There has been a lot of discussion on Facebook recently about the amount of perceived bullying going on at our local school. I’m not going to name the school or any individual involved in this blog as it would be unfair without a right of reply. Instead I’m going to ask some questions that need to be addressed on the subject.
Those who know me well will know the place I am writing about. They will however be surprised at a statement that was accredited to a member of staff who was challenged about the amount of verbal bullying that has been going on at the school. I know from my son’s personal experience that he has been picked on by others both in his year and in years above. Saying things like they refuse to play with him, to wishing his Granny was dead are just two quick examples.
Now I’m more than aware that kids tease each other all the time and say things that out of context look terrible. I’m also aware that my son is no angel and I’m sure he has said things that were inappropriate too. However when asked about teasing and verbal bullying the member of staff claimed that they couldn’t/didn’t act on verbal teasing. Funny, because the Aberdeen City Council guidelines make it very clear that this is considered as bullying and should be dealt with by the school.
The reason I’m blogging about it is because I wonder whether things like Facebook make these situations worse or better – worse in that we think there is more of it about and better because we can all be aware of the situation. From my own school experience I know first hand how cutting verbal bullying can be – as the overweight kid I was the prime focus for those around me to pick on. Part of me thinks it’s good to toughen up to that kind of teasing but at the same time some of the things I’ve heard about – albeit second-hand – are much worse than this basic pointing and laughing.
Who is to blame then? That’s always the question isn’t it – someone to point the finger at.
- Is it the school and the headteacher who need a better grip on things? There is the real need to acknowledge that teasing is bullying and can cause more damage than physical bullying can.
- Is it the parents? Not watching their language and behaviour around their kids could cause this mimicking of name calling.
- Or is it the kids? Perhaps we are too soft on them and allow them to say things we would never have been allowed to by our own parents.
All I know is that I expect my kids to go to school and do their best, and in return I expect the school to do their best by my child. Both parties will make mistakes and to think that either is, or can be perfect, is delusional. But schools need to nip things in the bud early on – if that means more proactive playground auxiliaries or more punishments for those caught bullying then so be it. We shouldn’t ignore the issue otherwise it can escalate into nastier teasing and also physical bullying. There is a frightening increase in mental health issues in children and I wonder whether there is a link being missed here between bullying and depression/anxiety.
If you as a parent are aware that your child has been picked on consistently then you should report it – and if it turns out your child was the guilty party then you need to support the school in punishing your child. I am of the generation where I feared my parent’s reaction much more than that of the school. Perhaps that is what we need a dose of today. Parents actually taking ownership of their kids and their behaviour. The school can only do so much (although denying verbal teasing is bullying is a disgrace and must be looked at more seriously) so as parents we must be aware of our kid’s actions and words. No matter how uncomfortable it might make us.
If it turns out my son or daughter was involved in bullying then they would be punished at home as well as at school. To let them off and buy them another console game or toy is not parenting, it’s papering over the cracks and will only lead to more problems in later life. They’re your kids, take responsibility for them.