NEA Provides Educators with Guidance on Preventing Workplace Bullying

Kim Werner’s former principal was identified by her union as the most abusive principal in the district.

“He has been targeting educators for fifteen years,” she says. “He lies. He coerces.  He intimidates.  He screams and uses profanities.”

And he’s still a principal, while Werner is now an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program Trainer.

After a year and a half of constant abuse, Werner took medical leave and reported her principal. She was covered by the district’s Bullying and Harassment policy, and while on leave, requested public records about complaints filed by other educators at her school.

“I soon discovered the horror other educators had experienced under his leadership,” Werner says. “I was shocked and sick inside.  These were simply people who spoke up and addressed his intimidation tactics. They suffered greatly–both professionally and emotionally.”

Bullying leadership is often based upon fear, Werner says, and because bullying principals are scared they “disperse that fear throughout their schools.”

“They are afraid that some piece of bad news will ‘get out’ about their schools and so they manipulate people and data to meet their needs,” she says. “It’s happening throughout the nation.”

She says that when she was bullied, she felt very scared and alone, but ultimately decided to take action. What others do in response to bullying, however, can vary greatly.

“Some align with the bullying brute.  That feels safe,” she says. “Most hide.  A few stand up and say, ‘That’s not right,’ but very few of the ‘hiders’ will support those who stand up because they think it’s not safe, and they’re right.”

To help local NEA affiliates support members who are being targeted by administrators, delegates to the 2012 NEA Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly passed a resolution to “Defend the Rights and Dignity of Educators.”

It calls for NEA to inform its members on ways to challenge administrator abuse of teachers and education support professsionals, and to support local NEA affiliate efforts to defend the rights and dignity of teachers and education support professionals.

“There is no way children will ever be safe from bullying if adults in schools aren’t safe from the same.  Until we assure safety for ALL–children and adults in schools– we will continue to lose the battle,” says Werner.  “It’s treating others with respect and kindness and patience and love.  That’s the real work.”

Workplace Bullying – A Silent Crisis: A Resource for Educators

NEA’s guidance for affiliates to ensure members a workplace free of bullying and harassment

  • Jonathan K.

    Thank you Kim!

  • Pingback: NEA Provides Educators with Guidance on Preventing Workplace Bullying()

  • Robin

    I worked for the female version of this principal and even through numerous complaints to central office, nothing was done.

  • Suby

    What about teacher-on-teacher bullying? With an administrator, at least we can file a grievance, but what if the bully is a colleague?

  • Jonathan K.

    What we’re witnessing ladies & gents, is CHANGE! We can thank Kim Werner for her relentless drive to put out the fire we call bullying. And include the rest of us in that thanks because we all shared our stories and that told of a problem in education that was fast becoming a pandemic of sorts.

    For some of us the change came a little too late to right our little boats, but knowing our efforts were part of the push to change is gratification enough for me. In the big picture, these bullies have been exposed and their unruly behavior will no longer be tolerated!


  • C. E.

    I was bullied for two years by one specific teacher. When I attempted to take action by reporting her, my administration shut me down. As I was a brand new teacher, I did not know my options. Thankfully, she has moved away. However, unfortunately, another teacher has felt the need to become the new school bully. Several of us are in her target. As I determined to never allow myself to be bullied again, I immediately began reporting the incidents- only to find out that my new bully and the new administration are facebook friends and weekend gal pals. It looks like I will have to take this to the next level.

  • I wrote this as a blog post on A Piece Full World. I hope it helps some of you “out there.” I know it’s helping me–and it takes time–to continue to understand the nuances and dynamics surrounding my having been targeted by a school principal.

    Workplace and school bullying are about power

    “There have been complaints; That’s strike two; I may have to write you up.” My school principal would pass me in hallways and whisper his words of intimidation.

    That’s how his bullying started. It ended, after a year and a half of escalating emotional abuse, with me on a medical leave diagnosed with Acute Specific Stress Disorder.

    The detrimental health consequences of workplace bullying for bullied targets are real. Studies show that emotional violence–and workplace bullying feels like an assault–actually alters DNA. It frays our telomeres. You may not know what telomeres are, but, trust me, you do not want yours frayed.

    Stress hits us hard; hits our guts with gastrointestinal disorders; hits our hearts with palpitations; hits our minds with obsessive thoughts.

    Nathan Fox, a professor of human development at the University of Maryland, co-authored a study of the effects of bullying and violence in children. Dr. Fox found that: “….stress gets ‘under the skin’ and into the genes.”

    It’s hard, then, for teachers to put together dynamic lesson plans when their jobs are in hands of district sanctioned psychopathic principals.

    Why was I targeted at that school? I was targeted because I did not fit the toxic culture the principal had established there. It’s that simple. I was a “half-glass-full-living” individual placed by my school district into a “half-glass-empty/abusive” norm. To survive I would have had to “fit.” I did not “fit.” I did not lie when, towards the end, he screamed at me to fraudulently complete official documents; I refuted his false report against a teacher (he’d named me as a “witness”); and I respectfully asked that he not call me “honey.”

    I was not a “team player.” Jonathan Martin of the Miami Dolphins wasn’t a “team player” either.

    Bullying is all about power and not just bullies’ and their followers’ “power,” but of all the powerful people who gave it to them. The upper echelons of companies’ and school districts’ and football teams’ management are ultimately responsible for assuring safety for people–whether those people are 50 pound kindergarten children, 110 pound kindergarten teachers teaching those children, or 320 pound professional football players. The dynamics of bullying are the same.

    There are two key pieces to preventing bullying. I call them “magic.” The first piece of the “magic” is leadership. Leadership is the framework into which the other piece of the “magic” fits. If companies, school districts, and professional football teams are led at all levels–tippy top down–by kind and respectful leaders who “live” their policies against bullying, the other piece of the magic happens. That piece is trust. If children and adults in schools, and employees in workplaces trust that they will be kept safe from emotional abuse, then more and more will stand up for others. Bullying is prevented from the top down, not from the bottom up.

    Now that truly is magical.

    Contact Kim at:

  • annam

    Sadly this doesn’t even touch how classified staff are treated. It’s bad enough for the teachers in my school, but worse for the rest of us with no union. Sadly the BEA is known here for not doing much. Principals run wild and the districts don’t care as long as the test scores are good. There’s no oversight. I’m hoping she’ll leave soon and we’ll get someone who supports a positive work environment.

  • MC

    Our superintendent has done so many shady things in the past, and even as recent as the beginning of this school year. Employees have been told that if they open their mouths, they will get their walking papers! He’s covered wrongdoing by a Special Ed van driver(twice), and has given a huge stipend to an under 5 year paraprofessional which will make her earnings more than paras with over 30 years of service. All are on the same contract. All our paras have had added responsibilities, he has totally disregarded the contract and has zero respect for the other employees. Everyone is afraid to say something, because everyone needs their jobs.