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EDITORIAL: Time to root out bullying

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Time to root out bullying

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Bullying has been back in the news in recent days. Last week, there were reports of an 11-year-old boy attending a secondary school who was the victim of bullying while at school. He had to seek medical attention for his injuries and received a number of stitches to his injured chin.
Now we’ve heard from the Deputy Chief Probation Officer Ikin Alleyne about the widespread incidence of bullying among schoolchildren, at both the primary and secondary levels, across this island.
Mr Alleyne’s observation is worthy of note: “We do know that a lot of children are beaten up and threatened and bullied. Some students wait for the smaller kids outside the [school] and then take away their money.”
Many of us have had experience with this either directly or indirectly.
Now we’re also hearing of bullying via the Internet.
Some would want us to believe it’s just something you have to deal with, part of growing up, no big deal.
But the days when an encounter with a schoolyard bully was considered an unfortunate but normal part of childhood are long over. We have real stories, and confirmed, about the child or teen who has been the victim of bullying and has been left very traumatized. Something needs to be done to root out this bad part of the culture of our academic institutions.
A comprehensive policy must be drawn up to specifically outline action that may be considered bullying, both in and out of school. This policy must also define disciplinary measures that will be taken. The Ministry of Education, the teachers’ organizations, the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations and other stakeholders need to urgently sit, discuss and come up with guidelines to deal with this problem.
Perhaps we may need, as is the case in parts of Ontario, Canada, to recognize a bullying prevention week and require schools to put on activities to raise awareness about the problem. We’re not sure there is any sure-fire cure for bullying, but we believe talking about it and educating parents, teachers, administrators, and, of course, children all play a crucial role in prevention.
But, until the educational authorities, whether in the Ministry or in each school, start looking at a policy position, we need to do something ourselves.
It must begin at home with us.
We must be respectful in our discussions about and our interactions with all people, including those who are different from us. We must interact with our children in a way that demonstrates both our respect for and expectations of them.
The challenges confronting our teachers and administrators are quite enough without having to deal with one distraction after another caused by unruly behaviour. Bullying has no place in our schools.
It is not a rite of childhood.