On first glance, this issue appears to be clear cut. It’s a fair expectation that students should be safe from bullying when at school and naturally, the administrators and teachers that govern the school environment are charged with upholding this expectation.
The problem is, there is a distinct difference between attempting to prevent or deter bullies and keeping students “safe.”
There is not a single school that condones the behaviour of bullying. In a perfect world, the school yard would be a place free of prejudice or adolescent cruelty. Needless to say, we’re yet to find that Utopia and likely never will. In any communal setting that brings together a multitude of personalities – desirable and undesirable – it is inevitable that frictions arise and some suffer as a result.
Bullying has existed for as long as we can remember. It’s ugly aspect was casting shadows across class rooms and playgrounds before I stepped foot into the academic world to learn my ABC’s. I witnessed its ugliness throughout my childhood and adolescent education and since entering the adult world, it’s undoubtedly as prevalent as ever in schools.
If anything, bullying has perhaps become more of a complex matter given the increase in social networking through the internet, giving credence to my argument that school’s cannot be expected to ensure the safety of students from such untoward practises.
In short, it was impossible for schools to comprehensively police bullying and ensure the safety of all students prior to the internet boom. These days, they’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell.
Within the public school system – and even in certain private schools – the ratio is often 20 plus students per teacher in the class room. Once these numbers spill out into the school yard, the task of identifying and preventing bullying becomes even more difficult. Any cases that are prevented often continue despite the punishment, as peers of the persecutor often take up the flag and continue the harassment.
Undoubtedly, it should be every school’s aim to quell and stamp out bullying wherever it is found, but ensuring the safety of students ultimately comes down to the parents, or those most influential, of the aggrieved party.
It is naive to assume that more comprehensive disciplinary measures will eradicate bullying entirely and save every student from emotional or physical anguish. It is similarly misguided to think of bullying as something that is limited to the school yard, rather than a potential obstacle that can – and will – raise its ugly head throughout adulthood in the work place or every day life for that matter.
A lot of those guilty of oppressive behaviour in the school yard eventually become more mature and grow out of such habits. Unfortunately, quite a few of them enter adulthood with very much the same modus operandi. There will always be the opportunistic types who seek to improve their lot at the expense of others, requiring the acquisition and sharpening of conflict resolution, tolerance and avoidance skills of those who may otherwise fall prey to such types.
These are skills that parents are the most capable of instilling, they are tools that teachers – whilst complementing a parent’s role – should not be expected to impart with as much effectiveness as that of a mother or father.
Critically, they are the tools that will ensure the safety of any student – more so than anything a teacher or school can hope to achieve in the fight against a perpetual foe.
Through open communication, education and support, parents can safe guard their children from a lot of the fallout that comes with bullying. There is no way to prevent it from happening on a grand scale, but given the appropriate coping mechanisms, most students will be able to weather any such storm and rise above the situation.
In many cases, being stronger and wiser for the experience.
The safety of students always rests in their own hands and depending on their age, that of their parents. Pointing fingers and expecting schools to be able to prevent every instance of bullying in its many guises, is futile. Bullying does not cease to exist once the final bell rings, so learning to overcome such distasteful moments will ultimately ensure the safety of the person in question beyond their academic life.
Schools and teachers in particular have the potential to be influential factors to a student, but never should they be more influential than the parents who are – by nature – the people most capable of ensuring their loved one’s safety.