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Abusive Teacher

Original post made by Vera, Danville, on Sep 24, 2010

I visited a class in another school district last school year and observed the teacher being verbally abusive to a student. Based on my conversations with her, the teacher struck me as having a mental illness. She teaches a lower elementary school grade, and her views of the kids were strange. She saw some as angels, and others as manipulative, cunning, trying to control her, etc. She was cruel to one little girl that she felt this way about. She yelled at her and got this kid into a state of shock. The teacher told me that you have to "break" some kids and" make them cry," she said this is the only way to get them to behave. The teacher is friends with the principal, so I knew talking to the principal wouldn't help. I spoke to another teacher who had been teaching for 30 years, and she told me that I can't do anything about this because the teacher has tenure. I am no longer able to be in this classroom. I was not expecting to see abuse so I didn't record it.
This teacher is nice to many of the kids and they like her. Many of the parents like her. I know that she will continue to find a scapegoat in her class every year (she told me how a child from last year 'hates' her, and I observed this kid go out of his way to avoid her). I don't know what to do. It is bizarre that in a profession where an adult has power over a group of children, there is such a thing as tenure. It should be easy to get rid of an abusive teacher because the psychologically well-being of children is at stake. Instead we adults tolerate a system where it is extremely difficult to remove an adult who is hurting children. That's wrong.

Comments (7)

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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:53 am

Vera: Thanks for sharing this information. I feel horrible for the young students having to deal with this abusive teacher. This is a perfect example of why tenure for school teachers after 2 years is a huge problem. If the principal will not do anything about it, I would suggest you approach the school board about the situation. If this teacher knows at least that people are on to her and watching her, maybe she will at least try to be on somewhat better behavior. I would love to hear from the candidates for school board in SRV Unified, their thoughts on this issue, and what can be done to protect those poor young students from that horrible teacher. Any thoughts, candidates?


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Posted by samiam
a resident of Danville
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Unfortunately, I have seen this before myself. One particular teacher comes to mind, she taught second grade in another district. She also saw certain children as "trouble" and "on their way to being criminals unless she took harsh action. She made a point of pre-emptive punishment, she spoke openly about how certain students were "bad"....I was in her class weekly, spoke to the Principal, actually it was a well known issue, but no one would deal with it. I was a cub scout leader and when I mentioned that three of the boys that she deemed "evil" were in my troop she asked me how I could possibly deal with them.... I actually had little problem, as they were simply boys, which requires attention an discipline but they were not Damian. The principal agreed to a meeting between the three of us to address the issue, then canceled it because she didn't want to "hurt the teacher's feelings"....I personally am more interested in protecting the feeling of children then those of a supposed adult. It took the treat of a lawsuit and the help of a psychologist(private and expensive) to remove one of the children from her class....no one wanted to "hurt her".
The teaching profession protects its own much more then law enforcement does, they will never openly admit that there is a problem even when they know that there is. This makes it hard to respect their judgement.
I know of a middle school teacher who decided a particular student was "bad" and made a point of telling the class that it was a good day when he was absent. She also made a point of trying to prevent his transfer to a private school because he "didn't deserve it"...she did this by contacting the administration of that school and expressing her views. There was no reason for her to do that but meanness. I know this because she proudly told me all about this. The child involved was not related to me in anyway, as a matter of fact the middle school teacher was my "master teacher" during my student teaching process. She was so certain that she was right that it never even occurred to her to be embarrassed about her behavior. I think the problem with some teachers is that they are so isolated in their little fiefdoms that they lose touch with reality. In most professions you have to interact with equals or at least other adults, hence such behavior is noted and reacted to. Teachers have a group kids and so no such reality check.
This is not healthy. What we need to do is change the review process.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Danville
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm

This is abuse, and we're all responsible for this system unless we actively work to change it. What steps to we take to change it?


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Posted by John D. Lane IV
a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

I am sorry if students are being treated this way in our District. If this is a recurring event, I would encourage the parents of the student as well as the parent assistant of the classroom who saw it happen to approach the Board and Administration and file a complaint against the teacher.
Unfortunately, across California we are seeing the negative effects of tenure as it doesn't allow for proper recourse against teachers who act in this way or teachers that aren't held accountable for the quality of education that they are providing our students.
In our district we have a lot of great teachers and we should embrace the values that they bring into the classroom, but at the same time we should be able to rid ourselves of the few bad apples.


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Posted by American
a resident of Danville
on Sep 27, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Mr. Lane: Thank you for responding, and sharing your thoughts on this issue...I must admit that I am impressed with your opinions on what I have seen so far(except I am against year round school)and I think I may have misjudged you earlier, and I am actually considering voting for you for the school board.


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Posted by John D. Lane IV
a resident of San Ramon
on Sep 27, 2010 at 2:29 pm

American resident of Danville:
Thank you for your consideration! I don't expect us to agree on every issue nor do I expect to have 'the answer' to every situation. The most important thing is that we are able to communicate and listen to each other. I look forward to future questions and dialogue.


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Posted by motherDanville
a resident of Danville
on Oct 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

There are teachers in our district who are wonderful, and deserve accolade upon accolade. There are, unfortunately, teachers and adjunct personnel in our district who are very abusive to the very children they are entrusted with daily. I have heard students talking about how their teacher would call certain students "stupid" in class, send the disliked student to the office even when the actual guilty student confessed, with the class trying to help the disliked student; such teachers have long, known histories of this behavior but tenure is king. Principals will say "oh, I don't want to hear that about my teachers" but when the same comments come from parents and students year after year...and nothing is done...the damage these teachers do is shameful. It then takes the teachers who are responsible so much time to make up for their colleagues' damage. When two teachers gang up on a student, with malice, it is truly difficult to erase their hateful words and actions from the mind of a less-successful student. The union has the last word, and our students continue to suffer at the hands of the burned-out masochists.


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