I agree with most that schools as organisations need to take more responsibility for the children in their care. In fact legally they have a huge duty of care and as such I believe that most schools are negligent in their actions to prevent bullying in schools.
I would also argue that the teachers (the people that are blamed the most) are also caught in the middle of this tragic situation. They are abused verbally and intimidated physically on a daily basis. They are not given tools or options to safely deal with verbal or physical conflict involving immature adolescents that are often far stronger than them.
Moreover the really serious issue is that they (the teachers) are generally not backed by the schools, States or Government should they find themselves in a physical encounter with a child. In fact the Governments official stance is that there is never any circumstance where it would be acceptable to lay hands on a child. It is apparent that people that say such ridiculous statements are so far withdrawn from the realities of today’s school environment that they are ignorant to the truth. I am not advocating violence against children however I do believe that if a child is endangering the welfare of other children or teachers, that proportionate measures such as removing people from the threat or restraints may be necessary. God forbid that a knife may be involved. Statistically 1 in 6 youths carry a knife.
Teachers face the definitive threat of losing their jobs without even being given the benefit of the doubt that they were acting in the best interests and the safety of other students or acting in self defence of themselves against someone legitimately trying to hurt them. Even a court of law gives criminals the right to be treated innocent until proven guilty.
There is no workplace that can take away a persons right to defend themselves against a physical attack nor stop any person acting in the self defence of another especially a child.
Perhaps organisations need to realise that a punch thrown by a 60 kilo student can do as much damage as a punch from a 60 kilo adult. The children that these teachers are dealing with are responsible for criminal acts such as activities like the Knockout game (where children aged between 10 and 24 king hit an innocent person until they lay unconscious on the pavement). Even the State Government realise the danger of punching someone and have built a campaign called One Punch Can Kill. This is the reality that the teachers face on a daily basis. Statistically the most violent age group for crimes against the person are people aged between 10 years and 24 years.
So then lets turn our attention to the casualties of this unfortunate attitude (that it is unacceptable to lay hands on a child) and look at the casualties/victims of these circumstances, specifically the ones that we are criticising for striking back in a potentially dangerous situation.
I think that the word “VICTIM” is a label that we give to people who fall prey to the untoward intent of an individual or group, or unfortunate circumstance (ie: somone involved in an accident of some sort). Perhaps the word “casualty” is a more accurate term and is certainly easier to psychologically recover from instead of being branded a victim. I believe that the word VICTIM is not so much a word as it is a condition. A condition that precedes a violent encounter and manifests itself mentally, physically and habitually.
A “victims” success in deterring a bully by punching them back is simply one way (often the only learned way) that a child suffering from this condition can demonstrate to a would be bully that they are not the push over the bully mistook them for. Coupled with the frustration and devastation that the people that are meant to be caring for them either don’t really care or are just too scared to act for the safety of a child, what are these children supposed to do? I am not saying that I condone this course of action however in the absence of any education it is not a big leap to see why children do this.
It seems that we are losing too many young people who take their own life because an adult wasn’t strong enough to act. Imagine thinking that laying in front of a train was the only option a young person truly believed was the best option to take away all the pain.
Perhaps those charged with the responsibility to care for these young ones suffer from the same condition as many of the children they are meant to care for, Victim. How can any person put their job in front of the safety of a child that is unable to defend themselves. Moreover how can we expect someone to physically defend our children if they are not shown how to or backed when they do.
All school bullies, like their adult counterpart, the violent offender, choose their prey based on a risk vs reward system. Simply, a bully victimises another child/person that they believe they can control, intimidate and manipulate. If for a second they thought that they couldn’t achieve their objective the bully wouldn’t try because to them the pain of embarrassment and failure in front of peers outweighs the pleasure of attempting to control a person they know won’t comply.
An analogy may be like being stung by a bee. The person that receives the sting (in this case a bully being punched) spends the rest of their life avoiding bees because they remember only too well how much that hurt (embarrassment in front of their peers).
Ask yourself why do some kids fall victim to bullying and others don’t. I would suggest that the image the children who are not bullied portray to the world is saying mentally, physically and habitually I’m not the person you can intimidate.
Those that are bullied who are suffering from the condition “victim”, are internally intimidated by others and insecure in their own abilities to communicate with others. Physically this manifests as symptoms such as avoiding eye contact, looking downwards, talking softly/non-assertively, withdrawing from others, disengaging themselves from the world by using technology such as an iPad with headphones etc.
Even those that do not necessarily have this condition can portray to predators/bullies this condition subconsciously and are thus, often the casualty of bullying because they don’t realise that their body language and habits (such as wearing headphones, not engaging with people etc) makes them an attractive target.
I would suggest that many people suffering from the condition (victim) often take large measures to change their physical appearance in order to portray a different image outside to how they feel inside because subconsciously they understand why some people are a victim and others aren’t. I know as a child I spent a lot of time trying to make my body bigger thinking that if I was bigger I wouldn’t feel insecure or intimidated. Actually I even have tattoos that I guess add to that image of strength. Although I wasn’t a victim of bullying, the turning point for me was the introduction of martial arts that changed my mental attitude and confidence, giving me the trust in myself to deal with the worst case scenario. All of a sudden nothing else really seemed like a big deal.
In addition, I believe that the act of bullying is a learned method of interaction, perhaps the bully is as much the casualty of their own circumstance as they are the bully! Over the years I have worked with many different school groups and have found that a lot of the school “bullies” that we have done training with, on further investigation, end up being the casualty of bullying/violence etc at home.
I believe that it is possible, through education, to teach children with the condition (victim), how to change their image that they portray to the world, and also that bullies can learn alternative ways to communicate effectively. This training benefits everybody by building self awareness and habits that reduce the perceived reward and increases the risk to the would be bully/perpetrator.
I believe that the subject of bullying is a double edged sword where both parties are in fact casualties of their own circumstance.
The words in this blog are my thoughts on the topic, I would love to hear yours.
Head Instructor – InDefence