There are so many rude, obnoxious adults — who presumably raise like-minded kids — it isn’t surprising there seems to be an equal number of bullies populating classrooms, roaming hallways and ruling schoolyards.
Educators have gone on a PR blitz the past number of years, trying to convince anyone who cares or has a kid in class that “zero tolerance” policies have made schools a huge hug fest, rather than the slugfest of yesteryear.
Maybe this approach has succeeded in schools in Disneyland, but in the real world, there is evidence aplenty that the spouting of principals and school boards is merely self-serving spin and pedagogical propaganda.
Consider the case of 10-year-old Christian Roberts, who on Feb. 2 was sprayed with air freshener by his teacher at Twillingate Island Elementary School because he smelled of fried caplin.
The following Sunday, his mom, Patti Rideout, wrote a letter of complaint to the Nova Central School District.
This week, the antics of the Febreze-armed educator made news across the country, causing millions of people west of Port aux Basques to wonder what caplin are and what they smell like when fried.
The reaction to headlines about the boy’s hallway hazing prove, if nothing else, that the ratio of bullies in schools and among the public runs about 1:1.
Put another way, it is reasonable to conclude that for every bully at school, there is at least one adult bully at home.
A common reaction among the rude and obnoxious crowd of bully-raisers was that Rideout is merely a publicity seeker looking for her “15 minutes” of fame.
In true bully fashion, some people didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good pummelling.
The story arose because Rideout wrote a letter of complaint about the incident to the school district. She was defending her child, as she should. She has said the massive media attention took her by surprise, as it undoubtedly did. Most people don’t usually try to draw attention to personal situations that are humiliating, embarrassing or hurtful.
Some observers, after castigating Rideout for her alleged self-aggrandizement, blasted the media for covering the story. Here’s a quick lesson in Journalism 101 for them: when was the last time you heard about a teacher spraying a pupil with air freshener? … That’s why it’s newsworthy.
It is also newsworthy because it’s a perfect example of how a blame-the-victim mentality still prevails among the public and in schools. Spraying the kid with air freshener implied — no, it said outright — he was at fault.
Eating fried caplin when he went home for lunch.
Rather than hauling out the Febreze, the teacher should have told the rude brats who were taunting Christian to shut up or get out.
Apparently, the miscreants have never been taught that one aspect of common courtesy is to refrain from commenting on or drawing attention to other people’s appearance or personal attributes. For example, don’t stare at the one-legged man riding a unicycle. It’s a basic tenet of good manners, but is seemingly absent in some Newfoundland (and possibly Labrador) households.
But the kid stank like fried fish, some people have said in defence of the taunters. So? Was he hurting anyone? Was he endangering anyone? Perhaps the aroma was bothersome. Too bad. Shut up about it. It’s just as likely the bullies would be bothered by a pink shirt or dorky glasses.
Imagine if this incident had happened in Toronto.
Patriotic, frying Newfoundlanders would have waved the tricolour and screamed outrage at the Mainlanders’ insult and condescension, and dashed to the phone to call MP Ryan Cleary.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.