BY ABBY MAC
Through all the seminars, awareness programs and group chats at school that revolve about bullying and the urge to stop it, none have succeeded. I am probably bursting dreams of many of the motivational speakers which have come to schools trying to convince various people not to bully and how to cope with bullying best, but the fact of the matter is; THEY’RE NOT WORKING. I am sorry to break it to you but unfortunately, the hours spent promoting and having various “Say No to Bullying” days is not putting an end to bullying.
I have been severely bullied most of my schooling life (so far this year there has been none – let’s not jinx that) so I think it is fair that I have an opinion on this. There are many different ways to attack the issue of bullying and each method will work better for a different victim and put a stop to the bullying faster. There is no “one-size-fits-all” and sometimes that can be the largest problem with teachers, adults or anybody trying to solve bullying. Approaches have to be different depending on the situation, type of bully and who the victim is.
Before writing this post, I questioned what I thought could end bullying and to be honest, I don’t know 100%. I can provide advice and how I would have liked to seen the bullies be dealt with but they aren’t definite answers either. Who knows what goes through the mind of someone that openly chooses to demean, degrade, criticise, inflict pain and damage another person? Sometimes, nothing at all. Below are a few things that I think need to be actioned more and unfortunately, more harshly.
Throughout the years that I have been bullied, not one person who has bullied me has ever had to apologise. Not one. Ever. Quite frightening? Not once have that had to admit to bullying me and apologise. People not being made accountable for their actions means that haven’t had to see any fault in their behaviour. It means that they aren’t being told that they’re behaviour they are showing is wrong. Consequently, no effort has to be made by them to change.
Most time incidents of bullying has occurred, I have reported it to a teacher or if matters become worse, a year co-ordinator, deputy principal or headmaster. Each time, they have either denied the bullying is occurring (Yes, because they would know sitting in their offices) or promised some sort of action which has never been followed through with.
Ensuring that bullies become accountable for their actions can firstly help to recognise their behaviour is wrong and in doing this, it tells them they have been caught and an excuse is not going to be provided for their behaviour. Hopefully, this will lead to a cease in the bullying.
2. Identifying all types of bullying
Bullying is not just punching someone. It is not just calling them fat. It is not just writing them a mean message. Bullying can also be being a bitch. At my last school, bitchiness, what the prime type of bullying I received, however, bitchiness is sometimes the hardest to identify and the easiest to cover. Many people underestimate the power of people, particularly, girls being bitches to each other because bitchiness, is most of the time silent and adapted to directly hurt the individual intended.
For instance, I was standing in line at school waiting for a class and a group of girls came up to our class and waved and said hello to everyone standing there. Apart from me. They did this every time we had that class for one and a half terms. To an adult, it’s something you should just get over. But when that happens every day, in front of everybody else, it hurts. Or a group of girls playing “What Do I Hate” in class. They were all sitting around me and it started with, girls with blonde hair, girls who wear their hair in plaits (I was wearing my hair in plaits), girls in White House (I was in White House), girls whose names begins with ‘A’. It’s bitchy. And it sucks.
Trying to tell an adult that them simply death staring you every time you go to your locker and following you to your next class but they aren’t in your next class, can just sound petty. Most of the teachers I told said that I was just interpreting their behaviour wrong or for me to just grow up. And that’s because they just don’t understand that bitchiness hurts and is hard to stop. Identifying this and all types of bullying is key to stopping it.
Most of the bullies that I have encountered they either suffer from issues at home or have reasons (not always directly linking to the victim) for why they bully. Some have been bullied at home by parents or siblings, are acting by rumours they have heard or from friends and jealousy. None are justifiable for the bullying but it helps to understand why.
Identifying and fixing the biggest question of all – why, is the greatest milestone of stopping individual cases of bullying. Though it is the greatest achievement, it is often difficult to discover. In some circumstances it is embarrassing, not yet understood or they are found out to be wrong. As an example, in grade one I was bullied by another girl and it started because she was being bullied and abused by her mum. Now, what she was doing to me wasn’t acceptable but it helped to explain why she was acting in the way that she was. She clearly wasn’t cared for or had any control over her own life and so she needed to inflict the pain she was on me.
Questioning and attempting to understand the thought process of the bully can also be hard for them as speaking their reasons aloud can be embarrassing on their part. Now, embarrassment isn’t always the solution but it aids in ceasing the bullying.
4. Enforcing punishment and change
I don’t always source complete agreement on this point, however, I believe enforcing stronger punishment is crucial to stopping bullying. Solving the root of bullying, which I addressed above, is the real solution to stopping bullying though this process is time consuming and in the meantime, we solve the more immediate issue with direct punishment – showing that for every action there is consequence.
As an example, I came out of the gym one day to the sports notice board. For a couple of days, photos from our school touch football team were on the board and there happened to be one of me about to pass the ball. As I walked out towards the board a group of girls from my team were standing around the photo of me. When they saw me, they looked back, giggled and walked away. The photo of me was now a photo of my body with my head ripped out and in the team photo, my face was scribbled out with pen.
Nothing happened to those girls. The photo was simply taken down and replaced with a new one after I reported the incident. These girls continued their parade with refusing to pass the ball to me on the field and different tactics to get me out of the team. There was no punishment. No consequences for their actions. In this incidence, immediate punishment would have stopped their behaviour. The school instigating that they will not play any games until their torments stopped. I can almost guarantee I would have no longer been bullied if quick enforcement of the rules had occurred.
More action needs to be taken to bring an end to bullying instead of pitying the bully for the punishment that they might get or giving them one more chance when they have clearly abused the amount of rope you have already supplied them with. In cases like this, how much the victim suffers and will continue to suffer without punishment towards the bullying, is far worse than small punishment for poor behaviour.
5. Becoming real.
Many teachers, parents and adults don’t like to believe that the perceived Good Girl is oh so bad. As parents, I can imagine it would be hard to think that the son or daughter you brought up could not be the person that you thought they were. Though, it is better to make small admissions and fix their behaviour than letting it continue and escalate. At my last school, they refused to admit that girls were bullying each other and preferred to live in a perfect world of perfect people. Such action caused the dux of their grade, most valuable hockey player, needed touch player for the undefeated team and competitor in swimming and athletics to switch to a different school. Just because they didn’t become real.
Having pictures around the school with a big, red zero around it does not stop kids from bullying.
If schools think this is a good enough solution to bullying then they are very stupid and frankly, partly responsible for bullying. I have witnessed first hand the commence of “Bullying Awareness Week” and having a discussion in class about actively trying to stop bullying, and kids walked out and impersonated and bullied a boy in our class. Bullying awareness isn’t the answer. It also isn’t completely invaluable. It helps in some aspects of bullying, but it does not solve it. When the world works this out, so will bullying.
Have you been bullied? Was it fixed? If so, how?