Saturday, November 18, 2006

Schoolyard Bullies: An International Problem

Our transatlantic cousins in the United Kingdom are trying to come to grips with the worsening problem of schoolyard bullies:
ANTI-BULLYING advisers should be employed by local councils to help to combat bullying in schools, according to recommendations from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

The advisers would mediate in cases where parents complained that bullies were not being disciplined. They would also dissuade bullies from abusing other pupils and provide advice for victims.

The new report, Bullying in Schools, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and to be published this week, states that parents often find that head teachers dismiss allegations that a child is being bullied. The new anti-bullying advisers would be selected and employed by local authorities.

The report recommends that the parents of a bullied child should have the right to a hearing before a committee of school governors. It also wants new powers for the local government ombudsmen to intervene in schools where discipline is a problem.

Professor Carolyn Hamilton, senior legal adviser to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, writes in the report: “Some heads still respond to parents by rejecting the suggestion that there is any bullying in the school.

“It may be alleged that the parent is overprotective or even a troublemaker. There may be hurtful suggestions that the bullied child is oversensitive or antisocial.”

A DfES spokesman said the proposals would be examined by Alan Johnson, the education secretary. The spokesman said: “While in the vast majority of cases of bullying, schools do an excellent job, we want to ensure that every case is investigated thoroughly and that parents have an effective route of complaint if they feel inadequate action has been taken.”

Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children’s commissioner, said of the report: “There is evidence that the present system is not satisfactory. Our proposals would lead to a more formal appeals process involving the governors and above all an independent aspect which has been missing until now.”

Aynsley-Green was himself bullied as a 10-year-old when his family moved to London from Northumberland and he was victimised because of his accent. He said that bullying is an “enormous problem” and he is keen for it to be “on the front burner”.

He added that new technology meant bullies had new ways to make their victims’ lives miserable: “Until recently, if children are being bullied at school, they could go home and be in a safe environment. Now they can’t escape because they are bullied on their mobiles or by e-mail.”

Up to 70% of children have experienced bullying, according to a survey of 8,574 children released earlier this month by the charity Bullying Online. Half of bullied pupils said they had been physically hurt. When bullying was reported to a teacher, children said that in 55% of cases it did not stop.

A report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Bullying Today, said Muslim children had experienced greater victimisation after the September 11 attacks in America and the July 2005 London bombings.
Something tells me that when an innocent child is in the process of being victimized by one of these troubled students little thugs, placing a call to the local "bullying advisor" isn't going to be of much help.
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