Women of the ELCA
Commentary and reflections on issues, events and trends in our church, society and world, as seen through the lens of our mission and purpose and our ministries.
We’re hearing a lot about bullying, particularly teens bullying one another at school and what adults ought to be doing to stop it. But what happens when the bully is the adult?
A friend of mine recently moved her family to another state for a new job. Her oldest son, a freshman, had been in advanced social studies back home and so was placed in the senior-level class at his new school. So in his first few weeks at his new school, he found himself traveling to Washington, D.C. Fantastic! Until the trip actually got underway.
To keep the trip affordable, up to five guys would be sharing a room. No problem there, except for some things the teacher in charge started to say to them.
“Now I know you’ll all be in close quarters, but don’t get any funny ideas—I don’t want to get back from this trip with a bunch of fags.” Dylan was shocked. He’d never expected to hear something like that from a teacher. But nobody else said anything, and so neither did he.
But that wasn’t the only comment made over the course of the trip. There were many more, similar comments over the time they were in D.C.
On the last day of the trip, this same teacher was trying to hustle everyone out of the hotel on time when he stopped by Dylan’s room. Three guys were finishing up packing, and he and another guy were finishing up in the bathroom. So this teacher says, “What are they doing in there, dry humping each other?”
Well, Dylan finally had had enough. He came out of the bathroom and told him, “You’ve been saying stuff like this all week long, and I’m tired of it. Maybe you all do things a little differently here, but where I come from, this is bullying. Maybe somebody is gay, and so what—they don’t need to hear that kind of crap.”
After a somewhat tense ride back, Dylan got home and finally later that day told his mom why he was in such a bad mood. He asked her what she thought he should do. She left it up to him.
A couple days later, he went to the principal and told him everything. His roommates were called in, and slowly, his story was backed up and others came forward. The social studies teacher will end up disciplined and may even lose his job.
It makes you wonder how many times prior to this trip this teacher got away with that. And how many kids felt like they just had to put up with it, and whether there were some who were very badly affected by it because maybe they were questioning their sexuality.
Have you heard about the It Gets Better Project? It started in September 2010 with a single YouTube video recorded by author Dan Savage to try to inspire hope among young people facing harassment. Since then, more than 6,000 other people, both gay and straight and many of them well-known public figures, have recorded similar videos—including our presiding bishop, Mark S. Hanson.
Meanwhile, I’m proud of the new kid in town, the freshman, standing up to an authority figure. Way to go, buddy.