We, in Equalities and Human Rights, have been seeing an increase in individuals, including children and young people, and families contacting us for assistance in regard to bullying,
The myriad of bullying and harassment cases we deal with, are not only relating to binary genders but all identifications.
Dan Olweus, a psychology professor, is often cited as the first major researcher of bullying. Olweus began thoroughly researching the subject in the early 1980’s following the suicides of three boys aged 10-14, all three were potentially consequences of bullying in school.
He developed through this research, anti-bullying and anti-violence prevention programmes, on which many strategies and programmes now being implemented are based upon, including here in Sheffield and the UK.
From the early days of the Olweus research, bullying has taken a range of unforeseen of routes, including cyber-bullying.
Bullying is often defined as any gesture or written, verbal, graphic, or physical act, (including electronically transmitted acts, i.e. internet, telephone or mobile phone, or wireless hand held device and includes sexting), that, without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus, is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm one or more people.
Often children and young people being bullied try to persevere in the hope that the bullying and harassment will improve.
However still, we are finding educational establishments who are going through the motions of invoking policies and procedures, but whom in practice, merely seek to brush off the bullying as being ‘personality clashes’ , or stemming from stereotypes of ‘girls being girls’/’boys will be boys’.
The adverse impact of bullying and harassment should never be underestimated as it can be stress inducing and debilitating for the victims and harmful for the perpetrator’s moral development too.
One young girl, who came to me for help, was ‘suspected by other girls of being a Lesbian’. She was not, but the thought that she might be was enough for them to target, torment and harm her. Homophobia being the order of the day.
This young female was subsequently tripped up and pushed forward down a flight of stairs in her school. This same group of girls had, on a prior occasion, beaten her up in the changing rooms.
A teacher intervening was obliged to barricade herself and the girl into a room for their safety, later describing the incident as the ‘gang baying for the girl’s blood’.
The school concerned had in operation a CCTV system covering both areas of the attacks but when I drew attention to the bullying and homophobia and raised complaint at this particular school I found that the CCTV recordings of the incidents had disappeared.
This transpiring in breach of data protection laws, and safeguarding duties and requirements. A campaign of cover up ensued at every level.
Very often we are finding that the children and young people being bullied and harassed in general, are at times unwilling to speaking up. When they do speak up, many beg their parents/carers not to intervene, explaining that from their experience intervention only makes things worse’ for them. They prefer instead ‘to deal with it’ themselves’.
Sadly, it is only after months of them trying to do so, (often unsuccessfully), that they revert back to their parents/carers and at its worse point, families in desperation contact us to help and intervene.
I have, had children as young as seven and upwards, who have cried in torment telling me that they can no longer cope with the bullying they have been enduring and want to die, others who have come to our attention, have, out of despair enacted on this desire, taking steps to try to die by suicide. Sadly, there are cases in the UK, in which bullying has been the causation of child deaths.
A shocking outcome for some victims of bullying is that they, as victims, are the ones who are obliged to relocate to another educational provision for their safety due to some schools failings to resolve the bullying.
Whilst we in Equalities and Human Rights are minded that schools in Sheffield are making great strides in anti-bullying, it is fact that bullying in schools remains a pressing concern and more needs to be done in respect of all bullying.
We need to make every school in the UK not only a bully-free zone by intent but completely bully-free through the eradication of bullying in all its forms.