This is no longer a question directed at students of St Josephs College in Samoa, but now one strictly pointed at the teachers, principal and administration. WHY IS BULLYING STILL SO PREVALENT IN ST JOSEPHS?
The topic of bullying in school has been well researched and published, and the common underlying belief is that the best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.
But why after so many years of bullying at St Josephs have none of the established strategies on anti-bullying being implemented in the school? When I was in high school in the 1990s, St Josephs were the most feared and the ones who usually started the fights on the sea wall and at the athletics. When I was reporting for the national papers, St Josephs students were part of one of the biggest student riots in town, which saw the use of molotov bombs and defacing of public property.
Don’t take me wrong, other schools were involved, but St Josephs has a particular reputation, backed up by anecdotal and physical evidence, of the violence they impose not just in school but in the high school community.
According to one of the students at the school, after viewing the video he said the incident was known to some teachers but that it was normal and so they did not act on it.
According to the same source, it is obvious in the video that the student being bullied is new, as evident in the neat nature of his uniform, and that he was a target as a result of his new status.
There are so many questions that need to be answered relating to this case, but the most important one is, how could something like this happen in their school, and the public finds out before the Principal does? And why would would the Principal comment: “This must be stopped.” When it should be: “All students involved will be expelled, we do not tolerate bullying?”
I’m so sick and tired of hearing these stories, not just from St Josephs but from all high schools. Why, in a day and age when we should know better, do teachers and Principals still tolerate such behavior?
When I was in Samoa College, there was so much bullying in the Samoa College Hostel, that now when I look back, some of the things I witnessed could be classified as ‘torture’ in international human rights terminology. Things like, juniors having to swallow erasers while standing on a bucket, or having to hold razor blades by their tongues while a senior boy dictates the next move. Or when they are banned from eating because they woke up a few minutes late. Or when as a junior girl you are punched by the junior leader for not washing the tea towel correctly.
These practices are often known to the teachers and Principals but no one acts on it. Luckily for Samoa College the Principal that came in, in my last year made some changes and things are much better now.
Schools like St Josephs need to make the necessary changes to ensure that no more young men or women are bullied, they need to give these people a way to complain and to make their voices heard if incidences like this occur.
I want to thank the young man who posted the video online, but I fear for his safety considering his friends would know who took the video. I also continue to fear for the safety of the victim in the video, as he will still be exposed to friends of the bullies.
What measures are in place to protect the whistle blowers? Here are some anti-bullying tips from Edutopia, for principals, teachers and parents.
Five Tips to Help Principals Prevent Bullying
According to Dillon, effectively addressing a bullying problem requires a culture change. A true culture change takes time, but a few key steps to help principals get started:
- Practice What You Preach Don’t use your status as the school leader as the lever for change; instead, “listen before talking and reflect before acting” to ensure your staff feel valued (this is backed up by the NEA survey, which found an important predictor of adult willingness to intervene in bullying was their “connectedness” to the school, defined as their belief they are valued as individuals and professionals in the learning process).
- Assess the Extent of the Problem Survey students, staff and parents to find out how much and what type of bullying is going, as well as where and when, to target prevention efforts.
- Develop a School-wide Code of Conduct that reinforces school values and clearly defines unacceptable behavior and consequences. Empower bystanders — teachers and especially students — to help enforce it by training them to identify and respond to inappropriate behavior.
- Increase Adult Supervision Most bullying happens when adults are not present, so make sure they are “visible and vigilant” in hallways, stairwells, cafeterias and locker rooms, as well as on buses and the way to and from school for students who walk.
- Conduct Bullying Prevention Activities such as all-school assemblies, communications campaigns or creative arts contests highlighting school values to bring the community together and reinforce the message that bullying is wrong.
Five Tips to Help Teachers Prevent Bullying
Even when a school leader doesn’t have a formal bullying prevention agenda, teachers can create safe, bully-free zones in their classrooms:
- Know Your School and District Policies on Bullying Do your part to implement them effectively.
- Treat Students and Others with Warmth and Respect Let students know that you are available to listen and help them.
- Conduct Classroom Activities around Bullying Help your class identify bullying in books, TV shows and movies, and discuss the impact of that bullying and how it was/could be resolved. Hold class meetings in which students can talk about bullying and peer relations.
- Discuss Bullying with Colleagues As a group, you will be better able to monitor the school environment. Discuss both bullying in general and concerns regarding specific students.
- Take Immediate Action Failure to act provides tacit approval of the behavior and can cause it to spread.
Five Tips to Help Parents Prevent Bullying
Parents and guardians are among a school’s best allies in bullying prevention:
- Talk with and Listen to Your Children Everyday Ask questions about their school day, including experiences on the way to and from school, lunch, and recess. Ask about their peers. Children who feel comfortable talking to their parents about these matters before they are involved in bullying are more likely to get them involved after.
- Spend time at School and Recess Schools can lack the resources to provide all students individualized attention during “free” time like recess. Volunteer to coordinate games and activities that encourage children to interact with peers aside from their best friends.
- Be a Good Example When you get angry at waiters, other drivers or others, model effective communication techniques. As Education.com puts it, “Any time you speak to another person in a mean or abusive way, you’re teaching your child that bullying is ok.”
- Create Healthy Anti-Bullying Habits Starting as young as possible, coach your children on both what not to do (push, tease, and be mean to others) as well as what to do (be kind, empathize, and take turns). Also coach your child on what to do if someone is mean to him or to another (get an adult, tell the bully to stop, walk away and ignore the bully).
- Make Sure Your Child Understands Bullying Explicitly explain what it is and that it’s not normal or tolerable for them to bully, be bullied, or stand by and watch other kids be bullied.
The Bottom Line
Bullying is an enormous problem, and we must all do our part to impact it. If nothing else, remember one of Dillon’s suggestions (intended for school leaders but I think applicable to all):
“Little things can make a big difference. Simple and genuine gestures, such as regularly greeting students, talking to students, and addressing students by name, help to make students feel connected.”
Anyone can start doing those types of things today. If you are interested in further resources on bullying and its prevention, check out Learning First Alliance member resources and the StopBullying website.