School Bullying : An Invisible Crime

Children have the right to feel safe both physically and emotionally and schools must be held accountable for the bullying that occurs on their watch.

School Bullying : An Invisible Crime

Bullying: There’s no denying that it is rampant in schools. It’s quite often in the news. Sadly a very large portion of society still views bullying as a childhood rite of passage. Vulnerable children are put at risk by this indifference.

When a schoolyard brawl breaks out and students end up with broken or sprained limbs, or a black eye, there is usually a swift response. The perpetrators are suspended or expelled – and rightly so! But physical evidence isn’t always available. Name calling, cyber harassment, exclusion and spreading rumours are all extremely damaging, but hard to prove. What’s more they are often discounted because no immediate physical safety issues ensue.

That bullying builds resilience is a common claim. For some tired reason it is thought that if children don’t learn to manage the conflict now they won’t be able to manage it in adult life. However in adult life it is possible to seek protection or leave the situation.

When an adult is bullied in their workplace there are steps they can take to protect themselves. They can leave that job, or they can articulately express their concerns to management. In some cases the police become involved.

No one suggests that this is an opportunity for an adult to build resilience, in fact people unequivocally agree that workplace bullying leads to stress and depression. Adults victims of workplace bullying commit suicide despite having options to escape it, but somehow or other people claim that it builds resilience in children.

Children’s brain development and maturity levels, mean they struggle to explain in detail the simplest, most mundane events. So explaining how they are being bullied, when the nature of bullying is often subtle, leaving no physical signs it is extremely problematic. It creates a serious barrier between vulnerable children and potential help.

When they can’t explain themselves properly teachers are unable to provide suitable support. Not only is it difficult to provide, it’s impossible to supervise every interaction between large numbers of children. Bullies aren’t stupid, they avoid witnesses.

Bullying occurs in places teachers never visit, like facebook groups, and school busses. However bullying can occur right under the teacher’s nose as well, a simple glance can be done in a threatening or ridiculing manner, and these events are hard for children to explain and are frequently dismissed anyway.  

Anecdotal evidence  clearly shows that schools and individual teachers are powerless to stop bullying, most anti-bullying strategies do precious little. Something else that is blatantly obvious is that simply switching schools is rarely a solution, if a child is the subject of bullying at one venue it carries over into others.

Bullying is far more common than many people think, according to Beat Bullying 69% of children reported experiencing bullying, and 87% of parents report that their child has been the victim of bullying. Kids Helpline states that bullying is the fourth most common reason they receive calls for help, and that in a survey of forty countries, Australian schools were among the worst.

According to Bullying Statistics:

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year …… For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.”

A child's hand giving a thumb signal against a green background
Thumbs down for bullying
License: Creative Commons CC0.

Mental health experts argue that bullying alone rarely results in suicide. They claim that depression and feelings of helplessness play a large part. However bullying causes depression and feelings of helplessness, and these feelings may not otherwise be present. Far too many teens take their own lives after they have been victims of relentless, unaddressed bullying.

For schools and teachers to provide effective management of nastiness between pupils they need a deeper understanding of the dynamics between bully and victim. Sadly, although many schools have tried to implement strategies to protect their students few have been successful.

Schools are supposed to be happy places for children, but if they can not guarantee the safety of their charges then schooling must no longer be compulsory. Many parents are turning to homeschool in order to protect their children, clearly this isn’t a solution that suits every family, but it shows how desperate parents are.

Children have the right to feel safe both physically and emotionally and schools must be held accountable for the fact that so many students are bullied on their watch. There is blood on the hands of all those who stand idle when a child is bullied. It’s time to put paid to the myth that bullying builds resilience, bullying wreaks havoc on the lives of all those who experience it.


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