When bul­ly­ing cases go vi­ral, the back­lash can be dis­tress­ing

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer, a staff correspondent at the NST Sabah bureau, is open to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing new things and ad­ven­tures. She re­cently em­braced the Muay Thai train­ing as a life­style

IRE­MEM­BER an in­ci­dent where a fight broke out right in front of me when I was in sec­ondary school. I was talking to an ac­quain­tance from an­other class dur­ing re­cess when out of the blue an­other girl emerged — whom I also knew — and started slap­ping the per­son I was talking to.

Star­tled, I backed off from the scene as friends of the an­gry girl came to back her up and yelled at the “vic­tim” to taunt her.

While I can­not re­mem­ber ex­actly what sparked the bad blood be­tween them, it was widely known the slap came as a “re­turned favour” of what the for­mer did; she was a ju­nior and a cou­ple of years younger than her at­tacker.

If that hap­pened to­day, other stu­dents would not hes­i­tate to record the scene and it would go vi­ral on so­cial me­dia. But it was in the mid-1990s, a few years be­fore mo­bile phones hit the mar­ket.

Even if mo­bile phones were avail­able then, it was just for calling and tex­ting fam­ily and friends — noth­ing like keep­ing abreast with what is trend­ing nowa­days.

Fights and bul­ly­ing do hap­pen among stu­dents who are still grow­ing and try­ing to find their place among their peers. Thus, their judg­ment of what is im­por­tant in life is con­sid­ered naive at that point.

Most fights in those years had gone un­ac­counted, but those made known to school ad­min­is­tra­tors were dealt with in­ter­nally, with pun­ish­ment meted out ac­cord­ing to the sever­ity of the mis­de­meanour.

This brings us to the Ku­nak Girls Gone Wild vi­ral video, where a group of sec­ondary school­girls were recorded al­legedly beat­ing a 15-year-old girl in the town field af­ter school hours.

They were from dif­fer­ent schools and the video cap­tion shared on Face­book hinted that the al­leged clash was over a boy even though au­thor­i­ties have de­clined to com­ment on the mo­tive, pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In the one-minute clip, the vic­tim was al­legedly punched, kicked and pulled un­til her head­scarf came off.

The in­ci­dent, which oc­curred at the end of last month, caused anger among Ne­ti­zens who con­demned the girls for their vi­o­lent be­haviour and dis­taste for shar­ing their “vic­tory” on­line.

The par­ents of the vic­tim lodged a po­lice re­port the next day, turn­ing it into a court case, pend­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

I won­der, if it had hap­pened in the 1990s and there was no record of the in­ci­dent, how would it turn out? Would it be­come a po­lice case, or would the school and state Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment do some­thing about it?

The vic­tim has re­turned to school this week, but Sabah Ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor Datuk Maimu­nah Suhaibul said the stu­dent was still trau­ma­tised af­ter re­ceiv­ing out­pa­tient treat­ment at the dis­trict hos­pi­tal.

Maimu­nah said the 10 girls who had been called in by the po­lice for their al­leged in­volve­ment, in­clud­ing the girl who started the fight, were be­ing given ad­vice and counselling.

The di­rec­tor sees the case as more of a “fight” be­tween stu­dents in­stead of bul­ly­ing.

She said it was prob­a­bly be­cause she had heard of so many fights that broke out over me­nial things among stu­dents. But, that does not mean the depart­ment was not se­ri­ous in tack­ling real bul­ly­ing.

“It would be a good idea to have all schools here ad­here to plac­ing com­plaint boxes to pro­vide tipoffs on bul­ly­ing.

“There are al­ready some in­stalled in sev­eral schools.

“The com­plaint box is use­ful for the depart­ment to de­tect bul­ly­ing cases, as through this way we can get in­for­ma­tion without re­veal­ing where it came from.

“We re­ceived many tip-offs through them, which helped us man­age fights and bul­ly­ing cases,” said Maimu­nah.

Be­sides fac­ing le­gal ac­tion as the girls in­volved were brought in un­der Sec­tion 147 of the Pe­nal Code (for ri­ot­ing), there is a need to look at the long-term con­se­quences to­wards all par­ties in­volved.

There are pros and cons to hav­ing the scene recorded and go­ing vi­ral.

While it en­sured the girls are rep­ri­manded for their bad be­haviour, the cir­cu­la­tion of the video and the back­lash raised emo­tional dis­tress on both sides, as im­age is an im­por­tant as­pect to a teenager, es­pe­cially in this day and age.

“It is bet­ter that these girls are locked up! They think they are Ku­nak gang­sters and em­bar­rass those wear­ing tudung.”

“That is such lousy be­haviour… imag­ine these girls ask­ing a high wed­ding dowry of RM20,000 when they grow up, but with this at­ti­tude?”

These are among the many com­ments by Ne­ti­zens, which are prob­a­bly in the hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, now.

The girls in­volved are be­ing judged solely on one wrong ac­tion, which will haunt them for a long time.

A footage of a group of sec­ondary school­girls beat­ing a 15-year-old girl in the town field af­ter school hours in Ku­nak, Tawau, last month. The video of the in­ci­dent has gone vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

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