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Dr. Jennifer Fraser's picture
Bullying Expert

With a PhD in Comparative Literature, Fraser is a passionate educator, researcher and writer. Her most recent book, Teaching Bullies, is an exploration of what happens when the teacher or coach is the bully. Drawing on psychology, psychiatry, sports journalism and neuroscience, she argues that bullying done by adults—namely emotional abuse—does such significant harm it should join sexual and physical abuse in criminal code.  Her new book, Teaching Bullies: Zero Tolerance on the Court or in the Classroom, is available now!

When I found myself on the street wailing at my puppy as she lunged at passersby in order to greet them and adore them, “but you don’t even know those people!”, I knew it was time to get help. I have taught for over twenty years. I’ve taught at university, college, and high-school level. I know a thing or two about teaching. But confronted with a six month old, curly haired, black as soot standard poodle, I was a wreck. So I called up a dog trainer to save me. I was amazed that everything I learned applies in powerful ways to teaching.
Say, ‘F--- A Duck,’ and I’ll let you back up on the dock. Say, ‘F--- A Duck!’ Although up to his shoulders in icy ocean water, Dave would not say the words. Everyone liked Dave. He was a year older than me and just a good guy, thoughtful and kind. At sixteen, he was tall and athletic, street smart and cool. He was cursed in high-school with bad skin, but we all suffered the indignity of blemishes. Dave was surely freezing to death and Tom wouldn’t let him back up on the dock. Tom was forcing him to stay in an ocean that given more minutes could kill him.
When I was little, my dad used to laugh at my shoulder blades. He said they stuck out like a couple of chicken wings, but by the time I finished high-school, my back was rounded, my wings were gone.
When I told colleagues, friends and family that we were getting a puppy, they all said I was crazy. And I’ll admit, now that the puppy’s arrived, I walk around thinking mournfully to myself “What have I done? What have I done?”
We learned from other students’ testimonies that our son was regularly hauled up in front of the basketball team for one-on-one sessions with the coach who would yell rhetorical questions in his face along the lines of “Do you even like basketball? Do you even deserve to play? You’re the best player out there, you’re not trying!” According to student reports, when our son tried to get away, the coach would restrain him for more in-the-face humiliation. The other coach would watch.
In my opinion, the short answer is “no.” However, like all things, this is debatable and a recent article in The National Post newspaper in Canada raises some intriguing questions and supplies thought-provoking research (1).  Recent studies showed that “bullies have highest self-esteem, social status, lowest rates of depression.” This is confirmed in previous studies that foreground the popularity and status of bullies (2).  However, what’s new is the conclusion reached. Journalist Tom Blackwell writes:
coach athlete
If a coach is successful and wins championships, does it excuse bullying conduct?
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