TELL ME AGAIN WHY WE CAN’T STOP BULLYING
Bullying isn’t anything new, it has always been with us and unfortunately it probably always will be. This does not excuse our lack of intervention and support for the bullied. We have the knowledge. We know how to stop bullying but we either don’t have time to make the effort, or we prefer not to. I am not sure which. Perhaps a bit of both!
Sometimes, teachers can even make bullying worse. I can remember one or two teachers in my own school adding some of their own brand of ‘teacheristic’ and sarcastic sneering to the misery of one particular girl who was always being bullied.
DON’T TELL TALES
At my school it was a ‘given’ that if you ‘told tales’ or ‘grassed’ on someone who was bullying you, that your life would be made a misery. You would be subjected to physical violence every day as the ‘gang’ targeted you on your way home from school.
I really hoped that this had changed, however a few years ago, I met a young man who made me realize that little, if anything, had changed. Judging by his experience things had got worse. I will call him Steve.
DON’T BE GOOD!
I met Steve when I was teaching creative writing. At the very beginning of the course I set an introductory project, inviting the students to write a little about themselves and the stories they hoped to write.
Steve wrote about his experience in education. He had been viciously bullied in school from the minute he started until the minute he left. The bullying ranged from mockery and sneering, to theft of his belongings and physical violence. His parents had moved him from school to school but each time Steve was confronted by a new set of bullies.
TRY AND FIT IN MORE
When Steve confided in his teachers he was told to try and stop being such a goody-goody and do something bad so he would ‘fit in’ better with his classmates.
Steve wasn’t very good at being bad or ‘fitting in.’ Instead, Steve decided to stop talking about being bullied. He felt that there was no point in telling anyone any more because in his experience, nothing would be done.
He didn’t want to cause his parents any more worry or stress as he knew that they had done everything they could to help him and there were just no more schools to try.
The bullying increased to a level where he was stabbed (in the classroom with a teacher present) with compasses and culminated with a group of his classmates trying to drown him in a lake.
This level of brutal bullying is inexcusable and in my opinion the teacher’s response was both ineffective and ridiculous.
Why ridiculous? You see Steve is severely handicapped and uses a wheelchair to get around. When his classmates tried to drown him they removed him from his chair and threw that in the lake as well.
Is it any wonder Steve contemplated suicide? If faced by this type of response is it any wonder so many of our children actually do kill themselves as a result of bullying?
I have since learned through reading a book called ‘Scapegoat’ by Katharine Quarmby, that this was no isolated incident. People with disabilities are suffering horrendous bullying, sadistic assaults and torture every single day.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
What can we do? Well we can listen for a start and then we can prove to the victims that we really do take the issue very seriously by taking immediate action to stop the bullying.
This could be by moving the bullies into a different classroom. Their breaks and lunchtimes could be spent at different times than that of their victims. If the bullying occurs after school hours then the bullies should be detained until the victim is safely home and this detention should go on until the bullying stops.
I feel that if the school is not able to provide a safe learning environment for a child then the child being bullied should have the right to an education at home, or in some other safe place.
If there are still teachers who feel it is enough to tell a bullied child to stop being such a goody-goody then they need to be reported and retrained – immediately.
Are my ideas radical? Is it radical to want children to grown up safe, educated and free from fear!
As for telling children to ‘fit in,’ perhaps we should be teaching our children to learn that being ourselves is a goal worth achieving, whereas ‘fitting in’ is a goal more worthy of a sheep.
I wrote my children’s story ‘The Tree Hugger’ about a girl being bullied because I feel strongly that we should be encouraging and celebrating individuality instead of the ‘herd mentality.’ I felt driven to tell a story about a girl who just wanted to ‘be herself.’
Bullying has to be stopped. It is not a minor issue. At its least it destroys a child’s confidence and their ability to learn. At its worst it can kill.