School intimidation – we say no to bullying
In recent years, a dramatic increase of the percentage of children fell victims of school intimidation has been noted. The so called “bullying”, which is unfortunately a daily routine in USA schools, it starts appearing in a greater extend in Greece as well. Do not forget the recent suicide of Vangelis Yakoumakis for the same reason. According to the Ministry of Education’s researches, one to eight children have undergone a certain form of school violence in our country. In fact, recently, the Ministry sent a circular to schools, issuing directives to address this phenomenon.
What is school intimidation/bullying?
Within the concept of school intimidation/bullying, all forms of violence brought to school are declared: physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and even violence through internet. This phenomenon needs further studying, as far as concerns bullies, as victims. Although there is a general profile of children who are bullies or victims, a possible switching in roles is not ruled out. Especially the “victim”, when given the chance, would become a “bully” towards weaker schoolmates.
Bullies – Victims – Spectators
Children falling victims are the ones who look shyer and have a low shelf-confidence. Also, they are children who exhibit some sort of peculiarity or “difference” compared to most children (students with obesity, mental problems, foreign students, etc.).
Abusers are usually students who seem to be independent and self-confident. They are the “leaders” of the group. However, if we consider their behavior in a psycho-social level, they are children in need of attention. These children are either experiencing violence within their family, or being neglected by their parents. In the first case they reproduce the violent patterns of their families, while in the second case they are trying to draw others’ attention, even in a negative way.
“Spectators” are playing an important role too. This is about students who do not take part in the process of bullying, but even though they know what happens they remain passive. Most of the times they don’t react out of fear, sometimes though out of indifference. Many times are going by the side of the bully, considering they feel stronger.
Below are testimonies of children, parents and teachers about school bullying
“…She told me that if I wouldn’t let her trip me up, she will take off my shirt in front of all the boys. I let her do it because if I told her no, she would have taken off my shirt and told the others not to talk to me. Fortunately, she didn’t throw me down because I cooperated…”
6th Grade Student
“…In a test she didn’t write well enough, even though we had read well. The next day she didn’t want to go to school. After the pressure we put into her, her teacher and me, she confessed that the girl next to her “was not her friend anymore” because she had better grades than her. So, we decided to let her perform badly in the exams, so her friend will talk to her again. Luckily she told us in time…” 3rd Grade Student’s Mother
«….Generally he was a retracted child from the beginning. He didn’t have many friends. But lately I noticed a difference in his behavior. I talked to his parents, but they didn’t understand anything like that. We discreetly asked him every day but he didn’t say anything. Eventually, I realized what was going on with one of his classmates and we confronted it. Important role played the fact that the parents of both children seemed cooperative and followed the advice of teachers and specialists…” Teacher of a Primary School in Attica
Particular attention is needed for the right approach to the student, when there are suspicions that he/she is causing or receiving violence. Victims are not usually reveal their “martyrdom” either because they are ashamed or because of fear. Both parents and teachers need to be vigilant so they can understand and deal with such a situation as quickly as possible.
Which are the consequences?
The consequences for this new, for our country, social problem are many. Victims are being psychologically affected; they exhibit anxiety and insecurity, while most children refuse to go to school.
As for the bullies, if this sort of behavior is been allowed to them, it is very likely that they will adopt it in their adult life.
How it can be confronted?
School bullying can be confronted if forces of all that involved are combined.
- Parents’ attitude seems to be basic, because the main factor influencing children’s behavior is family. Therefore, parents have to:
- be informed about the phenomenon of school bullying
- observe their children’s behavior and be puzzled to any change, even if it doesn’t concerns something related to school
- advise their child about his/her rights and his/her obligations (no one has the right to treat him/her badly, but neither he/she has the right to behave badly to others as well)
- explain to their child that he/she has to react to anything that bothers him/her, even if it concerns another classmate
- be open in any question asked by their child, so he/she will not be ashamed to share any fears with them
- Not endorse violence. Violence is not a sign of strength, or an excuse for revenge. It should be pointed out now that any kind of attack towards the child-bully from the parent, will not yield any results
- inform the teacher if they suspect anything or get in contact with the appropriate department (e.g. the National Helpline for Children SOS or the Children’s Ombudsman)
- School also plays a primary role. Teachers’ actions may be seen as both preventive and “healing”. Teacher has to:
- Monitor the relations and behavior of students. The administration of a sociometric test (sociogram) can reveal popular and marginalized students and even the “cliques” if any, which can be created in the classroom
*what the sociogram is?
Students answer a set of questions about their classmates. For example, who do they want to sit next to them, who they would not invite to their party, etc?
- Create a team atmosphere in the classroom. It can encourage students to work together, help each other, and create groups for their homework. A good thing it could be if teams are changing frequently and are mixed (boys-girls, strong-weak students)
- organize actions and projects (trips, video projections, theatrical play) on human rights, the value of friendship and the consequences of violence
- Deal effectively and discreetly with any incident that occurs. The teacher has to discuss it with those involved in the incident but also with the spectators to see what happened. The whole discussion though, has to be done after the students calm down, so they would not be angry or psychologically charged. There is no need to blame, mock or threat the bully. The question “why you did that” will give no reasonable answer
- Discuss with the bully about the violence he/she engages to, without rejecting or belittling the student. WE CRITICISE THE ACTION, NOT THE PERSON
- confirm to the victim that he/she has nothing to be afraid of and that is not himself/herself responsible for this behavior
- Prevention is the best way to deal with such phenomena, something that will be achieved by the direct reaction of the state. Therefore, it is necessary to:
- organize information programs for parents and students about the prevention and management of such events
- provide proper training to teachers, as well as clear instructions, so they can be capable of dealing with violence at school
- establish organizations staffed by psychologists and social workers, to support and advice both victims and bullies
- add a course to inform and sensitize students, so they know what to do as victims or spectators
- Lastly, students themselves can prevent school bullying by taking appropriate actions. We can advise them to:
- talk to us as soon as something happens to themselves or one of their classmates
- stay away from the one they believe does not like them
- be always close to a teacher or someone older
- face every situation with humor and confidence
- always help the victim and not support the bully, even if he/she is their friend
The elimination of this phenomenon is necessary, before becoming a scourge, as in other countries. A pleasant fact is that many non-governmental organizations, with their actions, manage to preoccupy and sensitize people by promoting the slogan “NO TO VIOLENCE”.