There are two types of leaders – those who get things done and those who don’t.

Yesterday in the Greater Toronto area a tragedy played out. A 14-year old child beaten to death by other students after school. These kids were known to be bullies – tormenting not just this victim, but other students as well. The administration was informed by parents, the police were informed. Nothing was done.

Now a child is dead.

It’s not the first time students have been killed by other students in incidents of school bullying. It happens in every city.

Will it be the last?

I heard the mother interviewed on the news this morning. Her voice broke my heart. No one should expect to go to school and come home dead – killed by their classmates.

I have taught in schools where bullying occurred – we all have – and we’ve all had the experience of being under effective leadership and suffering under useless leadership.

In one school the principal put the entire school through an anti-bullying program. Mid-year he uprooted the schedule so there would be a full period a week devoted to doing this program in each class. He put up with no BS. Within a month the whole tone of the school changed. His was the compassion of firm action.

In another school the principal ignored the issues. Kids got away with flushing their victims clothes down the toilet, vandalizing the principals’ car, calling teachers rapists in the hallways, locking teachers in their classrooms and uttering death threats. Nothing was done. That particular principal said that to have compassion means to suffer with others. Hers was the compassion of fools.

In every school I’ve ever taught at (and I’m sure you too) we sit through “virtues” assemblies.

It’s easy to pretend you are actually doing something for your school when your response to problems is to have kids do some cheezy disco remake of R-E-S-P-E-C-T – but actually demonstrate no respect for your students, staff or school when you lack the integrity to actually tackle the difficult issues.

Do more kids have to die?

We have district-side walkouts over climate change.

But we’ll all sit quiet over the violence exploding in our schools.

Yelling with placards warning of the end of the world.

But when a kid dies – and it’s the end of their world – everyone is shaken but carries on with school as usual.

Where is the mass walk-out to protest the ineffective leadership completely lacking in responsibility and integrity?

It’s nowhere.

Because school violence has been normalized.

We know it happens.

I have talked with union presidents who say admin does not even want to ask what the problem is because they don’t know how to deal with the issues facing schools.

Looking the other way.

School “leaders” more interested in climbing the educational ladder than effecting change in their schools.

No integrity to take the harder path of facing problems, instead masking inaction under the guise of compassion. We all have been in schools where this happens.

How many students don’t feel safe at school? More than a few.

How many kids’ bodies and souls have been damaged by bullying?

Where are the walk outs to protest this?

And all levels within the education system need to be able to discuss hard problems and practical solutions and not gloss over the problem with PC solutions that sound nice and have no teeth to effect change.  Feel-good policy meetings while kids are being burned, beaten bullied….to death.

Fundamentally – the system doesn’t care about kids. Kids are just numbers into a funding formula, I guess.

Maybe some individuals at the administrative level are supportive and stellar – but as a whole – there is too much conscious ignoring happening.

Oh there will be calls to action made.


And for a while everyone will be under scrutiny and on their best leadership behaviour.

But for how long?

And how has it gotten to this point?

Why take on a leadership position only to abdicate the responsibilities that come with it?

A fish rots from the head.

For shame.