SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Witch Hunts in the Schools

Friday, December 26, 2014

Witch Hunts in the Schools

For those who do not know there is an ATR support page on Facebook known as the ATR Alliance (It is a closed group and you must request to join). If you are an ATR I suggest you sign up and get to know some of those in the same boat.

One thing I myself have noticed over the year and a half of being rubberized is that most of those I have served time with are outliers. Heck, not even just from the Rubber Room, those I call some of my dearest friends and confidants in across the DOE are outliers and proudly so.

These people are smart, dedicated, demanding, independent, and worse to many administrators, honest. But instead of being seen in a positive light by our colleagues we are seen as something that must be rid of. Something that must be shunned. Something that must be ignored. Something that is berated behind our backs. Something that must be stopped at all costs. Notice the something is used instead of someone. These people looking down their noses and from behind our backs do not see "someONE," they see "someTHING."

Some people only feel good in being part of the problem and part of the mob. The lack of independent thought and independent guidance is what leads these people to be part of this mob mentality amongst adults in our schools. Hold your head above the crowd and see how fast you are taken down.

So I was reading this posting on the ATR FB page about bullies in the work place. We have all had our share of those in the DOE, some more than others. Those that turn their backs to you. Those that are your "pals" to your face yet would not think for a second to do you in. Those that are so bereft of any ethics or morals that they will just shove a knife in your back in a heartbeat.

But the worst are those that you genuinely have gone to bat for and when you need them to step up to the plate for you they run away feigning they ever knew you or were close to you. Yeah, really. Those are the worse. Those are the ones who don't wish to ruin their cred with the correct school clique.

But back to this posting. It really hits home for me. It is a witch hunt out there. What makes it worse is that we expect it to come from administrators, we don't expect it to come from those who we consider friends and colleagues.

I'm re-posting the blog post and  juxtaposing it with lyrics from 1981's "Witch Hunt (Part III of the Fear Trilogy)" off of "Moving Pictures" by the band Rush. Seems so appropriate.

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

What Is Mobbing? - The office disease

The hallmark of mobbing behavior is an initial unresolved conflict that is preventing the targeted person from accomplishing his or her job in the most effective way.

The targeted person tries with good intent to resolve the situation in a constructive way, never realizing that the people he or she is dealing with have already decided to get rid of him or her, which is "revealed in attacks of various sorts: humiliation, ridicule, stigmatization, ostracism, exclusion and isolation.".

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

This leads the targeted person to suffer "self-doubt," "…confusion, tension, anger and depression." Id. These unresolved conflicts intensify and are magnified until the targeted person is suffering severe emotional distress. The more the targeted person attempts to find recourse the more those who are doing the mobbing create reasons why the issue cannot be resolved. Because those doing the mobbing have no intention of resolving the conflict, the conflict escalates until it is virtually unmanageable.

The targeted person becomes very ill or depressed, work suffers and it is only a matter of time before the targeted person is terminated, resigns or retires. The expulsion of the targeted person was predetermined by those doing the mobbing from the very start and there was nothing the targeted person could have done to resolve the issue (therein lies the "crazy-making").

People new to handling power, and who are insecure and incompetent when it comes to wielding it, will apparently target the talented and dedicated for mobbing. Learn to spot and stop it whenever it rears its ugly head.

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

Checklist of mobbing indicators

Sociologist Kenneth Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:

- By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.
- Rumors and gossip circulate about the target's misdeeds: "Did you hear what she did last week?"
- The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.
- Collective focus on a critical incident that "shows what kind of man he really is".
- Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, "to be taught a lesson".
- Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e.g., apart from the annual performance review.
- Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.
- Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e.g., a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.
- High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.
- Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to "speak up for" or defend the target.
- The adding up of the target's real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
- The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.
- Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.
- Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.
- Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.
- Mobbers' fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what's best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Psychological and health effects to the victim of mobbing in the workplace
Victims of workplace mobbing frequently suffer from: adjustment disorders, somatic symptoms (e.g., headaches or irritable bowel syndrome), Post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression.

In mobbing targets with PTSD, Leymann notes that the "mental effects were fully comparable with PTSD from war or prison camp experiences. Some patients may develop alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders. Family relationships routinely suffer. Some targets may even develop brief psychotic episodes, generally with paranoid symptoms. Leymann estimated that 15% of suicides in Sweden could be directly attributed to workplace mobbing.

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand... 

Degrees of mobbing

First degree: Victim manages to resist, escapes at an early stage, or is fully rehabilitated in the original workplace or elsewhere.

Second degree: Victim cannot resist or escape immediately and suffers temporary or prolonged mental and/or physical disability and has difficulty reentering the workforce.

Third degree: Victim is unable to reenter the workforce and suffers serious, long-lasting mental or physical disability.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I am glad you are writing again. I am being targeted and this really hit home.

FidgetyTeach said...

Describes my experience perfectly. I was always the one to speak up and go to bat for my colleagues. Never a follower...just an independent, outside the box type...never needing anyone's approval. Teachers would constantly seek me out for advice, artwork and assistance. Years later, after having been through the Rubber Room and present ATR status, it is all very clear. If you are on Facebook, please join the ATR Alliance... an amazing & supportive group of ATRs and ACRs. Thanks for your article and for mentioning the group!

Pete Zucker said...

Anonymous, please email me

Anonymous said...

For years I have gone through what you have describe in horrific detail. I am just hanging on till I can retire if I last that long.

My job and title was stripped from me and give to a 27 year old with only 5 years teaching experience in 2nd grade. She was a much better fit. I worked my tail off helping all the teachers, yet when the time came no one was there for me. I was given the worst class in the school with the hopes I would fail. I am still standing. It sickens me every day when I see the "new and improved coach" surf the web for sales on the net. I was called every name possible by administrators and friends of the new coach. Yes I got sick, landed in the ER and hospital more times than I want to remember. Only pleasure I get is seeing the ELA scores keep falling every year with their new and improved coach!

Pissedoffteacher said...

Although I was never targeted with any real consequences, I suffered at the hands of admins for speaking out and for speaking out for my colleagues. Only one person stood up with me when I needed a witness in a meeting with admins. Others were too afraid to be present, even in a non speaking capacity. I retired with my head held high but with nothing from the people I spoke up for. It is okay and I would do the same again. I could not live with myself if I acting like most of my colleagues.