How to deal with bul­ly­ing in schools

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Bul­ly­ing is still a com­mon oc­cur­rence within New Zealand schools. For­tu­nately, there are many things schools can do to help pre­vent or re­solve bul­ly­ing is­sues. Schools’ le­gal du­ties Schools have obli­ga­tions they need to meet to pre­vent bul­ly­ing.

Each school and its board of trustees is re­quired to pro­vide a safe phys­i­cal and emo­tional en­vi­ron­ment for stu­dents.

That means schools should be bully-free.

As well, un­der the Health and Safety in Em­ploy­ment Act 1992, schools are legally ob­li­gated to take all prac­ti­ca­ble steps to en­sure no harm be­falls their stu­dents. Schools that tol­er­ate bul­ly­ing or take no ac­tion, could face pros­e­cu­tion for breaches of health and safety leg­is­la­tion.

The Teach­ers Coun­cil places an eth­i­cal obli­ga­tion on all reg­is­tered teach­ers to pre­vent bul­ly­ing. Com­plaints can be is­sued against teach­ers seen to be act­ing or fail­ing to act in a way that breaches their code of ethics. Pro-ac­tive poli­cies Poli­cies em­power staff, pupils, and par­ents if they:

Set out com­mon­sense proac­tive mea­sures de­signed to pre­vent bul­ly­ing be­hav­iours.

Es­tab­lish pro­cesses for recog­nis­ing and re­spond­ing to bul­ly­ing in the class­room or the play­ground.

Cover all com­mon types of bul­ly­ing (in­clud­ing lower level in­stances, phys­i­cal bul­ly­ing, cy­ber­bul­ly­ing and bul­ly­ing that raises hu­man rights is­sues).

Set out pro­cesses for eval­u­a­tion of com­mon bul­ly­ing is­sues and ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponses.

Pro­vide clear and fair pro­cesses when es­ca­la­tion is nec­es­sary. That in­cludes pro­cesses for dis­ci­plinary ac­tions against those found to be in­sti­gat­ing bul­ly­ing.

It is im­por­tant any poli­cies put in place by a school achieve buy-in from the wider school com­mu­nity. Schools should en­gage in an ac­tive con­sul­ta­tion process when de­sign­ing poli­cies.

Poli­cies should also be com­mu­ni­cated to the wider school com­mu­nity, and should be read­ily avail­able for any­one who wants to con­sult them. There should be a copy of the pol­icy avail­able on the school’s web­site, at the school of­fice and in each new stu­dent’s en­rol­ment pack. Re­spect for the vic­tim Staff need to be trained to en­sure those who re­port or are vic­tims of bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour can ex­pect the school to:

Ac­knowl­edge their com­plaint, and take it se­ri­ously.

In­ves­ti­gate to quickly get to the bot­tom of what’s go­ing on, and why.

Fol­low up by tak­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate steps un­der the rel­e­vant poli­cies and pro­cesses.

Com­mu­ni­cate each step of the way, so the vic­tim or com­plainant knows what the school is do­ing. Re­spect for the in­sti­ga­tor Schools pro­vide a sense of com­mu­nity for all their chil­dren.

When deal­ing with those who have in­sti­gated bul­ly­ing, a broad view is best and staff should be em­pow­ered by poli­cies that al­low them the flex­i­bly to ad­dress what might be go­ing on in the back­ground.

Rights of nat­u­ral or pro­ce­dural jus­tice also ap­ply if dis­ci­plinary ac­tion is ini­ti­ated. Dis­ci­pline out­comes It is im­por­tant to ob­tain a full un­der­stand­ing of what hap­pened and how it fits into the school’s poli­cies and pro­cesses.

For lower- level in­ci­dents, teach­ers may sim­ply talk to those in­volved or give the in­sti­ga­tor a de­ten­tion or, in more se­ri­ous cases, re­fer the dis­pute to the prin­ci­pal.

At that point other dis­ci­plinary ac­tions might be con­sid­ered.

They could in­clude stand­downs and sus­pen­sions. Where that hap­pens, a full process must be ad­e­quately fol­lowed to en­sure rights are re­spected.

The school board can also deal with ex­clu­sions and ex­pul­sions if the mat­ter is se­ri­ous enough. Once again, a full and fair process must be fol­lowed.

To fully ad­dress bul­ly­ing, schools need to be com­pre­hen­sive in their re­sponse.

Ex­ter­nal agen­cies and sup­port

In some cases, another agency may need to be in­volved.

For ex­am­ple, with bul­ly­ing in­volv­ing sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, race or dis­abil­ity, it may be ap­pro­pri­ate to con­tact the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

In other cases, wider is­sues might be at play and it may be ap­pro­pri­ate to con­tact the po­lice or Child Youth and Fam­ily.

The Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, New Zealand School Trustees As­so­ci­a­tion, Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and Of­fice of the Om­buds­man also have re­sources avail­able to help schools han­dling com­plex bul­ly­ing prob­lems.

It may also be ap­pro­pri­ate to con­tact the school’s le­gal ad­vis­ers. Com­plaints pro­cesses If par­ents are not sat­is­fied with the way the school has han­dled a bul­ly­ing prob­lem, an ef­fec­tive com­plaints process can help en­sure is­sues are ad­e­quately ad­dressed at a lower level.

Par­ents might broach the sub­ject with the board of trustees through a writ­ten com­plaint. If they do, they should be in­vited to any meet­ings where the is­sue will be dis­cussed.

Par­ents may also com­plain to the Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, Om­buds­man or the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

Schools should en­gage in any process in a proac­tive man­ner and take ad­vice at an early stage from the School Trustees.

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