No-nos approach to bullying
POPULAR ‘SOLUTIONS’ such as group therapy, anger management and self-esteem building will only make bullying worse, says counsellor and coordinator of the Olweus Bullying Programme, Shawn Clarke.
Speaking at the programme’s first panel discussion at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed on chief executive officer of Supreme Counselling and one of the driving forces behind the Olweus programme’s presence in four schools in Barbados, said group therapy for people exhibiting bullying behaviour was “a no-no”.
He said it merely fostered the accumulation of a negative variety of skills as bullies met and worked with other bad-behaved peers.
As for anger management and esteem issues, he described these as myths in relation to bullying.
“They are not bullying because they are angry. They are not bullying because they have low self-esteem. Research suggests that the people exhibiting bullying behaviour, their self-esteem is average to high.
“There’s nothing in the research since 1970, when the first set of research was done by Dr Dan Olweus, that suggests people exhibiting bullying behaviour have low self-esteem,” he said.
“Can you imagine taking a group of such students from your school and putting them in a self-esteem programme? Can you imagine at the end of six or eight weeks of taking them through esteem-building skills, what they would do to your schools? So let’s put that out of our minds now!”
Debunking the notion of zero tolerance for bullying, Clarke said the unfortunate reality in Barbados was that anything declared “zero tolerance” had a very short life span.
“It is zero tolerance for two or three weeks and then you forget about that as something else comes along, and then you jump on another bandwagon and it’s zero tolerance all over again,” he told the small group of teachers and parents.
Calling for a holistic approach to bullying, he also said suspension of students achieved nothing without added intervention.
“When you suspend a child from school, he has ten days to do what?
Have a vacation? You are playing into their hands and giving them exactly what they want,” he said as he urged schools to work with counsellors who would monitor and report on the student during the suspension periods.
Members of the audience lamented the sparse attendance, but offered ideas such as bringing Christ back into the curriculum and society in general, imposing penalties on parents who condoned violent behaviour from their children, and encouraging fathers to play a greater role.
The event, funded in part by the Maria Holder Trust, featured a panel comprising teacher Cheryl Alleyne-Mcintyre who is helping to coordinate the Olweus programme, forensic psychologist Francesca Donovan, Police Sergeant Hallam Jemmott, counsellor Donna Tulle-Cox and Clarke. The moderator was Corey Lane of Starcom Network.