Bullying in Our Schools
Are you raising a bully, a victim or a bystander?
The tragic death of a 16 year old, grade 11 pupil, has highlighted the problem of bullying and violence in schools.
Durban High School student, Shane McCarroll, tragically died in hospital after a fight at a friend’s 18 th birthday party in Amanzintoti. Shane’s jaw was broken in two places and his right cheek bone was fractured. An artery in his neck ruptured, and a clot formed starving his brain of oxygen. He suffered a major stroke and was declared brain dead. According to a report in the Sunday Times (23/07/06), some of the youngsters had drunk alcohol before arriving at the party.
In Randburg, a group of teenagers tortured a mouse with burning cigarettes, doused it with a flammable aerosol spray and set it alight. Giggling hysterically, they filmed the death throws of the mouse on a cell phone camera. Now they face criminal charges and up to 4 months imprisonment, or a fine of R20,000 if convicted. The SPCA reports that incidents of children treating animals with alarming cruelty are on the increase.
In Kwa-Zulu Natal, two teenage girls, aged 13 and 16, were arrested in Cato Manor on charges of assault. They had attacked a grade 10 pupil with a school belt, slapped and kicked her and allegedly tried to kill her. The victim later attempted suicide by slashing her wrists.
In Rustenburg, a 17 year old boy ended up in ICU with a fractured skull after being beaten up in the school toilets.
Last year, Chadah Rowley, a 15 year old pupil at Bosmansdam High School in Bothasig died after a fight in which he was savagely beaten. Days before his death he had told his mother: “I am scared mom, you don’t know how bad it is at school.” Members of a gang had told him that they were going to kill him.
According to a study published by the Free State University, more than 32% of learners said that another pupil had hit them in the past. Most people said they were targeted by bullies in buses or taxis on the way to school, or in toilets and showers at school. Others were bullied by teachers. According to the study, 50% of teachers admitted to physically bullying their students. 6% of teachers confessed that they were guilty of acts of “sexual bullying” at least once a month. Only 5% of teachers and 16% of pupils interviewed at secondary schools believed that bullying was “not a problem”.
Professor Kobus Maree, an educational psychologist at the University of Pretoria concludes that violence among school children is definitely increasing.
Extensive studies on bullying in England, Canada, the United States, Japan, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands and Norway have concluded that at least 15% of students in schools are involved in bullying, and about 9% of students are victims of bullying.
These reports define bullying as: “repeated and systematic harassment and attacks on others. Bullying can be perpetrated by individuals or groups… and can include: physical violence and attacks, verbal taunts, name calling and put downs, threats and intimidation, extortion or stealing money and possessions, and exclusion from the peer group.”
The studies show that while boys are more likely to be the perpetrators of direct physical attacks, girls are more likely to use: “indirect, subtle, social means to harass other girls…social exclusion, manipulation of friendship relationships, spreading rumours, etc.”
Are you raising a victim?
Dr. Olweus (in “Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do” Oxford, 1993) describes the typical victim as “children who become repeated victims of aggression and bullying tend to be quiet and shy in temperament, and tend not to retaliate or make any assertive responses to the initial aggression, which is then repeated by the bully. Children who become victims typically lack friends and social support at school, and they are often not confident in their physical abilities and strength…are very unhappy children who suffer from fear, anxiety and low self esteem as a result of the bullying…some victims of bullying are so distressed that they commit, or attempt to commit, suicide.”
Dr. Olweus also reported that “most students who are bullied either do not report the bullying to adults or they wait a very long time before doing so. The reasons include feelings of shame, fear of retaliation for reporting, and fear that the adults cannot, or will not, protect the victim in the settings where the bullying usually takes place: the playground, the hallway of the school, or on the way to and from school.”
Are you raising a bully?
Studies have also confirmed that “bullies tend to become aggressive adults who stand a much higher chance than average of obtaining multiple criminal convictions.”
Are you raising a bystander?
Another important, but often over looked aspect of bullying, are those bystanders who are neither the perpetrators nor the victims, but who “follow a bully’s lead and help to harass or victimize a particular child in their class or school…the bullying may cause anxiety or fear in bystanders. The learning environment is poisoned by bullying…”
“Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong…” Exodus 23:1 – 2
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
- Look for signs such as: fear of going to school, lack of friends, missing belongings, torn clothing and increasing fearfulness and anxiety.
- Ask your child directly if he or she has been a victim of bullying.
- Work with the school to ensure that they are providing good supervision for the children, particularly in the playground, and providing effective consequences to bullies.
- If the bullying is happening on the way to and from school, arrange for your child to get to school by alternative transport or with older, supportive children who can protect them.
- Help develop your child’s social and defensive skills.
- Work with the Parents Teachers Association to ensure that the school implements a comprehensive anti-bullying programme and restores discipline at all levels.
- This must include restoring the ethical and spiritual foundations to education, bringing back Bible Education and prayer, Bible reading and Hymn singing at school assemblies.
- Supporting and developing the Scripture Union or Students Christian Fellowship group at the schools and bringing in Christian guest speakers to deal with the spiritual and moral character development of students.
- Recognise the danger of violent video games and aggressive, angry rock, hip hop and rap “music” in providing fuel for the fire of aggressive bullying behaviour.
- If you become aware of incidents of bullying behaviour intervene immediately.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Dr Peter Hammond