I Have a Gripe

June 17, 2011

Christie and Sweeney: Shame on You Both

As Governor Christie and NJ State Senator Sweeney made a deal with the Devil, I submitted yet another letter to both of them. I wanted to share it with my readers…

June 16, 2011

In regards to: Subject: Teacher’s Pension & Health Benefit Legislation

Governor Chris Christie

State Senate President Sweeney

Gentlemen:

I have contacted your office via email and phone several times in the past to express my frustration regarding this constant assault on teachers and their pension and health benefits. I am writing again to voice my outrage.

I am the proud wife of a 24-year band director. He became a teacher for all the right reasons – to give back, to influence the lives of youngsters, and to share his love of music with others. He has successfully taught thousands of students not just how to play an instrument and appreciate music, but what it takes to be a good citizen and adult. It is also worth noting he is not one of those “80K a year teachers” you hear about on the news.

This constant barrage “on union leadership” as I often hear you say Governor, has certainly trickled down and has turned into an “us vs. them” argument. Many people already have a negative opinion of teachers. You have certainly added to that negativity. And for the record, I voted for you. I believed you when I thought you were going to make positive changes on the state’s school system. In my opinion, your changes are far from positive. You should really try reading the bully legislation you signed into law, because that is exactly what you have become.

Today, teachers are much more than teachers. They are counselors, pastors, and sadly, all too often, parents. Add to that list since Columbine, police, hostage negotiators, and body guards. When I was a child, I was told the three safest places I could be were home, school and church. Now, that is far from reality.

You want the best and brightest to be teachers in order to continue the high performance of New Jersey’s students. With your constant barrage, why would anyone want to become a teacher? Being a teacher is not the easy job many believe it is. The teachers I know spend a sizable amount of their own money on school supplies, endless hours preparing lessons, tutoring students and being active participants in their communities. This battle of yours has put neighbor against neighbor.

What I would like to see is the state government acknowledge that the reason the pension system is having financial trouble is because politicians have been using that system as their own personal piggy bank. That would be a good place to start. Next, I would like to see those politicians fix this without hurting those who had nothing to do with the problem being affected.

I would also like to know why there is such outrage about limiting healthcare options on the federal level through “Obamacare” by the GOP (my party, by the way), when you, Governor Christie, are trying to do the exact same thing to teachers? According to what I have read, there is even a limitation in the proposed legislation that you will limit the ability to seek medical treatment outside New Jersey. We live across the river from some of the finest medical institutions in the world and we wouldn’t be able to do whatever would be necessary if my husband or I was ill? I wonder how Senator Lautenberg would feel about that, given his insistence on going to New York for his cancer treatment.

I would like to know if either of you have ever gone to a school and watched first-hand what teachers do everyday. No cameras, no entourage, nothing. Just you, teachers and students. I would like to see you really understand what a teacher does on a day-to-day basis. My hope is that you would have more respect for what they do and change this from an assault to a conversation.

Shame on you both.

September 30, 2010

The Extreme in Bullying

In a previous post about bullying I spoke about a father standing up for his daughter with cerebral palsy who was being relentlessly bullied. Well, sometimes bullying can have deadly results.

This week it has been reported that two freshmen students at Rutgers University digitally bullied and humiliated a fellow freshman by streaming live two private sexual encounters online with another male. This proved too much for student Tyler Clementi and he took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Reports this morning say that his body may have been found. A post on his Facebook page said, “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

This is simply sickening to many, including me. As I mentioned before, many of us were bullied as children, however, due to the emergence of the Internet, bullying has now gone global.

Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi and  Ravi’s friend Molly Wei, both of New Jersey, were charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for secretly using a camera to view and transmit a live sex scene, said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Ravi claims he turned on the camera accidentally, however, his Twitter posts prove otherwise.

In my opinion, these charges hardly go far enough. The law has definitely not kept up with the changes to bullying in the digital age. This story reminds me of another digital-bullying case in Massachusetts where a child committed suicide after relentless bullying online.

I am sickened by this two and weep for Tyler. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Clementi family. I hope law makers work to bring the law up to date and these two are prosecuted to the fullest extent they can.

I implore you, if you know of someone being bullied, or you are being bullied yourself, help them. Stand up for them. Reach out to parents, teachers, administration, police, clergy or whomever else you may feel comfortable with talking.

September 22, 2010

James Jones and Bullies: What Would You Do?

For the last few days, there has been coverage about James Jones, the father of a girl with cerebral palsy, and his threatening rants on a school bus directed toward his daughter’s bullies. Ultimately, he was arrested, charged with two misdemeanors and made a very public apology. He felt in his rant, he had actually become the bully.

While he did flip out, in my opinion understandably, I feel there is something important missing to this story. What about his daughter’s bullies? What about them? I have not heard one bit about how their parents or the school will handle this issue.

Let’s face it. Many of us were bullied as children. I know I was. Each day after middle school for several months I would wait across the street for the public bus. There was a girl that would punch me, take my bus ticket and throw it down the sewer. I didn’t know her before, but I’ll never forget her name. I would then walk completely across town, sometimes taking close to an hour to get home. When my mother asked why I was home so late, I would tell her what happened. She actually told me, “just curl up your five little fingers and hit her back. She’ll never bother you again.” I told my mother I didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting and certainly didn’t want her to get involved.

Well, she did. She called the school and spoke with the vice principal. He didn’t know me, but  he knew my bully. He called each of us down to his office separately and that was the last time she ever bothered me. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my mother told my aunt whose daughter and a friend also helped “take care” of the issue, if you know what I mean.

Now that was a long time ago and I don’t know if I would’ve received the same advice from my mother now. But the lesson was clear – do not to be afraid to stand up for myself.

Now going back to James Jones. His daughter can’t stand up for herself. She has cerebral palsy. She was obviously an easy target for the bullies on her bus. And how spineless are these bullies that they have to pick on a girl with special needs? When she cried that she didn’t want to go on the bus and told her father why, he was understandably enraged. I know I would’ve flipped out too if I had a special needs daughter and boys spat at her and put condoms on her head.

My point is this. Talk to your kids about bullying. Tell them how to respond. Let them know it is OK to stand up for themselves. If they can’t, tell them they need to tell their teacher and you as their parent.

In turn, parents need to make sure if their child is a bully, there will be consequences for their actions. Bullies are ultimately weak because they look for an easy target. Someone weaker than them. Their behavior is unacceptable.

So, I ask again for coverage of the rest of the story. I hope there are repercussions for these boys who bullied this special needs girl, just as the father is facing repercussions.

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