I’m reproducing this answer, with permission, from Quora. It’s from Ted Kord:
I’m 56, and have spent 22 years as a teacher. Bullying has never been acceptable in American schools. Not officially, and not unofficially. In terms of written policy, bullying is banned. But because of the way discipline has been undermined by politicians and bureaucrats, bullying, defiance, profanity and disruption are de-facto tolerated.
I want to make 2 things clear:
(1) The kids most likely to be bullied are “schoolboys,” that is kids who pay attention in class, do their assignments, and treat teachers with respect. Why would teachers ignore the bullying of the kids who are a pleasure to have in class.
(2) The kids most likely to bully are the same kids who make teachers lives miserable. Show me a bully among my 200 students, chances are he or she is the kid most likely to try to harass teachers or even bully teachers.
The sad truth is that disciplining students has become increasingly difficult in the United States. Bullies…like habitually defiant students…like vandals…like campus drug dealers…have benefited from new DOE mandates and state level disciplinary “reforms.”
In my state, school administrators are responsible for all discipline. Teachers can send referrals to the office, but it’s a principal or assistant principal who processes those referrals and assigns a consequence.
To one degree or another, administrators have their hands tied in terms of what consequences they can assign for various infractions of the rules.
In California, the legislature has basically tied the hands of both administrators and teachers with AB 1729 and AB 420, both pieces of legislation that curtails use of suspensions and expulsions. But these bills were passed to comply with Obama Administration guidelines on school discipline, so it’s likely that some version will have been implemented in your state as well. In 2019, California’s legislature passed SB 419 which made it impossible to suspend students for even the most egregious acts of defiance and disruption.
Aside from clear cut cases of assault, sexual harassment, grand theft, or major vandalism, unruly students will likely not get suspended. Examples:
- A habitually defiant student I know talked a special ed girl into performing a sex act, which he videotaped and shared with other students.
- Another student stole a signed NHL hockey jersey worth a couple hundred dollars from a classroom. This theft was actually pretty elaborate, and involved another student distracting the teacher so the thief could grab the jersey.
- A student threatened to punch a 70+ year old female teacher who simply wanted to see his bathroom pass.
- A student tried to engage a 40+ year old female teacher in a crude sexual conversation about her intimate body parts.
- I was recently cussed out by two students I caught ditching.
- I and another teacher had profanity directed against us by a special education student we caught ditching. When my colleague left and returned with security, the student called my colleague a “fucking rat.”
None of those incidents resulted in suspensions. These days, saying “f*** you” to a teacher is unlikely to result in any significant disciplinary consequence. Kids who engage in very serious incidents of defiance or theft usually get lunch detention.
So now we have to come to the issue of bullying. There are several types of bullying.
If a bully commits a physical assault, he may be suspended. I say “may” because a number of factors will come into play. For example, in California, suspension rates factor into school rankings.
Schools that suspend a lot of kids will be ranked as lower performing. Schools that don’t suspend students, even for bullying, will be ranked higher. If a bully trips you in the lunchroom or shoves you into a bathroom stall, the administrator who handles the incident will be doing mental calculations as to whether or not he can afford to suspend the bully.
There’s also the ethnic make up of the group of students being suspended. If the bullying is done by a member of a historically disadvantaged group, and that group is over-represented among suspended students, the administrator might think he simply cannot take consequential disciplinary action without it coming back to bite him.
My most “liberal” friend in the world is a former teacher who proudly donates to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. She is a self-described member of #resist who throws the word “Nazi” in front of the word “Republican” in political discussions. Recently, she complained to me that her son was being bullied at his middle school in Denver, and that classes were being disrupted by misbehavior. The culprits, according to her, were members of a historically disadvantaged group, and the administration was afraid to discipline that group. My liberal friend is thinking about putting her son in a private high school because of what was mentioned.
If administrators are under intense pressure not to discipline students for these very overt and documentable infractions, it’s even more difficult for things like cyberbullying, which is harder to trace to a specific individual.
Also, a lot of bullying is verbal or social. If you can’t suspend a student for saying “f*** you” to a teacher, how likely is a suspension for a student who calls another student a “loser” or “skank”? Not likely at all.
School officials like to talk a good game on bullying. In speeches and on school websites they will say…
But if they think it might hurt the school’s ranking or draw the ire of the district or ACLU, they’re going to take the path of least resistance.