Monday, March 12, 2012

Say NO to Bullying Week

I am all for supporting good causes, and I truly believe this is a good cause. As a mother and a school teacher, I have dealt with my children being on the receiving end of bullying. As a Primary school teacher, I have witnessed bullying behaviour, and I have worked with the bully to try and change behaviour. The issue at hand is, that when I was going to school bullying existed both at Primary and High school. It hasn't stopped and unfortunately I don't think it will stop. If anything it has got worse in a way, because now we have silent bullying. Bullies are abusing social media to target their victims. This I believe is the worse kind of bullying because it becomes truly personal. The bully can say anything they want to say because there is nobody watching and maybe only the victim listening. We have all heard of the unfortunate circumstances of children committing suicide because of bullying via Facebook, Chat rooms, SMS messgaes and Twitter and even E-mails.

I have been listening to 106.5fm in the morning with Claire and Rosso this week because its Say No to Bullying week. People can call in and share their stories of their children's experiences or their own of being bullied. I must say, its truly sad to here what some kids are going through or have experienced in their lives. As a parent, you want your child/ren to go to school to enjoy learning and feel safe. If a teacher was bullying a student, we would all know about it and it would make the evening news and would be all over the internet, twitter, facebook, with everyone making judgements and ordering this teacher be dismissed from the profession. But what happens to the children that are the bully? Are they disciplined correctly by the school and in such a way that the behaviour is not repeated? Does everyone know about it and does the school community hear about it? From what I hear on the radio, it unfortunately doesn't seem this way. In saying this, we can't assume that every case of bullying is brought to the attention of the school community, but I do believe that certain circumstances should. No names are required, just the behaviour and what the punishment was for that kind of behaviour.

Today a caller expressed her story of being part of an exclusive private school, but her son was being mortifyingly bullied, but the school was not doing their part to protect the boy. She told of how she was described by teachers as being highly emotional and too protective of her son and accused of possibly planting stories of bullying in her son's mind. While we don't know all the pieces to this story, we can only go from her perspective, and unfortunately, I did see how she could be treated this way. The unfortunate problem in some school communities, is where a parent complains to much they do a disservice to themselves. If a parent doesn't complain at all, they are seen as an unsupportive parent. So where can you sit and get the attention you deserve for your child? 

From my personal experience as a parent who's child was bullied from kindergarten to year 1, I feel the other problem with bullying is that it is mainly done in the school playground or bathrooms, where the teachers can't see. When an instance of bullying is bought to the teacher's attention by a parent the teacher's general response is, " I haven't witnessed any bullying behaviour from that child", and of course they won't because usually the bully is smart and won't do it in front of the teacher because they know what the consequence will be. This then makes it hard for the teacher to take action because they can't really respond to behaviour they haven't witnessed. If the bully is only taunting the child then its not obvious what the scares are. If a bully is physical, and there are marks, then action can be taken a lot more seriously because there is visible proof.

Each school tends to have a different approach on their bullying action plan. From my personal experience the school didn't react very well, and I was seriously considering changing schools. I then decided I had to become a parent that consistently, but not annoyingly(in my opinion) speak to the teachers and note the things my daughter told me. I also requested that my daughter not sit near this child, and also ask the teachers  to ask my daughter each day how her play time was, so she could tell them of things that were happening in the playground. I would then call the teachers weekly to followup.I also requested formally by letter that my daughter not be placed in a classroom with this child, as they were in the same year. By year 2 all things had worked out and my daughter is actually now friends with this child and I think its only me who remembers the details of what happened. My daughter hasn't forgotten the experience but because she is a lot more confident then those days, she shrugs it off. That being said she is very open about sticking up for other kids if she witnesses bullying and will tell the teacher on duty or her own teacher if she feels its serious. In the end it was up to me to make this situation real for the teacher and school. It was up to me to make sure this stopped. At the end of the day it really is up to you, as the parent, and make the school listen and respond appropriately. You have to be consistently visible to them to make sure the issue is kept in their view.

I am lucky that the problem went away, but there are plenty of parents out there who have son/s or daughter/s who aren't able to shake this and feel helpless. As this is my blog, where I express my personal opinions from my own experience, for what its worth I do have a suggestion for how to discipline the bullies of the school yards.

I think there should be a disciplinary council. I think they should stand with a parent in front of a panel of teachers from the school and local schools and the school principal. The panel can also include the P&C president, so they get what is happening in the school they support and represent. I think the bully should have to listen to their victim, and what it feels like to be treated the way they do. I think each panel member should ask the bully a question about why they do it and how he/she could stop their behaviour. It should be an intense moment for the bully and they should feel scared and worried about standing in front of their victim, the parents of the victim, his/her own parents, teacher, the principal, and parents who support the school. They should know what their actions do and how they make the school look. I also think the panel should hand down 'a sentence' so to speak. Where the bully gets a proper punishment whether it be suspension or expulsion, but I also think they should do 'community service' so to speak and have their lunchtimes taken away from them for a whole term and they will have to do service for the school weather it be cleaning the school grounds, cleaning classrooms, office duties, or even working in the canteen etc. I also think, that the bully and the victim should be provided with counselling sessions by the school counsellor to help work out why they display the behaviour that they do, and maybe this is all that the bully needs to work his/her problems out to be a better person. I also think if the bullying happens on the internet via social media, that parents should consider involving the police. There should be no tolerance, because bullying can affect a child long term.

 So what do you think? Is it a worthy suggestion?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this very serious matter that needs to be addressed.

Don't forget its Say NO to bullying week. Speak to your children and ask them about these issues and if they see it in the playground. They need to tell someone, even if its you and then you should express these matters to your school. It has to stop, and even if it doesn't stop completely student's need to see that the consequences are severe!

I have also decided a linky would be good here, to share posts on bullying that could be helpful and open our eyes to what some children are going through or if you have some thoughts on how bullying should addressed. Please link up below and please only link up a post about bullying. This post is about bullying at school, but if you want to share something about bullying in general, please do. I am a family friendly blog.


Carole said...

Nice poast. As a teacher, if you aren't already into cryptic crosswords you might like to have a peek at a series of posts I have been doing on how to solve them. They are just fantastic for clever word play. This is a link to the first post. There is now a new clue each day to solve. Enjoy.

The Charm Book said...

In Junior High School, I was a mild-mannered kid. I was very nice. I did not fight. Yet unfortunately, I was picked on quite a bit by bullies during those years. There was one bully in particular, Freddie Lork. Doesn’t that even sound like a bully’s name? He had it in for me big time. In the seventh grade, he was almost twice as tall as I was and was twice as strong as I was. In my mind, he was just a monster. He was so mean. He even had his own little Goon Squad. They would terrorize everyone.
Each day after gym class, we would all go back to the locker room to shower. Every day after his shower, Freddie Lork would walk by me and spit on me. I tried to do the right thing as we were taught to do; I told my dilemma to all of the P.E. teachers, however it did not matter. Every single day he would walk by and spit on me. It became such a routine I would not even bother getting dressed until he would walk by. This went on for quite a while.
One day I just snapped. I am not sure exactly what made this day so different from all the rest, but I decided even though I might die in the process; the abuse was going to end today. I had finally had enough. I had summoned the courage to face my fears. After my shower, I got a mouthful of water, went back to my locker, started to dress and mentally prepared for battle. – excerpt from The Charm by Gus Searcy

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