Author, speaker and educator Mark Le Messurier believes we have to come at bullying from all sides to combat its effects.
He says, "Over the last few years researchers have collected vast amounts of information about bullying in schools.
We know that no kindergarten, school or college is free from bullying and no student can be guaranteed safety from it. We know that one of six students is bullied in every Australian school each week, and this figure is high by world standards. We also know that higher school absenteeism, poorer emotional health and suicidal thoughts are the result among those who are bullied.
The general profile of a bully is hard to define. Sometimes bullies are obvious hateful brutes, others are socially inept. A few learn to conceal their deep aggression and develop sophisticated techniques to manipulate what they want. Evidence suggests that those who repeatedly engage in bullying often hold an inflated view of their popularity, a desire for power and a desire to control or hurt. Bullies can also be motivated by a dysfunctional home life, a need to rebel against over-controlling parents or teachers, an aggressive nature, a lack of empathy and so on.
What all bullies have in common is their inability to accept differences in others.
As a response to counter bullying behaviours we have seen plenty of policies
and programs implemented in schools throughout Australia. While the media is
always quick to pick up, talk up and popularise these programs they have, unfortunately,
yielded only average improvements. The reason for this is because the measures
from anti-bullying programs usually target what is happening at the tip of the
iceberg, rather than developing ways for all of us to better communicate, resolve
difficulties and accept differences.
Some of our innovative kindergartens, schools and colleges are making inroads into changing the Australian school bullying culture by introducing the concept of 'a bystander to bullying' and what they should do. Gradually, both parents and children are being educated that it's not acceptable to stand by and witness bullying, in any form, without doing something about it. This doesn't mean that the 'bystander' needs to put themselves at risk, but it does mean they have a responsibility to do something. Responsibility of the bystander needs to become the new benchmark. After all, we each have a responsibility for the physical and emotional safety of one another.
Western Australia and the rest of the nation were shocked by a recent instance of bullying in one of your schools. While my understanding of the issues surrounding that case are limited from here in South Australia, there are some questions that beg asking around the concept of 'bystanders to bullying':
If knowledge or concern existed and nothing was done, or a 'blind eye' was turned, then everyone in the school community has failed the victim and must share this very heavy responsibility.
The truth is that bullying won't go away by ignoring it.
Yet I'm surprised by the number of students, of all ages, who say that it's better to put up with it than tell. Their reason is that "telling" makes things worse. Once they "tell" they face the unpredictable reaction from the bully, risk other students becoming involved, watch adults mishandle delicate matters and feel as though their powerlessness is further diminished. Students repeatedly tell me that most teachers and parents don't appreciate the complexity of bullying, and even when they do, they haven't the time to counsel, support and maintain repair for those involved.
In saying this, our children offer us a real challenge.
Their feelings about bullying, and the inadequacy of how we often deal with
it, highlight its sophisticated and ever changing nature. Without the development
of a culture focused on improving ways to communicate and reconcile differences,
school anti-bullying programs and knee-jerk, ad hoc interventions will continue
to deliver very ordinary levels of success."