April 19th, 2014

Let’s Talk for Kalola: The Bully is the Assistant Principal


Dear Kalola,

My story began 3 years ago when we got a new assistant principal.  The first incident that happened involved myself and my aide at the time. I was told by the principal I was moving grade levels but not to discuss it with anyone.  So I honored the principal’s request.  The assistant principal (AP) told her/his spouse about the change and the spouse told my aide who was shocked that nothing was said to him/her.  My AP called me into the office and yelled at me for telling people.  I pointed out that I did not and directed the AP to her/his spouse.  The spouse admitted leaking the “secret”. Although small it really bothered me that AP heard gossip and based on that attacked me.  The next events centered around MAP testing. He/She did not want us to use scrap paper.  We fought and pleaded.  We contacted our assessment coordinator who finally allowed us to use scrap paper. The same year my 2nd grade team scored extremely well on the paper test with the majority in the distinguished range.  We were told that next year we would be given a harder test.  So we teach 2nd grade but now we are given the immediate map test.  Of course scores significantly dropped and we were told we were the issue.

Our AP attacked us in a PLC meeting by yelling, throwing paper, and threatening us.  We have went to our principal and superintendent several times and each time they state they are working on a solution. Our AP spreads mean gossip about myself and my team. The AP also has the resource teacher spying on us to create false accusations. They both turned us in to OEA Office of Educational Accountability) for cheating on a test with our building principal being the proctor.  The case was unfounded because it was a total lie.  The AP held our faculty Christmas party at her/his house and we were not invited. We were told not to have any contact with him/her so we go through our building principal who is just trying to sneak on out and retire in less than a year.

 

My health has been affected tremendously. My blood pressure and anxiety meds constantly change. The AP terrorizes others in the building.  Seven people have transferred because of her/him. I am working on getting out myself.  The AP’s toxic leadership is ruining our once caring and achieving school.  We are in desperate need of help.

Another teacher from the same school wrote the following:

I was initially bullied by the assistant principal (AP).  The AP yelled at me for going to the bathroom before a meeting.  I had been having problems with the AP for three years, it started when I wanted scratch paper and pencils for my students during a county-wide testing.  The AP said “no” so I contacted the state department and was told why wouldn’t you use paper and pencil for a math test.  The AP was furious that I went over his/her head to find the correct answer.  He/She started isolating me from my peers and telling lies about me.  The AP finally convinced our resource teacher that he/she should contact the office of educational accountability and turn my whole team in as cheaters on the test.  The principal was our proctor and was very mad that she/he was also accused of helping us cheat. We finally got the investigation cleared after getting our district lawyer involved.

 

Now I am bullied by both the resource teacher and the AP.  I am not the only teacher bullied by the AP.  The AP often accuses other teachers about talking about him/her and spreading gossip that was simply not true.  We won’t answer critical questions to newly implemented programs.  The AP is very obsessive and compulsive about what she/he does and very paranoid.   He/she is a big person and once bullied a teacher by cornering the teacher in her/his classroom and wouldn’t let the teacher out.  When the AP started screaming at me I walked away and he/she chased me telling me to come back or I would regret it. After the AP caught up with me I walked away again and I could hear him/her yelling at the top of her/his lungs to get back there.  My blood pressure went up for days. I missed several days of work and I feel like I have PTSD from this episode. I currently have a cardiologist now and he is telling me to get out before I die of a stroke. The AP is not allowed to come near me but continues to bully others.  The AP has a group of friends that are in the safe zone but actually no one is safe.  He/She constantly belittles teachers.  She/He has grandiose ideas that are never followed through.  I have been teaching for 23 years and have had great success with my classes but my health is failing from all of the stress and anxiety.

Concerned Teachers


Dear Concerned Teachers,


Thank you for writing in and sharing your workplace bullying experiences, what you have observed, and how these experiences have affected your health.  It is a rare instance when “Let’s Talk” receives more than one letter about the same workplace and the same bully.

 

Instead of being ousted, too often, bullies in the field of education are either moved to another location or promoted.  Seldom do these individuals lose their jobs.

 

In order to try to oust the bully, it will take research and work to show that the bully is too expensive to keep.  How many teachers and staff have transferred to other schools because of the bully?  What are the recruitment costs to replace a teacher or staff member?  What are the costs of calling in sick and not going to work?  In your cost figures, do include the costs for a substitute teacher.  As a result of the bully’s assertion that there was cheating that occurred during MAP testing, what were the legal costs incurred by the school district?  Has the school district been involved in other legal cases involving the bully? 

The bully is the Assistant Principal (AP).  What did the AP do?

     
  • accused teachers of talking and gossiping about him/her
  • yells at teachers and staff
  • isolated a teacher from peers
  • enlisted an accomplice to help bully and spy on targets
  • at a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) meeting yelled, threw paper, and threatened teachers
  • harassed a teacher by cornering the teacher in a classroom and wouldn’t allow the teacher to leave the room
  • chased and screamed at a teacher who walked away all the while yelling at the teacher to come back or he/she would regret it.  When AP caught up with the teacher, the teacher walked away, and AP yelled for that teacher to come back. 
  • accused a team of teachers of cheating and reported the team to a state agency, the Office of Educational Accountability (OEA) because the team allowed the children to use scratch paper and pencils during a Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing
  • excluded some of the teachers from the school’s annual holiday party

As a direct result of AP’s behavior, teachers and/or staff have reported work-related health issues, i.e., stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, PTSD; have lost days from work due to calling in sick; and several teachers have transferred out or are seeking a job transfer to another location.

The school district incurred legal costs due to an allegation of cheating made to a state agency, OEA, by the AP and an accomplice.  Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing were created by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).  The NWEA website states, “NWEA recommends students are provided with scratch paper and pencil only.  In the validity and reliability field tests of the math items, students did not have graph paper.  Bringing other aids to the testing environment may compromise the validity of the test.”  Note:  Graph paper is special paper printed with fine lines making small squares or a grid used for making graphs.  The NWEA provides tips and training for test proctors.

Although it is considered rude and annoying behavior, yelling/screaming at workers is in of itself not against the law.  However, for a person in the position of assistant principal to be seen or heard yelling at teachers in the hallway or classroom or in meetings or is seen screaming and chasing after teachers is inappropriate behavior and is not an effective way to communicate and work with teachers and staff.  Cornering a worker in such a way that the worker cannot voluntarily leave a room of their own free might be considered false imprisonment, sexual harassment and/or a hostile work environment.  Instilling fear does not garner respect.  What was AP saying when he/she was yelling at teachers and/or staff members?   Was AP calling them names?  Was AP threatening to harm or injure the person?  Did the yelling/screaming occur in the presence of the children?  Did AP’s yelling and screaming disrupt the work taking place in the building?

One can only imagine the great lengths that teachers and staff go to in order to avoid the aforementioned individual.  They may walk by fast if they encounter the individual in the hallway or path and avert their eyes so as to avoid eye contact.  In meetings conducted by the individual, teachers and staff may not feel comfortable in speaking up or making meaningful contributions due to the bully’s volatile outbursts and verbal attacks.

 

Check with the School Superintendent’s office and ask if the school district has a workplace violence policy.  If not, have teachers and staff attend the next school district board meeting and demand that a policy be put in place.  Research other school districts that have a workplace violence policy in place, and give copies of those policies to school board members.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.  It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.  It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”

If the teachers and/or staff are not represented by a union or unions, a group of the teachers and/or staff could go en masse to HR and file a complaint.  There is power in having a large group make the complaint.  If that complaint goes nowhere, then the group could go en masse to the school district board meeting and complain.  Before filing a complaint to a state or federal agency, it is recommended that attempts to resolve the issue(s) be made first at the local level.

Contact the police if the offending individual was yelling and threatening to injure or harm a teacher, staff member or any person.  A report can be filed with the police or law enforcement agency where the threats occurred.  Obtain a copy of the police report for your records.  If your school district has a workplace violence policy, the police report can be shared with the school.  If the school district has no workplace violence policy then here is reason why the school should have such a policy.

It is not nice to be excluded from a holiday party but considering that the holiday party was at the bully’s home, would you have really enjoyed attending the party?  Next time, have your own party or go out to a really nice restaurant and enjoy the company of friends.  Be with those people that care about you and who treat you with dignity and respect.

 

If the verbal and/or psychological abuse was based on age (40 years of age or older), disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, harassment, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex or sexual harassment this could be illegal discrimination depending on the circumstances.  For further information contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state EEO agency.  There are strict time limitations in filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or state agency.  A worker can call the EEOC anonymously and discuss the details of their work situation by calling 1-800-669-4000.  Read more about the EEOC and the types of discrimination that the EEOC enforces at their website.

Keep a diary of each incident include date/time/location, details of exactly what happened, and if there were any witnesses.  Without good documentation, a charge or complaint will go nowhere.   Don’t tell anyone that you are keeping documentation.   Keep your documentation in a safe place.  Do not keep your documentation at work or on the employer’s computer.  Don’t use the work computer to e-mail others about what you are doing.  Any work that you do on the work computer and work e-mail can be monitored by the employer.

  

Most importantly, take good care of your physical and mental health.  Continue to have your doctor(s) monitor your health.  Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional who can help you cope with what you are going through.  The Workplace Bullying Institute also offers personal, confidential coaching over the telephone for a fee.

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists.  Teaching might even be the greatest of all the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”  … John Steinbeck, American Author

 

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 19th, 2014 at 7:00 am and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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