Don’t tell bullying victims to ‘just get over it’
By Kerry Drake
— September 23, 2014
At a time when Wyoming’s public school system is under increased scrutiny by lawmakers and the public for spending a huge amount of money and achieving subpar results, a few Casper teachers’ buffoonish, crude actions during an event to “welcome” new staff members has rightfully outraged taxpayers and embarrassed educators.
Nice going, guys. I hope you don’t expect anyone to ask you for an encore. You’re really lucky you still have your day jobs.
It’s not fair to paint all teachers in the state with the same tainted brush used at Natrona County High School last month for the totally inappropriate hazing of new teachers. But after watching a video of the event that went viral on YouTube last week, any rational observer would ask, “What the heck were they thinking? Do teachers or anyone else in Wyoming actually think this is funny?”
For critics of public education, this was a gift wrapped and sloppily tied with a bow. The 19-minute skit fortunately didn’t make fun of any ethnic minorities, but it didn’t spare any other segment of society from being held up to ridicule — particularly the disabled and anyone who didn’t meet the performers’ standards for good looks. Tall, short, skinny, fat — there were jokes for all body types, along with an overdose of distasteful sexual innuendo and a general mean-spiritedness.
If you haven’t seen the video, here’s a small sample of the infantile humor in this parody of a “Saturday Night Live” skit featuring Craig and Arianna, who are inept high school cheerleaders:
Arianna (to female teacher): How about you, sweetheart? What is your name and what will you be teaching? (response redacted)
Craig — So you’re going to be working with (name redacted) and (also redacted)?
The cheerleaders laugh hysterically.
Arianna: Hold on a second! (pretends to grab another teacher’s testicles, cut them off and bring them back to the new female teacher). Here, you’re gonna need these!
Craig: Don’t worry, according to his wife, he hasn’t needed those for years!
Other comedy gold included jokes about oral sex, masturbation, gays, blow-up sex dolls, virginity, drugs, the mentally challenged, epileptics, serial killers, sex offenders and drunks. Near the conclusion, Arianna walks behind a man, grabs his breasts and asks, “Are these puppies silicone? Those are nice! I’m saving up for a pair.”
Yes, something to offend almost everyone in the audience. Complaints about sexual harassment were made to the Natrona County School District administration, which led to its initial refusal to release the video and transcript, a reversal of that position (thanks to the Casper Star-Tribune’s Freedom of Information Act request) and the resignation of NCHS Principal Dean Kelly, who said he was in the audience but hadn’t seen the skit in advance.
Some “disciplinary action” was taken against a few teachers, but not spelled out. Nobody lost their job — not even Kelly; he was simply “reassigned” to another position in the district.
In addition to wasting nearly 20 minutes of my life watching it, here are the four things that most upset me about this incredibly stupid incident:
° It taints all teachers in Wyoming, including the vast majority who would never dream of participating in anything this unprofessional, because they have the common sense not to use a public facility and make offensive comments about their new co-workers while getting paid for it. The teachers who perpetrated this mess are excellent examples of the stereotypical poor educators that many people believe are undeservedly protected from losing their jobs by teachers’ unions.
° Teachers should be role models for students, especially when it comes to the issue of bullying, which causes so much hurt in our schools and even leads to suicide attempts. How can we expect kids to believe anything adults say about the subject when they see and hear their own teachers make jokes about gays, the disabled, and people’s personal appearances? Moreover, there’s a terrible double standard here — how can teachers fairly discipline students who make offensive comments, if they are not held accountable for their own hateful words and poor judgments?
° I live in Casper, so this applies only to the Natrona County School District, but I’m sick and tired of seeing administrators who are allegedly punished for their failure to lead by being reassigned to other positions in the district. Kelly watched the skit being performed and could have called a halt to it, but he did nothing while watching his new hires endure humiliation from their peers on their first day on the job.
° The reaction of the community has largely been appalling. Readers who have left comments on the Star-Tribune website have been pretty evenly divided, with about half correctly demanding accountability and the other half essentially saying, “It was a joke, get over it.”
This speaks volumes about the good old boy system that still operates in this school district and city. Nobody should be told to “just get over” bullying and sexual harassment and accept it. Like most companies, the school district has policies against this type of behavior, but the difference between this district and other entities is that apparently its policies aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
I can’t think of another public or private employer where an incident similar to what was allowed at the high school would not have resulted in several immediate dismissals of those responsible. The fact that it didn’t at NCHS should make for a very interesting school board election on Nov. 4.
I hope any incumbents and/or challengers who defend what happened can get over losing, and not take it personal.
— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog.
— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The story here is the lack of accountability in public life in Wyoming. From the Governor down to teachers in a school district, there is no guarantee of transparency or accountability. How is this incident different from a city councilman who is also a contractor to the city and votes on projects from which he stands to benefit? From county commissioners, state representatives and senators who vote on projects that benefit them directly? From a state treasurer who invests money with managers under an agreement that stipulates that their fees never be disclosed to the public, and then runs for the House of Representatives with campaign donations from those managers’ firms?
This is a story about a local institution sorely in need of adult supervision. Sadly, this is the story of public life in Wyoming.
I agree with Mr. Drake, it is really unnecessary and unprofessional for these so called “teachers.” Where is the accountability?
With that said Mr. Drake, your style of bully journalism could use some work. Calling people terrorists because they have contrary opinion, constantly berating the conservative side of the fence for not supporting the entitlement programs would be considered a form a bullying – just because conservatives have a different perspective and/or opinion than you do. Most times your articles lack facts or only the facts that support your communist/liberal positions. You are a bully too – although pretty harmless and entertaining.