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IDENTIFY AND DISCUSS THE KEY ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE ANTI-BULLYING STRATEGY FOR SCHOOLS

A balanced discussion of the key elements of an effective anti-bullying strategy necessitates a brief exposition of some key elements of bullying. Smith and Sharp (1994) describe bullying as “the systematic abuse of power” like physical strength, financial wealth, political position, experience, age.(p.2). At school it is usually thephysically strong and the more experienced students who take advantage of those with small physique or the new ones. Sullivan (2000) agrees that bullying is an abuse of power. He further states that it is “a conscious and wilful act of aggression and/or manipulation by one or more people against another person or people.” (p.9)

Smith and Sharp (1994) state that about 5-10 percent of children are bullied while about 5 percent of children bully others. According to Sullivan (2000) “there is a direct link between bullying and the family. Bullying can be passed on from generation to generation.” (p.23). Therefore, children who grew up being bullied in their own families are likely to be bullies at school because their experiences disable them from feeling guilty when they bully others. Smith and Sharp (1994) concur when they state that the bullies “also tend to see aggression as an acceptable and realistic way of expressing their social position, perceiving it as being supported by the attitudes of their family.” (p. 5). Tattum (1989) asserts that “Factors such as unemployment, depressed job opportunities, poor housing, decaying inner cities and racial housing undoubtedly have a disruptive effect on families and communities.” (p.1) It is no wonder then, that bullying is a widespread phenomenon in schools.

Victims of bullying are usually non-assertive, shy and lack confidence. New pupils who feel insecure in new surroundings are vulnerable to bullies, and they seldom report the bullying to the authorities for fear of reprisal. Pupils who seek peer acceptance because of some short comings like physical deformities, lower intelligence levels, poverty, are also potential victims of bullying. It is common for girls in particular to try very hard to appease the school popular and beautiful girls, and thus become vulnerable to bullies too.

Racism also plays a hand in school bullying. Children who attend a school where the majority of pupils belong to a different racial group than theirs are often bullied. The foreign pupil more often than not feels helpless and alone, so s/he usually keeps to her/himself. That gives the bullies a perfect opportunity to pounce on them because there is no one to protect the foreigner. Sullivan (2000) mentions a specific example of racist bullying that resulted in the death of a 13-year old Asian boy who was murdered in 1986 by a white teenager at Burnage High School in Manchester. (p12). Another form of bullying that is common in schools is related to sexual harassment where boys especially, force their attentions on unwilling girls. Some students become victims of constant ridicule and bullying because of their sexual orientation. Should a boy or girl show signs of being gay or lesbian, s/he is more likely to receive constant hurtful remarks from others. Sullivan (2000) is careful to point out that we should also know what bullying is not, so that we should differentiate between illegal acts and bullying. He warns that an error or playfulness or even a criminal act may be mistaken for bullying, and therefore receive uncalled for responses.

With the understanding of what bullying is and is not, schools are in a position to develop strategies to address and combat bullying. Of the anti-bullying strategies that Smith and Sharp (1994) discuss, I believe that the ‘whole-school policy’ is the best because it combines elements of all the various other strategies. The whole-school policy aims at establishing and inculcating a culture of zero tolerance to bullying, and its advantage is that it involves entire school communities in its development, hence Rigby (2002) refers to it as a “whole school-community approach” (p.3). It is not a ‘top-down’ policy. Students and authorities who develop the policy experience a sense of ownership and, as Sullivan (2000) puts it, “they will be loyal to it and interested in making sure that it is well implemented.” (p.42). The key elements of the whole-school policy, as discussed in Smith and Sharp (1994) are:

– identifying a need for policy development – policy development – implementation of policy – evaluation

The best way of getting school communities to work on an effective anti-bullying strategy is to make them realize in the first place that there is a need for such a strategy. This means that they have to be motivated to focus on the reality that school bullying exists and it is a problem. Myths like ‘bullying is just a way of making children to become strong’ have to be revisited and dispelled. When open discussions of myths surrounding bullying are held, and when, in the words of Smith and Sharp (1994) “an understanding of the se