Local (nasty) politics and adult bullies (long)

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    This is one of those threads that COULD belong in General or Watercooler, I'm just no sure...

    We live in a small town. Very small. Also very isolated. Access is by long and winding road through wilderness, or a half hour boat trip (no vehicles). Once "on the mainland" by boat, there is a train line into the city.

    Schools - we have a local "elementary" school but nothing more. For further education, kids have to catch the boat. The nearest high school (which for us includes half of Middle School) is where a lot of local kids go, but a large number also go to other schools along the train line.

    The local elementary school has a standard both academically and socially that has been badly slipping for years now. The problem has been compounded by bullying staff and an ineffective principal. I am friends with these people even while I dislike and disrespect their teaching methods. To stay friends has not been easy, I have had to work at it. I still do volunteer work for the school even though I have not had a child there for a number of years.

    About the time I pulled difficult child 3 out of there (which was about the time I joined this site, some time before the join date shown in my sig) a campaign began to have a bus service to drive the wilderness route to "the mainland". It would arrive at a different place and bypass some of the train service and thereby become a viable alternative to commuting by car for not only kids who go to a different elementary school, but to the high schoolers at different schools, uni students, college students, commuters and casual shoppers.
    A good idea, you would think. Especially if you consider that a lot of people would miss the last boat home and this forces them to drive - often one car per person. Inefficient. Expensive.

    To get this to happen, we need to find out from the people here what sort of demand there would be for a bus service like this. psychiatrist was one of those who began this, even though she herself wasn't going to be using such a service (her daughter at the time went to the local school).

    Flash forward to this year. psychiatrist sent an email around trying to organise responses. I wasn't terribly interested - mother in law might get some use though, so I drafted a half-hearted response and forgot about it.
    Then today I heard from psychiatrist - a vitriolic message had been emailed in response to a broadcast request from someone else asking for feedback fast on the bus. The vitriolic email came apparently from the local school secretary, "making it clear" that those wanting the bus were all traitors to the local school because they had removed their kids to the highway school and were now complaining because it is so inconvenient, and warning people off getting involved because if the bus ever got put on, only those few renegade schoolkids would be getting the bus.

    OK, I saw red. psychiatrist was upset, because this isn't about the highway kids, they probably wouldn't be using the bus because most users would be commuters, in fact the highway kids would all need to go into before school care if they used the bus service. Ironic. Also, psychiatrist is really unwell, about to go into hospital to have a brain tumour removed. This was the last thing she needed.

    She couldn't reply - it would have just started a to and fro war. So I did. I was really angry (again) at the attack on parents who choose to remove their kids and go to a different school. I'm fed up with being called a traitor by school staff and parents they've whipped up to support them. We have the right to do this. If it means that numbers are drastically dropping at the local school, then surely they should fix the problems, rather than attack people? We had remained silent as to our reasons for leaving, we didn't want to make the school's problems worse.

    Now, I don't care about staying silent. I heard this argument once too often. Too many people have been hurt. We had an Aspie boy whose family moved here a couple of years ago, delighted with this lovely place as somewhere to live while they continued home-schooling their son. But constant criticism from the overflow of the school's attitude to those not enrolling locally (and being called "traitor" to their face by a parent clearly schooled in 'acceptable lobbying' by school staff) saw this family pull up stakes and leave town, within a year.

    So I replied. The gist of my reply was, "We need a bus for many reasons. The reason criticised, that highway school kids would be the only ones to benefit, is actually untrue. They are the ones least likely to benefit. To make this accusation is unfair to a person who has been a champion of the local school in the past and who still believes it to have great potential. It is also unfair to all those of us who chose to remove our children, for reasons of our own which we do not have to justify to anyone. This is still a free country, last time I looked."

    I then went on to list the many other reasons we need a bus service and to ask for calm and consideration rather than an attitude which can only further hurt the local school.
    I then sent it (Bcc'ing it this time) to everyone that the nasty message had been sent to, telling them I was doing this to try to set the record straight and to get debate back on the correct track.

    For pete's sake, this is only a survey to determine level of interest! If someone doesn't want it, that's OK. It's for the people who DO want it. Nobody should have veto rights. But if a need can be proven...

    I received a few replies. Only one was negative - the original messenger. VERY nasty. And again unsigned (only the sending email address as clue to identity). This time the message was along the lines of, "I'm surprised you felt what I wrote was an attack, I was just making clear there is a hidden truth. I don't feel threatened, perhaps you do. Is the truth*getting distorted?"

    [please note - I have deliberately changed wording here, although hopefully not meaning. I do not want them to find this site by Googling what they wrote within quote marks - these people have tracked my writing before, but I don't think they've found me here].

    Now, I HAVE replied again, but only to respond a final time. The gist of my reply - "When you say I distort the truth, you imply I'm lying. And then wonder why I take it as a personal attack? The truth is as I stated it. You should know me well enough to know that. And yes, I am more than willing to state I feel threatened, as I have done whenever people have in the past accused me or any other parents of being traitors, merely for exercising our democratic right to choose where to send our children to school. If you are so concerned about the loss of local numbers, perhaps your time would better be spent in constructive areas trying to lift the standards and resolve issues which have repeatedly been raised, with no result.
    The bus enquiry is about far more than such petty remarks. I have answered you and I now intend to get on with important matters."

    I have had no more replies form this person since (that was about 2 pm, although interestingly the incoming message time stamp is flawed).

    Both messages were unsigned but had a surname in the address matching a school office staffer. I made sure to sign all my messages and to keep my replies from any personal attack. But I have to live in this very small town with these people. I think that is what is counted on - people fear to respond and as a result, the bad status quo continues.

    There is just enough ambiguity in the messages, so that if I complained to Dept of ed that staff were sending attacking messages out during work time, this person would wiggle out of it by claiming the messages came from spouse instead (personal email, not work).

    Footnote - I had to go down to the shops after sending my second reply. On the way I was stopped by a person who I barely know. I was apprehensive - but she was thanking me for sending my first message (the second only went to one person, the abuser) and pledging her support. If we don't get a bus, she may have to leave the village. Not to transport a child, but to get herself to doctors, to appointments, to other events. She's an advocate.

    So before the first nasty email was sent, the community was complacent on the bus issue. Now, a hornet's nest has been kicked. I'm planning a clipboard session in the main street next Saturday, to canvas opinions! And volunteers are coming out the woodwork.

    Some people might say, "Stay out of it. Don't dignify it with a response." But I felt that I have stayed silent too long, and this kind of bullying by school staff merely continues if it's not slapped back at them. I'm not going to respond any further, if it keeps going I'll simply send one more message. "Any further emails from your address will be automatically bounced and will be considered to constitute harassment. In such event, I will be making formal complaint proceedings. This is your final warning."

    Opinions? I've tried to stay calm through this, but I have to walk a tightrope here and somehow stay on speaking terms if possible with these people, because I still volunteer at the local school. I'm wondering if my volunteer days have now been ended...

    At least difficult child 3 no longer goes to this school. Hasn't done for years.

  2. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I think you're right to report the harrassment if it continues, Marg. And you certainly have the right to campaign for something you believe in. By continuing on in your life as usual, you send a message that you cannot be intimidated by the bullying. It's a shame that these people can't just accept the difference in opinions and go about resolving things diplomatically -- but it's not a perfect world and there are lots of petty people who love power trips.

    Stick to your guns and fight for what you believe in! You clearly have support from others, so that should be of some encouragement to press on.
  3. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    I think you deserve a medal. Your actions were and are appropriate and restrained, also admirable, courageous, and selfless. Go Marg!
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Go for it. Sometimes a hornet's nest is a good thing.
    Even hornets get lazy sometimes.
    You go!
  5. ML

    ML Guest

    I think you're doing the right thing. The school is being a bully and I think you've had enough bullying to last a lifetime. This is a cause you believe in and one for which you have the requisite courage. I (almost) feel sorry for that school now that they've pushed you too far. You go girl!
  6. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    How unprofessional for the school secretary to represent the school. I would think a statement like that should come from someone in higher position than herself. Her words should not be used with the school's backing. Who is she to make the decision on the school's stand?

    I agree with you that the bus service would go beyond the school. How many people would use it for work and shopping?

    If the school authorities (not secretary who is only a secretary not to make decisions such as this) is afraid of loosing students, the answer is in increasing the quality and quantity of education. Meet the needs of those who choose to go elsewhere. Hire staff who will work with parents to meet the children's needs.

    I would respectfully dismiss the secretary position as having authority in her statments and as you fight for the bus line simply tell her that you will only debate those in real authority when it comes to her comments on the school. If the School Board agrees with her, then the school board must make those statements not her.

    She can of course make her own personal statements but do not hide behind the school without proper backing.

    That goes for all school staff members - no one should be using their position to represent the school without approval from the school board - and the school board should not allow anyone to represent the school on anything - they need to do their own talking.

    I know in my job, if there is any public discussion on anything, I am not allowed to talk to the press or say anything about it as an employee. I need to refer all questions to Human Resources. We have a public relations person to make any public statements.
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    This person has made her comments using her personal email address, not a work one. Although she would have been writing it on work time.

    I don't think she's trying to make an official statement, but because she is in a position of SOME authority (she's an interface between parents and the school when you need to talk to someone there, meet someone etc and so everyone tries to keep in her good books) I think she was using this position to apply pressure and to also get a bit nasty. They really are desperate to stop more people from removing their children - and I think using fear to motivate people to put up with the low standards, instead of fixing the problems, is reprehensible. People really are nervous of what will be said or done, if they leave. Very sad.

    I also don't think this person thought of all this by herself. The "traitor" comments I suspect come from two teachers primarily, who are the ones most in control of the attitudes there. The reactionaries. They express their opinions loudly, they can hose things down or stir them up depending on their own issues. I don't think they've been to an inservice or updated their credentials for decades. It's got to the point where they refuse to allow therapists in the classroom to observe a particular child, because "nobody can tell me how to do my job."
    I actually am still friends with these people. Or at least we exchange pleasantries when we meet. But they know I will not be pushed around, just as I know they will not change their opinions. So we just "don't go there".

    I suspect the atmosphere of "attack the rats who are leaving" has come from there and infected other people associated with the school, notably other staff and parents of kids still there. Not all of them, only some. I didn't cop too much personally, I think these people knew better than to push my buttons. I was not supposed to get that email - the secretary didn't know I was in that loop or she might have held back. Although she didn't hold back on replying even more nastily, so I don't know...

    If rats are leaving, then rather than abuse the rats it's perhaps time to stop the ship from sinking. Or at least get the lifeboats deployed.

    I've had no more responses, so I think the topic has been hosed down, at least for now. I haven't crossed paths with these people yet, it will be interesting when I do.