Bullying in Schools and the Work Place

Introduction

In the recent past there have been talk shows on different radio stations discussing bullying in schools and the work place. For instance, on the 18th of February this year, there was a lengthy discussion on bullying on ABC radio. The discussion was in response to a recent survey that indicated that children were learning how to bully from the kind of movies they have access to and kind of radio and TV programs they watch or listen to.

This work discusses my involvement in addressing the problem of bullying in schools and society at large. There are different causes and effects of bullying in school. Focusing on the effects, it is clear that bullying does much harm that it should not be tolerated by any means. It is because of the destructive effects of bullying that teachers, the government and parents have always sought interventions to bullying in schools. Teachers, parents and government have a role to play towards ending bullying in school. However, students have a bigger role to play in ending bullying. Left on their own, they can not identify ways of ending bullying. Parents and teachers have to provide the necessary support that will help students take responsibility towards identifying ways of ending bullying.

The Most Relevant Human Rights Covenant Under which this Issue Falls

Bullying is defined as victimization of others or treating other aggressively with the intention of maligning or making them be subservient (Munthe & Roland, 1989, p. 12). Bullying is common among school going age groups. Often students are fighting for recognition and supremacy. To achieve recognition, they victimize or make others subservient. Bullying in different schools often reaches alarming levels.

As explained by PREVnet (2010), bullying is a human rights concern in the category of “safety and inclusion”. What bullies do is threaten the life of others and alienate them from others. The bullies even go as far as physically harming their victims. There are cases when bullies have ganged up and beaten senseless those they consider as threats. Bullying alienates individuals because he or she is humiliated publicly. Definitely, this is oppressive and anti-inclusive. Bullying is maltreatment and full blown discrimination against others. Bullying does not just happen. Often, the perpetrator feels threatened by an endowment in the other or a difference between them. Much bullying is racial, sexist, tribal, or physical or academic difference based. When an individual performs too well in class, others may not feel well about him or her. To bring him or her down, often they resort to bullying tactics.

New ways of Bullying: Cyber Bullying

Thanks to advancement in information technology, we live in a world where people have all sorts of gadgets and avenues through which they can connect with each other. On a daily basis we are able to interact with people from all over the globe. According to Campbell (2005, p. 2) information technology tools are good and very helpful but they can also be used to harm others. In the world of today, people can interact over the internet, via mobile phones and mobile phone cameras are very potent equipments in the hands of children or teens (Campbell, 2005, p. 2).

Bullying is an old practice experienced and exercised by every generation. Campbell (2005, p. 2), explains that bullying is traditionally viewed as normal and society did not see the need of addressing it. Bullying tactics change with time, but bullying has never fully been eradicated or addressed in our societies. One of the greatest concerns around the world, as of today, is cyber bullying. Children, especially in the developed world, spent much of their time on cyber space than doing traditional past times like playing in the garden. Interactions between children over the internet are beneficial; they share ideas and experiences. On cyber space, children get an opportunity to freely air their opinions and feelings. It is only on cyber space where parents cannot effectively and efficiently control their children with dos and don’ts. However, the inability of parents to control what their children do on cyber space leads to children abusing boundaries or being abused by malicious others.

Cyber bullying starts in a very casual way. One student or teen wants to humiliate another, therefore, he or she sends derogatory messages from mobile to others about the victim. Alternatively, one sends humiliating emails about another to a group of recipients. The messages continue to malign the victim while the perpetrators find a lot of satisfaction from humbling the other. Sometimes, the victims respond thus becoming worse bullies in themselves. They look for worst dirty about others and air it to a gleeful public or group of recipients. In some other cases, threats are sent either to victims or perpetrators. The victim is cornered and made very fearful through threats on his or her life. There are recorded cases of children committing suicide as a result of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is largely an extension of traditional Face-to-Face bullying (Campbell, 2005, p. 4)

Why bullying needs to be addressed in Australian Society

Bullying affects students or individuals in society in adverse way. It does not only affect the victim, it also has negative effects in the life of those privileged to be aggressors (Rigby & Slee, 1998, p. 71). Bullying often may result in physical harm. Once aggrieved victims decide that enough is enough, they often resort to violence ways of settling scores. It is a common phenomenon that students form themselves into violent gangs to avert bullying. Unfortunately, the gangs become a bullying body in themselves because those who may not belong to a gang or members of different gangs found alone are victimized and harassed. Harassment from peers and cliques often may lead to lose of self esteem or confidence at the individual level. Apart from personality being affected due to bullying, studies are affected and some students even drop out of school just because of bullying.

From the foregoing paragraph, it is clear that bullying in school affects the fabric of society. Education is said to be key to success. If education is affected, it follows that society will be in problems. Crime rates will increase, bullying in the work place will increase and violence will be the way of operation in society (Peters et al, 1992, p. 112). Based on the stated, interventions that can eradicate bullying in schools are crucial.

Personal Initiatives in Dealing with Bullying

Over the years, researchers have looked into prevalence of bullying in schools and developed ways of dealing with the bullying problem. Most of the interventions applied focus on preventing bullying and are based on evidence of applicability got from a number of tests. The interventions either focus on creating awareness that discourages bullying or building of school systems in which bullying is impossible (Smith & Sharp, 1994, p. 83).

There are a number of ways of dealing with bullying. According to Campbell (2005, p. 4), awareness and sensitization is the first important step in addressing this phenomenon. Secondly, Campbell (2005, p. 4) points out that comprehensive school policies are necessary towards dealing with this problem. Thirdly, just as it happens normally, to avoid face-to-face bullying in playgrounds, parents supervise their children keenly (Campbell, 2005, p. 4). Therefore, supervision on the cyber space has to be improved and encouraged. Children will not engage in the harmful habits if they are sure their parents or important adults in their life are bound to find out. Finally, Campbell (2005, p. 5), advocates for development of both curriculum and social programs to help in dealing with the issue or problem.

In line with Campbell’s suggestions I have been actively involved in addressing the issue of bullying in school and in society as a whole. I have undertaken a number of actions to help kill bullying in schools, homes and in society as a whole. First, given my social standing, I am deeply involved with teachers, students and parents. I work with both groups, educating each on why they ought to be attentive to bullying. Secondly, I appreciate that sensitizing about bullying needs more than just individual efforts. Therefore, I have engaged friends and colleagues and encouraged them towards discussing bullying with others. Once individuals realize to what extend bullying affects them and their loved ones, they become willing to engage others over the same. Thirdly, thanks to my profession, I have often engaged students and facilitated their discussing bullying as an ill. Fourthly, through different forums, I have focused my discussions with teachers and parents on streamlining of school regulations. School regulations have to identify and respond directly to bullying. Therefore, by engaging teachers and parents; some members of the board of governers, my hope is that they continually refine schools structures and rules towards ensuring bullying behavior is not tolerated in schools. Finally, I have been involved on a number of occasions in community sensitization programs and one of the issues I like handling is bullying.

I realized that the most pivotal intervention when it comes to dealing with bullying is to increase awareness in society. This anti-bullying intervention aims at making teachers, parents and students appreciate the effects of bullying. It is believed that once students know the bad effect of bullying, they definitely will desist from the same. The awareness goes beyond just the effects of bullying to elaborate on forms and means applied in bullying. Sometimes students go to school and adapt or adopt certain ways of doing things, relating or acting that they find in use. Those ways are often bullish and aim at victimizing or making other subservient but given that is how things have been done for some time, it has become the norm or culture of the school.

Therefore, school is an important starting place when it comes to creating awareness on bullying. In whatsoever forum, I find myself engaged in a discussion on bullying, I advocate for teachers, parents and students participating actively in eradicating bullying. Whenever there is a bullying incident, teachers, parents and fellow students have to be involved in solving the issue.

Defining and refining the school system in totality is crucial towards curbing bullying (Basche & Knoff, 1994, p. 169). Schools structures and mandate has to be clear when it comes to dealing with bullying cases. It is advisable that rules and regulations regarding bullying be set and availed to teachers, students and parents. Such rules should prescribe harsh repercussions for anyone evidenced as being a bully. Students have to be encouraged to own the problem and handle it head on. School should provide protection and support for students who report bullies.

It was stated that students bully so as to be recognized or achieve status in school. Students encourage bullying by applauding or cheering bullies on. In my efforts are awareness, I have realized that addressing the issue of cheering bullies can help stem the problem. Bully cheerers have to be helped so that they are aware of their contribution to the bully’s behavior. Secondly, schools and society should have penalties for those who cheer on bullies. In legal terms, such individual would be referred to as crime accomplices. Breaking into bully gangs, majority of its members being mere cheerers is an effective contribution to stopping bullying in schools and society at large. If there is nobody to encourage or cheer the bully on, he or she will have no reason as to why he/she should bully.

In my efforts, I also try to identify victim students and address concerns related to them. Victims have to realize that often they are the ones that perpetuate bullying (Olweus, 1984, p. 57). By being cowed into silently suffering the actions of a bully, the bully is buoyed to continue bullying. Students have to be encouraged to deal harshly, as stipulated in school rules, by bullies so as to stop the vice. A bully incident has to be reported and dealt with forth with.

However, from my work with victims, I realize that they are often too psychologically affected to believe they can get the help they need. Therefore, in my interaction with teachers and parents I have often insisted on the school system enabling access to counselors (school psychologists), social workers and religious leaders who understand the bullying dynamics. There are people out there who still may have the notion that bullying is a simple thing that teens or children should get over it on their own. This is erroneous and explains why the helping adults have to understand the bullying dynamic. These helping adults are necessary in dealing with aggressors but also as support to victims of bullying (Basche & Knoff, 1994, p. 90). In a professional way they can help bullies realize and deal with their bullying urges by understanding what drives them. They can help bullying victims deal with issues of self esteem and anger related issues. The professional are important towards teaching students certain behavior patterns, attitudes and perspectives that discourage bullying.

I am actively involved in community activities because I believe that parents’ involvement in dealing with bullying in schools is crucial. Effort has to be made so that parents realize that they have responsibility for how their children behave in school (Rigby & Slee, 1998, p. 68). Some of the ways through which they can help is in reinforcing awareness in relation to effects and repercussions of bulling. Parents can discourage bullying in their children, using a number of reinforcement techniques. For example, they can reward their children for a clean record on bullying and seriously punish or deny privileges whenever they are mentioned in bullying incidents. Bullying often begins at home; therefore by parents discouraging and creating enough awareness on bullying from home, students learn to distaste bullying and its extensions.

So far, it is clear that the victims and bullies have to be proactively involved if bullying is to end. Therefore, whenever I engage students, I teach them proactive methods of dealing with a bullying incident. Often students may want to help each other in conflict but they normally do so by taking sides. When trained in conflict resolution techniques students will appreciate and help peer understand what exactly is happening (Smith et al, 1999, p. 156). For example a student may bully another because he or she feels threatened by the other. An overly intelligent boy may be bullied by bigger boys who are not as good as he is on the football pitch. The bully feels insecure in the face of the smaller boy’s prowess. A very cute girl may be bullied by other because they do not feel as pretty as she is. A member of a gang may just resort to bullying so as to find identity and recognition among members.

Evaluation my Actions

Scholars have pointed out that oppression or forms of discrimination happen at three levels i.e. structural, personal and cultural levels. It is also advised that effective social work is dependent on realization of how a social problem manifests at different levels. Apart from manifesting at different levels, social problems also manifest themselves in different forms. Therefore, responses to social problem in social work practice have to address individuals at a personal level, deal with the structural issues through policy related agitation and handle cultural issues through proper sensitization.

My response actions to bullying in schools have targeted individuals i.e. both victims and perpetuators of bullying. Through sensitizing individuals, I realize long lasting change is registered. Secondly, although I have not engaged in any nationwide activism, I have engaged parents and teachers towards refining policies on bullying in schools. Finally, by engaging the community, I am able to help individual’s go beyond differences especially cultural ones and appreciate the ramifications of bullying on society as a whole.

My approach, therefore, is proactive and does not aim at sustaining the status quo. In actual sense, in small possible ways, I aim at changing school structures, revitalizing parent involvement in their children’s lives and ensuring children appreciate others as they appreciate themselves.

As already shown, bullying is a human rights issue. Students can only be able to help each other, if they understand the dynamics and needs that drive people towards bullying (Smith & Sharp, 1994, p. 34). The victim of bullying has always to know that there is a way in which he or she threatens the confidence of the bully. The bully has to know that his or her problem is not the other person but how to channel his or her own insecurities. Through peer counseling or peer understanding and tackling of bullying cases amicably, students are able to own the fight against bullying.

Promoting such an understanding is likely to create a shift from seeking recognition through bullying to seeking recognition through pacifying; that requires or is dependent on a major shift or change in perspective. Peer counseling or intervention techniques have to be grounded on proper training of students such that they are of capacity to counsel and objectively deal with bullying incidents. Once the mentioned interventions have been instituted i.e. awareness and systems optimized such that teachers, parents and students are fully aware of effects, the causes and appreciate the bullying phenomenon or vice, bullying incidences, whether face to face or on cyber based, will reduce substantially.

Reference List

Batsche, G. M. & Knoff, H. M. (1994). Bullies and Their Victims: Understanding a Pervasive Problem in the Schools. School Psychology Review, 23 (2): 165-74.

Campbell, M. A. (2005). Cyber Bullying: an Old Problem in New Guise?. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 15 (1): 68-76. Web.

Munthe, E. & Roland, E. (1989). Bullying: an International Perspective. London: David Fulton Publishers.

Olweus, D. (1984). Aggressors and Their Victims: Bullying At School. In Frude, N. and Gault, H. (eds) Disruptive Behavior in Schools. New York: Wiley and Sons.

Peters, R. D. V., McMahon, R. J. & Quinsey, V. L. (1992). Aggression and Violence throughout the Life Span. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

PREVnet. (2010). Bullying and Human Rights. PrevNet. Web.

Rigby, K. & Slee, P. (1998). Bullying in Australian Schools. Paper presented at the xvth biennial meetings of the international society for the study of behavioral development. Switzerland: Berne.

Smith, P. K. & Sharp, S. (1994). School Bullying: Insights and Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Smith, P. K. Morita, Y. Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R. & Slee, P. (1999). The Nature of School Bullying: a Cross-National Perspective. London: Routledge.