A New Jersey special education student, Julio Artuz, is finally free of an abusive teacher after his initial complaints were ignored — because Artuz managed to capture proof of the abuse on his cell phone.
Such incidents are, unfortunately, far from uncommon.
"Statistically about 1 to 2 percent of teachers are actually involved in bullying students," says Dr. Joel Haber, a clinical psychologist who runs the anti-bullying website RespectU. "There needs to be a clear policy in schools not just for students bullying other students but for teachers as well. Teachers are humans too and this kind of thing does happen, so it needs to be managed early."
Mr Artuz's school finally took disciplinary action against the teacher after an NBC news affiliate picked up the story, placing the teacher on paid administrative leave pending investigation.
The destructive effect of abusive teachers is hard to over-estimate.
A bullying teacher doesn't just threaten to knock a student's self-confidence, he can destroy a kid's confidence in his school. "Teachers are supposed to make students feel safe," Dr. Haber says. When school becomes a fearful environment because of a teacher, students suddenly think âwell who can I trust then?'"
An additional facet of this story is the new light it sheds on the arguments for and against the banning of cellphones in some schools. If a school bans cell phones, it takes away the only protection some students have against being bullied by the very people who are supposed to mentor them. Without video proof it is likely that Mr. Artuz would still be enduring daily torture.
In Artuz' case, his phone was best bet. It's possible nobody would have listened if they didn't see it firsthand. "When you watch a video like that live, it really creates a different image than if you were to just hear about," says Dr. Haber.
In a school where the students cannot use their cell phone to protect themselves against an abuse of power, they may have to resort to more dramatic means of collecting proof. An Ohio special needs student recently resorted to attending school wearing a wire to record the abuse she received from her teachers.