Everything is Wrong With a Culture That Shames a Teacher in Primetime

All I had to do this morning was type “third-grade teacher” into my search bar to find the video below that was shared with me yesterday. It shows the arrest of a third-grade teacher who was suspected of being drunk on the first day of school. It shows her humiliation, her desperation, and her name. I do not want to share the video again because I do not want to support this kind of tabloid “journalism” which is the worst face of our culture. But sharing it once again is the only way to call it out for the toxic crap that it is.

The words in the featured image on this post are a paraphrase of quotes by Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. Drink was named one of the 10 best books of 2013 by The Washington Post, and it is a book that changed my life. Dowsett Johnston’s book was among several that I read in 2015 that each helped me see that I could end my own destructive relationship with alcohol, and my life would be better for it.

Before reading Drink , I might have been shamed by the type of video that I saw last night showing the arrest of a third-grade teacher, drunk at school on the morning of the first day of class. I might have been shamed, or I am ashamed to say that I might have passed judgment on this third-grade teacher for appearing drunk at school and trying to hide the evidence when caught.

It is not unusual for people who are concerned about their own drinking to look at something like this video of the third-grade teacher drunk and say, “I’m not that bad.” I used to show up so hungover while teaching that I could barely see straight. The stress of raising kids and trying to keep up drove me to drink every night and wake up with blazing headaches and nausea. It’s a wonder I got through that time.

This is an important issue. I have no problem stating that she appears impaired and needed to be removed from her classroom, and even arrested on suspicion of drunkenness. It happens thousands of times every day in America. What I do have a problem with is that the incident was recorded and that recording was released to the local and national news media and aired on national TV. That is public shaming of a person who clearly has a serious problem. While she needs to be held accountable for her actions and lack of judgment, we need to be mindful that we live in a society that markets, promotes, and glamorizes a highly addictive substance (alcohol). And when someone then becomes addicted, we stigmatize and shame them publicly.

How can this happen you say? What was she thinking?

Let’s turn that around and ask, “How could this happen, and what were you thinking?” to the school superintendent, police, and news outlet that chose to film and share this event.

I was disgusted by the behavior of law enforcement. They grilled this poor woman as if she had killed someone and had the smoking gun in her purse. They could have quietly escorted her elsewhere, read her the Miranda rights, and given her the breathalyzer test AFTER she had the opportunity to call an attorney.

Instead, they needled her with their macho posturing and intimidation. How many police officers and detectives does it take to handle one small woman who is not behaving violently and clearly needs help? Protect and Serve? Who are they protecting and serving? She was already out of the classroom.

Shame on that school superintendent. Shame on those police officers. Shame on the media for airing that mess.

Have you ever noticed the nesting of the wine and vodka and spiked seltzer and gin next to the school supplies in August?

That sort of sales pitch to drink the stress of the school year away is not an excuse for a third-grade teacher to be drunk at school but it is one of the toxic messages our culture spreads widely while shaming the people who actually take the bait.

The alcohol industry makes its highest profit by selling manipulatively to those who are addicted. Our news media makes its highest profit from selling the alcohol advertisements and then again from selling the shock value of the sort of toxic display that was in this “news” story last night.

It’s no wonder we hide our drinking and then our sobriety.

Especially considering that it is presented by the media to a culture that jokes about caregivers, teachers, and parents, drinking wine from a plastic cup because “when they whine, I wine.”

It is important to note that a second video was later posted. It shares a fellow teacher speaking out in support of the teacher humiliated in the first video – but it continues to shame none the less.

I feel so bad for that poor, dear woman. The shaming of her here is indicative of a society that has become so detached from other people, that is so scared of facing their own flaws and pain that they find it easier to isolate and ridicule others instead. When did the world turn so mean?


Do you think I exaggerate? I do not.

In 2016, when I was one year sober, after I accepted that wine was the worst possible “antidote to the challenges of nurturing children,” I read this story, one that begins so similarly to the story of the third grade teacher shamed for being drunk in school yesterday, and this still breaks my heart today.

In this link, you will find a recorded interview from KUOW, an NPR affiliate, with Matt Driscoll, the author of several compassionate articles reporting on the suicide of a kindergarten teacher who was publicly shamed in the media for being drunk on the job. Tacoma’s ‘drunk teacher’ watched her shame go viral. Then she killed herself

Today, we’re pointing and laughing at a 32-year-old woman obviously fighting for her life, joking about her lack of judgment and willpower in the face of a terrible disease.  

There was much more to Klara Bowman than alcohol, addiction, and despair. 

She was adventurous and traveled extensively, visiting 39 countries during her lifetime. Like her father, she was an artist; her paintings cover the family’s home.

More than anything, Klara loved to teach. And kindergarten was her calling. “It seemed to come naturally to her,” Sailer adds. “

Kids recognize that. They get that. They know when someone’s genuine-  when you’re not faking it. I think that was (Klara’s) gift. She was just so genuine. The kids adored her. “They just thought the sun came up with her and went down with her at night.” 

“I think that what she lived through is so bad it’s hard for me to imagine,” says Ann Dowsett Johnston, an expert in alcohol policy and author of the 2013 book “Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.”

“To be publicly shamed … I’m not sure how you get over something like that.” “I actually see this as a witch hunt,” says Johnston. 

While unsafe drinking habits are largely accepted in our society, losing control is clearly not.  …. Coloring a more complete picture of Klara Bowman, Tacoma’s ‘drunken teacher’

On behalf of the online community that I host, where we share support and compassion with one another every single day – not support to excuse binge drinking, but support to love living alcohol-free in a world that celebrates everything booze-oriented – I sincerely say to anyone who is drinking too much, too often, and needs people who understand to talk with: Talk to us

This post is full of messages of support from the members of our community for the third-grade teacher who was publicly shamed yesterday. The words here are our shared story. We represent teachers, parents, doctors, nurses, students, authors, artists, engineers, and every profession in between. Some of us are just starting out in our adult lives, and some are long retired. We all want to reach out today and say please know that it is possible to stop drinking and live happily sober, no matter how low you may feel today.

I wish we could somehow reach this woman and wrap her in our BOOM love, compassion, and community. As a former teacher who was arrested and publicly shamed, I can imagine the deep, deep pain, regret, and shame she is feeling.” …. from the author of “Are You Still Not Drinking?” – How I Quit Drinking and Made Sober Stick!

We are here, and there are solutions that you may have never imagined. There is a different dialogue going on behind all of the marketing. A dialogue that saves lives.

Compassion and Understanding Are Missing

When people are struggling
In the depths of depair
It’s disgusting to point a finger
And share

The crisis should be dealt with
Not catching the person out
And publicising it deliberately

How can we ever end the undeserved stigma here
If all society is generating is shame and fear?
Where is the compassion and understanding?

People can’t shame a person into recovery
And it’s time that society made this discovery
I think it could be discriminatory aswell
Wouldn’t they want compassion shown if they were the ones struggling
Maybe time will tell…….

I encourage anyone reading this post who has compassion to share this. We are NOT a paid coaching service. We are NOT selling a product. We are community, and community is the cure.

Below are several articles, free resources from our extensive archive, shared by people who have stopped drowning their voices in alcohol and are reaching back to others to help them do the same. People helping people is what we need to beat this beast! Not media copanies who profit from selling the drug and then exploiting the shame!

Books to Help you Stop Drinking and Fuel Your Sober Momentum

6 Documentaries to Help You Rethink Alcohol Use and Abuse

How I Stopped Drinking Without AA

Easing out of the Battle to Stay Sober

Early Sobriety Survival Skills

If you’re “sober curious” …If you are drinking too much too often and want to stop or take a break… 

Talk to UsWe are an independent, anonymous and private community who share resources, support and talk it through every day. It helps to have a community behind you in a world where alcohol is the only addictive drug that people will question you for NOT using

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