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.”