Letter-to-the-Editor: Covering Up BULLYING in Our Schools with Lipstick and Spin to Look Good

Posted on November 7, 2016

Chuck Hughes, Board of Education, Salisbury, N.C.

♦ In my 30 years of public service as a Physician Assistant (eight at Broughton State Hospital and 22 at Salisbury VAMC), I have learned one thing that seems to be universal – facility self-preservation. I do not include my 20 years in the military because self-preservation there was both an individual concern and a brotherly concern, not a systematic mandate.

The lengths that a tax-payer supported institute will go to maintain its reputation can be seen in this example:

At one time during my tenure at Salisbury VAMC the waiting list for an appointment to be seen by a physician was close to a year. When Veteran outrage reached elected officials in Washington, legislators put pressure on the Department of Veteran Affairs who put pressure on individual VA clinics and hospitals to shorten the waiting period.

The Salisbury VAMC and, perhaps other VAs as well, addressed this mandate by making a six month appointment TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. Putting lipstick on this pig made it appear they had complied with the six month time frame for an appointment. Under the lipstick, the appointments to actually see a physician remained at about a year. I complained about this to at least two VAMC directors as well as to the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington. The silent response was, “Let it go. We need to look good.”

This introduction brings me to the issue I really want to address – school bullying.

It is not my intent to point fingers at our school system or to our Board of Education or any of our administrators. However, it is my intent to point out the potential to reach for the lipstick when bullying complaints are made. When the institution has the responsibility to solve a problem that may be difficult to solve or might reflect negatively on their facility, it could be tempting to apply several dabs of makeup and lipstick to the pig. At worst this is a possibility, one that might result in community misconception. In order to take away any misunderstanding on how a bullying complaint is resolved, if I am re-elected to the board, I will propose the following:

Remove any potential perception that the school system does not take bullying seriously or seeks a palliative solution. In order to do this, a neutral board independent of the interests of the school system should have over-site. I suggest this review board be composed of members of the PTA, parents, and a legal expert representative. This board would periodically inform their findings and opinions on bullying complaints they addressed to the Board of Education.

If I am not re-elected, I will use my free time to pursue this important issue outside of the school system.

“Don’t hide it, fix it.”

Erwin Middle School Suicides: Protecting Every Child from Bullying:


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