As a former Deputy Head in a large rural secondary school, dealing with cases of bullying amongst pupils was always a challenging and sometimes distressing part of the job. I was therefore delighted to see an item on SKY News last Sunday highlighting the deadly misery that bullying and intimidation always brings.
A group of parents, in a campaign led by the charity BeatBullying want the Coalition to bring in effective legislation to deal with bullying. Resolute and pained, this is a group of adults inexorably bound together by tragedy.....all had lost a child through suicide as a result of bullying.
Kelly Dugmore’s son Aaron hanged himself at home aged nine as a result of bullying. Shy Keenan claims her 14 year old son, Ayden Olsen was literally ‘bullied to death’. She told SKY News, “we tried working with the policies in place and it just wasn't enough.” In effect the families are campaigning for ‘Ayden’s Law’ to prevent future tragedies by making bullying an offence.
Richard Piggin, Deputy Chief Executive of BeatBullying said: "The latest Government statistics show that as many as 46% of young people will have experienced bullying...........For us it's about those one in 13 who experience it day in day out. They need protection and we need to make sure the perpetrators take responsibility for their actions."
In a letter to David Cameron, signed by all the families, they request: "For our families and the brothers and sisters of those we've lost, nothing can be the same again......On behalf of all children who have experienced bullying, and their families, we are calling on you and your Government to take action to help prevent more people suffering in this way.........Together we can stop bullying in our society. Please give us your support and meet with us to discuss how we make bullying unacceptable, once and for all."
In Scotland all schools are supposed to have robust anti-bullying policies in place. Despite this, Childline Scotland reports that the problem is getting worse, despite the increasing awareness and improved anti-bullying policies in schools.
For me information is the key to dealing with bullying. This requires all members of a school community to be alert, watching, listening and willing to take action.
As a Christian I always take the things that Jesus said extremely seriously. In the parable of the ‘good Samaritan’ a man is beaten, robbed and left for dead at the roadside. A number of pious ‘upright citizens’ choose to pass by the man on the other side of the road. He is eventually helped by a Samaritan, an outcast in the eyes of many at the time. In the twenty first century, where bullying is concerned, nobody should be ‘passing by’.
At worst, bullying is an extreme abuse of power by an individual or group. Victims are isolated, abused, tormented and frequently left feeling helpless with no way out. It happens in schools, the workplace, the wider community, even in churches. It is criminal behaviour by any other name.
Sadly, there is still a lack of ‘good Samaritans’ in our society. Perhaps it is time for our decision makers to wake up and legislate........ Are you listening First Minister and Justice Secretary ?