Teacher intimidation in our schools

Over the last weekend a female secondary school teacher confided in this newspaper that she had become aware of what she suspected was an organized drug-peddling practice by some students at the school where she teaches. She wants it investigated and – if it is indeed drug distribution – stopped; but is afraid to do anything to initiate an investigation. She is, quite simply, afraid for her safety. She believes that the people behind what she believes is the distribution of drugs might do her physical harm or might even seek to harm her children. She believes that other teachers are also aware of the practice and also share her fear that if they were to seek to do anything about the practice they might be harmed.

This is by no means the first occasion on which we have received reports about suspicions of drug peddling in schools, not official reports but stories that arise out of what, invariably, are informal but serious conversations with teachers about issues that have to do with teaching in state schools.

Each time, they make it clear that their conversations are off the record.

In this most recent case the teacher felt that she “had to tell someone” and that she dared not tell her husband out of concern that he might rush into the matter like the proverbial bull in a China shop and that that might simply make things much worse for her. She feels the same way about the Head of the school and, she says, she does not trust the police. Her fear apart, our teacher has conceded to strong feelings of guilt. She clearly feels strongly about her role as a teacher and, by extension, a moral guide. She says, however, that she is not prepared to risk her physical self. We understand both her feelings of guilt and her concern for her personal welfare and we will respect her wish to remain anonymous. This newspaper, however, cannot help but record the fact that there are instances – perhaps many more than we might realize- in which teachers are not only fearful of some of the very children whom they teach but intimidated to the point where they are afraid to do anything that might offend their tormentors.

These days, the school experience goes way beyond the practice of playing practical jokes on teachers and hoping not to get caught. We are aware of at least one case of alleged open and ongoing teacher intimidation and of course there are those cases that have been reported in the media of teachers being bullied and seriously assaulted by students; and even if we may not have arrived at that point of having lost our schools to child bullies, we continue to be painfully aware that our school population includes cliques of juvenile ‘enforcers’ who are perfectly prepared to and perfectly capable of engineering intimidation within the school system which, apart from thoroughly cowing the teacher populations can compromise their ability to deliver education. More than that, these young bullies fall outside whatever disciplinary regimen might obtain in their schools, in some instances, according to what we are told, virtually ‘running things.’ We believe that this is something that the Ministry of Education might wish to think and act about.

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