Parents, teachers, and high school students often struggle to get on the same page, but we can all agree that anything that could be considered verbal, emotional abuse — coming from whichever direction — is always unacceptable. Hence why a high school teacher in Fair Lawn, New Jersey is currently under fire — and has been placed on leave — for his berating of a student, showcased in a now viral video.
In the video, the former baseball coach and special ed teacher, who has been identified as Bill Scarnaty, is seen sitting at a desk while addressing a male student standing in front of him …
Scarnaty, who was clearly contending with certain personal issues at the time, said in his tirade:
I am the teacher, you know that? A friend of mine’s sister passed away, she died. OK? Shut your mouth. Don’t you ever for one second in your life think that you’re going to tell me anything. You understand that? Do you understand that? You don’t? … You are a student. I am a teacher. Shut your mouth. Don’t you ever for one second think that you’re going to tell me anything.
He then raised his voice, shouting:
You’re my goddamn student. You get that? I’m your teacher. Don’t ever tell me what to do. You get it now? Now sit down. … Now go cry to your counselor.
Ugh, brutal. Here’s the full clip from NBC New York …
On occasion, teachers like this who are known to be “rough around the edges” are often given a pass for their gruff, tough behavior. And I definitely acknowledge that sometimes, an aggressive approach is completely called for, based on a student’s bad behavior. But it cuts both ways. Neither party should be allowed to get away with inappropriate conduct.
When I was in high school just a little more than 10 years ago, walking home crying after being verbally abused on the regular by a football coach the school had also entrusted with drivers’ ed, a parent could only call the superintendent and hope they were heard on their child’s behalf. Now, viral videos have totally changed the game. While we don’t necessarily always get the whole truth from a snippet of a cellphone video, and that’s an issue and reason for further investigation in cases like Scarnaty’s, it can still be a brilliant recourse for a student who is being mistreated.
And for the record, this student wasn’t the only one who has qualms with Scarnaty’s conduct … As a result of this incident, other parents and students have come forward to note similar experiences, which they say have been going on for years. Sources within the school district say that his resignation as the school’s baseball coach in 2008 came soon after he was accused of kicking a student. One parent, who asked not to be identified, says Scarnaty has told his daughter “to shut up, she asks too many questions, and he doesn’t want to hear her voice anymore.” Horrible.
How many kids like the one in the video and this young woman had to suffer in silence, for how many years, before this story broke? It’s a valid question — and hopefully one that will be answered as a result of one easily shot and distributed YouTube clip.