EARLIER THIS month, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite informed staff that "October is Bullying Prevention Month." He said bullying would not be tolerated, and he encouraged everyone to "take a proactive approach in supporting school administrators and personnel to prevent and intervene in bullying behavior." He asserted, "All acts of bullying must be reported and investigated promptly and thoroughly according to the administrative procedures that have been established."
Therefore, I am emboldened to step up and intervene on behalf of my students, colleagues and, in general, my fellow Pennsylvanians. According to District Policy 248, Harassment, Section 3:
"For purposes of this policy, harassment shall consist of unwelcome verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual's gender, age, race, color, sexual orientation (known or perceived), national origin, religion, disability, English language proficiency, socioeconomic status and or/political beliefs. Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target, or involve repeated incidents. A single incident of harassment may implicate more than one protected class. For example, a student may be targeted because of his race and sexual orientation."
I am reporting that Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett has made numerous remarks that constitute bullying/harassment according to the district code. The first verbal attack was "gender-based," directed against women, when in March 2012 he verbally defended his position to require an invasive ultrasound for women seeking an abortion, saying, "You just have to close your eyes." The actual act required is physical bullying. Many of my students and colleagues are females.
The second episode was an assault against "national origin" when in May 2013 he insulted Latinos in Philadelphia at the Union League of Philadelphia when he was asked, "Do you have staff members that are Latino?" and he answered, "No, we do not have any staff members in there. If you can find one, please let me know." I have Latino students and colleagues.
The third episode of bullying/harassment, about the same time that Hite issued his notification, was an aspersion levied upon "sexual orientation" and those who accept same-sex marriage, when the state's legal team's papers compared the illegality of same-sex marriage to that of the union of children. And when asked about it, Corbett replied, "I think a much better analogy would have been a brother and sister, don't you?" So, he went from intimating that same-sex marriage is juvenile and pubescent to incestuous. And, again, the policy itself is physically discriminatory. I have LGBT students and colleagues. (My school wore purple this past Thursday in support of LGBT youth and anti-bullying. The teacher-coordinator wrote, "Thank you, teachers, who wore purple today, I heard from a lot of students who said that it meant a lot to them.")
The governor's lawyerly defense is, "I have always been a lawyer, and I think with my legal head all the time. Being a politician is second nature." It was a poor choice of words for anyone, and now he offends lawyers for being insensitive and politicians for being disingenuous. Nonetheless, according to the district code, the hurtful verbal remarks do not have to be with "intent to harm."
The damage is done - casting jagged lines of demarcations through derision (literally a bully pulpit). The "governor" is our leader first, and the individual holding the highest public office in the state should be cognizant of that.
The pattern of this sporadic rhetoric indicates a serial bully. All of the remarks are antithetical to our collective mission as written in policy and embodied in practice to respect and cultivate the rich diversity of our district and the community it represents.
Moreover, the actual education-funding policy by the governor is bullying of a physical nature against "socioeconomic status," whereby our economically distressed students are deprived of educational resources that virtually says because they are poor they get less. I have economically distressed students, and they deserve more.
We all deserve better.