The media is full of stories about young people and kids being bullied in one form or another. It’s disturbing, distressing and all too often it’s tragic. But bullying is also deeply complex.
Certainly violence and bullying have existed throughout human history as a means of obtaining and exercising power, control, and conformity. It is also ubiquitous – we see bullying behaviours at work, on our roads, in the home, and of most concern to Council, in our schools.
Bullying can often be hard to identify and less than a third of students who are bullied notify adults about what is happening. Bullying can take many different forms: name calling and teasing; spreading rumours or lies; pushing, slapping, kicking and punching; leaving out or ostracising; threatening; stealing or damaging belongings; sexual comments or gestures; and, disparaging remarks through email or social media (cyberbullying).
The impact of these behaviours is often subtle and damage can be done over time. Studies have helped shed light on the real and long-lasting impacts of bullying and violence on those targeted and their families, as well as observers. Children are most susceptible to what they personally experience and what they observe from other students, adults, on TV and games.
People who have experienced bullying can be as traumatised by the lack of action by authorities as by the actions of the perpetrator.
So, what can be done? All of us have an obligation to help minimise and eradicate these behaviours. We must first look at our own conduct with fresh eyes. Schools also have a roll to play.
Many schools have anti-bullying days, programs or agreements signed by the students. Programs which make sure all students feel they have a positive place in the school are important, as are mental health programs such a Mind Matters. One ACT school found that implementing 5-10 minutes of daily mindfulness practice reduced negative student behaviour by 95%.
Parents also need to be part of the solution. If you suspect that your child is experiencing bullying, raise it with the school. Make an appointment to see the classroom teacher, pastoral care teacher or other relevant staff so that you have time for a proper conversation. The best approach is to work together to find solutions, rather than casting blame or becoming aggressive yourself. This can be hard when your child’s wellbeing is at stake, so take some time to consider what you need to say, how to describe the situation clearly, and what outcomes you are looking for – before you go. Be prepared to listen more than you speak. The staff may have more information about what is happening. Make sure there are concrete actions, for you and the school, noted at the end of the meeting.
If the situation continues, repeat this with an executive teacher at the school. If the problem is happening online, there is a wealth of resources and several agencies which parents can turn to. Find out more on page 8.
Bullying in schools is not limited to students. Teachers, staff and parents can also be bullied. Principals carry a great burden in trying to set standards, implement appropriate discipline and counselling, while trying to maintain the reputation of the school.
Council is taking a proactive and responsive approach to problems of violence and bullying. We believe that the solutions rely on the collective effort of us working together. So we need your help. We are currently collecting bullying case studies, which will provide the fundamentals for us to form strategies and best practices for all parties to handle and minimise these occurrences in our schools. We will also hold a workshop on the issue in Term 4.
If your child has experienced any form of bullying or you have observed bullying at a school we would like to hear from you. Please complete a Case Study form.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 2, 2018.