Someone who works at Lombardy Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware, is probably in a whole lot of trouble today after accidentally mass-emailing a fake form to parents that encourages "whiners" to fill out a "Hurt Feelings Report."
The "report," which has space for "whiners" to air their grievances in boxes labeled "type of whine used" and "person who hurt your pansy ass feelings" was accidentally sent out as an attachment in an email to parents for an event called Exercise Your Brain Day. Take a look:
Understandably parents' reactions have ranged from concerned to angry, as they are left to speculate whether or not this is how teachers handle bullying when it's reported to them. After all, no one wants to imagine that their child might confide in a teacher only to be mocked with a piece of paper with the directive to "Tell us in your own sissy words how your feelings were hurt, as if anyone cared."
Anger is a reasonable initial response to having one of these things cross your inbox, but at the same time, a little critical thinking might also be in order here. The "Hurt Feelings Report" has been around for an awfully long time and exists in many incarnations all over the Internet, from military-focused sites to roller derby blogs and Pinterest boards dedicated to "butthurt."
It's not a particularly funny piece of paper with its tedious attempt at a very tired joke and the casual or overt homophobia tucked into it with words like "pansy," "sissy" and "candy ass." And if the school district's explanation is to be believed, it was on someone's work computer, which makes it unprofessional and worthy of scrutiny and some sort of disciplinary measure. According to Delaware Online, the school district had this to say by way of explanation:
"Brandywine School District spokeswoman Alexis Andrianopoulos on Wednesday said a staff member accidentally put the wrong attachment in a regular email the school uses to communicate with parents. She said the satirical form came from 'a source external to the school' and that it was 'not an official document of Lombardy Elementary or the Brandywine School District.'"
We're not defending the form or saying the concern it elicited is misplaced. We're saying that other things need to be considered, like the source and the context of something like this. In this case the source is most likely a teacher, and the context is made up of a few things.
First, teachers can sometimes have a surprisingly dark sense of humor. The fact that this form references things like "Two beers is not enough" and "I didn't sign up for this" and "I have woman/man-like hormones" suggests that this was likely something shared between co-workers about co-workers and not about students. Then there's the unavoidable fact that there's a person like this in every workplace — the one who sends out unfunny email forwards incessantly, to the chagrin and annoyance of their peers, until finally someone either tells them to knock it off or they find a pink slip in their inbox.
Unprofessional? Definitely. A confounding ineptitude at a task as basic as sending an email? Certainly. Embarrassing? You'd better believe it. Proof positive that the school doesn't take bullying seriously? Well...
More important than a tasteless email is the question of whether or not the attachment informs the way that Lombardy handles reported bullying. We know it's written a zero tolerance policy into its code of conduct and set up an anonymous online portal for reporting. But only parents with kids at the school can say whether this faux pas is indicative of the way the issue is handled or if it's completely uncharacteristic of the school.
If it's the former, then that's a very big problem. Mocking bullying victims as crybabies is unacceptable and sets up a harmful atmosphere, particularly if it's part of a bigger perspective that incorrectly says bullying is a nonissue. Even if it's just this one person's perspective of bullying, it's entirely unacceptable.
If it's the latter, then it might be more productive to let this one go with extreme prejudice and trust that the teacher or staff member responsible has likely stepped in it big time.
A lot of parents with kids in Lombardy speaking to Delaware Online during school drop-off seem to think it is the latter, and one summed up the debacle with relative nonchalance:
"If the children didn't see it, what is the problem? It was a dumb prank, but I don't think it was malicious."
Let's hope that's all it was.
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