Skyline Middle School. Anne Gullo. The Appoquinimink Bus Driver. Delaware Met. This is just in the last month. As these incidents of bullying and abuse become more public, I haven’t seen any official statement from those in power in Delaware on these systemic issues going on. This is the bottom line: students don’t feel safe. While the DOE wants to bury students in their latest programs with the University of Delaware about social skills and positive behavior supports, which are also costing the state millions of dollars, the districts or charters don’t implement those things and it is a colossal waste. They talk the talk and walk the walk, but who are we kidding? Why are we seeing adults take out their frustrations on kids?
NBC Philadelphia covered the Appoquinimink bus driver. The district said she wouldn’t be driving their kids anymore. That’s great. But more needs to be done. This kid was being bullied, and he needed help. Instead of the bus driver, or substitute bus driver (immaterial to me, still an adult in charge of kids) even noticing there was already a situation going on where a kid was getting hurt, she did nothing. She finally acted, and in a highly inappropriate way, when she was forced to do something as this kid yelled at her for help. What she did is disgusting and morally reprehensible.
It doesn’t matter if its one person or hundreds. No kid deserves this. From other kids or adults. When I was a kid, we didn’t call it bullying. We usually called it getting the crap kicked out of you. There are always going to be reasons for it. Somebody doesn’t like something the other kid said. They are jealous over a girl. A kid is black. A kid is white. A kid is gay. A girl is mean. A kid has disabilities. A kid doesn’t believe the same thing another kid does. Maybe if kids actually enjoyed learning, and were not tied to curriculums tied to standards tied to standardized tests tied to teacher evaluations tied to school report cards, we could put an end to this. We have more resources than ever before to tackle these issues, but our failure of a Governor ignores these issues. He assigns people to “serve at the pleasure of the Governor”. We need to elect leaders and Secretaries who serve at the pleasure of the people!
This is where you come in Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn. You do not serve at the pleasure of Jack Markell. You are a publicly elected official. Prior to your becoming Attorney General, you were the Lieutenant Governor and I watched you chair a very decent IEP Task Force. I was drawn to you because you spoke succinctly when needed and firm when it was desperately needed. When you first became Attorney General nine months ago, I saw very positive moves on your part. The first of which was an Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which I have referred many parents to. I have yet to see any action coming out of this office Matt. We don’t see any official reports or press releases coming out of there at all. Has it really come down to Delaware needing a Department of Bullying and Physical Abuse Against Children?
I truly think it is a good thing that parents can take personal action on individual cases in Delaware. But they are forced to shut up about it in most situations. That isn’t justice. It is covering it up. It is making the bad stuff (for the guilty party) just go away. Talk to most parents who go through that process, and they would much rather have worked it out with the school earlier. If there is not a systemic change, nothing will change. We will see more Skylines, and Appo bus drivers, and Anne Gullos, and Delaware Mets. We need YOU Matt Denn to become the Attorney General we elected and become a bully against bullying. We need YOU to take quick action. We all know schools are underreporting. We know stuff gets covered up. We need you to take action when schools don’t. Since we are becoming a data mad country anyways, why not give parents access to their child’s e-school report. It’s a digital world now. When bullying happens, an email goes to parents and they see it. And I think your office should have access as well. We need more heroes and less victims Matt. Kids need YOU to be that hero. It has to be YOU.
For the citizens of Delaware, we need you to stop with the high-fiving of how great your kid’s school is in certain areas. We all know what schools are “the best” and we all know why. Education shouldn’t be a competition, but our Governor has created this environment. Race To The Top may be over, but don’t think our schools aren’t competing against each other every single day. It is all about the stupid test scores for them. You will be seeing them really concentrating on attendance as well because that is going to be another accountability measure for them. They always seem to do what the DOE wants them to do, but that does not always translate into doing what is best for the students. As many Delaware parents already know, they will cover their own ass first. If they are tackling bullying and “social skills” and “positive behavior supports” for the purpose of driving up test scores, they are completely missing the boat.
Parents are going to start organizing as more and more issues become public and transparent. It is happening already. And we don’t like a lot of what we are seeing in our schools, the DOE and Governor Markell. The drums of war are already starting to beat. We will only be shushed so many times before we start to get really loud. We will not be disrespected and we will certainly not let our children be disrespected. We will not be lied to, and we will not be told one thing only to have it change after administrators get together and have a meeting about it. We are the parents of the students who you want to take meaningless and useless tests. We are the parents of students with disabilities. We are the parents of low-income and poverty students. We are the parents of the bullied and the abused. We are the parents of those who are punished without due process. We are the parents of students whose schools think they know about our children than we do. We are the parents of students who are also taught by parents. We are the parents of homeschooled kids. We are the parents who talk to legislators more and more every day. We are the parents of students who choice out of school districts. We are the parents of students who were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Governor Markell severely disrespected. We are the parents of youth who are already in prison. We are the parents of the students who are physically restrained. We are the parents who raise our children by the standards we believe in not what the state wants us to. We are the parents who vote. We are the parents who talk about all of this stuff on social media every single day but give a smile and a nod when you see us and you are none the wiser. We are the parents of Delaware.
2 thoughts on “Attorney General Matt Denn, We Need You To Do More About Bullying & Abuse In Our Schools”
Good blog, as usual, Kevin. Ben Carson, in his book, “One Nation” says about bullying in the public schools: ‘We should not be terribly surprised by this because children emulate what they see adults doing…’
Kevin the bus/transportation issue is much larger than anyone thinks. My daughter attended a DAP school for the summer and was removed from the bus because she exhibited aggressive behaviors – related to her Autism and the aide couldn’t control her. Just last year I attend another parent’s IEP where both her special needs kids were being bullied, she called the school multiple times and all the Principal could said was “I wasn’t aware.” I pointed my finger at her and said “Its your job to be aware, you are the principal. Its your job to be aware when kids are being bullied, especially if they have special needs.” She left the district this year. But that doesn’t solve the problem. More recently a kid with special needs on a special needs bus had his safety toy ripped away by a substitute aide who then reported his aggressive behavior. No one in the district felt it was necessary to inform the drivers and aides of the kids with IEPs and 504s who ride their buses that there were supports in place for the kids. So at the very basic level you have poor communication from the schools to the bus vendors. Luckily the vendor was very responsive to ensuring this doesn’t happen again. More needs to be done though. You have vendors who are throwing ASD kids off the bus for their behaviors? I consider that a violation of IDEA. I think most of these issues increased when the transportation costs were passed back to the districts. So the question is what can be done going forward? How do you ensure that the bus drivers, aides and even the vendors themselves are aware of the supports for the kids they are transporting?