The approach I suggest here for schools eager to reduce bullying on the system level constitutes a whole-school approach. Such an approach should inform, obligate and mobilise. In order to reach out to all sections composing the school life that is, students, parents and all staff, and involve those into the approach a school wide policy is needed to proclaim the schools stand on the problem and provide principles and guidelines about how to address the problem. Rigby (2003) suggests that the policy should be “widely disseminated” (p. 28) in order to reach at best everyone involved with the school. Furthermore, parents who are not that fluent in speaking the English language should have access to translated versions of the policy (p. 28).
The Anti-Bullying policy should make the following very clear:
This school believes that you and every school member has a fundamental right to “a safe, supportive and caring environment free from intimidation of any kind, the right not to be hurt, scared, made fun of or saddened in any particular way” (Rigby & Thomas 2003), no matter your age, gender, ethnicity, religious believe or sexual orientation.
Every person who bullies another is dispossessing them from this right. If you bully, you deny someone a carefree access to education by causing him or her profound emotional or physical pain. We, the school, stand as a unified whole and will not tolerate bullying but “take whatever steps are necessary to stop such behaviour” (Murphy & Lewers 2000).
The policy should furthermore include a definition and explanation of bullying and its different appearances in order to make students comprehend the scope of this behaviour. Illustrations can be very helpful in this process as suggested by Murphy and Lewers (2000) (p. 39 – 41).
“Bullying occurs when a person or group of persons deliberately and repeatedly hurt or frighten someone less powerful than themselves for no good reason” (Rigby & Thomas, 2003, p. 16). Bullying can be direct or indirect, however, in many cases this takes place “in secret” (Beale, 2001, p. 301). Direct bullying includes the bullies’ superior strength in that victims are confronted with aggressive behaviour in form of open physical attacks as for example by shoving, pinching, hitting or kicking or by removing the victims belongings (Beale, 2001, p. 301). Indirect bullying takes place in form of “relational aggression” (Merrell et al., 2008, p. 26) which is excluding a person socially by spreading rumours, lies or threats, verbal insults, “obscene gestures” (Olweus, 1994, p. 1173) or psychological pressure.
The policy should include information about the different tools in bullying used by boys and girls. Whereas boys prefer direct bullying including physical and open impact on the victim, girls often choose the psychological and emotional path of indirect bullying (Beale, 2001, p. 301). What is more, boys are more often bullies and also victims of bullying than girls (Beale, 2001, p. 301). However, it should be clearly lined out that “[a]nyone can be bullied – it isn’t limited by age, sex, sexuality, cultural or religious background […] and [it] can happen in many different environments including school, at home, on the sporting field or at work” (Healey, 2006, p. 1).
It is important to stress that both parties in a bullying situation, bully and victim, are hampered from effective learning and self-development (Morrison, 2002, p. 1). Victims often develop emotional and psychological instabilities which can effect them a whole lifetime. Persons who are bullied often have low self-esteem (Olweus, 1994, p. 1178), feel lonely, start to withdraw from society and become worse in academic matters (Beale, 2001, p. 302). This may lead to illness, depression (Morrison, 2002, p. 1) or even the bringing of weapons to class for revenge purposes (Merrell et al., 2008, p. 27). The worst and last solution which victims of bullying sometimes see for themselves is suicide (Morrison, 2002, p. 1).
Things to know about student bullies are that they use bullying “as a way of making themselves more powerful” and deal with there own problems (Healey, 2006, p. 1). They become increasingly unpopular and with that lonely as his or her social environment grows older. They might have problems to fit in and are at risk of continuing to act antisocial as for example by using alcohol or drugs which can lead to dropping out of school (Morrison, 2002, p. 1). Furthermore, studies show that bullies are at high risk of breaking the law in their future lives (Olweus, 1994, p. 1181).
Rigby ((2003) suggests an info sheet about why some people bully and why not. This comparison can help to make clear that bullying behaviour is not just harmless teasing but a profound character trait. Whereas bullies are described as being “aggressive and impulsive” as well as having “relatively low levels of empathy” (p. 17), people who do not bully are seen as having “a high level of empathy”, “social skills” which keep them occupied and “positive experiences in the home” (p. 18). They feel successful and see no sense in bullying others (p. 18).
Further appearances of bullying which policy readers should be informed about are cyber bullying and bullying via mobile phones. Bullying that takes place via using the internet leaves victims nearly no safe space to feel secure at. The same applies to bullying that takes place through sending harassing SMS or MMS. Cyber and mobile phone bullying makes it easier for bullies to stay anonymous while at the same time easily involve more co-bullies into the process (Healey, 2006, p. 11). This assumes that cyber bullying “could have even worse consequences” (Healey, 2006, p. 11) than bullying that takes place in an interpersonal situation.
It is very important to proclaim in the policy that inactive bystanders to any of these above mentioned bullying situations support bullying rather than using their power to stop it. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it” (Martin Luther King, 1929-1968, cited from Murphy & Lewers, 2003, p. 57).
The formulation of such a policy might have to be adjusted to the understanding of younger ages.
A whole school approach may provide further information about bullying and its effects beyond the policy as for example in student, parents and staff workshops. It can be discussed which role bullying plays in school shootings and stabbings such as the 2009 shooting in Germany where eight children and two adults were killed (Alberici, 2009) or the 2006 stabbing in Australia where a fourteen year old boy stabbed two classmates at school (“Boy to face court over school stabbing”, 2006).
Furthermore, the school could raise school wide attention to and discussion of bullying by organising role plays and dramas addressing this problem as for example the play “Bullybusters” (Beale, 2001, 304). Another way to do so could be to talk about famous people and role models who have been bullying/bullied/bystanders (Murphy & Lewers, 2000, p. 58) or invite them directly to talk about their bullying experiences themselves and give helpful advice.
In order to provide further information to families and include them in this whole - school approach the school could give away info booklets including advice on which actions students can take to appear confident and not become a target (Murphy & Lewers, 2000, p. 70). Advice on friendship formation and how to detect if your child is a victim could be a part of this booklet (Murphy & Lewers, 2000, p. 83, 96; Rigby, 2003, p. 73). A fact sheet about bullying and which steps to take after parents have detected that their child bullies or is being bullied might be helpful (Murphy & Lewers, 2000, p. 97 – 99).
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- Quote paper
- Annika Onken (Author), 2009, Behavioural Support in Schools: Approach for Schools Eager to Reduce Bullying, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/137955