With the recent airing of a programme presented by Jodie Marsh looking at the effects of bullying and how some schools in the USA are tackling it. Sarah puts forward her views incorporating her experiences in Unique Voice’s Triple R tour.
Unfortunately, if a school says they don’t have any problems with bullying, it usually means they haven’t done enough to recognise it.
There seems to be some discrepancy in people’s views as to who should take responsibility for bullying. Some say the parents, some think the school, whilst others think young people themselves should step up and stand for themselves.
Watching the programme earlier today only cemented my views that the responsibility doesn’t lie with any one party- we all need to do what we can to stamp out and fight bullying. It highlighted what many of us already know; just how devastating the effects of bullying can be, destroying self-esteem, jeopardising academic and social development and sometimes leading to devastating consequences by people who feel they simply cannot cope any longer.
Many victims of bullying have reported that their schools have not done enough to support them through this sort of experience, something to which many teachers have stated that they don’t have the time, that other work pressures and deadlines have meant they are unable to do all they could for these children. While I’m not denying these pressures are there, I don’t believe this is a good enough excuse. The answer, I feel, will come from a group effort.
The documentary featured Stone Bridge Middle School in the states, who have implemented a brilliant scheme which encourages the whole school to work together to prevent bullying. A central part of this revolves around a group of teachers and students who actively encourage conversation about bullying, ensuring that the whole school knows what it is, the different forms it can take and what they should do if they witness it. These students have been selected often because of their influential position in school. This, paired with their dedication to sending out the right messages means that they set the precedence for it to be ‘cool to be kind’, a significant improvement to the too frequent ‘cool to make someone else feel worthless and make myself feel powerful’ that seems to infiltrate the minds of so many young people today. One thing I was thrilled to see them demonstrate in an assembly was the power and role of a bystander. I don’t mind betting the majority of us have witnessed someone else being bullied at some point, but I wonder how many of us helped that person, or if we ignored it, or even joined in with the jeers.
The message here is incredibly similar to one Unique Voice took to schools throughout Bristol in November last year for our anti-bullying month. Students watched a performance where they followed characters, some who bullied and others who fell victim to their behaviour. Then in the following workshops they explored the many forms of bullying and participated in drama activities to help them understand the effects bullying might have on people, and the positive ways they could help the situation if they became aware of it. We left every school we visited having assigned some anti-bullying champions who pledged to keep spreading the messages we had shared with them. In addition, the schools were given a Triple R machine, designed to allow the children to report bullying confidentially so that, with the help of their teachers, they could resolve it.
Whilst I don’t expect these problems to go away overnight, I do strongly believe that with a strong, inclusive and persistent approach which incorporates the whole school, bullying can be both stopped and prevented.