The feeling was similar to what I felt some time ago when I’d encountered a display of an African American man hanging from a noose as a Black History month emblem at my son’s elementary school in Atlanta. There was a tombstone cut out of construction paper taped to the wall of a classroom where I’d accepted a month-long substitute assignment. It was far from Halloween; and when I queried the instructor she stated that a group of words near the display were those that are to never be used. Most of the words, with the exception of “ugly,” and a few others, were not “bad” words, however.

It got even spookier when a student in the class named “Trevon,” which sounded like Trayvon, as in Trayvon Martin, was frequently called upon, I noticed, when either of the several students I worked with in the class showed signs of significant improvement—I tutored students on one half of the classroom while the instructor lectured on the other half…

One of the other instructors I worked with at the same school reported to work one day wearing a shirt from “Graves Elementary School,” not the name of this particular school. Though Graves was an actual school within vicinity of this school, as I’d discover upon a bit of research, in light of the tombstone display and other issues at this school, it created one of the most hostile working environments I’ve ever encountered (Another school where I worked had a poster of a shovel beneath the caption “We get the job done” posted in the resource lab).

Though I momentarily pondered words that could have possibly legitimized the tombstone display, i.e. words like can’t, impossible, etc., I could only conclude that displays like tombstones, skeletons (with the exception of those utilized in science, biology, or similar classes) and any others that generate hostility should never be posted in a classroom or throughout any school, period, not even during Halloween or any other occasions. I’d venture to say that the name of “Graves” Elementary School should be changed to one that is more inviting of students endeavoring to live and learn.

The term “die,” when utilized as the singular form of dice, should also be avoided due to its potential to create hostility—A student at another school where I took an assignment was notably apprehensive with an instructor’s directive for her to sit in the “die station” in the extended resource/tutoring lab from which we worked; it became more disturbing when I read in the student’s IEP that one of the objectives for her was to understand both direct and “implied” communication, quote unquote. Another instructor at the same school placed students on an internet game called “Roll the Die” (a multiplication exercise), while “Roll the Dice” would have sufficed as grammatically correct and more language (content) appropriate.

An instructor in an alternative classroom for behaviorally challenged students where I worked told a student that he’d take him out and use his bones for “bowling pins,” and made other inappropriate references to prospectively murdering the student responsive to the student’s inappropriate behavior in class (Instructors of especially classes of this sort should be stern, no doubt; yet, they must remain professional at all times). This particular class is housed in a portable in the back of its host school. There was another class, or another staff member within the portable whose room was separated from the alternative classroom by a lowered wall. Conversations occurring on that side of the portable could be heard on the other side and vice versa, and the class could also be monitored via the school’s intercom system. Yet, the arrangement of the classroom, in light of that particular instructor’s behavior or comments, was misplaced. I’d considered that a special lock should be placed on the door to prevent either of two students in the classroom who’d sporadically run out of the building from doing so; I reasoned that in the given scenario, however, the students might need to run out of the building. In any event, portable classrooms should be sufficiently monitored to assure student safety.

I took another assignment where I was greeted upon entering this predominantly Caucasian school by several students and staff members who were dressed like the “Duck Dynasty” hunters for a school event that day. I consoled myself during a program that the school conducted on drug awareness, hoping that, perhaps, the costumes/behaviors were demonstrative of reasons not to experiment with drugs.

References to animals, like monkeys or other primates that could be interpreted as slighting of African Americans, references to cows, pigs, whales, hippos, dinosaurs, etc., that might offend obese persons, references to cats, or foods, like pizza, pie, hot dogs/wieners or bananas, etc., which are frequently utilized as derogatory colloquialisms for female and male sex organs, or any animals or objects that might be offensively compared with people should also be utilized with caution.

Disallowance of Mob Activities by Syndicates, Religious Cults, Etc.

No school or company, period, should render mobs—syndicates, religious cults, etc.—access to students/their families, or staff. If there is one place that an employee or child and their family should feel and be safe it should be within a school.

No mob should exceed the power of school leaders and their responsibility to offer protection to all students and their families, to a reasonable extent, and to all employees.

In Summation

No students or staff should be subjected to derogatory emblems, language, and behaviors that generate hostility in the education/work setting; and such activity should never be the reason that a parent decides to home school or pull and place their child or children in a school or schools other than those that they are assigned to. It should never be the reason an employee decides to leave their job, and contribute to a revolving door turn-over rate that is especially counterproductive in school settings.

All schools, and actually all companies should provide training to all employees and all students (in the context of education), or at least occasionally conduct seminars that would preferably be facilitated by mental health professionals discussing various forms of and repercussions for bullying in the school and workplace setting…