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Battling school yard bullying

20 April 2004, 10:36 AM in Bullying

Today Tonight had an item on last night about a boy who's been to four different primary schools in the last six years due to the bullying he's been receiving. These have been both public schools and a Catholic primary school.

"I'm scared they're gonna attack me with sticks and hurt me," Beau said.

"They've locked me in garbage bins and rammed my head into the ground. Punched me in the ribs, kicked me in the stomach [and] broken my wrist."

This is appalling, and it has apparently gotten so bad now, the Department of Education has said that the Beau will be getting a support person with him to act as a bodyguard.

The question must be asked, why does this child attract bullies like this? He's been to different schools, both public & private, so it's difficult to blame it simply on school culture or leadership. The boy's mother says that it's due to the fact that Beau has learning difficulties and coupled with a minor speech impediment. This is likely to be true, but I would think there would be more to it than that. If his bullying is really so bad that it's required him to change schools four times, there has to be something else that is causing the bullies to target him. Many other kids have learning difficulties and speech impediments and don't get picked on so much.

Bullying is a complex thing, it is sometimes done out of fear or distrust. But most often it is simply one, or a group of students who get their kicks out of making other people fear them and do what they say. They almost always pick on smaller kids who can't defend themselves and who have little or no social support. Bullies will rarely pick on the student who has many friends, they'll pick on the loner who has no one to back him up and who they know no one will stand up for.

From this, it is probably a fair assumption to make that the boy in this story has trouble making friends. From the brief story that the program had, the student also has a couple of physical issues that would draw bullies' attention to him. He has an ear ring, and a fairly effeminate one at that, which is likely to draw the faggot boy comments that he was receiving. Also his haircut is also slightly effeminate. These things, coupled with the problems stated by his mother will always make him a target.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying that Beau deserves this bullying or that the schools shouldn't have to do something about it. The schools in question need to take a close look at their discipline structures and find out why these kids have been able to torment another student like this. But, there are things that Beau himself can do. Take it from someone who, in the past, sometimes suffered at the hands of bullies at school, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Loosing the ear-ring and getting a new hair style would be a start. Also, has he thought about learning taekwondo or karate? While meeting violence with violence isn't always a great idea, just learning a martial art would increase his confidence, therefore making him less of a target. Also, just the fact that you know how to defend yourself is often enough, as most bullies are cowards, hence the fact they target the weaker, unprotected students.

The boy's mother has said

Beau won't be going back to school unless the Education Department can guarantee the bullying will stop once and for all.

"I can't send him back, it's too dangerous."

While I understand and sympathise with her anger and distress, it is an unfortunate fact that you will never entirely get rid of bullying. No amount of counselling, punishment or 'positive learning environments' will ever be able to remove that fact that there are some people who enjoy tormenting others. It's the same as the fact that racism will never completely go away. The best you can do is remove all institutional procedures that encourage or allow bullying to take place and put in place other procedures that try and limit it. Also, there need to be well-known and consistently enforced consequences for bullying. A lot of bullying goes on with teachers' knowledge, but they just let it slide until it becomes serious. If the bullying is dealt with early, it can often be prevented from escalating to more violent actions.



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"The question must be asked, why does this child attract bullies like this?"

What a great question!! From my cursory reading, it seems as if this mother has only tried to "solve" the problem by moving the child. That only changes his location - not the root of the problem - which may exist with the child.

Another frustration I have as a teacher is knowing that so much of what is considered bullying actually goes on outside of my classroom, many times in places teacher have no control over. However, problems that happen with students before school, changing classes, at lunch, or after school are blamed on the teachers even though no "bullying" may take place in their presence. Teachers cannot be in all places all the time.

Posted by: MrC | Apr 21, 2004 4:25:39 AM

Very good point about the out of school bullying. It's not the teacher's responsibility after/before school, and it's impossible for teachers to be everywhere. I definitely didn't want to imply that it's all the teachers' fault at all.

Posted by: Glenn | Apr 21, 2004 11:29:49 AM

I was bullied at school and i think that it was the worst time of my life... but how can we stop bullying? I think that we should concentrate more on how to stop bullying rather then on certain students who suffer from bullying.

Posted by: Jessica | May 4, 2004 10:19:08 AM

My 7th grade grandson is being bullied at a Catholic school for various reasons: (1) He is not considered "weight-appropriate," even though he is only about 10-15 lbs. overweight; (2) He refused to "go back with" a girl who had "broken up with" him when she later decided she wanted him back. She and her friends have been spreading vicious rumours about him and the young lady he currently likes. This has been going on for months, despite meetings with the school officials. Now, however, the rumous have turned to PHYSICAL THREATS -- he has been finding pins, tweezers, pens, and other potentially dangerous items stuck in his book sack in a way that they would stick him when he opened the flaps. It has been a week since I notified the officials about this latest threat. I have YET to receive a response!

Posted by: Frankie | May 7, 2004 8:59:36 AM

Frankie, that's absolutely disgraceful! Is this in Australia or somewhere else?

Do you know of any action been taken by the school to stop it?

Posted by: Glenn | May 8, 2004 8:47:41 AM

why do people pick on smaller kids?

Posted by: bett | Nov 2, 2006 11:38:21 AM


Posted by: 传奇传奇私服 | Apr 22, 2007 3:28:38 PM

I agree that we need to address the problems which attract bullying to a particular child but the cold hard facts are, we are all different and being different shouldn't ever be accepted as the reason why a child is being bullied.
I also have experienced first hand with my own child being bullied the lack of action from teachers regarding bullying. My child reported to numerous teachers who simply told him to sort it out himself. It wasn't until I went to the school and asked that something be done to stop it that the bullying was eventually addressed. It also happened where a group of kids, my child being one of them, hassled a couple of kids playing in an area they wanted to play in because they felt they had more right to it as there were more of them. When the two kids went to a teacher with the problem, she brushed them aside telling them to deal with it on their own. I heard from the parent of one of the kids about what was going on. I was furious that my child was involved and dealt with him myself before going to the school with the facts and expressing my disgust at how these poor kids were left with no support from teachers and this larger group continued the harassment/bullying for over a week because they were able to get away with it.
It's disappointing that school are not addressing these issues appropriately and the policies they have in place are due to a requirement rather than a plan of action. They turn a blind eye until someone, usually a parent, goes in to see them jumping up and down demanding something be done.
I also have a problem with children being punished for defending themselves when they are being physically attacked. What message are we sending the bully when I child is being punished for defending themselves especially when the punishment is given in front of the instigator and it is as harsh as the bully's punishment. I agree that hitting back is not the right answer but for god sakes, if there are 2 or 3 on to 1 and the child being attacked pushes the attackers off him or away from him, why is he being punished?
I believe the situation is hopeless and needs to be addressed on a more serious level than is happeining now.....more action and less talking.

Posted by: Mary | Mar 20, 2008 11:06:24 AM