An inexperienced teacher can fail to spot a bully and fail to take effective action to protect a victim. If the school as a whole does not have a working anti-bullying policy and more importantly if the school leadership takes the attitude ‘there is no bullying here’ – a teacher will not receive the back up they need to tackle the issue. So a teacher may be tempted to ignore the problem and it is the bully’s victim that suffers. The victim and/or the victim’s parents may also be ostracised or blamed if they try to speak out.
The problems caused by teachers ignoring bullying can be devastating and at their worst can even include a loss of life. The victim can feel increasingly isolated and alone. What starts as a reluctance to go to school each morning can easily escalate into school refusal. So if teachers ignore bullying then a pupil’s whole education is put at risk. The victim of bullying can slide further into isolation and depression and can find themselves with suicidal thoughts. Stories of children and young adults who have taken their own lives as a result of bullying are well documented.
Putting to one side the psychological harm done and the homes wrecked by bullying at school – there is also a tremendous financial and administrative cost to society and our education system. Bullying undermines effective teaching and learning in many ways on a day to day basis. A pupil who is reluctant to come to class and who is constantly afraid of being pinched, insulted, kicked and intimidated is not a pupil who feels relaxed enough at school to listen and learn well. Schools are rightly concerned about attendance levels and a student who is absent from class on a regular basis for any reason is likely to miss out on educational opportunities of all kinds. It’s quite possible that bullying which is not dealt with promptly – will affect their attitude to learning for the rest of their lives.
Teachers should not ignore bullying and should learn to deal with it as part of the acquisition of a mature teaching skill set. Remaining a bystander is morally and educationally wrong and we should all play our part in building an intervention strategy – parents, teachers, school governance, students and parent-teacher associations. Anyone who wishes to inform themselves further and take effective action need only use a search engine to access information on building an effective anti-bullying strategy which is appropriate for their situation.