Teacher’s Suicide Stuns School, Spurs Colleagues to Speak Out

by Jul 15, 2012

This story from the Chicago Tribune highlights the importance of making complaint procedures very clear to employees. It appears, of course based solely on the news report here, that Mary Thorson was frustrated, scared, and unhappy… but the district leaders had no idea. Perhaps if Mary had a stronger understanding of what avenues to take to express her feelings and to whom she should express them, she would have felt comfortable making her feelings known.

It’s easy to say, “well she should just go to her immediate boss, or the principal!” But, in a culture of fear and intimidation, the answer’s not that simple. School district leaders must focus on building a culture of civility and respect, and again, providing clear instructions on who to talk to when problems arise. If a teacher fears the principal, the teacher should have a list of other people to talk to.

Let’s hope this school district explores implementing an anti- workplace bullying program.

“On Thanksgiving, a grade-school gym teacher parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80/94 in northwest Indiana, got out of her Mercury SUV and walked in front of a moving semi truck.

The 32-year-old’s suicide shocked the tiny Ford Heights school district where she worked. In the days afterward, tension grew amid conversations by co-workers about what had happened and questions from the Army veteran’s parents. The turmoil peaked during a crowded meeting in December, when some teachers and school board members clashed.”

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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