When bullying cases go viral, the backlash can be distressing
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.