a smokescreen for the increasing anguish and despair on the ground.

      As for bullying the teachers, I’ve heard this before. Every time a parent complains too loudly, the teacher’s call the parents a bully. It is a tried and true way of shutting the parent down. That’s not right Abigail. You can’t shut down this conversation by accusing concerned parents of being bullies. Being concerned about how my kids are treated in school does not make me a bully. Complaining about how my children are treated does not make me a bully. Demanding that teachers respect the emotional and psychological needs of my child does not make me a bully. Being upset by how teachers and administrators treat my child does not make me a bully. Of course, this doesn’t give me the right to be abusive towards teachers either. But when our children are involved, emotions run high and teachers and administrators need to acknowledge that, not try and suppress it. The best way to diffuse a parent’s anger is to listen and be accountable. If you don’t want to deal with angry parents, you listen to them.

      That said, we definitely need a dialog between parents and teachers, and between teachers and the children they teach. We need to talk openly about class sizes, government funding, and solving the problems we face. That’s a big dialog to be sure because it means shifting our priorities and putting the development of our children first, but we have to do it. If we don’t, children will continue to grow up damaged, and teachers will eventually explode under the increasingly onerous burden our politicians and corporate leaders are forcing them to bear.

      Mike Sosteric

      • Hello Dr. S.

        Firstly, thank you for this article and your continued response to those who have posted. I applaud you for standing up for your children and demanding the best for them and from your (tax-funded) free education. That said, I am an educator myself and had a question regarding dealing with students who choose to not follow a classroom rule.

        Firstly, I’d lake to share my classroom management plan and the research that it is based on. General classroom management practice for educators is that students are taught the classroom rules and expectations the first two weeks of class, are asked to reflect on, share with, and comment on why we even have classroom rules and what the benefit to oneself, the other students in class, the teacher, and the school are to having and following these rules (Wong, Kriete & Denton). If a student decides to not follow a classroom rule and therefore puts them self in a situation where they and the other students in class cannot learn then I will let the student know the rule they have chosen not to follow in a quick private reminder that takes less than five seconds. This is done privately with the student at his/her seat or while they are with their group so as not to isolate them from their peers (ie – I don’t pull them outside of the classroom away from their peers, make them stand up in front of the class, etc) t is also stressed both at the beginning of school and when a reminder is given that this reminder is just that – a reminder of what the class expectations are for every student, and the student is in NO WAY in trouble or “wrong” or “bad”. If a student chooses to continue to engage in the same behavior for that class session the student will receive a reminder paper that marks the behavior that I am seeing and what I must do as the adult educator in charge of every students well-being and learning in the classroom. If the student feels that they need to talk to me privately at this time they may (the students are humans with real emotions and feelings and this chance to talk gives them an opportunity to share something that I may have not seen before i.e. – “Billy makes a face at me every time you’re on the other side of the room working with those students.” In which case I’d take the reminder paper back and talk with Billy about making positive choices) Again the student is NOT in trouble in any way at all. This is only a way of me letting the student know that I have continued to see them engage in a behavior that is disruptive to their own learning and the learning of their peers. If a student continues to engage in a disruptive behavior after being reminded verbally and later being handed a reminder paper and offered an opportunity to talk to me then I take the reminder paper and follow through with the action on the reminder paper. (Glasser “articles/books on Choice Theory”; Linsin, Michael “Positive Behavior Support”; Jensen, Eric “Teaching with Poverty in Mind”, “Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain” & Dweck, Carol “Growth Mindset”)

        I want all my students to continue to choose good supportive actions that will help them learn and contribute to our class. All that said, in your professional opinion and from a sociologists perspective, what would be an appropriate action for me to take in dealing with a student who has chosen to continue not following a classroom rule during the same class session/day?

        • An addendum to my previous question for Dr. S. – I teach middle school age children.

        • HI JD.

          Well, I guess the first thing to say is that, in my opinion anyway, a child does not “choose” to break a rule. Children naturally seek to attach to those parents and others they intuit/feel as protectors. I think its an evolutionary thing. Strong attachments to parental units (or parental type units, like teachers) has value for survival. I think if any child is “choosing” to not follow the rules, something else is going on. I think if all other avenues have been exhausted (i.e boredom or bullying in the classroom), then the attention must turn to the child’s attachments, i.e. parents. I would suspect that in most cases children who act out do so because there are issues with the quality of their attachments at home (or maybe inadequate nutrition, sleep, etc.).

          If this is the case, i.e. if a child is not following rules, acting out, or otherwise misbehaving because of attachment issues (or other issues) at home, there isn’t much that you as an individual teacher can do, especially with class sizes these days. Anything you could do would involve emotional work with the child (labour and energy intensive for you), and involvement with the parents at home. Our education system is not setup to reach back into the home to deal with family issues, and if it was, there would need to be a team of people dealing with it. No single person can fix the situation of broken/fractured/incomplete/inadequate attachments in the home. That’s such a huge problem, especially when you realize that when the child is coming to school with issues, the parents themselves very likely have major issues as well.

          This is a very general statement you know, though. Really just some things to think about. It would all depend on the severity of the child’s actions, what rule they are breaking, etc. It is risky to make general statements about specific child behaviours. Before you know what to do, you need to figure out what is motivating them. Are they modelling behaviour they see at home? Are the angry because of the neglect, disregard, and abuse of their primary attachments. Are they seeking attention as a desperate attempt to get their emotional needs med.

          I will say this though, if you punish the child in any way, you are exacerbating attachment issues they may have.

          Middle school is particularly tough. This is when kids start to act out all the bad behaviours they have learned from their parents, any attachment issues they have, etc.

          It strikes me that the approach that teachers are taught is very simplistic. You go over the rules and then reward/punish like they are dogs in a Pavolvian experiment. I don’t think that sort of simplistic approach is going to work with human children. They are just too psychologically, emotionally, and physically complex. It might present itself as an “efficient” process (but why is “efficiency” a criteria of K12 education), and probably works in most cases only because in most cases children are wired to “be good” (and not because the techniques have merit), but when child behaviour starts to really break down, fixing it requires far more that what behavioural psychology can provide.

          We really need a watershed shift here in how we view a) children, b) organize the education process, c) interface with families, and c) train and support the work of teachers.

          I think at the very minimum teachers have to realize than when children are misbehaving those children need extra attention from people with a sophisticated understanding of the human emotional systems. Who provides that extra attention, how we train them, and how it is all going to be funded, is an issue open for debate. For sure, class sizes would have to shrink dramatically, more teachers would have to be hired, and psychological and social work resources would have to be poured into the school system. It is not utopian. There is far more than enough cash floating around the world to fund the education system properly, its just being mishandled and abused (see my Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy for a grounded and simple poke at the global economic system).

          I guess ultimately what I’m saying here is a simple focus on the child is sociologically/psychologically/emotionally inadequate. I think that unless reality is changed, as a teacher you’re hooped. All you’ll be able to do is apply bandages to the problem. I imagine that would kinda take the joy and satisfaction right out of the teacher’s career.

          Anyway, does this sorta answer your question? I know this is very brief, and I’ve raised a lot of complicated issues, but it is a complicated problem


          • Hello Dr. S.

            Firstly, thank you for your time and such a well written reply. It’s truly appreciated! I concur with many of your sentiments especially “raised a lot of complicated issues, but it is a complicated problem”. I’ve really wrestled this summer with how best to help students that struggle in school. While I feel that I do well overall, I think that you hit the “nail on the head” so to speak in that it’s not just kids making a choice, but in many ways the child acting in the way they’ve been treated and seen others treated, both at school and home. You’ve given me much to consider and continue to research. Again, thanks for your time and sharing your ideas and expertise.
            All good things,

  56. Abigail Williams

    Nicely put.. and by the way I like being right :), so thank you for acknowledging that, (ijk). Dr. Sosteric you are a brilliant man, why are you just on this website and not in the public eye. What we all need is a competent leader with solutions that can pave the way for change. You sound like that guy, and fyi I will support you if you ever decide to go out on the front line. Thank you for caring about children the way you do because if I had to be honest with myself I suffered emotional and physical intimidation from a teacher when I was younger. Sometimes you can experience things that make you numb to the fact that what happened to you was wrong because you overcame the pain and damage. Something has to be done on a larger scale than just parent and teacher confrontation though, that is just a way that we become distracted from the real underlying issue. You know. . All that real smart stuff you just got finished talking about!

  57. What a fantastic article…saved it for long years to come…I have a son – 3 year old boy. Happy, bubbly, sensitive emotionally and “switched on” little man. I also have another baby on the way. I dread to send my children to school as early as 5 (my son will be just over 4 when he starts). It is far to early to put them into this pushy,competitive system and take their childhood away forever :( Enough reason for me to pack my bags and leave the country. I am not English so don’t see possibility of home schooling as I would never feel confident enough to do so. My husband is English and he rather stays (the reason I am not packed yet 😉 ) but shares my worries. I can not imagine on top of early start having an abusive teacher who encourage others to damaging behavior. Children as a group can be bad enough without encouragement. I was just researching how not to let “mad schooling system” affect my son’s creativity and confidence and stop it fit him into the system. How to make him strong and confident enough to never let anyone cut his wings by dictatorship-like authorities (took me long time to stop believing what I was told as a child- all this wasted time to enjoy the way I am). That’s how I got to this article and I am very grateful for it…Thank you so much. It will make me more confident as what to do If things turn nasty for my children

  58. I am always searching for articles in an attempt to find out why this still bothers me after 40 years. Today I found your web site. I feel my trauma has words now. It was in 1973 my mother had suddenly died. I was raised in a home with lots of yelling. My father and mother never seemed to do anything together (other than run a business together) and alone they were a mixed bag of problems. My father took an interest in me. We camped and fished and took trips to see his part of the family. My mother was both good and cruel to me. She provided wonderful meals and kept a nice home, but I was beaten naked at 9 and 10 with a belt 2 twice. Once on my birthday for showing more interest in one of my gifts over the other at my party. She died several years latter and I was left with a grieving father. I had an older sister that was away at college.

    Now, at 13 and in the 9th grade I had a teacher Mr. George Carr. It was a language course and we never got past the 4 pages of the book we were discussing. It was a very odd class to me. This teacher said he could not hear me so I was asked to move-drag my desk to the front of the class and behind his. I thought I would just die that day. Each day was the same, to move my desk. It would have been easier on me just to have had a desk already there, but no. Just writing this makes me emotional and I am now 55 years old. He was also abusive in saying I never believed in Santa clause for some reason. I was asked to read to the class from up there and to speak up. Today, I dream that I would have gotten up saying “Can you hear me now” telling him I was going to the office to report him and to stop this. My classmates never heckled me because they felt bad for me. Remember this was 1973 and kids were nice then. Degradation and public humiliation. I now have words for this experience. I was still in shock over my mothers death then months latter to have this happen. I have another theory. In 7th grade I was bused out of my well to do neighborhood and into the projects. There, I met a nice boy, but his friend was not nice. He tried to touch me all the time and I reported him. This was quite a scandal and this boys’ last name was CARR. With black teachers being moved into white areas of public schools, this is how Mr. G. CARR came to teach at Coleman Jr. High in Tampa. I think there was a connection and this was sort of a pay back that this teacher inflicted on me. Damage done. He won. When it came time for my own son to attend this school, I went before the school board with my experience. They wanted nothing to do with it. My son was granted on the spot to attend a different school and I was refused any help in finding out the teaching history and where a bots of this man.

    My baggage increases with the emotional abuse by my father and multiple marriages before 25 years old. I never really did anything with my life but did finish college. The good doctors won’t accept me as a patient so I get medicated by the run of the mill variety. I have no real relationship with my only child, a grown son away at college. It’s uncomfortable to just talk to him or be alone with him. I find it hard to hug him. I am embarrassed that he, this great young man, got me as his mother. As a parent, I knew I had a lot to watch out for but I still failed. My husband has been both mother and father to him and 200% at that. I do rest easy that he has such a great father and this chain was hopefully broken.

  59. Please correct your spelling. Principle means a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.
    Principal, in this context, means the person with the highest authority or most important position in an organization, institution, or group.

    • Sigh. Thanks for that. I’ve made the edits. To everybody else writing here, “principle” is different from “principal”. Let’s try and get it right!

  60. I have been a kindergarten teacher for 23 years and am appalled at some of these posts. I believe in positive reinforcement. The more you build children up and acknowledge the things they do well, the better their self esteem. When you lift children up it creates a bond between student and teacher and they want to try their best. Yes, I have kids with behavior problems. But, if I stay positive and brag about their accomplishments, they realize we are on the same team. It takes 21 days to break a bad habit or build good habits. It’s my job to stay patient and guide my kids to those positives. We have a major gang presence and are 89% poverty. None of that matters when the door closes to room 116.

    • HI Gigi.

      What a wonderful job you are doing. You are building attachments with your children and these attachments are forming the basis of positive behavioral change! Well done. However, I think though that how schools expect teachers to interact with students change as they go through the system. I noticed with my children that the initially warm and positive experiences of kindergarten were gradually replaced with colder, instrumental, approaches that emphasized performance uber alles. It was when the school priorities shifted from capturing children in the first couple grades, to “educating” them in later years, that teachers became less concerned with attachments. Do you think this is true? Do you think that children are treated differently as they move through the system.

      Curious, what are you specifically appalled at?

  61. I was one of the students who the teachers picked on and singled out. From what I remember, it was because I was talking when the teacher said that everyone needed to be quiet. Instead of quiet gesture or a friendly reminder, my second grade teacher made my life a living hell and turned my world upside down. She was verbally abusing me with name calling and encouraging all my peers in the class room to do the same. It was 1975, so kids were mean and cruel back then as well. This went on for the entire school year and even after that, and the bullying escalated through high school. When my second grade teacher was doing this, she would not stop after I told her to. I was under the impression that the school was aware of what was happening because this kind of thing was even happening when we would be in the hallways, and the in the cafeteria. It is really sad that with all the viable witnesses that were around, i.e. students, other teachers, the principal/assistant principal, and the cafeteria staff, not one of them stepped up for me or helped me. I played hooky for almost 1/3 of the school year because it was so unbearable. I tried to talk to my mom about it, but all she would say is “just ignore them”. I can tell you, that this method does NOT work, because when you ignore bullies, then they start kicking and hitting. I have no children of my own, but if I did, I don’t think that I would be sending them to any public school system. I am for recording and having surveillance in an environment and classrooms because of my experience with bullying. It may be that these bullies are so sociopathic that they do not see what they are doing, and the video and audio recording may be the way to show them what they are doing. I have to wonder if the bullying is one of the reasons why the public schools where I live are such a mess. Bullying is an unforgiveable act and behavior. When impressionable children are bullied, their trust level is so low that they don’t know who they turn to, and are not as likely to share anything that happens in their lives. I also believe that bullying can cause even racial prejudices. It may not be for all, but for some. I only say this because my second grade teacher who was a bully was black. At that time, I had not been around that many black people, and one of the first black persons I knew was mean and evil; not a good impression. Also, their sympathy level for others might not be as great as it could be.

  62. Let me start by saying this is an important discussion that deserves more attention. I am an educator; i work at an inner city high school in a large city with a 99% free and reduced lunch status and over a third of the student population is identified as in a homeless or highly mobile situation (many more if you count those not reported or identified) we have all the spectrum of special ed students and offer a vast array of services to students ie: therapists psychologists counselors aides educational assistants etc. We try to support each students’ individual learning by working together as a team to support student. My specific role is a student dean/behavior specialist/student advocate. My suggestion is to approach the teacher and ask for a conference to work together to support the student. iNCLUDE the student – his or her input matters. I try to build a relationship with each student based on trust. When the student, parent/guardian and staff support and trust each other it sets up a great support system. Work with the teacher as a team! I cannot stress this enough. Come up with specific interventions to support the student together; something that meets the classroom expectations. Ask the teacher for a copy of his or her classroom expectations – get specific answers to interventions and consequences before any incidents occur. (which i understand this all sounds great but may not happen in all schools). Sadly, i see this a lot. Students feel targeted and bullied by teachers and teachers feel the student is disruptive and the cycle continues. My goal is to advocate for the student- request a formal mediation with the teacher and be present to document and let your child and the teacher voice their views. Mediation have worked wonders. What I’m getting at is as best as possible, approach it as a team effort. If your child is in elementary and more likely has one primary teacher, include the gym teacher, art teacher, librarian, aides, lunchroom staff etc. You are not alone! Keep bringing up your concerns in writing with the team… Be specific. Leave the meeting w documented plan: if student A is tired, and might sleep in class (thus give the appearance of not meeting class expectation of _________ he she will request a pass to health office to nap. Student is expected to make up any work, teacher should communicate w parent weekly so parent can know the scope of the tiredness. Team will meet in 2 weeks to discuss intervention) please advocate for your child! We strive to have high expectations for every member of our school community..parent guardian, staff, students. our future generations depends on us!

  63. My son is not making his paces and became very lazy with his work this year his teacher take him away from his office and put him at the back of the classroom where his classmates cannot see him because he is distructing his classmates according to the teacher, and another incident was the teacher texted me one day telling me that my son is not doing his paces again and that she had done all her part already that all kinds of motivation were done but my son wont still obey her and she’ll just send my son home with a question.i for one as a mother was hurt how come she could make suggestion or think to send my son home?

  64. Without excusing actual abuse, it’s worth noting that many kids are being brought up in an atmosphere that doesn’t allow them to fail, and thus turns every correction experience into a feeling of abuse. Having consequences, even public ones, for wrongdoing is good both for the student and for those who see it. If kids don’t want consequences, then they should not do what’s wrong. The probably is like, first and foremost, a home problem where children are not taught basic respect and honor for others. They are usually given their own way, and disobedience is met with nothing more than a conversation.

    It is better to stop protecting the wrongdoer, even if the teacher might handle it in a better way. Remember, your child is not the only one in the class. The teacher has to worry about the effects on others as well.

    • HI LT.

      You are raising a lot of points in your short comment. I think consequences are fine, but they should be reasonable, appropriate, and respectful. I also think that you can’t just blame the child. Kids learn respect and honor for others when it is modelled to them. When we respect our kids, when we honor their feelings, when we listen to what they say, when we don’t abuse them, when we don’t insult them, cut them down, make them feel bad or stupid, then they learn to treat others that way. OTOH, if we disrespect our kids, they turn around and they treat others exactly the way we treat them. So if kids are displaying lack of respect in schools, it is almost certainly because one or more of the significant adults in their life have already treated them with some level of violence and disrespect.

      I know this is true. I am constantly amazed at how my kids act towards each other in exactly the way I act towards them. Can’t say I’m 100 percent proud of the way I’ve treated my kids over the years, but then I’m human and I make mistakes. Nevertheless, I see my actions (both good and bad) reflected in the way they act (or act out, as the case may be). They are little mirrors of the way they I treated them. If kids are misbehaving, acting out, bullying, being violent, being disrespectful, or whatever, the problem is not just them. Children (and people) NEVER act in isolation from the reality they live in, and it is a big pedagogical error to think that they do. People act the way they do because of the world/reality that they inhabit. If you want to change their behavior, “simply” change their reality (ya I know how impossible that probably seems).

      If kids are not behaving in class, it is a problem; but, the kids are not exclusively (or even primarily, I feel) to blame. Having public consequences for things that are totally out of their control (like how they are being treated at home), is not fair, and not respectful, IMHO.


  65. Many thanks, for raising such a topic.

    It is very touching indeed. There was a paper that was written with regards to children abuse, I have highlighted some few important facts below for your perusal….its main concern was more about what and how us, as parents indirectly abuse our kids by simple ignoring them.

    This is a very interesting link, and very much profound stipulated about what happen within the class environment but my interest and fear is the abuse that happens in the home front.

    How Ignoring Your Child Affects Confidence

    When you continuously ignore your child, his confidence and self-esteem suffer, according to the Children’s Physician Network. Your lack of interest, affection and displays of love might make him feel that he is not worthy. He might begin to feel that nothing he does is good enough, which could cause him to believe that he is not good enough.

    How Ignoring Your Child Affects Behaviour

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who are ignored by their parents tend to behave more aggressively than children who receive plenty of attention from mom and dad. If you spend more time ignoring your kids than you do playing with them, talking to them and acknowledging them, they might show their anger by throwing objects, hitting others, yelling and behaving with an overall aggressive demeanor.

    How Ignoring Your Child Affects His Future

    Children who are ignored by their parents are emotionally abused, and emotionally abused children are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or even suicide, according to the Children’s Physician Network. Additionally, ignoring your child can affect his ability to form lasting, healthy relationships with his peers, his extended family and his future spouse. He might be withdrawn and be prone to using illegal substances even as a young child as a coping mechanism.

    Other Ways Ignoring Your Child Affects Him Negatively

    Subjecting your child to the emotional abuse known as ignoring can cause your child to suffer from learning disabilities or prolonged negative habits such as bed-wetting or soiling her pants even though she is potty-trained, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. When you ignore your child routinely, chances of your child developing some sort of learning disability or oppositional behavior disorder increases.

    These points have tough me so much, I am more vigilant…

    With kind regards
    Smangele Shange

    • Hello everyone,
      my daughter and I are currently going thru a really sad situation. she is in 6th grade in a school for the deaf due to her deafness, she barely started at this new school and the transition was going fine until this past Friday as I notice something wrong with her at dinner time, she said she wasn’t hungry and looked sad, I thought she had a long week and was tired. later on we were having a conversation and I asked her why she looked sad and told me what her new teacher made her feel uncomfortable and sad because when she was in social skills class and that her teacher said that people that are not born in the united states are not allowed to work or go to school and my daughter said well I wasn’t born here I was born abroad, then the teacher asked her what color was her passport at what my daughter answered blue because I have an American passport. my daughter asked me if her teacher was right if she was gonna be able to work what she becomes an adult. I know her teacher was wrong to ask my daughter that but I feel really offended by the teachers attitude. All I need is an advice in how to approach her teacher and if someone things that her teacher was being unprofessional. I am speechless I don’t know what to do I am scared she will continue to bully my daughter. please help, I do not know what to do!

  66. My daughter was bullied in high school. Tormented by those she thought were her friends. She now is an angry child and I am worried about who she has become and who she will turn out to be. We don’t have a close relationship and she is very distant. She told be about her friends not including her in certain events or outings. They even included her boyfriend and somehow got him to obey their every command. He eventually broke up with her because of it all. They would hurt her during school and away from school. They would ignore her every time she was around them and they would pretend like her life didn’t matter. They would never listen to her when she would even sit with them at lunch. They would interrupt her even if she was talking to someone to start their own conversation. She got her car egged even her senior year. She was so kind and vulnerable. One time they even wrote she was a bitch inside a bathroom stall in the girl’s bathroom. She went to the counselor who went to the principle, but nothing changed. They would say she’s crazy with and without teachers around. The teachers never talked to the students because they were the “good” students. What I have learned is that anyone can be a bully. Especially the nice ones. But now my daughter hates everyone is always negative towards herself. She is doing poorly now in college and it has become very hard for her to make new friends. She is even getting distant with her best friend. Emotional bullying seems ver severe because it lasts a life time. It isn’t something that should be allowed. The parents of those who are bullying should be talked to. Did i mention two of the parents worked at the school and another parent was on the school board?! What kind of school allows this kind of behavior. I was very unimpressed and I wouldn’t suggest this school to anyone.

  67. Hello Dr.
    I have a quick question, what I can do 4 my 5 year old son when he is being accused of saying bad words when he doesn’t know these bad words, I know he doesn’t bc bad words 4 him is stupid and shut up, these two r really big bag words in my house and when someone says them, my kids run to me to let me know. So yesterday I say 1 of the “bad words” that the school said my son said in class and my son didn’t react to it, say anything, he just kept playing, why because he doesn’t event know that word. In the past if I say a bad word -stupid, he had run to my husband to tell on me. I don’t believe this acusations against my son, but I really believe is more a racial problem. A cording 2 his white teacher he is doing great, but a cording to his black teacher he is always in trouble. This is a constant problem, can you please advise me on what to do. Thk u!

    • I personally wouldn’t worry about. Just tell the teacher you’ll talk to him and let it go. You might also tell the teacher your son is generally quite avoidant when it comes to cuss words (mine is too).

      I had a situation like this come up years ago with my daughter. My daughter had just done a WISC assessment and in that assessment the school psychologist had written that my daughter had been using bad words in class. The psychologist had actually written in her report that my wife had reported to her in a phone interview that my daughter was using cuss words a lot. I couldn’t believe it when I read it because my daughter just never used those words. When I asked my wife, she said that she had never even talked to the psychologist and never said that about Vayda. When I pressed the district psychologists, she admitted that it was actually the teacher who said that my wife had said that. I was totally shocked. When I asked the teacher she admitted that she had heard my daughter say a really minor swear (something like “shit”) ONCE on the playground. Yet here was the psychologists suggesting my daughter had major potty mouth. The psychologists basically LIED on the assessment of my daughter, constructing an image of her as a problem based on what her teacher had said. It was bad enough that the teacher only had one instance to refer to, it was worse that she added weight to her “assessment” by suggesting (lying) that my wife had been the one to report it. I cannot tell you how horrified I was by this. And it got worse! When I complained to the Alberta Psychological Association (CAP) they totally protected this incompetent psychologist! I can tell you as someone with experience in sociometrics that her methodology wasn’t just flawed, it was criminal. No registered psychologist should ever be caught putting words into parent’s mouths like that. Even worse was that the professional association in the province protected her incompetence rather than my daughter’s emotional and mental health. To this day I still shake my head at the brutal incompetence displayed by the psychological professionals involved.

      I should note that I absolutely don’t blame the teacher. It is the job of the highly paid psychologist in this instance to control for misperception, miscommunication, and forms of observer bias.

  68. I need help and not sure what to do. My son is in 3rd grade and this is his 4th week of school. Each week a teacher’s helper comes in the class and takes kids in small groups and does various activities with them. This man, each week, has told my son he was slow. He asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up and my son replied, “a military war scientist.” This paraprofessional said, “yeah, right you’re too slow. You will be scratching your head and the army will leave you behind.” Then the next week, he again asked my son, in front of his peers, if he was still planning on being a war scientist. My son, Daniel, said yes. This man asked him if he was still “slow” and Daniel said he wasn’t slow and that he even drew blueprints of rocket boosters. This man pulled out his smartphone, pulled up pictures of rocket boosters and said, did your blueprints look like this? When my 8 year old started to point out the similarities of the cell phone pics and his drawing, this paraprofessional got mad and told him to “go sit down kid, you have a lot to learn.” You would think that was it. However, every time this man passes my son in the hall, he says “hey military war scientist.” Kids are now laughing and doing the same when they see my son. What the hell happened to building, encouraging a child’s dream. Not only is he snubbing out my son’s dreams, he is making my son hate going to school. We met with the teacher and principal today and it was a joke. This man wasn’t even there but he wrote a statement explaining his actions. He was trying to demonstrate that working in groups and working quickly was important.. Lame excuse and it doesn’t excuse, at least not to me, what transpired. I now feel like my son has a target on his back. That being said, the principal has not cared for my husband and I because my son was diagnosed with type 1 juvenile diabetes and they have not had a child in their school with this disease. We have had to make the school system make some adjustments to keep Daniel safe and that has meant going up against the principal on a few occasions. I even had to provide a copy of what my son’s rights were under the ADA to make her aware of the violations within her school. So here we are now and I feel he is a target. My son is very bright, tested at 97% statewide. He is now questioning me if he is slow and does this paraprofessional mean slow moving or slow in the head. What can I do now? I am not happy that nothing is being done. I cannot afford to take him out of the school system and pay tuition. A good reason for vouchers. I am thinking I need to contact an attorney because I want this form of bullying to stop. Ideas of where to turn next?

    • If you have the ability, simply stop sending your son to school. Let the school know that until they do something about the abusive paraprofessional, your son will not be attending their school. If they threaten truancy action, tell them to bring it on. Tell them you’ll be happy to explain to a judge, the police, and everybody who cares to listen what the school is allowing to happen.

      Do you have the ability to stop sending your child to school for a time? He really is better off staying home since the damage that his school is doing will remain with him for many years.

  69. This article was exactly what I needed to read! Very well written. I fear my son is being emotionally abused by his teachers for a couple of years now. The more my husband and I bring it up to the teacher the worse it seems to get for our son. We have even changed schools. We fear our sons transcripts are tainted with negative remarks about my husband and l. It seems we are losing our credibility along the way.All because we speak up about the unfair treatment. The negitive remarks made toward our son is taking its toll on him emotionally! I just know god landed me hear to read this very informative article. Because my husband and I are at wits end. So tired of the battle for fairness! Thank you so much writing this material!

  70. I happened to come across this article tonight after doing a general Google search of what to do when your child isn’t liked at school. It was the first article that popped up and it was exactly what I needed to see. My son has been having behavior problems at school the last couple of weeks, this I only found out after the teacher decided to tell me 2 weeks ago that she has moved my son’s desk twice. Her complaints are that he is disruptive, doesn’t respect the learning environment etc. She said she has had him sit in front of the class on the floor because he was messing with his desk and she does single him out by stopping the lesson to chastise him in front of the class. Today we had a meeting with her and the assistant principal and it came out that over the last 2 weeks my son has been tattling on the other kids and the other kids are not wanting to be his partner and are pulling away from him. This to me was a red flag, I tried explaining that there have been several times where my son has come home and said he has gotten in trouble for something that another child was doing as well but the other child didn’t get in trouble. Of course it’s chalked up to “well some people get caught and others don’t.” While I still am working with my son to be a leader and that because one person is doing something it doesn’t mean that he should be doing it I firmly believe the teacher is singling him out now and the other kids are picking up on it. My plan now is to take this article back to the vice principal, the counselor and the school psychologist so that I can articulate what I was trying to articulate with the teacher today. I felt like this is what has been going on but couldn’t articulate it well enough. Thank you.

    • I’m really sorry, but I am a teacher and if your sons teacher is having to move your child’s desk, then he is obviously doing something! I am going to tell you what the teacher probably wishes she could… Of course your child says that it wasn’t him. He is a CHILD!! Your kid is playing you like a fool and you are falling for it hook, line, and sinker. We have better things to do than make up lies about our students and call their parents on our free time! You and your child will suffer for your lack of holding him accountable in the long run. On a side note: word will spread about you quickly because by going to extremes you are going to be “that mom” and I guarantee the teachers will be crossing their fingers that they don’t get your kid in their class. The kid that is bad as hell at school but his mother swears he does no wrong!! If you don’t like the way the teacher does it then homeschool him

      • This is actually kinda a frightening comment to come from a teacher. You know nothing about the situation except what you read above. You do not know the classroom situation, the teacher, the situation at home, classroom demographics, or anything, yet you jump to horrific conclusions about the boy and the mom. You even reveal, and parents reading, pay attention to this, how teachers will “talk” about this mom and “spread the word” that it is this mother that is the problem. This mother will get a “reputation” because you and other teachers will talk behind her back and actively UNDERMINE her and her child. You are revealing for the world the subtle and toxic ways teachers avoid dealing with the issues in themselves, and their classrooms, by shifting the blame onto parents and righteously judging them away.

        It is this sort of quick and callous prejudgment of the situation that gives teachers a bad name, and makes it very difficult for parents and teachers to work together amicably. Jane, you make no effort at all to figure out what is going wrong. You just slam a righteous judgment down without the slightest attempt to dig a little deeper. If this was my child and you were his teacher, I would be very angry with you right now and I would be talking to principals, school superintendents, and anybody else that would listen. I would be speaking about your quick prejudgment, your inability to analyze and assess the situation, the vindictive social tactics you use to silence parents, and probably a lot of other stuff. I would raise a lot of stink, and that would be unfortunate because all the drama and all the anger and all the strife, while it might work to get you away from child, isn’t the best way to handle things. But when teachers like you step in to stir the pot, making a lot of noise is often the only way to be heard above these sorts of manipulative and divisive tactics.

        Kids act out for reasons. Sure, it is very important to hold children accountable, but the same goes for adults. I can give you many examples from my own childhood how I was picked on by teachers because of the assumption they made about me and my class. I didn’t act out, I just skipped school. In fact, my school experience was so bad that I skipped school in grade one! I used to wander the streets in the dead of winter because I feared my grade one teacher so much. OF course, the teachers and the principal blamed me and my single parent mother for raising a bad kid, but really it was an abusive grade one teacher that was the problem. I’m not the only child to hate school because teachers can be mean and cruel. Just ask any LGBQT child that does not fit inside the binary gender box that our society imposes. These kids are often tortured by parents, teachers, principals, and their peers.

        I’ve known some absolutely great teachers over the years, both as an adult and a child. In fact, I can trace my success in university to kind and pedagogically sophisticated acts of a single university English prof., but I’ve also known some horrifically mean spirited and violent ones. I have to ask myself how these mean spirited and violent ones get away with being like that, and your response here is a terrific example of how they get away with their abuse. Bad teachers actively work to construct social reality in a way that diverts attention and blames the victims. All they (all you) have to do is “talk” and “spread the world” and blame and point fingers. You actively undermine the parent by painting the parent and child as a “problem”. You take no account of the situation at all, ask no questions to find out what the real issues at all, and work hard to shift the blame and attention away. If teachers like you can convince all your colleagues that the parent and child are the ones with the issues, then attention is diverted, investigation is halted, parent and child have been silenced, and life goes on as usual. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this sort of thing protect abusive teachers. Everything from psychological torture to sexual abuse has been brushed under the rug by people like you engaged in socially manipulative practices like the kind you reveal here. Frankly, I think it is time we (parents and teachers) all learned to recognize this for what it is, and that we all work to put a stop to it once and for all. Enough of our children have suffered.

        • Tell me how many years you have taught elementary school again? I love how you rant and go on and on, quite frankly sir you telling me how I should do my job is laughable. It would be comparable to me telling a surgeon how to perform surgery. We are teachers we love our students and work our buys off for them and you! It is not my job to raise your child, ignorant people like you who have never treached through the inner workings of a school system, give parents a ridiculous entitlement. Has it ever occurred to you that these parents could be delusional??? Could it ever be there lack of parenting?? I appreciate also how you denied my comment about you on here to be posted, yet you speak so freely vomiting your own warped opinion and limiting the voices of others…I challenge you to do my job for one year, your viewpoint would be different. Honestly I doubt you would successfully survive one day!

          • Jane, I’m not the one that is ranting, you are. And yes, it has occurred to me that parenting is sometimes and issue. Yes, I understand that sometimes parents can be monsters as well. And no, I would not want to do your job. I realize how hard it is, and how toxic the environment can be, and I’ve seen the desiccated and bitter human shells that sometimes result from thirty years of teaching in a toxic system. But bad teachers are also an issue, as is bullying the classroom, as is violence in the home, as is rampant sexual abuse. It is not a simple issue.

            Your anger and hostility are palpable, Jane, feeding through this short exchange like a razor. I would hate to be a parent on the other side of this negativity and I would advise any parents who are to use recording devices, letter campaigns, and any other democratic means at their disposal to find ways to stop this. I can understand why you are frustrated with parents, but I’ll say it again, your hostility and knee jerk reactions are counterproductive. Your analysis of the problems is one-dimensional. Your “solution” to the problem, which is to talk behind a parents back, attack parents in this discussion, and undermine them within the school system, is toxic and destructive at a deep level.

            You know, it is not just parents and children who suffer within the boundaries of this terribly broken educational system. Teachers are threatened as well. California has recently revoked tenure for teachers (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/us/california-teacher-tenure-laws-ruled-unconstitutional.html), thus setting the stage for a nationwide attack on teacher autonomy (such as it is) and job security. And while I agree, as Joshua Pechthalt says in the article, that the anti-teacher rhetoric is “set out to scapegoat teachers for the real problems that exist in public education”, your approach only feeds the agenda and fuels the fire. Your approach undermines parents, students, and even your own colleagues and job security.

            To any parents reading this you have to understand, often behavioral problems start in the home. If you are a teacher reading this you have to understand, often behavioral problems start (or are exacerbated) in classrooms. Since both parents and teachers are “front line” agents of socialization, it behooves them to find ways to openly discuss issues and actively search for solutions. If you are a parent where neglect, violence in the home, or toxic parenting is an issue, get the help you need to fix the problems you have. If you are a teacher and you are picking on students or parents, engaging in subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) acts of hostility, or witnessing bullying and violence from other students are parents, take action to stop. It is not about you, it is about the children in your care.

            And finally Jane, calling me an idiot is emotionally and psychologically abusive. It is a violent and bullying act that tells the readers more about your emotional state and your inability to deal with challenge than it does about my analysis. I really hope that you don’t display similar bullying behavior towards the children you have been charged to educate and protect and if you do, I really think you should consider a career change to avoid any further damage. Frankly Jane, I think you need to step back and reflect on what has brought you to the point where you feel it is OK to hurl hateful names across cyberspace in this mean and insensitive fashion.

  71. Thank you for this article and the specific suggestions that parents should not tolerate it!
    I was talking to another parent yesterday, and she told of kids coming home from kindergarten in tears, reversion to early problems like bedwetting, anxiety, and fear of being in school. I’m not a psychologist, but these seem to be classic signs of abuse! Other kids in the same school seem to accept what’s going on more easily, although the anxiety may still be there below the surface.
    As far as I could tell, there has been no shaming or abuse, just a new emphasis on academics & drills — and a clear message that doing well on tests is expected and the kids must perform accordingly.
    This is kindergarten, so I’m sure the other grades are even worse.
    Do you see a lot of these less specific, less overt environments like this? Do you know of any research or responsible commentary out there on the effects of these environments [both short- and long-term]?

  72. I have been treated like this by teachers who thought I was the problem instead of dealing with the bullies. The ‘you brought it on yourself’ attitude these teachers and authority figures have on students and children who need help instead of scorn needs to stop. Even worse, putting a kid who truly needs help by isolating them from regular society won’t do anything to help them. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for a long time because of it.

    But I learned they were wrong to do so. One teacher caused me to give up acting after she didn’t bother to help me after I tried to prove to her I belonged there by working backstage. I didn’t get onstage again for over ten years because I was too afraid I would be discouraged, but I ended up with a speaking role my first time back and even performed with a popular Ren Faire. If I kept thinking she was right, I wouldn’t have started to get some of my self confidence back! There will always be good people around, and there need to be more in schools.

  73. Interesting disscussions and comments about a very important subject, something I have been reading and thinking about for the past 3 years since my son started to hate school and had a mental breakdown as a result of the schoolclimate and their treatment if him. Great article which puts into words what many will feel but can’t find the words for , or sometimes even imagine that these things really happen in schools and are very harmful. A great book on the subject is ‘Schooling as violence’ by Professor Clive Harber and also anything written by Alfie Kohn, one of the great advocates for children. Both my children have been home educated for periods of time, during which they recovered from their ordeals. They are now both back in school but it’s their choice, and I am on their side at all times, I totally agree that if they are unhappy the best thing to do is to pull them out of school.

  74. I am from a small community and people were discussing comments made on social media, a principal had participated in making fun of a parent that has four children attending the school which she should be a role model. Sad to think how this children must feel that this principal is expressing her personal feelings about their mother. I ask the Mother why don’t you remove your children and she believes because this school is not as successful as the other schools in our area she feels having her children in this school so long they may fail if removed. Sad to say it is on tribal land and nothing has been done
    Thank God my children do not attend this school.

  75. Great article. I wish that they had stricter rules when I was in school. All of the above applied to me because anytime a teacher would discipline, she would do it in front of the entire classroom, and then the classroom would turn on me. It started in Kindergarten; my teacher singled me out. I was teased pretty badly. Then, in second grade, it was ever worse. I played hooky for almost a third of the school year because the bullying was so bad! The bullying never went away. It gave me a bad impression of people and made me feel bad about myself. And my own family never stepped up or defended me. I am all for using recording devices to document what happens in a classroom. If they allowed tape recorders back in my school days, I would have been recording it everyday. If they would have had social media back then, I would have posted about how the teaches would act towards the students and how they would treat them. If the teacher files a lawsuit, guess what, then I have a lawsuit to file as well.

  76. My son had some behavioral problems and his desk was moved from the rest of the students. He has been by himself for two months. Should I demand my son be moved back with class? After reading this and ohio guild lines on this sort of thing I feel I should. Andrea

    • When you say your son is “by himself”, what do you mean. Is he in a corner of the classroom, has he been moved to solitary confinement? Also, what where his “behavioural problems”. And, who made the decision to move him. Was it just the teacher or was the principal involved?

  77. My son has a classmate who has been picked on by the teacher and teacher’s aide, the classmates mother took her out of his class and now has been hearing the teachers aide call his classmate a “brat” and made her walk for recess, and then told the classmates mother of the incidents. This classmates mother also works at my children’s daycare and contacted me to ask me if I’m okay with letting son be a witness if needed due to her trying to settle this problem with the school. I told her I’d rather not have my son involved, my question is, is it best that I just tell my son to mind his own business. I know he told the mother because he is concerned and knows it was wrong for the teachers aide to say mean things.

    • Hi Patrisha, thanks for reaching out.

      Let me ask you this. If your son was being bullied by a person in authority and you asked other parents for support and they told you they’d rather mind their own business, what would that do to you emotionally and psychologically? How would you feel for your child who would have to suffer the abuse because nobody was standing up with him? How do you think your child would feel, and what would he think, knowing that nobody around is going to do anything about it? What happens to your son after a year, five years, or ten years of abuse? At what point does he give up trying to fight? At what point might he start to cut himself, or act out his frustration (and rage if it goes on for years) against others, or even consider suicide, just to get away from a life where he is helpless against the assault, and where nobody does anything to help? I can’t imagine it would turn out very good for you or your son. You’d both end up depressed as a result.

      Or consider this. Your son knows something is wrong and wants to help. If you silence your son by telling him to mind his own business, what message are you sending him? Are you telling him to not stand up for those who need help? Are you saying that helping his friends is not his business? Are you telling him to not follow his conscious and not act when he knows something is wrong? Do you want to train your child to stand by while others are suffering? And if you do, what do you think the impact of that is going to be, from an emotional perspective. What will it do to your son to go to school every day, watch somebody he cares about get picked on, and not be able to do anything about it? Will he feel anxious or confused? Will he waste energy that he should be putting towards school worrying about his friend? Might watching his friend get abused by authority figures not lead him to develop issues with authority figures? Might he learn to not like teachers? Might he act out in class? If years later a classmate commits suicide, will he feel guilt at his failure to act? Might there be other unintended consequences?

      I know it can be difficult in these situations, but I personally think you should stand by your son’s initial impulse to stand up and do the right thing. I think it is far easier and wiser to nip this in the bud. If you don’t, everybody (including the perpetrator) loses. It is true right? Even the perpetrator is suffering here. People pick on kids because they are hurt and powerless in their own life. Somebody needs to intervene, stop this person’s abuse, and encourage them to get the help and the counselling they need.
      In situations like this, one voice is nothing but two brings instant power.
      Having said all that, I know that these situations can be complex so let me ask you, is there any reason why you would fear your son being a witness to the abuse?

  78. Hi Dr. S

    My daughter has been emotionally bullied in her school for a while now and I have gone to speak to the principal about the incidents in confidence and she promised she will look into it and handle it properly. At some point it aggravated to physical where a co classmate poured water on her head because she showed concern about the girl pouring water over another boy.

    Now, the recent incident has left me so shattered that I cannot go to office because my daughter and some other kids saw a teacher forcing a year R (4-5 years old) to eat up some food the child spat out of her mouth (some food ( Bolus) the girl had chewed up with lots of saliva for a long time through out their lunch time and up until after lunch time). So when she spat it out, the teacher used her hand to hold the child’s hand to collect the bolus from the child’s mouth and then forced the child to start eating it back and swallow it all. She made a statement to the child this Bolus is an unpleasant sight for everyone to see, and forced her to eat it all back. All these happened while the child was isolated and asked to stand by a wall and crying where all children passing by the hallway saw her and the teacher.

    On seeing this incident, some children started telling each other what happened and then this spread to the parents and it came back from a parent to the principal.

    On the resumption back to school, the teacher called the year 5 and 6 to an assembly and said what they saw was just some food spat out by the child and she forced her to eat it and that it was not a vomit as the kids thought. After which she asked them to put up their hands to tell her those that went home to speak to their parents about it. 2 kids raised up their hands and afterwards the assembly was dispatched.

    My daughter who was one of those kids that witnessed it and told some of few friends came back to the teacher and told the teacher that she is sorry if what they girl spat out was not called vomit as she explained , that she did not tell her parents but yes, she told few of her friends and that she is sorry. She thought as we tell her at home that she should always say the truth and that was what she was doing.

    Few hours later, the principal went to my daughter’s class and started shouting at my daughter and said she needed to have told an adult instead of saying it to her friends, that she was a disappointment and disgrace to the school and stripped her off all her prefectship and chorister badge. Worsening it all, she mentioned during this outburst the confidentiality of my visit to her sometime ago about my daughter being emotionally and physically bullied by her peers.

    She made so much public display of anger and humiliation towards her that she was crying up until closing time and even other students in other junior classes to her heard everything and the whole school were talking about it. To the extent that even her younger brother was already told about the disgrace before the sister came out to tell him herself after school.

    The most annoying part is, I was wondering that yes we get that she could have told an adult about it like every other child too that spoke about it. But as an adult she is failing to see the health hazard here of the teacher’ action and was focusing on trivial matter which can be resolved by amicable subtle tone of reassuring my 10 year old daughter that she can trust the adults in the school to talk to them if such a disgusting and worrying incident of a crying child eating being forced to eat the Bolus from her hands ever repeats itself again or any other similar incident of that nature.

    Please can you advise me on what to do as I plan to go into the school and speak to the principal and then if I do not get a good response from her I plan to pursuit this via a private lawyer or government bodies as applicable as I do not want another child to be subjected to such humiliation.

    • Mag, all I can say is WTF!

      My gut instinct here is that you should gather yourself, the parent of the child who was assaulted, your child, and any one else willing, go to the police, and ask that the teacher be charged with assault. It might help to get a lawyer involved, even briefly. The lawyer can help provide you with legal advice on what charges would be appropriate. I think in this process you should all sit down and write an affidavit. You need to be very clear that what your child witnesses was ASSAULT. There was physical assault of the child when they were forced to eat vomit, and there was verbal assault perpetrated by the principal and directed at your daughter.

      I would also recommend you DO NOT meet with the principal in person. Instead, put anything you have to say in a well written and edited email. The email should probably say you view the teacher’s actions as physical assault, and the principal’s actions as verbal assault. I wouldn’t threaten legal action at this point, but be very clear that you feel the law has been broken (again, talking to a laywer to get appropriate case law would be very helpful here).

      When you have completed the email, send that email to the teacher, the principal, and the principals’ immediate supervisor (school superintendant or whatever). You can find contact informatino for the “higher ups” by simply phoning the school secretary.

      Keep a file with the initial email, and any additional responses you might get. Do not tell the principal you are keeping a file. Make sure ALL correspondence with the school is in written form form here on in. In situations like this, going into the school is often just a way to avoid constructing a public, and action, record of behaviour.

      Does this help? If you pursue this, let us know how it goes.

      • Thanks so much for the advice.
        It is just too worrying for me especially around the lack of knowledge of the impact some people’s actions can have on the children.

        • I hear ya.

          If people knew the long term consequences of the assault and abuse of children, I believe they wouldn’t do it. For that reason its very important to talk about this.

  79. I am a teacher…but I don’t want to be “that” teacher. I have always had good respect and rapport with my students and their parents. With that being said, I am having the worst school year of my life. I teach in an elementary school and I feel bullied by one parent and child. The child tells me I’m mean every time I give an assignment they don’t want to do. This disrupts the class so I ask the child to meet me outside the classroom so we can have a private discussion. It’s never my intention to single out a student, I believe the this child singles out them-self. Clearly the child wants attention but this is negative attention. I catch students being good to try and get away from the negative. The parent doesn’t like anything that I’ve tried. I’m feeling very defeated.

    P.s. This child will seek me out on the playground and be very chatty and happy….but things change when work is involved.

    • Hi Ginger.

      I’m sorry to here you are having difficulties with this child. Can I ask, what grade are we talking? And, is is there any pattern to the assignments the child refuses that you can discern? Maybe there is a learning disability or something else involved, and looking for a pattern might reveal that.

      What sorts of things have you tried?

      • I have a very similar situation. The child does not like Math, so he behaves badly to get out of doing it. I spend a lot of time during Math trying to keep him on task. It also happens during Reading. He wants to do anything except Read (go to the bathroom, get a drink, sharpen his pencil, get out of his seat and talk to a friend). When I tell him that he must do his work, he tells me I’m mean. Your article has me very anxious, since I know that I do publicly discipline him constantly. It’s not that I want to humiliate him. I just want him to understand that when he is in school he has to follow directions. We have a behavior plan for him and he gets praise and rewards if he meets his goals. The problem is that he is not meeting the goals. I’m at my wits’ end. The parent is angry with the school because she gets too many phone calls about the child.

  80. My 6 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD. When this was brought to her schools attention they started treating her differently. They would correct her harshly in front of the other students and exclude her from class activities. I spoke with the principal about this and his response floored me. He explained that he stood behind his teachers action and was the one who informed her to use what ever means necessary to “control” my child. Then he bluntly looked at me and said my child was nothing but a little witch! If this is the way they speak to me I can only imagine what they say to her.
    So as a Mom I am doing the only thing I know how to do. And that is to fight for my child. I am the first to admit she can be a handful but this response from people that I entrust her with scares me so much. My daughter is highly intelligent and gets bored easily with the schools assignments. They know this but will not put the extra time in to make her lessons more complicated. Instead they expect a child with ADHD to sit still waiting on her classmates to finish.
    I am currently sitting at my local Board of Education trying to get some response to my concerns.

  81. Thank you so much for this article. My child is a quiet reserved kid and seems to have become the ‘class example’. She is punished for not comprehending and for things not in her control. It is like a public shaming. And the teachers response is that my kid is disruptive. My child is not. In fact there are days when she does not say a word. I’m at wits end and have decided it is time to ‘tattle’ on the teacher to the principal. I plan to print this and take it in for her to read.

  82. I have a 6 year old daughter whos school takes them on trips with no concent and shout at her and threaten her not to tell anyone that she tought the teacher swore at her friend my daughter came out of school crying and scared is this not classed s neglect and abuse? this teacher also pulls other kids by the arms and shouts at them all help please school just back one and other up

  83. Hello,
    This is going on SO much more than any parent could possibly imagine. It’s a dangerous game these adults are playing with our children. For the life of me , I can not understand WHY there is not a law against this behavior. I see you put solutions…. Give up, take your child out of the public school system. A system that is paid for by our tax money. I see what you are writing, but really? Get out? Give up? Just save your child? This is why we have the breakdown that we are having in the United States. There is no accountability for actions. Teachers shape our children sometimes more than we do .. Why? Because they spend the greater amount of time with them. Send them to Catholic School and never take them to temple, they will identify with the beliefs of Catholocism, or vise versa.

    No, the answers are not to run away , they are to change the system. Children now, our future! Why should we teach our children it’s best to retreat? Why are the teachers not public servants? We actually pay their salaries?

    I agree it’s not right… But please, with your background you would think you were more solution orientated. Print this article…. We as Patents should have more at our disposal than an article. Our precious children are the future, as such they deserve equal protection under the law.

    Great start…. But more solutions please.

  84. Thank you so much for writing this article.

    I am currently in my 20’s and I’m just starting to work through the mental health issues I have from abusive teachers.

    I managed to be the example child throughout all of my public education. In kindergarten, one of my teachers decided to punish me for climbing up the playground treehouse when I was scared to climb back down, so she left me in the playground alone until it was time for the parents to pick us up. In elementary school, I had a teacher from 2nd to 5th grade who regularly showed my assignments to the whole class as an example of what not to do. She would also make personal criticisms, and every critique related to my work and performance would come with another that was directly related to my worth as a person. She would frequently stop class to identify things that I was doing that would “keep [me] from ever being successful.” Any time I tried to ask for help she would tell me that I was “taking advantage” of the relationship that she had with my parents (they were friendly at the time), which I at 8 years old did not fully understand but it did keep me from complaining to my parents.

    Middle school was by far the worst. I had a group of teachers who all together decided that I needed to be severely punished. I was constantly singled out for not doing assignments or doing them correctly (the requirements for turning in assignments were constantly changing for me). They deflected any of my parents’ attempts to communicate with them and decided instead the best way to proceed was to tell the school psychologist pull me out of lunch in front of the whole grade One teacher noticed that I was uncomfortable with being physically close to her so I was forced to sit at a desk that was next to hers and no other students. She also would take any opportunity to hug me/put her hand on her shoulder/stand next to me, sometimes while joking about on how uncomfortable it made me. At one point that teacher had me meet with her alone in the classroom during lunch to discuss my classroom issues. She ended the discussion by telling me “I have feelings for you.” As a 12 year old I assumed it was a simple mistake, but now as an adult I am painfully aware of how unlikely it is that a teacher would say that to a minor unintentionally.

    I have since gone on to be very successful and am currently working towards my Phd in biology at a world-class program. But all of my successes are in spite of what I have had to overcome. I spent almost all of my childhood facing depression, was suicidal from ages 8-13, and my ability to form healthy relationships has suffered irreparable damage. Even 10-20 years later, I am occasionally struck by flashbacks to these horrible times in my life and although I have been working through some of my anxiety and depression related to these abuses for years, I am sure it will be a lifelong struggle.

    I hope that any teachers or other professionals who are responsible for children take time to read and understand this article. While these classroom practices may seem trivial and benign to you, the children being put through them may be suffering. An action that is a minute in an abusers day can cause a lifetime of pain for a child.

  85. I found your post today and boy this is as if you were here dealing with the issue I am fighting against here at the moment. Children being humiliated infront of their peers, made spectacles of and never having the right to defend themselves as then they are being told they are rude. I’m so sick of it being pushed under the carpet and then made to feel like I am over reacting and when push comes to shove the teacher was having a bad moment. No person, none, not one has the right to make a child feel insecure, humiliated, worthless etc ever! I agree with you that there are some fantastic teachers, but those teachers that follow this destructive path are leading a lot of these children into so much emotional turmoil that will follow them throughout there lives and scar their futures.

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