It has been very interesting reading articles and listening to discussions on TV and radio about bullying and the solutions. Schools need to be part of the solution to bullying. However, the source of bullying is mostly found in the environment the bully lives in. If kids see violence at home on a regular basis it is accepted as normal behaviour, hear conversations which display intolerance towards people who are different then this is seen as being acceptable and generally live in an environment devoid of values, it is hardly surprising the individual develops into a bully. There is no doubt poor parenting is the source of much criminal and anti social behaviour.
However schools do have a critically important part to play in demonstrating to students the importance of values in driving the behaviour one expects from them. School values should underpin the behavioural standards of both students and teachers. Students observe everything and quickly latch onto examples where teachers don't display the values espoused by the school and use this as an excuse for their own behaviour. For example if schools have a strong uniform policy but teachers come to school inappropriately attired then don't be surprised the students copy that behaviour. The expectation on leaders and their behaviour by those they lead is much higher than those lead, practise themselves. Good leadership is challenging.
Students are at school 6 hours a day so the chance to influence for good or for worst is there. I know teachers want to teach and feel passionate about this, but you can't successfully teach in a less than adequate environment and students make up a large part of that environment. Disruptive students deprive others of an education as well as themselves.
The environment the school creates is critically important in changing behaviour of students. Processes only go so far. Knowing that you can report instances of bullying, to whom and so on is important but you must create an environment where kids feel comfortable in doing so. Teachers must be approachable on a personal level, there must be easy access to them, there must be total trust and most of all the student must be convinced that something is going to be done about it. Students are just like adults, they will seek particular people they trust to talk things over with. Having a designated Point of Contact for bullying looks good on paper and as part of the process but actually doesn't work in reality. Realty tells us that all teachers/managers/leaders are not equally approachable. Personality and being able to empathise are critical attributes and students observe these attributes in some and not in others.
Many schools strive to create the right environment and no one is saying it is an easy task. As stated earlier many of these students come from appalling backgrounds which is sad and soul destroying. I am passionate about reducing the instances of this destructive bullying behaviour because I have seen what it does. The stupid adage "boys will be boys" or "girls will be girls" is a totally unacceptable approach. If a child feels they are being bullied then that is what they feel, and one needs to respond in an appropriate manner.
Crimestoppers can assist in overcoming the bullying problem by being the vehicle by which the problem can be bought to the surface. Crimestoppers was established in NZ to provide communication channels (telephone and email) through which citizens can provide information about incidents of criminal, anti social/unacceptable behaviour, confident that their identity will remain anonymous. It seems inconceiveable to me that the many bullying incidents have not been seen or even filmed. Anyone with relevant information can have this information sent to the police by simply calling 0800 555 111 or by using the encrypted online message form on the Crimestoppers website www.crimestoppers-nz.org
By working together, I am confident we can make New Zealand a safer place to live, work and do business.