Suffering in Silence
Bullying in Schools
There is a superfluity of information on the subject of bullying. Your local library, bookstore and the internet provide a wealth of guidance, facts and suggestions. There is some good advice, some aimed at children, teenagers and some for parents. There are documents, legislation and information for professionals – nursery staff, social workers, teachers, youth workers etc. Every school is obliged to have what is often referred to as a ‘Bullying Policy’. (In my day that would have been a manual for teachers. To be fair the policy is usually prefixed – ‘anti’ – to alert the staff to the fact that we are, naturally, all of us, opposed to the said bullying.)
Some of the information is excellent; some of the advice given is good. Some is so poor it can only be described as quackery; it’s based on little more than, ‘I experienced this’, or ‘this happened to my little one and this is how I dealt with it’.
‘Bullying’ tends to be a catch-all title. It can come in so many different forms, but here are the main identifiable areas:
- Shoving or hitting,
- Spreading rumours,
- Cyber-bullying via phone, computer etc.,
- Threats and intimidation,
- Involving friends or peers,
- Sexual, racist or homophobic comments,
- Deliberately excluding someone,
- Damage to property,
- Use of weapon or threat of use.
‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…’ I certainly couldn’t cast one. Most of us have been a bully of sorts at some stage in our lives. Indeed, after over 30 years of working with children, I can think of one, and only one child, who to my knowledge had never name-called, shoved, hit, spread rumours etc.
We can’t simply say, ‘it’s part of growing up,’ (although it is). Nor can we say, ‘it’s always gone on,’ (although it has). Nor is, ‘well, we’ve all done it,’ acceptable. Some of us, it can’t be denied, come out at the other end better equipped to deal with life’s vagaries. Some become expert bullies.
Some remain damaged for life.
Most surveys, and there are many, suggest that at least 20% of school children in the UK experience bullying daily. 25% are bullied rarely. Almost 30% are bullied occasionally and 25% are bullied often.
I am not a great fan of statistics. Data, no matter how good, often provides too quick a snapshot. It can obfuscate and be manipulated to promote a certain point of view. There’s something about recent bullying statistics that really interest me however. One in particular: ‘40% suffer in silence’.*
40% suffer in silence.
How frequently they ‘suffer in silence’ is not stated. How their suffering manifests itself is not clear. And it’s this that intrigues, perplexes and concerns me.
In the sometimes artificial environment of a residential special school, one that I have been privileged to work in, I have seen these silent sufferers. Fortunately there were plenty of well-trained members of staff to whom they could turn, adults who could gain the confidence of the young people in their care, sensitive grown-ups who could encourage a silent sufferer to speak out.
We aren’t able to reach out to everyone of course. Some, for obvious, and sometimes not at all obvious reasons, will continue to suffer. In silence.
For more information and 2013 survey *Ditchthelabel.org http://tinyurl.com/q7u2gzt
Article on Ditch the Label/bullying – Independent – http://tinyurl.com/d8u3ndh