I was 14 years old when I consider myself being humiliated by a so-called “respected” figure in society, the dean of my school.
It was on a Tuesday morning where all students gathered up at 7 a.m. for a mini morning workout before going to classes. Like any other day I stood along with my classmates waiting to get this 5 minute routine done and head to class; when all of a sudden the dean comes out bursting at everyone pissed off and just yelling “Today non of you will go back to classes before you’re checked from head to toe” I was sitting there wondering what the hell is going on. She continued saying “Some of you smell disgusting, some of you aren’t even wearing socks, and some of you has a full makeup on” “I’ll be passing by each one of you girls, and the girls who are smelly, without socks or with full makeup on will be coming forward here on the stand, not going to todays classes and will be in line so everyone who walks by the whole will look at you and see how disgusting you are”. Standing there in shock, I was furious. How could someone with such a position in society be so cruel? Couldn’t she just advice those who smell bad, without “socks” or those with full makeup instead of humiliating them in front of everyone?
As she starts passing by each one of us, she looks at me and yells “YOU, GET IN FRONT WITH ALL THE OTHER LADIES” “But why? What is wrong with me?” I said. She made it clear that it’s because I wasn’t wearing socks and that she felt it was disgusting. I continued “But I am wearing Ballerina’s I am supposed to wear them with no socks on”. She basically did not care, and I was humiliated in front of my friends as well as the whole school for not wearing socks! I stood in “The line” on the stage, in front of the whole school along with some other girls who she picked out for either smelling bad which is EXTREMELY humiliating or girls with no socks on and those with makeup! I remember staying on this so called Humiliating stage for over 4 hours straight, I felt numb, trying to understand how did she want me to wear socks when I am wearing my Ballerina’s? Is she living under a rock? Or was she just trying to humiliate us? Those who smelled bad, how were they feeling? Couldn’t she just talk to them and advise them rather than this Abu-Ghraib approach? I remember going back home, crying from the humiliation she caused me in front of everyone, some were even laughing at us! WE WERE 14 years old for god’s sake!
Who would do such a thing? How could such a responsible person, a person who some would consider a parent, a person who is a respected figure in society would do such a thing? Is Humiliation bullying? I stayed days and days trying to answer this question, trying to assess the meaning of education in my school’s culture and values, and their approach of worldwide anti-bullying phenomena.
One of the most powerful, life-changing emotions children learn to feel is shame. 10 years later, here I am writing this article about my story of humiliation, I was lucky enough to have both my parents on my side, giving me a hug and telling me to never let Bullies let me down.
14 year olds do make mistakes, they break school rules and some act in a disrespectful manner towards teachers but public shaming them in front of everyone should never be acceptable, and it should never be something any child should experience. The role of teachers is set in a powerful social context, where values of mutual respect, trust and understanding are reinforced through effective school policies, rules, and supportive and respectful behaviors not by public shaming them; If such a social derision becomes persuasive, it can become so painful that some students seriously contemplate taking their own lives, develop an extreme fear of going to school, or becoming themselves bullies in the future.
Schools should root their policies and disciplinary issues in a core ethical manner in which mutual respect and understanding flows. Where the disciplinary issues are dealt with openly and honestly so that students themselves agree to change whatever behavior caused this tension to arise. There are so many school-based programs that schools can adopt in order for changing their organization’s culture and values to the best, one is called The Caring School Community, which features a classroom environment which engages students in conversations about fairness, their opinions on what needs to be improved in their school as well as building positive relationships of respect and understanding towards each other as well as which their teachers.