Bullying has become an area of concern in schools around the world.
Bullying can be defined as any act carried out by a student or group of students which is deliberately meant to hurt, intimidate or socially exclude another student or students. Some students do this in an effort to increase their power and status among their peers. Victims suffer great pain and distress and cease to enjoy their school life.
Studies have found that bullying can be physical, verbal or relational. Relational bullying refers to exclusion from various groups at school and can be very distressing since most students want to belong to a group of some sort. They need approval from their peers. In this technological age, cyber-bullying has also become prevalent. In this form of bullying the internet is used to disseminate offensive text messages and images of the victims through cell phones and computers.
Bullying tends to become worse when the victims get upset and respond emotionally to it.
Schools have a legal duty to protect students and they generally do.
School rules usually prohibit the type of behavior which bullies display but each school should have a specific anti-bullying policy which is rigorously enforced. Penalties for bullying should be severe and should include suspension from school, referral to other social agencies and expulsion from school as a last resort if everything else fails.
Unfortunately, many cases of bullying are not reported to school officials or parents because of the victims’ fear of reprisals from their tormentors if they decide to report the problem. This is a real fear for these helpless students. Parents should discuss school matters with their children on a regular basis and follow up on any cues they get. Sudden reluctance to go to school could be one such cue. It could be helpful to monitor children’s text messages and conversations on social network sites as well. They should be encouraged to report any problems at school.
In clear cases of bullying, parents should seek a meeting with the principal and inform him in writing about the problem. Teachers should also be informed. In severe cases the police may be involved. Parents must continue to monitor the situation until the problem has ended. It ends when all threats are removed and the victim feels safe.
Prefects and senior students can assist in stopping bullying when it occurs. Students in general can make it clear that they do not condone bullying and can discourage it by reporting the perpetrators to the school authorities any time they witness this offence. In this way the administration of the school can enlist the support of the student body, along with the staff, in a whole school effort to make all students safe and comfortable. Administrators can also ensure that all students are exposed to social and emotional learning programmes. This would improve daily interaction and relationships among them.