Who bullies the bullies?
In Chicago’s Edgebrook Elementary School, it’s certainly not the teachers.
That’s what social studies and literature teacher Allan Hill found out when he turned the tables on some school bullies, letting them know what it felt like to be picked on.
"I got upset with them," Hill said. "I got mad at them. I said, 'If you’re going to start acting like gangbangers, we’re going to start acting like gangbangers.'"
The kids in question were the 13-year-old scourges of the schoolroom, other students said. They taunted handicapped classmates and spat in girls’ hair and bookbags. One day, in a seventh-grade social studies class, Hill couldn’t take it anymore and chewed them out in class.
"This is talking too tough?" Hill said. "Talking nice didn't work."
But when Hill, a teacher for 40 years, took the tough approach with them, he was the one to get disciplined.
The Chicago Public Schools Board of Education said Hill went too far and formally reprimanded him for intimidation. That mark, of course, goes into his permanent record.
"Two specific things that he did were addressing students in a way that was inappropriate, in terms of …calling them gangbangers, threatening to do certain things to them," said Cozett Buckney of the Chicago Public Schools.
"Inappropriate," Buckney said. "And following the students – inappropriate."
One of the boys Hill scolded accused the teacher of following him home, but Hill says it was more like the other way around. And now the students he stood up for are sticking by their teacher.
"They’re calling us 'sluts,' 'whores,' 'skanks' and [Hill] tries to stop that and he gets in trouble," student Jackie Barbara said. "That hurts me to see that a man who tries to defend us gets in trouble."
The incident has prompted Edgebrook administrators to hold a school meeting with parents to review the rules of discipline and make it clear what is proper and what is not.
"As well-intentioned as Mr. Hill was, he could have made better choices," Edgebrook School Council Chairwoman Cheryl Targos said.
But Hill isn’t going to settle for an "F" for his way of dealing with problem students. He’s hired a lawyer and filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Relations Commission to clear his record.
"According to what the Board of Education has accused me of, I’m a child abuser," Hill said.
"I’ll take it to the wall on this one," he promised.