PWEA Speaks Out Against Teacher Bullying at Local Schools

| February 7, 2018 | 1 Comment | Education

Prince William Education Association members advocating for “It’s About Time” advocacy in 2016.

Prince William Education Association [PWEA] sent a message to the Prince William County School Board, “It’s About Time” to stop workplace bullying.

Members referred to incidents that occurred under the current leadership at Reagan Middle School in Haymarket as well as around the county, at the Feb. 7 school board meeting.

According to the PWEA, there are many cases in which PWCS administrators have routinely engaged in bullying their teachers and other employees to the detriment of those teachers, schools, students and their parents.

And oftentimes those in supervisory positions are not terminated but are instead moved into similar positions in other schools and then the same problems arise.

PWEA members and supporters wore blue PWEA t-shirts and many presented their arguments during Citizen’s Time. PWEA President Riley O’Casey said she does not use the term “bullying” lightly, but she believes the term is accurate.

“I too was bullied by an administrator,” she said. “Tonight courageous educators shared their experience and those of their colleagues…because they are overwhelmed.”

According to PWEA speakers, accusations against administrator included threatening teachers, telling them what questions they can answer, telling them to stay silent during meetings with parents, and even to answer confidential school surveys in a certain way. Disciplinary action is often threatened when employees do not acquiesce to those requests.

Teachers and other PWEA members shared stories of workplace hardships, which according to those teachers, were either brought on by or exacerbated by the actions of one or more administrator. Some stories were deeply personal while others were compilations of several stories of harassment and bullying that employees have received.

PWEA members said some teachers were afraid to speak out themselves for fear of retribution, and no administrators were called out by name as specific employee matters are not suppose to be discussed at school board meetings during open session.

Bonnie Klakowicz a former president of the PWEA spoke about the message she has received from Reagan educators. “We can be silent no more,” said read. “Our administrative team has left us gravely concerned.”

Klakowicz said that teachers have been belittled, told there are incompetent, and told to remain silent and do as they are told.

She said teachers claim administrators have told parents that the teachers are the problem, but teachers feel that it is actually the administrative team.

“They do not know our students and our students do not know them,” she said.

One former PWCS explained she experienced similar harassment as a teacher at Potomac Middle School in Woodbridge that her colleagues at Reagan are currently experiencing under the leadership of the same principal.

“I lived in terror of the principal,” the Potomac English and ESOL teacher said.

After being accused of abuse by a student who later recanted his accusations, the teacher claims to have been routinely harassed by her administration.

She said principal created an extremely stressful environment where she felt she could not do her best work.

“I fell apart under the strain,” she said, despite holding other stressful jobs. Her stress led to clinical depression and as a result, her marriage and family life suffered as well.

Today, the former teacher said she has left behind the teaching profession altogether, but hopes to help people one day as a paralegal.

Another former teacher shared his story of experiencing workplace bullying although he did not name the school.

He said he received letters of reprimand for things that did not happen and received conflicting demands from his administrators. As a result, he claims to have suffered PTSD simply from going to work.

He said that the administrators hurt his students as well. “If the teacher is experiencing adverse mental health and health effects then the students will suffer as well.”

He said his administrators turned his clinical depression against him and noted false reporting remain in his files for decades.

One speaker talked about needing a better way to report incidents. Department of Human Resources, Equity and Employee Relations falls under Human Resources, which must advocate for both the employee and his or her supervisor.

“We have wonderful principals and they are doing a great job.” Brentsville school board representative Gil Trenum said during citizens time; however, he acknowledged there are a handful of incidents of teacher harassment that occasionally occurs and he hopes to help remedy that.

He suggested hiring an ombudsman, as well inviting teachers and community members to bring forth their ideas so to work collaboratively on policy improvements.

Bristow Beat has withheld the name of some of the teachers speaking; however, videos of school board meeting should be available at the website (though perhaps not first thing in the morning.) 

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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  1. Pendragon says:

    There is a culture of bullying teachers in Prince William County. It is not new and has been ongoing for decades. Central Office turns a blind eye.

    Mr. Trenum is unfortunately wrong–it is far more than a “handful” of bad apples. There are far too many inadequate administrators who use bullying, ‘divide and conquor,’ belittling, ad other psychological warfare to control teachers, especially teachers who for who for whatever reason, have displeased them. Often these administrators see the teachers as a threat.

    Allowing this behavior to continue does hurt student learning. No teacher is effective when they dread getting up each day and going to work. The gentleman who spoke was correct–it is PTSD. I had it myself at one school. Reading the article brought back some really horrible flashbacks, even though I have been retired for over a decade.

    Listen to these teachers. They know what they are talking about.

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