Anti-Bullying Week 2016 – Tackling Bullying in Schools

Without wishing to sound old fashioned or out of touch I have started to wonder if society has lost some its core values, particularly how to treat each other with respect. Recent generations have grown up in the cyber world, where computers are readily available and technological advances would have made this world we live in unrecognisable to my grandparents. With these advances however, come new threats, new challenges in terms of managing behaviour, not only in the workplace but in schools too.

I have real doubts about whether bullying behaviours are really being addressed in schools with the robustness needed. If bullying behaviours are not addressed in schools, then as teens become adults and enter the workplace they bring with them the ‘learned behaviours’ from their time at school. If they have been allowed to behave badly towards others, to ‘get away with it’ then their behaviour has been condoned and more than likely it will be repeated in adulthood and therefore in workplaces. Bullying behaviours have been taking place in workplaces for decades so this is not a new problem however raising respectful children and young adults is becoming increasingly difficult as the world around us has changed and with it, some might argue, our moral compass. In years gone by there was a focus on respect, how to talk and interact with each other. Where respect was not displayed, there was a consequence. These days, respect it seems has been lost. This is not admonishing the younger generations, but we all need guidance and boundaries.

In recent years several cases of bullying behaviour in schools have hit the headlines and we have been truly shocked by the extent of the bullying behaviour and the detrimental impact on the targets, in some cases leading to suicide. Teenage years are hard enough to cope with but add in continuous bullying behaviour and it becomes easier to understand why some individuals have felt there was no other way out but to take their own lives. Is this really the world we live in? It is a far more dangerous world to be a young adult in than 20 -30 years ago. I am aware of several cases where extreme bullying behaviour has taken place in schools and the extent of the sanction has been a couple of hours in isolation. Does this really make the perpetrator consider their actions and amend their behaviour? Yet what sanctions are available in schools currently to deal with these horrific behaviours? Exclusion? Does that change the mind-set? Probably not. A couple of hours working in isolation and having break time withdrawn – definitely not, but what other strategies are being deployed to stop the teenage bullies becoming bullying adults?

More needs to be done by schools to deal with bullying behaviours. It is no good just telling children and young adults that bullying is bad. There needs to be a proportionate sanction – ignoring it is not the solution, nor is taking minimal action. Young minds are impressionable and significant damage can be done to the target’s mental health which will last a lifetime. It is not only the schools responsibility. Of course parents have a major part to play but where bullying occurs in schools or between pupils whether in school or not, if the school is aware it needs to take the lead to stop it in its tracks. Making perpetrators face their targets, understanding the impact they have had on those they have bullied may be a start. Schools need to be stronger in sending out a zero tolerance message by having a robust approach to investigation. Gathering all the relevant facts and then on the basis of that information, following through on proportionate sanctions to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their young charges.

Those who bully in schools do not necessarily need to become bullying adults, but without guidance, boundary and sanction where appropriate, this will be the end result.

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