Zeman Elementary School in Lincoln, Neb. sent its fifth grade students home with a pamphlet featuring nine rules for dealing with bullies — and it’s possibly the worst. advice. ever.
It starts with harmless common sense: don’t reciprocate the anger. If the bully is bullying, naturally they want to get a rise — feeding into this expectation may only further desire to bully you, and who needs that noise? But it quickly delves into a backwards pit of self-shaming and fear-inducing tactics that are enough to keep any kid on the playground from ever standing up for themselves.
The first few rules are mostly understandable, and actually mirror a piece by Psychology Today featuring tips for managing bullies in work and personal relationships. However, things take a drastic turn when the pamphlet winds down to their final three: don’t tell on bullies, don’t be a sore loser, and “learn to laugh at yourself and not get ‘hooked’ by put-downs.”
Rule 7, which forbids students from reporting bullies, states, “The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them... Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?” Is this Whitey Bulger school of logic? I’m sorry but this backwards concept of “once a rat, always a rat” is really not applicable on the schoolyard.
Rule 8 goes on to tell children not to be a “sore loser,” reasoning, “Would you want to play with someone who gets all upset when they lose?” Obviously not. But no one wants to play with a mean child who bullies their classmates either.
And Rule 9, which instructs students to “laugh” at themselves because hey, maybe that bully is just trying to make a joke! It also follows with examples for retaliation. “If you think I’m ugly, you should see my sister!” and “If you think I look like a nerd, you should see my dad!” among the suggested.
Following backlash from the community, the school issued a statement on their Facebook page, casually claiming that the flyer “contained inaccurate information.” It included excerpts from an apology letter sent to parents by the principal that contains a link to the school’s “best advice for parents” for how to actually deal with bullies.
In contrast, this fact sheet advises parents to teach their children to take action and contact a school staff member if they are being bullied or see someone else being bullied, instead of being a self-deprecating sitting duck, as the other pamphlet suggested.
However, should the school administration follow the first set of rules sent out to children, they should know that making a joke about the whole situation would have been way more appropriate.