Bullying: The Unintended Consequences of Mask Mandates
Regardless of your stance on the Governor’s K-12 mask mandates, these policies have set in motion many unintended consequences that are affecting students throughout the district. From bullying by fellow classmates to pressure and threats from faculty and teachers, vaccinated and unvaccinated students have been thrown into the pressure cooker of today’s political landscape.
Classroom Bullying, Discrimination and Segregation
BBME was contacted and informed by various parents and students who wish to remain anonymous. They informed us of multiple instances where their High Schoolers were being told by teachers to reveal their vaccination status publicly, in front of their peers. Not only is this a clear violation of HIPAA, but blatant and public segregation of students into two polarizing groups. This is opening up students to bullying and shaming by both peers and teachers. Typically, it is the unvaccinated students taking the most abuse. One classroom example we heard from a local parent was a teacher asking students to “Raise your hand if you’re vaccinated.” After working through the exercise of identifying themselves as vaccinated or not, the teacher then took the opportunity to rant about how the unvaccinated kids are “ignorant idiots who are probably Trump lovers and doing this for political motives.” As the berating of the unvaccinated students continued throughout the period, the teacher then dismissed the entire class with “get the hell out of my room you little jackasses.” This teacher’s behavior is unacceptable on so many levels, but even worse, it perpetuates a classroom of inequity and hostility.
This type of bullying doesn’t stop at vaccination status, but also at masks. “Pull your mask up, you look like a Republican”, one WCSD teacher publicly told a high school student during class. This same teacher informs students they are ”going to die if they don’t get vaccinated.” The list of teachers publicly shaming students goes on and on. One teacher in the district openly blamed a student who “absolutely refused to wear her mask properly” for a covid outbreak in her class. The teacher spoke openly to the other students and parents that it was this particular student’s fault these kids were at risk. At the same WCSD high school, kids are being notified that part of their grade is wearing their mask properly.
Athletic Bullying, Discrimination and Segregation
Unfortunately, students hoping to escape the bullying within classrooms will not always find respite in school sports. Some coaches are taking the pressure from these mandates and pushing them onto the athletes; causing additional stress and pressures.
Upon arrival to practice, one athlete reports the team was asked by the coach to identify as either vaccinated or unvaccinated. “If you’ve had the vaccine, sit down.” After segregating the unvaccinated, the coach began to shame and guilt them. “You'll have to get tested every week. You’re affecting the whole team if you’re excluded.” With insinuations of letting the team down and the added testing pressures, the unvaccinated team members felt the pressure not only from the coach, but then echoed from their vaccinated teammates.
At another school, an assistant coach took it upon herself to circle up the team and go one by one, asking each athlete not only if they were vaccinated but what vaccine they received and when. When a student asked the assistant coach if she could legally be asking this private information in a group setting, her reply was “this is a public health issue, I can ask who I want, when I want”. Later, to the team, the assistant coach stated, “I wish I could just force the vaccine”.
The “status” of these athletes is not only impacting their classroom time, but also their playing time. Per WCSD policy, not only do non-vaccinated athletes have to test more frequently, they are also excluded longer upon a positive test. In one instance, an unvaccinated athlete was removed from his spot on the team’s starting lineup and a vaccinated athlete was given his position because the unvaccinated player was still out due to the imposed timeframe for unvaccinated exclusion.
Our kids should not be bearing the weight of these mandates, the political views of their teachers or the pressures from their peers knowing their personal medical information. Our children should be able to learn in an environment free of bullying and shaming. We should be focused on teaching respect, unity and the right to individual privacy. WCSD has robust harassment and discrimination policies, clearly stating that a learning environment should be safe and respectful.
Check on Your Children
Parents, have you checked on your kids lately? Have you talked to them about how their day really went? Have you asked if students are being kind or if there is any bullying happening to them around masks or vaccination choices? Have you asked them if teachers are being respectful of their privacy or personal choices? One WCSD high school senior said, “I respect (the teachers) opinions, I wish they would respect mine.” In fact, she wishes she didn’t even know their opinions and expressed thanks for the teachers who do not impose their political beliefs during class time. She said, “It’s such a relief to have a break for just one period.” Lastly, please make sure your kids know the importance of respecting others’ beliefs and choices, bullying or shaming is not the answer.
It is clear these kids are running a mental and emotional gauntlet each day they step foot on campus. Aren’t our children supposed to trust that school will be a safe place? A place of support by teachers and school staff? The vaccinated/unvaccinated, masks/no mask debates popping up in our children’s classrooms have ignited hate and bullying - a clear violation of WCSD’s Anti-Bullying policy (see below).
What Can a Parent or Student Do?
If you have run into a situation of overstep by a teacher or bullying by a student, report it to your school administration immediately. Site the district’s Anti-Bullying policy and give them clear notes on the date and time of the incident. Also consider emailing your Board of Trustee representative to let them know what is happening in the trenches of the schools because of their current policies. Click here to learn how to communicate with the Board.
Anti-Bullying: Per WCSD Administrative Regulations 5702 , “bullying” includes, without limitation: Repeated or pervasive taunting, name-calling, belittling, mocking or use of put downs or demeaning humor regarding the actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability of a person, sex or any other distinguishing characteristic or background of a person; Behavior that is intended to harm another person by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others by conduct that includes, without limitation, spreading false rumors; Repeated or pervasive nonverbal threats or intimidation such as the use of aggressive, menacing or disrespectful gestures; Threats of harm to a person, to his or her possessions or to other persons, whether such threats are transmitted verbally, electronically or in writing; Blackmail, extortion or demands for protection money or involuntary loans or donations; Blocking access to any property or facility of a school; Stalking; and Physically harmful contact with or injury to another person or his or her property. (NRS 388.122)
BP5700 : Safe and Respectful Learning Environment
Administrative Regulation 5702 : Staff on Student Bullying, Harassment and/or Discrimination.
BP1310 : Political Activity on District Property, Including Schools
BP9200 : Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited