When you hear stories of high school bullying, you expect the harassment to have come from students, not teachers. But a substitute teacher recently led a classroom of bullies in taunting a ninth grade boy—and the freshman caught the whole thing on camera.
Fifteen-year-old Stephen Davis was in math class at Streamwood High School in Illinois last week when a fellow student drew a picture on an electronic whiteboard depicting Davis — which the student labeled as the misspelled “Stepen”— as a big-eared, buck-toothed cartoon monster. Soon, the class’s substitute teacher joined in, and Davis whipped out his camera. The video, which his sister uploaded to Facebook, shows the teacher drawing antennae on the cartoon character, and labeling it “Stephen’s ugly ass.”
Davis told CBS Chicago that he’s used to getting picked on because he’s overweight. “I get bullied a lot during the school day, I’m big. I shake it off. Basically, it’s background noise to me now, it’s happened since first grade,” he said. “But this is the first time a teacher has actually done it.”
Brianna and Stephen Davis. Photo by Brianna Davis
When Davis’s sister Brianna, 18, picked him up from school that day, she was horrified to learn about the incident. “He told me he videotaped it and I said, ‘Stephen, people need to see this. I’m going to post it online,’” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “He said, ‘I think you should. It’s not fair. I don’t want other people to go through this.’”
Brianna says she, too, was picked on in school, though never by a teacher. “I decided to post the video so people could see what goes on in classrooms and schools. It’s not just about Stephen. It’s about the other students who go through this every day and nothing ever happens to the people that are doing this to them,” she says.
Streamwood High School did not immediately respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment but they posted the following message on their Facebook page on Friday. “A message from CEO Tony Sanders: I want to assure our parents that we are aware of the video that is circulating allegedly showing a substitute teacher bullying a student at Streamwood High. Immediate and appropriate action was taken early this morning pending the outcome of our investigation.”
Brianna says the fact that her brother describes his constant taunting as “background noise” is a testament to the need for more action against bullies. “His complaints have gone so unheard that he just has to deal with it,” she says. “He reports it, and they say they have a zero-tolerance policy but they just tell him, ‘shake it off, get back to class.’”
Brianna hopes the video will raise awareness that bullying can come from anyone. “No one should wake up and know they are going to get picked on not just by kids but by authority figures,” she says. “You can’t judge an entire teacher population on one substitute, I know that. But when I found out this incident escalated to a teacher not only teasing Stephen but allowing the whole class to laugh at him…that just shouldn’t happen.”