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Teachers are often the ones who must protect students from bullying. But, who is going to protect the teacher when he or she is being bullied?
Unfortunately, workplace bullying or harassment is not a new phenomenon. There has been federal legislation prohibiting job discrimination since the 1960s. The unique thing about teacher bullying, however, is that seemingly routine tasks can be interpreted as workplace harassment.
For example, all teachers must participate in a yearly evaluation. The procedures for the evaluation differ from school district to school district. However, teachers know or should know, the process for their evaluation.
One of the most essential components of evaluating a teacher is the classroom observation. The purpose is to determine whether the teacher is adequately delivering standards-based instruction. Unless the district has an absolute maximum number of times an evaluator can observe a teacher, classroom observations may be a way for an evaluator to intimidate and scare a teacher. How many observations are sufficient? Once a semester? Once a month? Once a week? Well, it's difficult to say if the administrator can legitimize the purpose of the visit, such as following up on an unsatisfactory prior visit or observing certain elements of the evaluation rubric. So, without more, it is difficult to classify the evaluator's actions as harassment.
Other examples of possible workplace bullying are being assigned extra duties at work or being required to attend additional professional development. These examples by themselves seem innocent. However, an administrator’s motivations may raise the score to being harassment.
So, what is the purpose behind these actions? This workplace harassment or bullying may be caused by the administrator’s desire for a teacher to leave the school. One may question why the administrator did not resort to the discipline policies in place that outline the cause for removal. For some administrators, those policies may be too time consuming and cumbersome to follow. Therefore, it is easier to circumvent the process by making the work environment uncomfortable for the teacher.
One must consider the effect that this has on students. The main priority of a school district is to provide a safe environment for students to receive rigorous instruction. But, how can this take place when the teacher is not working in a safe environment? A teacher’s performance will no doubt be affected if he or she is instantly frazzled at the sight of a certain administrator.
Currently, there is no cause of action in any state for a teacher who is experiencing workplace bullying or harassment, except in cases when the harassment is based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, or disability. School districts, however, should be proactive in ensuring that the school environment is safe for all stakeholders, including teachers. Evaluation processes must be followed and all school employees should under professional development regarding workplace decorum.
Have you ever been harassed or bullied at school by an administrator?